Chapter 1

Loyalties, 1763–1814: The American Revolution, Loyalism, and the War of 1812


10 February 1763 The Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War, which had pitted Britain against France and Spain. Britain gained Canada (renamed Quebec).
1 November 1765 Britain’s Stamp Act imposed a tax on all printed material in British North America. The British had incurred enormous debts during the Seven Years’ War and sought to pay them off, in part by increasing taxes. The Stamp Act was met with protests throughout the colonies, including Nova Scotia. It was repealed in 1766, but Britain insisted it still had the right to tax the colonists. London imposed new taxes, the Townshend Duties, in 1767. In the face of growing protests, Britain asserted its authority with the Coercive Acts of 1774, which further increased colonial resentment.
19 April 1775 The American Revolutionary War began when fighting broke out in Lexington, Massachusetts. The Continental Congress approved a Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. Fighting ended when British forces surrendered in 1781. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 Loyalists fled the rebellious colonies, most between 1781 and 1784. More than 30,000 settled in Nova Scotia, and 6,000 to 10,000 settled in present-day Ontario. The Loyalists suffered from an identity crisis: they were at once American and anti-American.
3 September 1783 In the Treaty of Paris, Britain recognized the independence of the United States of America. The two countries pledged themselves to “firm and perpetual peace.”
20 April 1792 France declared war on Austria, launching the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). Britain entered the conflict against France in 1793, imposing a naval blockade that put the British at odds with Americans who sought to trade with France.
19 November 1794 Jay’s Treaty settled several outstanding disputes between Britain and the United States. The British agreed to evacuate frontier forts on US soil and to pay damages for seizing American ships and cargo en route to France. The US pledged to pay pre-Revolutionary debts that Americans owed to the British and agreed that Britain could seize food and war materiel on American ships travelling to France. British subjects, American citizens, and Aboriginal people could “pass and repass” the border without restriction and could “carry on trade and commerce with each other” without paying duties.
19 June 1812 President James Madison launched the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States when he signed a declaration of war passed by the US Congress. The conflict between the two countries had originated in the British practice of impressing US citizens (forcing them into service in Britain’s Royal Navy) and seizing US ships that were taking cargo to Napoleon’s France. The War of 1812 was much like a civil war, pitting Americans against Canadians who shared a similar language, culture, and values—not to mention the many family ties that linked people on the two sides of the border. Britain and the US ended the war with the Treaty of Ghent of December 1814.