Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Lord Dorchester
Chapter X - Preparations for Peace


THE surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in October, 1781, proved to be the last military-operation of any moment in the War of Independence. The thoughts of almost all Englishmen were now from different motives turned towards peace, those of the Tories slowly and reluctantly, those of the Whigs with a sense of relief in which an inevitable measure of humiliation was tempered by the sordid satisfaction of a party triumph. For then as to-day in England colonial problems, fraught with fateful issues and understood not at all save by a mere handful of Englishmen, were used as weapons of party strife and handled in debate with a complacent and conspicuous ignorance.

Parliament met two days after the tidings reached England. After a long series of fierce attacks and a gradually dwindling majority Lord North's government, in spite of its changing policy, succumbed upon March 20th, 1782. Further misfortunes had contributed to this. St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, and worse than all Minorca, had surrendered one after the other to the French and Spaniards. The greater West Indian Islands were, in imminent danger. The serious straits to which /Washington's army in the north and Greene's in the south were respectively reduced were not realized in England, and perhaps fortunately so, since further bloodshed at this date could only have produced further calamities. Even prior to North's fall Shelburne, as secretary of state, had despatched Richard /Oswald, a well informed and very diplomatic merchant, to sound Dr. Franklin at Paris with a view to terms. A week later Rockingham had formed a new cabinet with Fox and Shelburne as secretaries of state. Oswald was sent back to Paris and to Franklin, accompanied this time by Thomas Grenville, who was to treat with Vergennes for a peace with France on separate lines. This created some feeling between the French and Americans, and may therefore be set down to the credit account of British diplomacy. Germain was the only member of North's government who had resolutely set his face against concessions. So, bellicose as ever in council, he was transferred to the Upper House where open protest was made against the admission of a man who had been cashiered for cowardice in the field.

Clinton was now returning from his command at VNew York wearied by five years of work, worry, and disappointment, and Carleton was to go out and reign in his stead though with much wider powers; for it was now the season-of propitiation, the promoting of peace, and the carrying out of such treaties as it was hoped would shortly be executed. By far the most formidable item in a sufficiently complicated, programme was that of the Loyalists, the colonists who had fought for the Crown, and the great number of non-combatants, incapacitated by sex or age from bearing arms but who had passively espoused the same failing cause. For these and other critical operations it was essential to send out a man of high integrity, of stainless honour, of wide experience, a man trusted by both parties and in both countries, and for once there was no hesitation and no cavilling at the choice. Once again Carleton set out to face a situation bristling with difficulties and to be the judge and arbiter of conflicting interests under the guns of a powerful and not yet conciliated foe.

He had spent three quiet years mainly on the\ estate he had bought in Hampshire, and now sailed for New York in the beginning of April, 1782. Deliberations of a tentative but hopeful nature were proceeding in Paris and the suspension of serious operations in America though mutually observed was quite informal. His commission was dated April 4th. "His Majesty's affairs," so run the instructions, "are so situated that further deliberations give way to the necessity of instant decision^] and whatever inconveniences may arise we are satisfied will be compensated by the presence of a commander-in-chief of whose discretion, conduct and ability His Majesty has long entertained the highest opinion." Carleton was invested with extraordinary powers. He was a commissioner entrusted with carrying out the conditions of peace when these should be formulated and signed. He was also "general and commander-in-chief of all His Majesty's forces within the colonies lying in the Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia to the Floridas, and inclusive of Newfoundland and Canada should they be attacked."

