Fort George National Historic Site of Canada
The original documents included within are taken from a book series published by the Niagara Historical Society. The book was compiled and edited by Brigadier General E. A. Cruikshank- any editors notes included are attributable to him and are indicated in italics.. The book is No. 39 of the Records of Niagara 1784-7. There is no date of publication given.
Petition for land and for the right of Loyalists
1. The first of the Original documents is a petition for land and for the rights of Loyalists. When Britain had taken control of New France following the French and Indian/ Seven Years War, they had at first imposed British rule on the colony (1763), and then subsequently changed to incorporate French civil law and giving civil rights to Catholics(1774). When Loyalists came north to Canada, the colony was still under French law. Having just lost their lands and rights in the American Revolution they could not bear to settle within and around the existing settled areas of Quebec and be ruled under French law. As a result several Loyalist Officers travelled to London to petition the King, not only for separate land, but also requesting British Governance and Civil Law. What follows is the request for land by the Loyalists.
The wishes of the settlers in the "upper parts" of Canada were brought very forcibly to the attention of the Ministry by a petition rather unusually addressed directly to the King which was signed by several of the former officers of the loyalist regiments to which they had belonged, who happened to be in London. It seems to have been presented by Sir John Johnson, although his signature does not appear upon it. There is little doubt that it had considerable influence in bringing about the division of the province, which they proposed and the formation of the province of Upper Canada.(By E. Cruikshank)
THE PETITION OF SIR JOHN JOHNSON AND OTHER LOYALISTS.
Copy of a Petition intituled [sic], "The Petition of Sir John Johnson, Bart. and others in Behalf of the Loyalists settled in Canada." Dated London 11th April 1785; and signed by Colonel Guy Johnson, and others.
To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
The Petition of Sir John Johnson Baronet, and others, whose names are hereunto subscribed, on Behalf of the Officers and Soldiers of the Provincial Troops and Indian Department, who served under their Command during the late Rebellion; and of the other Loyalists, their Associates, who have taken Refuge in Canada.
Most humbly Sheweth,
That the Persons of the above Description, animated by your Petitioners' Example, having sacrificed their Estates and Properties in support of Your Majesty's Laws and Government, did faithfully serve in Canada, and on its Frontiers, till the Reduction of these Corps; when being still actuated by the same Principle of Loyalty and Affection, they, to the number of several Thousands, resolved to settle within Your Majesty's Government, on the Lands assigned them as a Reward for their Services, and in pursuance of the Proclamation of Your Majesty's Commissioners in the year 1776; and entered earnestly on the Improvement thereof, with a Prospect of making a Provision for their Families, and thereby contributing to the Advantage, Strength, and Security of that Province, and to the Increase of Your Majesty's Revenues.
That the Tenure of Lands in Canada is such as to subject them to the rigorous Rules, Homages, and Reservations, and Restrictions of the French Laws and Customs, which are so different from the mild Tenures to which they had been ever accustomed, and which continue to be enjoyed by the rest of Your Majesty's Subjects' has occasioned a general Discontent, and would have induced many to decline accepting their Locations, and to resolve on abandoning their Enterprize, but for the Influence of Your Petitioners, who had first led them into the Service, and on whose Endeavours they relied for obtaining through Your Majesty's Favour, the Grant of such Terms and Tenures, and the Establishment of the same Laws as they formerly enjoyed under the Auspices of Your Majesty's Government. In full Confidence of this happy Event they were prevailed upon to persevere in their Settlements, on which they have already, at some Expence, and much Labour, erected Habitations, and cleared Part of the Lands allotted to them.
For the Attainment of these Objects, so essential to the Happiness of Your Majesty's faithful Subjects, so conducive to the Increase of these new Settlements, and so salutary in their Consequences to the Public, we have, upon mature deliberation, formed a Plan, which with the reasons in support of it, we humbly presume to submit to Your Majesty's Royal Consideration.
1st. It is proposed that the Country of Point Boudet, on the Lake St. Francois, in the River St. Lawrence, and from thence Westward, shall be comprehended within One District, distinct from the Province of Quebec, under the Government of a Lieutenant Governor and Council, to be appointed by Your Majesty, with the necessary Powers of internal Regulation, but subordinate to the Governor and Council of Quebec, in the same manner as the Island of Cape Breton now is, to the Government of Nova Scotia. This Territory will include all the Settlements made or intended to be made by the disbanded Corps, and the Other Loyalists, while it leaves all French Canada and the French Seigneuries as they were before.
2dly. That this Territory shall be subdivided into smaller Districts or Counties, Cataraqui being the Metropolis, with Courts of Justice to be established by Your Majesty. In support of such an Arrangement, we beg leave to remark, that it will be productive of the most beneficial Consequences, not only to the Settlers, but to the Nation at large-Whilst this Territory remains a Part of the Province of Quebec, and the Inhabitants amenable to the Courts of Justice there and at Montreal, the Delay and expence of an Attendance on those Courts, both to Suitors and Witnesses, will be enormous, the distance from Detroit to Montreal being not less than Six hundred Miles, without any Road whatsoever, and the water communication exceedingly tedious, precarious, and during the Winter Season absolutely impassable: Crimes will be committed with Impunity, from the difficulty of Prosecutions; and Civil Remedies in effect rendered burthensome from the same causes.
