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Upper Canada & Loyalists (1785 to 1797)

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As a result of the discontinuation of E-STAT, some of the links to the tables available in the publication 98-187-X Introduction to Censuses of Canada, 1665-1871 were broken. The tables can be requested via the Statistics Canadas Data Liberation Initiative ( For the convenience of users, the tables are also available on the Queens University website: ( The website is in English as Queens University is not subject to the Official Languages Act.

The migratory movement which took place at this period, was so important, that it is necessary that some explanations should accompany the figures. The rapid progress of British colonization in the Gulf Provinces, and in the Province of Ontario, at that time an integral part of the old Province of Quebec, and for the first time created into a separate Province in 1791 under the name of Upper Canada, dates from the beginning of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, the details are not abundant on this interesting subject. Sabine, in his Loyalists (Boston, 1864), says in his Preface :--“The most thorough and painstaking inquirers into their history have been hardly rewarded for the time and attention which they have bestowed.”

The Revolution in the British Colonies, now the United States, revived the former struggles, never altogether abandoned, between the Puritans and the Cavaliers, also known by the names of Roundheads and Monarchists respectively, as well as by those of Whigs and Tories. Generally, the latter took part with England, either actively or passively, and as such are now designated as Loyalists in works written by American authors, and by English and Canadian writers as United Empire Loyalists.

Whilst the War of Independence of the thirteen colonies was being prosecuted, the Loyalists, as they were called, a large number of whom had joined the British Army, suffered confiscation and banishment, the greater number remained, notwithstanding, in their native or adopted country ; others sought refuge in England ; others, again, to the probable total number of from 35,000 to 40,000 persons, including disbanded soldiers, came to seek an asylum in Canada and Nova Scotia. Before their arrival the population of British origin in the latter Province amounted to 12,000 souls, being a decrease from the number by the Census of 1772 in Nova Scotia, which then included New Brunswick. That part of the Province of Quebec now constituting that Province contained about 10,000 souls of the same origin ; that part of Quebec, now forming the Province of Ontario, may be said to have been then uninhabited.

The great movement of the United Empire Loyalists to the Provinces which remained faithful to England, begun on the conclusion of the peace by the Treaty of Paris, signed on the 3rd September, 1783, but from the time of the evacuation of Boston by the British troops in 1776, a considerable number of Loyalists had sought refuge in Nova Scotia. Similarly, after the capitulation of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, in October, 1777, a certain number of Loyalists obtained shelter in the Province of Quebec.

The Loyalists were well received by Britain and her Colonies. Parliament passed an act authorizing the Crown to settle the amount of the losses they had sustained by the confiscation of their property, and to indemnify them, which was done between 1784 and 1788, the Commissioners holding Courts of Enquiry successively in England, in Halifax, Quebec and Montreal.

In the Provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia, there were given to the Refugees lands to the extent of from 200 to 1,200 acres to each family, agricultural implements and food and clothing for two years.

Besides what was done for the refugee families, an Order in Council by the Government of the Province of Quebec, dated 9th November, 1789, provided for the settlement of the children of the Loyalists. The following is an extract from this Order in Council :--

“The Council concurring with His Lordship, it is accordingly ordered that the Land Boards take means for preserving a register of the names of all persons falling under the description above mentioned, to the end that their posterity may be discriminated from future settlers in the parish registers and rolls of the militia of their respective districts and other public remembrances of the Province, as proper objects by their perseverance in the fidelity and conduct so honourable to their ancestors for distinguished benefits and privileges.

“And it is also ordered that the Land Boards may, in any such case, provide not only for the sons of those Loyalists as they arrive at full age, but for their daughters also of that age, or on their marriage, assigning to each a lot of 200 acres more or less.”

Lists still exist in Canada ; a copy of one of these is deposited in the Archives of the Department of Agriculture, at Ottawa, the original of which belongs to the Ontario Government ; and there are to be found in the London Archives, amongst the documents known as the “Haldimand Papers,”lists of names and other memoranda relating to the Loyalists, anterior in date, however, to the Order in Council just cited.

The despatches of Governor Parr of Nova Scotia, dated in September and October, 1783, give 20,000 in all as the number of United Empire Loyalists who had taken refuge in that Province, including New Brunswick, which was still part of Nova Scotia.

In 1784 the whole littoral of the River of St. Lawrence, from Lake St. Francis to Lake Ontario, the shores of Lake Ontario as far as and including the Bay of Quinté, the neighbourhood of the town of Niagara, then called Newark, and part of the shores of the Detroit River, were colonized by about 10,000 United Empire Loyalists who, assisted by Government aid, took possession of land which had been laid out for their reception.

Previous to that time and since, a number of Loyalists, less considerable than that of the refugees in Upper Canada, but still important, had settled in the Lower Canadian part of the then Province of Quebec, especially on that part which lay close to the American frontier. Without it being possible to give the precise number of the United Empire Loyalists who, during the course of the Revolutionary War, and for some years after the Treaty of Peace in 1783, took refuge in what is now British North America, it may be estimated as amounting to about 40,000. The fact that the Loyalist emigration towards the British Provinces lasted many years must not be lost sight of, for, even after having escaped the first dangers of the Revolutionary period, and long after the Peace was concluded, the position of the Loyalists in the midst of the new Republic was often difficult to endure.

1785--Population of Newfoundland, estimated at 10,244.
(British Colonies, Vol. I., page 298.)

1790--Population of Canada : 161,311.
(See summary tables in E-STAT 1.--Found in the Archives of the Court House, Montreal.)

1790--The population of Nova Scotia was estimated at 30,000 for this year, in the Peninsula alone ; Cape Breton, New Brunswick (1784) and the Island of St. John (1770) having been separated.
(Haliburton, Nova Scotia, Vol. II., page 275.)

1793--The settled population of Cape Breton contained 423 men fit to bear arms, showing a resident population of about 2,000.
(Memorandum of the Lieutenant Governor, Ottawa Archives.)

1797--Total population of St. John Island, estimated at 4,500, of all origins.
(Sanctioned by several authors.)