His naval coadjutor, with whom it may be at once stated he worked in perfect harmony, was the Honourable Robert Digby, "Admiral and Commander-in-chief of His Majesty's ships and vessels employed in North America." It was left to Carleton's discretion, in case of attack by the Franco-American army, whether to fight or to make terms for withdrawal. The great importance of extricating the troops for His Majesty's service elsewhere, if compatible with honour, was duly insisted upon. Not often we fancy has a British commander been despatched on a mission at once so critical and painful in the execution and yet so barren of prospective glory. The Loyalist refugees were earnestly recommended by the king to Carleton's "tenderest and most honourable care," as well they may have been, and we may readily guess that a general who had earned such a reputation for humanity towards vanquished foes was not likely to fail in his duty towards gallant friends in their hour of trial and distress. The safe withdrawal of so large a body of troops was indeed of much consequence, for though peace was probable with the Americans it was less so with France, while Holland and Spain had yet to be reckoned with, the latter no mean antagonist in her still familiar and convenient battleground of the West Indies. "It was impossible to judge," wrote Rockingham's government to Carleton with a sane discrimination, rare indeed then and not universal now, "of the precise situation at so great a distance." In this case, at any rate, even though driven to it by despair, the British government may be credited with sending out the ablest and most experienced man at their disposal. It is also to their credit that they loyally maintained, though shaky and shifting among themselves, their admirable resolves. "The resources of your mind," wrote these now thoroughly sobered statesmen, "in the most perplexing and critical situations have been already tried and proved successful. At this perilous moment they give hope to the nation and entitle you to a most honourable support from His Majesty's ministers of which we are authorized to give you the fullest assurance."

Carleton arrived in New York on May 9th, 1782, and received the usual addresses of welcome and confidence, genuine enough no doubt in his case. The first despatches which reached him from England were full of fears for the safety of Halifax in view of French fleets supposed to be prowling on the Atlantic coast, and announced the deflection to' Nova Scotian waters of Hessian recruits destined for New York. But the next told a different story, for while Carleton was on the ocean Rodney's great victory in the West Indies had altered the situation, and dismantled French battleships were making their way to Boston for repairs leaving other less fortunate consorts at the bottom of the sea.

Carleton had found the troops of his command occupying the city of New York, and the immediately adjacent districts within definite lines. Within the latter too, besides the provincial Loyalist regiments and that part of the civil population who adhered actively or passively to the Crown, were a great number of refugees from all parts of the northern and middle colonies, dependent for the most part on money and supplies provided by the British government.

Up the Hudson and in touch with his outposts lay Washington with the northern army and its French contingents. The entire open country was controlled by congress, its officials and its laws. Those who had befriended the Crown throughout the whole or part of the seven years of war had been either driven to one or other of the seaports held by the British or led the lives of pariahs as they clung desperately to the wreck of their property, hoping vainly for some turn of fortune. Of the large number of Americans in the rural districts, who, to use a homely modern idiom, "sat upon the fence" with judgment during the war and descended at the right moment on the right side, history can never take count. Military statistics give room for some approximate inference by the simple process of subtraction. The results arrived at seem in keeping with ordinary human nature and the sparsely settled condition of so vast a country.

Moreover, unlike most revolutions, this one had not been provoked by cruelty, suffering or oppression in the ordinary sense of the word. Such terms would be ridiculously inapplicable. The "chains and slavery" of Patrick Henry, "whose efficacy" said his rivals "was wholly seated in his tongue" were metaphorical. Nor was it wholly a war, as some would have it, of principles and ideals. There were substantial grievances, commercial mainly, and chiefly felt and resented by the propertied classes, a strong element of whom led the common people by whirlwinds of fiery and skilful eloquence.

Leslie at Charleston in South Carolina with' Greene and the army of the South watching him, occupied a very similar position to that of Carleton in New York. Savannah, in Georgia, a province both new and and still subsidized by Great Britain, was occupied by a smaller-force. The evacuation of both these places had been decided upon. St. Augustine again in East Florida was occupied by a British force, but was scarcely threatened, and indeed had become a resort of refugee settlers with loyal views till it passed to Spain at the peace and necessitated a second flitting.