The inhabitants of this Territory, already amounting to several Thousands, conceive with all Humility that they have the strongest Grounds to hope for such an exempt Jurisdiction as they ask for; They were born British Subjects, and have ever been accustomed to the Government and Laws of England. It was to restore that Government, and to be restored to those Laws, for which from Husbandmen they became Soldiers, animated with the Hope, even in the most gloomy Aspect of Public Affairs, that should they fail in their Attempts to recover their former Habitations by a Restoration of Your Majesty's Government, they would still find a Resource in some Parts of the British Dominions, where they might enjoy the Blessings of British Laws and of the British Government; and they still possess the greatest Confidence, that by Your Majesty's Gracious Interposition they will be exempted from the Burthens of French Tenures, which however congenial they may be to Men born and bred under them, would be in the highest Degree exceptionable to Englishmen.
The Petitioners have the more Confidence in the Success of their Application, from reflecting that they do not ask for more than has been already granted to their Fellow Sufferers in Nova Scotia, far less indeed than is enjoyed by those who are settled in the Province of New Brunswick, and only to be in the same situation with the Settlers in the Island of Cape Breton: A distinction between men under the same circumstances of Prescription, Confiscation, and Attainder, and who had been invited into the Public Service, and to take Part in the Royal Cause, by the same assurances of Protection, and the same Gracious Offers of Rewards, in the one case continuing to Settlers the Blessings of the British Constitution, and in the other subjecting them to the Hardships of French Tenures and French Laws, they trust will not be permitted by a Gracious Sovereign, who is the Father of all His People.
In consideration of the vast extent of this Territory, along an important and valuable Communication, which is not only the Channel of the Fur Trade, but the Residence of those Nations of Indians who took part in Support of the Royal Cause, the Security, growth, and extension of these Settlements must evidently be an object of the utmost Consequence, not only as it will most essentially secure and promote that Trade, but as it will preserve those Indians in their adherence to Your Majesty.
The United States are duly impressed with this Idea, and have already manifested a purpose of supplanting us in the Friendship of the Indians; and unless they are counteracted, the British Interest with those Nations will very rapidly decline. We humbly presume that effectually to counteract them nothing would be so conducive as the Establishment of a liberal System of Tenure, Law, and Government in this new Settlement; this would best contribute to the Growth and Increase of it; whilst it would stimulate the Adventurers themselves to the most vigorous Exertions, it would invite and encourage Emigration to it; for as the present Inhabitants before the Rebellion principally resided in the now United States, their extensive connections there, from their Attachment to Your Majesty, their ancient Predilection in favour of the British Government, their Dislike of the Republican Government they now live under, as well as from their Family and Personal Attachments, would be strongly induced to remove to this new Colony: Should Your Majesty graciously vouchsafe Your Royal Protection to these Settlements, we are confident that in every Competition for the Favour of the Indians Your Majesty will have a decided Advantage, not only from the Influence which many of your Petitioners are known to have over them, but because Numbers of the present Settlers have long been in Habits of Friendship and mutual good Offices with them, sharing the same Dangers, and fighting in the same Cause, and whose former Prepossession would thus, by means of a familiar and constant Intercourse with Your Majesty's Faithful Subjects, be best preserved and rendered permanent.
Upon the whole, whether we consider the Relief and Prosperity of the Settlers as Sufferers in the Cause of their King and Country, for whom Your Majesty has ever expressed so Benevolent a Disposition, or the Advancement of the Settlement, as conducive to the Benefit of the Nation, in either View, and much more in both respects, do we conceive that the Plan now proposed is such an one as will merit and obtain Your Royal Attention and Patronage.
For our Part we conceive ourselves bound by the strongest Ties to use every Endeavour in our Power to promote the Wishes of these People: It was by our Example that numbers of them were induced to quit their former Possessions, and take up Arms, by which they have been deprived of their Property, and Banished from their Country; and it was from their expectation of the Success of our Representation to their Sovereign, that they have entered upon the arduous undertaking of forming Settlements in a wild and inhospitable Country;-Well knowing the Disposition of these People, and the Habits in which they have been bred, we think it our Duty most respectfully to declare it to be our opinion, that unless they can obtain the object they are in pursuit of, they will be discouraged from Carrying on their present Enterprize, and prefer some other part of Your Majesty's Dominions, where they may enjoy the Blessings of the British Constitution, but where perhaps they would not be equally useful " they will be in their present situation, should they receive the Protection they solicit.
Your Petitioners, therefore, impelled by motives of Humanity towards a Number of Distressed Families, by a sense of Honor and Justice to a set of deserving Men, who placed Confidence in them, and to whose Eventual Loss of Property and Reverse of Fortune, they consider themselves in a great Degree accessory, and at the same time by a Conviction of the Public Utility of the Measure, most humbly implore Your Majesty that the Blessings of the British Laws and of the British Government, and an exemption from the Tenures, may be extended to the aforesaid Settlements.
llth April 1785.
ROBT. LEAKE, Major late 2 nd Battn. K.R. Regt. New York.
JOHN MUNRO, Capt. late lst Battn. K.R. Regt. New York.
P.DALY, Capt. late lst Battn. K.R. Regt. New YORK.
THos. GUMMERSAL, Capt. late lst Battn. K.R. Regt. NEW YORK.
Guy JOHNSON, Col. 6 Nations & Superintendant of their Affairs.
JOHN BUTLER, Lt. Colonel Commanding late Rangers.
EBEN JESSUP, late Lt. Col. Commanding. King's Loyal Americans.
JAMES GRAY, late Major K.R. Regt. New York.
EDW. JESSUP, Major Commdg. late Corps of Royal Rangers.