Just as in the American civil war in the 19th century, the American Revolution which brought the country into being, threw one family member against another. The Willard family of Lancaster, Massachusetts is an example. Abijah Willard, as a captain, was part of the army of New Englanders that came up in 1745 to lay siege to Louisbourg; he was also with Monckton when Fort Beauséjour was taken in 1755; and, in the same year, very much involved in the operations which saw to the deportation of the Acadians. I quote Henry S. Nourse:
"Abijah Willard was the wealthiest citizen of Lancaster, kept six horses in his stables and dispensed liberal hospitality in the mansion inherited from his father, Colonel Samuel Willard. By accepting the appointment of councillor in 1774, he became at once obnoxious to the dominant party and in August when visiting Connecticut on business connected with his large landed interests there, he was arrested by the citizens of the town of Union and a mob of five hundred persons accompanied him over the state line intending to convey him to the nearest jail. Whether their wrath became somewhat cooled by the colonel's bearing, or by a six mile march, they released him upon his signing a paper dictated to him, of which the following is a copy, printed at the time in the Boston Gazette:Nourse continued:
'Sturbridge, August 25, 1774
Whereas I Abijah Willard of Lancaster, having been appointed by mandamus Counselor for this province, and have without due Consideration taken the Oath, do now freely and solemnly and in good faith promise and engage that I will not sit or act in said Council, nor in any other that shall be appointed in such manner and form, but that I will, as much as in me lies, maintain the Charter Rights and Liberties of the Province and do hereby ask forgiveness of all the honest, worthy Gentlemen that I have offended by taking the above-said Oath, and desire this may be inserted in the public Prints.
Witness my Hand
"From that time forward Colonel Abijah Willard lived quietly at home until the nineteenth of April, 1775, when, setting out in the morning on horseback to visit his farm in Beverly, Mass., where he had planned to spend some days in superintending the planting, he was turned from his course by the swarming out of minute-men at the summons of the couriers bringing the alarm from Lexington and we next find him with the British in Boston. He never saw Lancaster again. It is related that on the (p.379) morning of the seventeenth of June, standing with Governor Gage in Boston, reconnoitering the busy scene upon Bunker's Hill he recognized with the glass his brother-in-law Colonel William Prescott and pointed him out to the governor, who asked if he would fight. The answer was: 'Prescott will fight you to the gates of hell!' or, as another historian more mildly puts it: 'Ay, to the last drop of his blood.' Colonel Abijah Willard knew whereof he testified, for the two colonels had earned their commissions together in the expeditions against Canada.
An officer of so well-known skill and experience as Abijah Willard was deemed a valuable acquisition and he was offered a colonel's commission in the British Army but refused to serve against his countrymen and at the evacuation of Boston, he went to Halifax, having been joined by his own and his brother's family.
In 1778 he was proscribed and banished. Later in the war he joined the royal army at Long Island and was appointed commissary; in which service it was afterwards claimed by his friends that his management saved the crown thousands of pounds. A malicious pamphleteer of the day, however, accused him of being no better than others and alleging that whatever saving he effected went to swell his own coffers. His name stands prominent among the 'Fifty- five' who, in 1783, asked for large grants of land in Nova Scotia as compensation for their losses by the war."1
Of the 30,000 Loyalists that came to peninsular Nova Scotia and the Saint John River, the great bulk came from this third class just described. The rest came from the first two classes, 2,000 and 3,000.6 This group fleeing the new Untied States can be broken down into two other classes. There were those who had a genuine fear of the post revolutionary mobs. Then there those who had little property to lose to the new regime and were attracted to the promises of land, material for a house, and free rations.7 A great number, as Charles Morris observed, were but "Barbers, Taylors, Shoemakers, Tinkers."8 These were a welcomed addition to the growing population of Nova Scotia, but so too were the professional men to which Ells referred. The ministers, teachers, lawyers and doctors that came into the province were in greater numbers than Nova Scotia had ever seen up to that point.
The American Revolution overthrew the British colonial administration. The expected retaliations in the wake of this monumental political upheaval left most of the colonial administrators no choice but to flee the country. Most of the upper echelon of this literate group made their way to England and there to stay.9 There were, however, great numbers of people, which, while holding no great position in the colonial governments had been dependant on their British connections for their various livelihoods and generally knew that working with the patriots in the new republic of the United States would be an impossibility, indeed, in the heated atmosphere of the post revolutionary times their estates and maybe their lives would be at risk. Those of the lower echelons who had no wealth10 or family in England, and who wished to make their way out of the new republican states, had little choice but to take ship for those provinces in North America which had not revolted against the British crown, Nova Scotia and Canada. Many of these fleeing Loyalists had been advisers, experts, consultants to the old British administrations and were well versed in the law and politics of British colonial administration. Many held a vocation in the departments of learning such as divinity, law, medicine, and military. Nova Scotia during the years succeeding the American Revolution took in a large number of such people. Their presence in the years to come was to confer a great benefit to Nova Scotia and ultimately to all of Canada.11
[NEXT: Bk. 2, Pt. 3, Ch. 3 - "Loyalists Come To Nova Scotia."]