All these posts and districts were under the command of Carleton, who was almost immediately confronted with an awkward incident, a legacy from Clinton's government, though no fault of his nor indeed of anybody but the obscure persons concerned in the outrage. For it so happened that a few weeks previously a Loyalist named Philip White of New Jersey had met a violent death at the hands of the rival party. This so enraged the Tories that, acting under the instructions of the associated board of Loyalists presided over, strangely enough, by Dr. Franklin's son, Captain Lippincott of the New Jersey corps captured and hanged one Joshua Huddy, a captain in the congress militia. They left him suspended to a tree with this inscription pinned on his breast: "We are determined to hang man for man while there is a refugee existing. Up goes Huddy for Philip White." This raised a storm among the Americans and in congress, and peremptory demands were made for the punishment of Lippincott. Neither Clinton nor Carleton, who found the dispute raging, attempted to extenuate so irregular a proceeding, whatever the crime that provoked it. Lippincott was tried by the highest jurists in New York, who found themselves powerless to convict him for sufficient but technical reasons irrelevant here. Washington now demanded that Lippincott should be handed over to him, and, being very rightly refused, caused lots to be drawn among the British officers on parole in Pennsylvania, which resulted in young Asgill, a lieutenant of nineteen in the Guards, being placed in arrest as a victim for retaliation. This unfortunate young man lay virtually under sentence 198 of death for six months. It was another case of Andrd, with the same intercessions from powerful quarters more painfully protracted though more happily terminated. It was, however, a civil case for congress, not, as the other, a military affair for Washington. Carleton, of course, sent the earliest remonstrances both to Washington, who truly replied that he was powerless, and to congress, who would be satisfied with nothing but the blood of either Lippincott or Asgill. The latter was well connected. His mother wrote pathetic and beseeching letters to many quarters, which may be read in the State papers to-day. In despair she wrote to the French minister Vergennes at .Paris, and not only enlisted his active sympathy but that of the king and queen of France, who were melted, it is said, to tears. But congress cared nothing for kings and queens. Vergennes now tried more practical arguments, and pointed out to congress that Asgill was in effect as much the prisoner of the King of France as he was theirs, seeing that His Majesty's arms had contributed so greatly to the victory of Yorktown where he was captured. This was unanswerable, or at least savoured of a demand, and congress with a bad grace, for Washington had long since wavered, gave way. The same dilatoriness, however, distinguished their completion of this small matter as had driven Washington again and again to despair in greater ones, and it was October before the youth who had borne himself bravely, "a credit to the British army" as his colonel writes to Carleton, was actually released.

For a long time, even after Rodney's victory, Carleton and Digby felt much anxiety on the seaward side from some combination of uninjured or refitted French squadrons. Inland a curious, unofficial and even precarious armed neutrality held the two opposing armies. Carleton had been instructed among other things to make known to congress and the American people generally the pacific sentiments of the British government and House of Commons, to acquaint them with everything which could tend towards reviving old affections and extinguishing late jealousies, and to inform them that "the most liberal sentiments had taken root in the nation, and that the narrow policy of monopoly was totally extinguished, that a bill would pass the House after the holidays, the consequence of which would be a fresh commission to treat upon the most liberal terms of mutual advantage, and to propose an immediate cessation of hostilities." This must have been a slightly humiliating task even to a broad-minded man like Carleton, who had always deplored this war though he had done such yeoman service in it. His private opinions he might well have expressed, but to be the mouthpiece of a sovereign and government who had suddenly executed such a volte-face was another matter. However, he went through it with a good grace, and wrote admirable letters in the strain suggested, both to Washington and to congress, who replied without enthusiasm but with suitable courtesy. It is interesting to note that Carleton's presence created some alarm among American extremists who feared that the memory of his lenient treatment of their released prisoners and his conciliatory tact might prove to their disadvantage in making terms. But though the sword was virtually sheathed by tacit consent, even Carleton could do nothing to diminish the gulf that had now yawned so wide between the two parties. Polite letters by the score, in connection with ordinary business matters, passed between -the British commander on the one hand, and Washington, Livingstone, as president of congress, and Lincoln, as custodian of the British prisoners, on the other. But the noble sentiments and general expressions of goodwill expressed by one and all were almost invariably qualified by some reference to regrettable incidents by subordinates calling for prompt indemnification.

