It happened today - May 18, 2015

The Coming of the Loyalists, painting by Henry Sandham showing a romanticised view of the Loyalists' arrival in New BrunswickOn May 18, back in 1783, the first United Empire Loyalists arrived in what is now New Brunswick, mostly evacuated from New York by the British at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

Their arrival here had consequences far beyond the hiving off of New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. They shifted the demographic balance of the former New France decisively in the direction of English language and political thoughts and habits.

What it did not do, speaking of political thoughts and habits, was bring north those more civilized persons who favoured paternalistic big government over liberty. This story is often told as though, if true, it would be an important triumph of dignified Canadian statism over vulgar American freedom. But it’s not.

The American Revolution was an Anglosphere quarrel about how to preserve individual liberty, not whether. As Daniel Hannan observes in his brilliant book Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, Daniel Bliss, a refugee from Massachusetts who later became chief justice of New Brunswick, explained his Loyalism by saying “Better to live under one tyrant a thousand miles away than a thousand tyrants one mile away.”

It was fear that American democracy would become mob rule under which liberty was no longer safe, not a “Red Tory” desire to see liberty give way to the popular will, that led genuine Tories to reject the Revolution. They were largely wrong in their fear, but entirely right in their devotion to that liberty on which, it bears repeating, the True North Strong and Free was built.