The United Empire Loyalists : A Chronicle of the Great Migration eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 82 pages of information about The United Empire Loyalists .

CHAPTER XI

COMPENSATION AND HONOUR

Throughout the war the British government had constantly granted relief and compensation to Loyalists who had fled to England.  In the autumn of 1782 the treasury was paying out to them, on account of losses or services, an annual amount of 40,280 pounds over and above occasional payments of a particular or extraordinary nature amounting to 17,000 pounds or 18,000 pounds annually.  When peace had been concluded, and it became clear that the Americans had no intention of making restitution to the Loyalists, the British government determined to put the payments for their compensation on a more satisfactory basis.

For this purpose the Coalition Government of Fox and North appointed in July 1783 a royal commission ’to inquire into the losses and services of all such persons who have suffered in their rights, properties, and professions during the late unhappy dissensions in America, in consequence of their loyalty to His Majesty and attachment to the British Government.’  A full account of the proceedings of the commission is to be found in the Historical View of the Commission for Inquiry into the Losses, Services, and Claims of the American Loyalists, published in London in 1815 by one of the commissioners, John Eardley Wilmot.  The commission was originally appointed to sit for only two years; but the task which confronted it was so great that it was found necessary several times to renew the act under which it was appointed; and not until 1790 was the long inquiry brought to an end.  It was intended at first that the claims of the men in the Loyalist regiments should be sent in through their officers; and Sir John Johnson, for instance, was asked to transmit the claims of the Loyalists settled in Canada.  But it was found that this method did not provide sufficient guarantee against fraudulent and exorbitant claims; and eventually members of the commission were compelled to go in person to New York, Nova Scotia, and Canada.

The delay in concluding the work of the commission caused great indignation.  A tract which appeared in London in 1788 entitled The Claim of the American Loyalists Reviewed and Maintained upon Incontrovertible Principles of Law and Justice drew a black picture of the results of the delay: 

It is well known that this delay of justice has produced the most melancholy and shocking events.  A number of sufferers have been driven into insanity and become their own destroyers, leaving behind them their helpless widows and orphans to subsist upon the cold charity of strangers.  Others have been sent to cultivate the wilderness for their subsistence, without having the means, and compelled through want to throw themselves on the mercy of the American States, and the charity of former friends, to support the life which might have been made comfortable by the money long since due
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