There were now two large bodies of British prisoners in America, besides several smaller bands captured on less notable occasions. The former consisted of the "convention prisoners" surrendered by Burgoyne at Saratoga, and those more recently taken with Cornwallis at Yorktown. Exchanges had slightly diminished the rolIs of all, but there were still six or seven thousand prisoners chiefly in Penrisylvania, Maryland and Virginia. These, in connection with their exchanges, treatment and complaints, occasioned a vast deal of correspondence to Carleton, who made frequent protests on their behalf to congress and elsewhere. A steady stream of Loyalist refugees kept pouring into the British lines—sometimes widows and children of deceased Tories, sometimes men, the victims of an ever growing ferocity that was by no means always confined to the patriot side. The department of claims and succour was under the immediate management of Colonel Morris, a member of the council of New York and one of Braddock's aides-de-camp at the slaughter on the Monongahela seven years previously. This gentleman is also distinguished as the successful wooer of Mary Phillips, who had previously inflamed the heart but not reciprocated the feelings of Morris's fellow aide-de-camp, George Washington. Mary Phillips was a considerable heiress, sister-in-law of Beverley Robinson, of familiar name in Canada, and her property was the only woman's estate formally confiscated. Twenty regiments of Loyalists at different points were in Carleton's command. There were three battalions of de Lancy's brigade under Turnbull, three more of Jersey volunteers under Skinner, Pennsylvania Loyalists under Allen, and Marylanders under Chalmers, the Loyal Americans under Beverley Robinson, who also commanded a corps of guides and pioneers, while Fanning, of South Carolina, commanded the King's American Regiment, the Queen's Rangers raised and led by Simcoe and Tarleton's noted British legion. The last three were afterwards placed on the British establishment. The pay rolls of all these corps may still be read in the State papers for Carleton's period, thanks to his indefatigable secretary, Maurice Morgan, who has contributed to the shelves of the Royal Institution nearly forty stout volumes filled with the MSS. correspondence and accounts for the years 1782 and 1783.

Halifax was regarded throughout this first summer as the likeliest point of attack in Carleton's command, but the thoughts of the king's government turned now to recapturing the lost West India Islands, as well as to annexing those that had not been theirs to lose, and they were eager to get troops to those points from the American garrisons. In August Carleton heard that complete independ-. ence was to be ceded by the coming treaty, and he promptly requested to be recalled. It is worth noting that while the king and his ministers had blustered and vowed they would die rather than concede anything till the Americans were overcome, Carleton, whose views had been far more conciliatory while a hope remained of retaining the colonies, had firmly drawn the line at independence. His ambition had been to win back the colonists by every concession short of actual separation, and now his hopes were dissipated. He had no wish to stay longer in America. He had counted on his position there as a possible means of yet saving the situation from this uttermost calamity, and the chance apparently was not in his eyes a desperate one.

Now, in the first blush of his disappointment, there seemed no more use for him. But it was not to be. Communications were tedious in those days. It was not easy to find a qualified successor, and it ended, as we all know,- by Carleton being the last British commander to leave the American shore. He had been busy as usual with his own secret service, collecting by means of trusted agents the private opinions of prominent Americans throughout the colonies. A va$t amount of interesting matter thus collected remains among his papers. To quote an example at haphazard—one member of congress wished to know whether, if relations were resumed on the principle of no taxation or customs regulations, the British government would put the American army on the British establishment!

Carleton through all this period had at least Vjnoney and supplies. There was no question of half rations nor of deferred pay for his troops or his refugees. Washington's army on the other hand had no pay and was ill supplied, while Greene's troops who were watching Leslie in the south were, according to their general, nearly naked. In August the ^evacuation of Savannah was accomplished, in July that of Charleston was achieved without mishap, though there had been great irritation and some outpost fighting between the troops of Leslie and Greene. War in the Carolinas, where the Loyalist party was especially strong, had been proportionately ferocious. Leslie, however, got his people away 204

to the number of fifteen thousand, of whom about half were refugees. They filled sixty ships,—joyful soldiers sick of unsuccessful partisan warfare, and bound for other scenes and honourable service; despondent refugees ruined mostly and bound, some for England, others for a fresh start in life in the West Indies; negroes careless and excited, no doubt, some free, some accompanying their masters, some taken by self-constituted masters to be sold by auction in the West Indies and to raise future troubles between Carleton and congress.

