Early American History Seminar: Christopher Sparshott, Northwestern University

Early American History and Culture Seminar
Thursday, November 17, 2005

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

“Personal Visions of the British Empire: Reexamining the Loyalist Experience at the End of the American Revolution”
Christopher Sparshott, Northwestern University
This paper offers a new interpretation of Loyalism at the end of the American Revolution. When the United States became independent many colonists decided to remain part of the British Empire. Between 1782-83, more than 25,000 Loyalists sailed from New York City to the British Colony of Nova Scotia. Historians have argued that the common experience of exile created a cohesive Loyalist community. In contrast, this paper focuses on the divisions that occurred between Loyalists during their resettlement in Nova Scotia. Every exile believed the British Empire should reward their steadfast Loyalism. The shared expectation of compensation combined with the difficulties of founding new settlements in the Canadian wilderness fueled disputes between the exiles. Analyzing these moments of tension demonstrates that colonists had a personal vision of their place in the British Empire. This conclusion reveals that just as Revolutionaries debated what it meant to be part of a new nation Loyalists debated what it meant to be part of the British Empire.