Not long after I began regularly freelancing at Ideas in the early 1980's, a new executive producer was appointed. The person he was replacing had been popular with her colleagues, and, consequently, the new man had, at first, a somewhat refractory and dissatisfied staff on his hands. One day I was told, as an instance of the lameness of the new boss's programming ideas, that he had suggested a series on the Loyalists. This was in 1983, the two hundredth anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the seven year American War of Independence, and resulted in the resettlement in Britain's remaining northern colonies of those who had opposed independence and taken the British side. Two Canadian provinces, New Brunswick and Ontario, celebrate the settlement of these refugees as their founding, and Loyalist refugees were resettled in the existing colonies in Quebec and Nova Scotia as well. Yet strangely, this anniversary seemed to generate more embarrassment than true patriot love in many Canadians. Some even suggested that these counter-revolutionary Tories would be better left in oblivion. Such was the view of my Ideas' colleague. I was of a different mind, and I immediately knocked on the new executive producer's door and volunteered to make the programmes on the Loyalists that he wanted and which I now present here. They were first broadcast on Ideas in late 1983.
Making the series was a revelation to me. I have Loyalist ancestors, but I also spent my adolescent years in the United States, where I was inevitably imbued with a good deal of American mythology. Among the surprises was the discovery that many communities in the American colonies had split more or less down the middle on the question of independence from Britain, and that often these splits were not ideological but instead followed existing lines of cleavage within these communities. The American Revolution, in other words, was not quite so swift and surgical as that name makes it sound, but was actually a protracted civil war in which many people were thrown onto one side or the other for quite accidental reasons. It was also a shock to come to see in many of the Loyalists, not a privileged remnant, but desperate boat people huddled on the docks of New York awaiting resettlement. The United States, over time, has completed co-opted the name American. In its own national imagination, it now is the one and only America, but here too were Americans, defeated and sent into exile in search of another America, the one that in time would become Canada.
These two programmes began an adventure for me, and over the next few years I continued my fascinated study of early Canadian history. Eventually I would make two other series, "Richard Cartwright and the Roots of Canadian Conservatism" and "The Rebellions of 1837" which I will post here subsequently.
The historians heard in this series, in order of appearance, are as follows:
Part One: Ann Condon, Dennis Duffy, Janice Potter, Wallace Brown, George Rawlyk, Christopher Moore, Jim Walker, David Bell, and Kevin Quinn
Part Two: David Bell, Neil McKinnon, Ann Condon, Sidney Wise, Mary Beacock Fryer, Janice Potter, George Rawlyk, and Dennis Duffy
Readings from historical sources were by Lynn Deragon and Colin Fox.