In the autumn Carleton was ordered to Barbadoes and active West Indian enterprises, and then immediately counter-ordered. He had an enormous" amount of miscellaneous as well as routine work on his hands, as his surviving papers show. Leslie's, •Hessians, eleven hundred strong, and seven hundred Loyalist soldiers, the remnant of seven regiments, now joined his garrison from Charleston. Occasional incidents due to the mutual hatred of provincial Whigs and Tories in or about the lines, once or twice threatened to bring Washington down upon him, while the chance of a French attack by sea seems never to have been quite absent, for Digby was weak in ships. But Carleton was at least not worried by the home government. "All we can do," wrote Townshend, "is to indicate objects and choose a fit man like yourself to carry them out." When the news of the proposed concession of complete independence reached New York the Loyalists were seized with despair and consternation. Petitions streamed in on Carleton. "If we have to encounter," ran one of them, "this inexpressible misfortune, we beg consideration for our lives, fortunes and property, and not by mere terms of treaty." These men knew the relentless spirit of their foes better than the British government. So by this time did Carleton, who replied that it was impossible not to sympathize with their fears, and that he would lay their urgent addresses with all speed before the king.

As the prospect of peace grew stronger and nearer there was much correspondence between Carleton and Washington, the former, with characteristic warmth, urging consideration towrards the loyalist, the latter replying in civil but entirely non-committal fashion. An intercepted letter from Adams expressed the sentiment that all Tories ought to be hanged. Another from Washington suggested that suicide was their only course. Such ebullitions of feeling give some idea of the situation. To the home government Carleton writes that some, no doubt, \yill try to make terms with the Americans, but others seem ready to submit to any extremity rather than to their foes. He is trying, he continues, to .turn their thoughts towards other colonies, for this was already regarded as the inevitable solution of the problem, and Carleton had been for some time in active correspondence with Governor Parr and others in Nova Scotia regarding lands and places for settlement. Haldimand wrote to Carleton that he was exchanging his prisoners with Vermont on easy terms, in view of the wavering sympathies of that martial and heady little province. The amour propre of this staunch and trustworthy old gentleman had taken alarm at some report that Carleton was coming to Canada, which meant the writer's temporary subordination, in which case he would certainly go home at once. Carleton soothed his fears by replying that he had not quitted that government with any thoughts of ever returning to it; an eminently unprophetic utterance.

In the meantime congress, ever bellicose and by this time somewhat decadent, had received the proposed terms of peace with a bad grace. They wanted to know the exact nature and extent oft the independence proposed, and passed a resolution to the several states not to remit their exertions for carrying on the war with vigour. They could not be persuaded, however, to pay up the arrears due to the officers and men who had conducted it to the present successful stage. Still they went so far as to order Washington to appoint a commission for the exchange of prisoners. Carleton was at a loss to know whether all this meant that he was to be attacked; but in any case he appointed General Campbell and Mr. Elliott to meet Washington's commissioners and proposed to that general a definite agreement for the suspension of hostilities. Washington replied that Indian raids—alluding to /the ever lively Johnsons on the Mohawk—and marine attacks that in a small way on remoter shores were not infrequent, must in that case be also stopped, which was only reasonable. Generals Heath and Knox were nominated as Washington's commissioners in the matter of cartels, and the four met at Tappan, between the lines. The meeting ended in speedy and farcical fashion, for the Americans opened the ceremony by presenting a big bill for the keep of the British and German prisoners. Campbell and Elliott were amazed. The negotiators were evidently at cross-purposes so all four returned to their respective quarters, the British rather sore at having, as they thought, been brought on a fool's errand, the Americans on the plea that the others were invested with no power to treat.

