Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary Worldby Maya Jasanoff
Pub. Date: 02/15/2011
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and
On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and their families be safe? Facing grave doubts about their futures, some sixty thousand loyalists—one in forty members of the American population—decided to leave their homes and become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire. They sailed for Britain, for Canada, for Jamaica, and for the Bahamas; some ventured as far as Sierra Leone and India. Wherever they went, the voyage out of America was a fresh beginning, and it carried them into a dynamic if uncertain new world.
A groundbreaking history of the revolutionary era, Liberty’s Exiles tells the story of this remarkable global diaspora. Through painstaking archival research and vivid storytelling, award-winning historian Maya Jasanoff re-creates the journeys of ordinary individuals whose lives were overturned by extraordinary events. She tells of refugees like Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who spent nearly thirty years as a migrant, searching for a home in Britain, Jamaica, and Canada. And of David George, a black preacher born into slavery, who found freedom and faith in the British Empire, and eventually led his followers to seek a new Jerusalem in Sierra Leone. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant resettled his people under British protection in Ontario, while the adventurer William Augustus Bowles tried to shape a loyalist Creek state in Florida. For all these people and more, it was the British Empire—not the United States—that held the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet as they dispersed across the empire, the loyalists also carried things from their former homes, revealing an enduring American influence on the wider British world.
Ambitious, original, and personality-filled, Liberty’s Exiles is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative new analysis—a book that explores an unknown dimension of America’s founding to illuminate the meanings of liberty itself.
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Table of Contents
List of Maps ix
Cast of Characters xi
Introduction: The Spirit of 1783 5
Part I Refugees
1 Civil War 21
2 An Unsettling Peace 55
3 A New World Disorder 85
Part II Settlers
4 The Heart of Empire 113
5 A World in the Wilderness 147
6 Loyal Americas 177
Part III Subjects
7 Islands in a Storm 215
8 False Refuge 245
9 Promised Land 279
10 Empires of Liberty 313
Conclusion: Losers and Founders 343
Appendix: Measuring the Exodus 351
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This is fascinating global story of the Americans who did not what to be American--the loyalists from the American Revolution. Apart from Benedict Arnold, these people (and there are hundreds of thousands of them, not just a few traitors) get such little attention in U.S. history. The book shows how important they were and the diverse reasons why they sided with Britain. The style is a bit hard going at times and often dull, but the sheer interest of these peoples' experience makes it worth looking at--at least until something more accessible comes along.
A fascinating book. Lots of facts & not a quick read, but it tells a compelling story. Few of us know that about 50,000+ colonists were loyal to the British crown & were not on the side of the Revolution. Their stories of migration (sometimes multiple times & to vastly different locations & climes) make for an informative book. More might have been said of Britons' attitudes toward the "Yankees" who settled in the mother country. Highly recommend this for anyone interested in a little-known but important side of Colonial history.