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After the Revolution - The Boost to Canada , Episode 31 - 30/01/06


The Treaty of Paris 1783 (Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

A bronze depicting the signing of the Treaty of Paris
(Getty Images)
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In 1783, the Treaty of Paris concluded at Versailles, formally gave the Americans their independence from the British. This did not mean that the two nations had nothing more to do with each other. Before the War of Independence, the commercial links between colony and mother country were very profitable. There was no reason to abandon the transatlantic lucrative markets. The preamble to the 1783 Treaty made the position clear, both countries should "…forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony…"

The losers were the Indians and the African slaves. The Treaty carved up the Indian homelands and they never recovered them. Also any chance of freedom for slaves immediately disappeared. Twenty per cent of the population were slaves; Virginia for example, was a slave society like some of the West Indies islands. Slaves were America's biggest commercial asset.

Losing America had long term political discussions and even in the 21st century, historians debate whose fault it was almost as if the affair was simply misfortunate rather than the inevitable development of a new nation. Also, there were two clear advantages to the British: they no longer had to finance the defence of the colony and, because the majority of British loyalists left the new country, the British now had a stronger hold on Canada. Many of the loyalists were third, even fourth generation settlers. They had few roots and prospects in Britain, the other colonies were difficult places to re-establish themselves and so most of them went north Canada. Here was the rump of British who would counter the French influence in Canada. It is possible that without them, Britain would have lost Canada as well.

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Historical Figure

David Fanning 1754-1825

David Fanning was one of the more famous migrants from independent America to Canada. He was born in Johnston County, North Carolina and was a tradesman and planter. He was also, like many struggling colonists of that period something of a general trader with the Indians. Anything they wanted he would try to get and sell to them. During the War of Independence, Fanning led a band of brigands and has since been accused of atrocities including hanging those who had done him personal wrongs. Yet the British thought well of him and gave him the rank of lieutenant colonel in the militia. Eventually he was sentenced to death under the new administration, but escaped and eventually settled in Nova Scotia where, in 1790 he published his "Narrative of Adventures in North Carolina" and a journal, Colonel David Fanning, A Tory in the Revolutionary War with Great Britain.

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Did You Know...

That more than 100,000 settlers in pre-Independent America decided they could not live under the new system and so went to Canada. The new settlers were given huge land grants and bursaries to succeed and 35-40,000 settled in the eastern territories. Others settled the north west territories above the St Lawrence. The colony was split into what became known as Upper and Lower Canada. So the first implication of the migration from the war in America was restructuring of the Canadian colony.

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Contemporary Sources

Entry from David Fanning's journal, 24 June 1790

Fanning describes why his loyalty to the British Crown forced his move to Canada.

"I lost property to the amount of one thousand six hundred and twenty five pounds and ten shillings, but it was not like a coat taken out of my hand, or gold taken out of my pocket. I could not get anything for my losses. I have lost my all on account of my attachment to the British Crown. In the nineteenth year of my age I entered into the war and proceeded from one step to another, and at the conclusion thereof was forced to leave the place of my nativity for my adherence to the British constitution; and after my sore fatigues, I arrived at St John River and there, with the blessing of God, I have hitherto enjoyed the sweets of peace and freedom under the benevolent auspices of the British Government - which every loyal and true subject may enjoy with me."

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