Carleton had now with him nearly eight thousand Germans, five thousand British regulars, and some seventeen hundred provincials. Nine thousand of the regulars were quartered at McGowan's Pass and about a thousand at Kingsbridge, Paulus Hook, Staten Island and Long Island respectively. The provincials were stationed within the city for obvious prudential reasons. The British regiments were the 7th, 22nd, 37th, 38th, 42nd, 48th, 54th, 57th and some artillery. The German prisoners captured with Burgoyne and stationed mostly in Pennsylvania were also a constant source of trouble to Carleton, though not through any fault of their own, poor fellows. But with the Americans food was unquestionably scarce, and the prisoners suffered in consequence. The Germans could not be exchanged and some of the understrappers in the congress service had notions far removed from equity or military custom. Some of them certainly displayed a talent for mean and petty oppression and exaction that surely surpassed the low average of the Jacks-in-office of that day in most countries. The poor Germans, often doubtless for lack of other quarters, were confined sometimes in wretched gaols, sometimes in other squalid buildings, and their complaints were met even by superior officers with the retort that the British government was responsible because it would not pay for their keep 1 All such expenses may well be lumped in a general money compensation to the victor in a long war at a treaty of peace, but I know of no other case where an army still in the field was expected to liquidate the board bill of their comrades in captivity by quarterly remittances. At this distance of time, when all concerned have long been dust, and the Americans have earned a reputation for unexampled hospitality, we may be permitted to enjoy a little the humour of the situation.

The Germans were told, however, that they might liquidate their maintenance account and at the same time secure their liberty by a payment of eighty dollars. As few of them had eighty pence the proposition offered small consolation. It proved, however, only a forerunner to a more practical suggestion; for plenty of farmers it seems were willing to pay the bonus in return for a three years' indenture of the liberated soldier and his services. An alternative proposition was also pressed upon them with all the eloquence of a rival scheme, the recruiting sergeants being empowered to offer them their liberty and a bounty besides on enlistment in the service of congress. From our modern point of view it seems quite curious how few of these poor men took advantage of either, and with what indignation the great majority repudiated both offers. These German mercenaries are often written of to-day and were then, among the Americans, usually regarded as oppressed peasants, torn unwillingly from their homes by petty princes who fattened on the proceeds of their nefarious bargain with the British government. Much of this arises and arose from ignorance of the military conditions and customs of Europe in that day—an irrelevant subject here. But one gets from the attitude assumed and the answers given by these much pitied mercenaries, a curious glimpse of how strong among them was the pride of military caste. Some of the meetings between groups of these people and the American officials were vividly described by one or other of their number and forwarded by way of protest to Carleton, and may still be read among his papers. They scorned the notion of doing menial work as an indentured servant or "slave" to an American farmer. The recruiting sergeants quite approved of this and applauded the repugnance shown by men who followed "the glorious trade of war" to becoming "the slaves of farmers"—for this is how these unblushing republicans actually put it. But when the latter came forward with their bounty, less no doubt their own commission, and an offer to pursue the paths of glory in the cqntinental line, these simple people found their duty to their own prince and oath of allegiance to King George an insuperable obstacle. "Though we are treated not like prisoners\ of war but like wretches fallen into the hands of barbarians," writes one of them, after they had been addressed on the subject of the above proposal, "we replied that every word was thunder in our ears and were struck dumb with such barbarous proposals." Such warmth of language to the modern Anglo-Saxon would appear quite overstrained, while to prisoners in durance vile the offers might seem tempting enough, and the transfer of allegiance at that moment may well have seemed a mere trifle to an American. But neither they at that time nor we at this can put ourselves in the place of a Hessian corporal of the eighteenth century with feudal superstitions, homesickness, and domestic affections tugging at his heart strings. The great number of private men, corporals, and sergeants counting fifteen and twenty years service strikes one as remarkable in these regiments. Their behaviour upon the whole throughout the war, whether in quarters or in the field, had been admirable.

Early in the winter Carleton received permission to return home, so soon as Lieutenant-General Grey, appointed in his place, could relieve him. But peace now seemed so certain that Grey was withheld and Townshend wrote to Carleton, "Let me earnestly entreat you to remain at this important moment for the evacuation of New York and distribution of His Majesty's troops. So much less brilliant but none the less difficult and important; a great and complicated business, removal and distribution of troops, security and disposal of public property, liquidation and adjustment of accounts, the care, support and assistance of Loyalists, all claim your attention. The justice of your claims to return home are obvious. If His Majesty could find any man on either side of the Atlantic as much trusted he would not press this so urgently."

There is no space here for any catalogue of Carleton's manifold duties through this busy and anxious winter of 1782-3. Arrangements were being pushed forward in Nova Scotia, which then included New Brunswick, for the reception of Loyalist emigrants, and Carleton among other things protested with [success against the saddling of uncleared forest lands with quit rents. At another time we find him restoring the bells of Charleston which some fervent refugees had included among their baggage, at another endeavouring to recover six thousand pounds worth of clothing which American underlings had appropriated on its way to the prisoners in Pennsylvania. And amid these and innumerable other minor matters, outside the care of a large garrison, the bitter cry of refugee arrivals was always in his ears.

At the end of March,,1783, arrived the news that* s. K the preliminary articles of peace were signed. The opposing generals complimented one another, and Washington issued orders for an absolute cessation of any hostile acts. But the French government^ were ill pleased. The capture of American trade had been with them a leading object, and as one means towards it they hoped to secure terms so favourable for the Loyalists that they would remain in the country, assist in its progress, and look to the French as benefactors. Dr. Franklin and Oswald had upset all this and, what was more, the Loyalists now learned to their dismay that any hopes they still cherished of getting some reasonable guarantees in the treaty were dashed to the ground. Congress had no power, so it declared, to take any action in this matter. All it could do was to undertake that a recommendation should be^ made to the different states to show consideration for their late enemies. The British ministers, who, to do them justice, had struggled in vain for something better than this, hoped that even so much might have some mitigating effect. The wholesale confiscation of property at the close of a civil war fought; out for a principle between neighbours of the same race, blood, and faith, was unknown among civilized people in modern times, certainly among Britons.

But the Loyalists knew the temper of their people better and prepared forthwith to depart. On April 17th five thousand five hundred and ninety-three refugees were embarked for Nova Scotia as a first instalment. "Many of these," writes Carleton to Governor Parr, "are of the first families and born to the fairest possessions, and I beg therefore that you will have them properly considered." On May 6th Carleton met Washington and Clinton, the governor of New York, at Tappan and discussed the exchange and liberation of prisoners. Carleton's vessels were in such demand that it was necessary to march the prisoners overland to New York, and the managenient-of this business was entrusted to Colonel Alured Clarke, whom we shall meet again later in Canada. About six thousand altogether had to be thus brought by road, some from as far south as Charlottesville in Virginia. Those who have read Captain Anbury's journals may well fancy that they shook the red dust of that now delectable and always most beautiful Virginia district off their ill-shod feet with heartfelt relief. A week later proclamations were sent out by both governments dissolving the officers' paroles. By the terms of the treaty the British were to evacuate New York, the only spot in the country except the far-western posts that they now held, with as much despatch as possible. Nothing was actually said about the Loyalists going with them; but Carleton to his honour determined to interpret the clause this way, and, as time went on and the bitter feeling towards them more fully revealed itself, his resolution in regard to this became immovably fixed and proof against the constant complaints of congress at the/ delay. His transport facilities were quite unequal to the great demands made on them. From the time that peace was proclaimed fresh refugees, who had made brief experiments at home of what peace meant, came thronging in. As fast as any new supply of transports gave promise of meeting the demand these refugees increased and occasioned further delay. The whole proceeding took over six months, and from July onwards Carleton was constantly importuned by congress to fix some precise limit to his occupation. He replied shortly, but always courteously, that he was quite as anxious as they were to finish the business, that it was purely a matter of transport, that in the collection of this^ his utmost endeavours were engaged and that no man could do more. To their objections that the Loyalists were not included in the agreement Carleton replied that he held opposite views. In any case he regarded it as a point of honour that no troops should embark until the last Loyalist who claimed his protection should be safely on board a British ship. He requested congress to appoint agents that they might see for themselves how zealous he and his officials were in their endeavours. By September, when there were still numbers to be moved, Carleton got rather short in his replies to these importunities, and at last on being requested to name an outside date he honestly declared that he could not even guess when the last ship would be loaded; but he was privately resolved to remain until it was. He informed them, moreover, that the more the uncontrolled violence of their citizens drove refugees to his protection, by so much the longer would his evacuation be delayed.

The American government were greatly concerned lest property belonging to their friends should be included in the Loyalists' baggage. By far the most difficult property to classify were the negroes, mostly refugees like the others. Who of these were bond and who were free, and if the former to whom did they belong and what course was the correct one to pursue, was a problem such as no fair-minded British commander, except Leslie at Charleston, has probably ever been confronted with. The Ethiopian's affidavit, then as now, was hardly reliable. For that matter few white men would be willing to swear away their liberty. Then again the question whether a negro escaping from a rebel master to a government at the time locally supreme and who had thus obtained his freedom should be returned as a chattel, which according to strict law and the treaty he should have been, was really a complicated question. It must be remembered that the British flag did not legally mean freedom in 1783 as Canada did half a century later. Carleton was utterly loath to send these people back to masters who would not unnaturally receive them with more or less harshness of treatment. He requested, therefore, that commissioners should be appointed to take full particulars of every negrO\ that was shipped, and wherever there was any case for compensation it should be registered for after/ consideration. This plan was adopted, and elaborate registers were made of all the identified negroes, describing their appearance, sex, age and owner. These may be read to-day among Carleton's papers, where they are described in hundreds as "likely fellows," "stout wenches," "likely lads," "incurably lazy," "stout fellows," and "wornouts." To any one familiar with southern life immediately after the late Civil War, as is the case with the present writer, these phrases have a curiously suggestive ring, though the Pompeys, Caesars, Jupiters, Princes, and Dianas that figure in Carleton's lists had then almost wholly given way to less classical appellations.

Elaborate lists still remain to us of the officers of the Loyalist corps put upon half pay, and among the letters to Carleton from various provincial officers one is surprised to find that the custom of purchase apparently flourished even in these locally raised regiments, three hundred pounds being mentioned as having been paid for a company, and two hundred and forty pounds for the quartermaster's berth in a New Jersey volunteer corps. The most pathetic portion perhaps of Carleton's papers consists of letters from widows of Loyalists whose husbands had fallen, explaining their wretched circumstances in detail, and petitioning for pensions which seem to have been always allotted to them. Six Loyalist corps numbering about one thousand five hundred men were disbanded and settled in Nova Scotia, and several Hessian officers with small fortunes applied to Carleton for similar privileges, which were, of course, granted on the same scale of acreage as that allotted to British officers. But I must not drift into the affairs of the Loyalist refugees so voluminously set forth in the Carleton correspondence, and of such abiding interest to most Canadians. It will be enough to say that the bulk of these shipments went to the /^Maritime Provinces, including Cape Breton and v Prince Edward Island, whose proprietors had made considerable, though to them profitable enough, concessions. A few went to both Upper and Lower Canada to swell the numbers that then and afterwards resorted thither overland, and these last included many Americans other than Loyalists frightened out of the neighbouring states by the bogey of taxation which was now provoking disturbances all over the country. The number of Loyalists whom Carleton actually embarked it is difficult to estimate with any accuracy. The number expected was twenty-seven thousand, but this was probably in excess of that which actually sailed. It was the end of November before the last British drum beat its farewell on the battery, and the last British red-coat filed into the boats. On November 29th Carleton wrote his last despatch on board the Ceres anchored in the harbour. It supported a final petition of Loyalist widows for pensions, and included the fact that "His Majesty's troops and such remaining Loyalists as chose to emigrate were successfully withdrawn on the 25th inst., from the city of New York in good order, and embarked without the smallest circumstance of irregularity or misbehaviour of any kind." Thus dropped the curtain on Carleton's second period of laborious and distinguished service to his country, as it also dropped on one of the most fateful and pregnant struggles in the world's history.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus