Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

 

 

 

 


Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches



"Fireside Chats Of Historical Content" (Ontario Loyalist Traditions - PART III : Concluding Comments)

Gary Peters, Editor, August 1997, Vol.9 No.2, Pages 5-10

 


   " I ... am an imperialist because I will not be a colonial. "

Stephen Leacock, 1907    

 

 

    Ninety years ago, the Ontario humorist, Stephen Leacock, held common cause with a group of men known as imperial federationists.  They believed that the Dominion would achieve full nationhood only with Canada's full participation and equal partnership with Britain in the administration and affairs of the Empire.  Even as Leacock wrote in defence of imperial union, the movement was already on its death bed and, in the decades to come, he accepted the changing nature of Canada's role within the new Commonwealth which was slowly taking shape.  Leacock, still a patriot of empire, died in 1944 never to see nor to experience the immense transformations that both Britain and Canada were about to face in the last half of the twentieth century.

  Leacock's Canadian imperialism was actually a form of nationalism rooted in a strong sense of history.  It was grounded in a common belief that the great English-speaking nations were destined to remain united by the ancient bonds of language, culture, religion, law and political institutions.  The sentiments for Empire and English-speaking unity were gradually euthanized by successive Canadian governments and by the powerful estates of the new political elites in the twentieth century.  It is a logical error to assume that the end of the Empire entailed a necessary disengagement from symbol and history, but the damage to Canada has been done and there is little to be gained by railing against the revisionist victory.  Nevertheless, the passing of the imperial era has left the United Empire Loyalists' Association and other loyal societies and their adherents in a vacuum.  The lost patriotic culture, which was a mainstay of our eighteenth-century, court-centred political system, is dead and any remaining defenders are seen only as curmudgeons and museum pieces -- creaking fossils from a world that real Canadians have long abandoned.  With these final words as the editor of Branches, I feel compelled to return to a personal style of discourse and to ask certain questions about the meanings and current relevance of the Loyalist traditions which were examined in the last two issues of the newsletter.  This is my Royal George and I hope it will be instructive, constructive and fun!

  While studying the history of the "mythologies" known as the Ontario Loyalist traditions, one question constantly forced its presence at every stage of the research.  Will the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada live to celebrate its centennial in 2014?  One might equally muse about the future of the monarchy in the Dominion over the next twenty years.  Will the country be a republic by 2014?  Will there even be a Canadian nation, united from the Atlantic to the Pacific?  I can only respond to the first question as it is necessary to begin with some preliminary observations on our present situation.

  Any organization has to have a reason, or a "felt need" behind its origin and existence.  It is generally the case that an association must also have one or more lasting subsidiary "causes" in order to sustain its momentum.  Without meaning and relevance an association cannot survive.  Given the presence of the latter, the same association cannot thrive without the directed energy of appropriate causes.  The plight of the national Loyalist organization, created to preserve the memory of the refugee settlers who founded New Brunswick and Upper Canada, is directly related to the postmodernist abolition of the past.  Loyalist descendants collectively have plenty of ancestry and plenty of history.  Unfortunately, they have no present, no audience.  The Loyalists have been celebrated and commemorated ad nauseum, but outside the charmed inner circle, nobody cares.  Stripped of a relevant politics, overdosed on a rather antiquated form of genealogy, the Association may slowly fade into oblivion.

  The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada was organized in May, 1914 when the provincial associations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec and Ontario amalgamated to form the national society.  The Association has persisted despite the tribulations of the present century, but its future is by no means assured.  The past one hundred years have played more than a few pranks on Britain and the Commonwealth settler states, including the Dominion of Canada.  It is a stark and obvious reality that the Victorian traditions, crumbled long ago.  The UEL organization and its members' affections have been marginalized by change.  Together, we are surviving in a void, stubbornly clinging to a quasi-aristocratic and patriarchal form of genealogy called lineage.   We trace our ancestry, possibly without quite knowing why, to refugees who have bee cocooned by the state, demythologized by historians and sometimes smeared by media pundits.  The United Empire Loyalists and the monarchy stand for privilege and class in a land dedicated, almost with imperial arrogance, to egalitarian and socialist ideals.  To understand our current predicament, we must examine the Victorian society and loyal traditions underlying the founding of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario, which lasted from 1896 to 1914.

 Prince George of Wales  [Late1890s]

   The Loyalist traditions that emerged in Upper Canada and Confederation Ontario were responses to local social and political conditions, to American revisionist efforts to vindicate the Revolution and venerate its heroes, and to the stimulus of the imperial federation movement after 1884.  The changing terminology is indicative of developing layers in the Loyalist traditions.  The expressions "Loyalist", "U.E. Loyalist", "United Empire Loyalist", simplistically refer to the American colonial soldiers, the king's men, who sided with Britain during the Revolutionary War.  In fact, each term represents a changing image that harnessed the Upper Canada soldier-settlers and the memory of their service to the demands of particular elites throughout the nineteenth century.  A mythology with several motifs was created.  The heroic pastoral and patriotic traditions of William Kirby, William Canniff and Egerton Ryerson were grafted onto the militia legend from the War of 1812.  By the late Victorian era, the Loyalists had become men of honour and distinction, the cream of colonial society -- the type of ancestors that could legitimate the status and political goals of the proponents of imperial federation.

  Imperial unity, as an idea, had its origins in the United Kingdom with the establishment of the Imperial Federation League in London in 1884.  The movement soon spread to the colonies and found strong support among the elite of the white settler dominions.  The roots of the phenomenon lay in the growing consciousness of Great Britain's relative decline in the face of the rising power of Germany and the United States in the late nineteenth century.  In Canada, imperial federationism, although it moved along several streams of thought, turned to the past and found a powerful symbol in the United Empire Loyalist.  Carl Berger, the foremost Canadian historian of the movement, has demonstrated that most of the supporters of the League were descendants of the Loyalists.  Such luminaries as the principal of Upper Canada College, George Parkin; the Presbyterian statesman and builder of Queen's University, George Grant and the colourful and rather eccentric militarist, George Taylor Denison represent only three of the many Loyalist descendants who were prominent in the Imperial Federation League and its successor, the British Empire League.  The Toronto surgeon, George Sterling Ryerson and the mining engineer, William Hamilton Merritt were also imperialists and founders of the UELA of Ontario.  It is not an exaggeration to say that imperialism, in its Canadian manifestation, was the cradle of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario which was founded in 1896.

  The modern apologetic tradition, still affirmed by the province's Loyalist descendants today, is Victorian in its values and politics.  The tradition which crystallized by the 1890's had a clear political intent in its support for imperial unity and its patriotic response to Empire and monarchy.  Whether they were part of the "Kirby-Canniff-Ryerson" pastoral tradition, George Taylor Denison's heroes of Upper Canada militia in the War of 1812, or the propaganda of the imperial federationists, the United Empire Loyalists were the "old comrades", the soldier yeomanry who could be marshalled and sent into battle for the benefit of Queen Victoria's Canadian dominions.

Alexander Helwig Wyant (1836-1892) born in Ohio Landscape with Pond and Cabin, 1884 Oil on canvas

  Astonishingly, most members of the UELA today are seldom conscious of the pervasive presence of the late Victorian respectability, the sentiments, the tastes and patriotic affirmations of an era who vestiges and symbols either collapsed or were systematically abolished by the state thirty years ago.  The United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario was born one year before the great Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and a few short years before English Canada would contribute troops and resources to an imperial war in South Africa.  the extent, the pomp and grandeur of the Empire and the mighty Royal Navy that presumed to guard its lifelines stood as symbols of the unity and triumphs of the English-speaking nations.  It was hard for English Canada not to be proud of its participation in such a vast imperial enterprise.

  The late-Victorian period in the English-speaking world placed respectability, private morals and public virtues on a pedestal.  Modesty, genteel etiquette, honesty, charity, patience under trial, respect for self and neighbour, faith in God, hard work and submission to authority -- to name only a few of life's graces from the inventory of dour duties -- were all held to be the bulwarks of personal achievement and national greatness.  It was an age of victory for the English-speaking peoples and the triumphs of both the United States and Great Britain on the world's stage justified and confirmed the Victorian value system.

  Those values (the Victorians would have called them "virtues") were partly derivatives of the moral reformation initiated by the Evangelical and Methodist movements.  The personal and social virtues were seen as perennial standards, biblical and Platonic guardians ready to take measure of all public and private behaviour.  The Victorians fully recognized that "respectability" had severe limitations in practice, but they never assumed that human weakness could possibly justify ethical and moral relativism.

  One hundred years later, we Ontarians have burdened ourselves with all the familiar and prosaic stereotypes of the Victorian age.  Our mental pictures of the period have stood those ancient virtues on their heads.  We see evil where the Victorians saw the good.  We have constructed a mental image of a world where salvation was a religious obligation.  In our imaginary liberation, we have largely fabricated a culture supposedly dominated by prudery and sexual repression.  We have invented a society that was presumably fascinated with death and its rituals.  Worst of all, we have created a fiction in the assumption that the Victorians were guilt-ridden, austere people, locked in a prison of their own making.  The stereotypes are only a partial truth, but they hardly represent the whole picture.  The nineteenth century was also a time of immense creativity and energy in every field of human activity.  Ontario was a full participant in this age of progress in art, literature, science and technology.  Significantly, most English Canadians of the time hardly thought of themselves as oppressed colonials.  They were citizens of the Empire, full participants in a magnificent, world-wide moral endeavour.  Imperialism did not mean, as it does to us, the brutal subjugation and exploitation of the less developed areas of the planet.  Rather, it was identified with the great enterprise of British civilization which Canadians had inherited and to which they rightfully belonged.  

  To Loyalist apologists in late nineteenth century Ontario therefore, it would seem commendable and quite conventional to assimilate public virtues to history, legend and ancestor -- all in the interest of the wider society.  In hindsight, it is easy to understand how the imperialist descendants of the Loyalists could so easily succumb to a measured dose of self-deception.  The United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario was created as a lineage and patriotic society.  Loyalist lineage, "verified" by membership in the Association cemented the politics of the participant and theoretically helped to establish one's position in the Victorian social hierarchy.  Anchored in the soil of pan-Britannic unity through the U.E. Loyalists -- the "right ancestors" -- UEL descendants were seen to exemplify the epitome of imperialist patriotism.  The UELA of Ontario provided an apologetic defense of Loyalist behaviour in the Revolution and of imperialist nationalism, and the organization sought to cultivate those Victorian virtues held to be necessary for the maintenance of civilized society.  Although flattery and vanity clearly played their hands, is it a valid judgment to argue that self-interest was the only motive behind the establishment of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario? 

  It should be remembered, even if it is a trivial observation, that very few groups in history, or in today's world, could completely escape the charge of being "self-serving".  Political parties, labour unions, churches, charities and urban missions have never been guided solely by altruism and self-sacrifice.  Nevertheless, most modern interpretations of the late Loyalist tradition in Ontario present a somewhat pejorative and obviously unflattering conception of Victorian Ontario's loyal elite.  The historical analyses are obviously valuable and offer much insight, but they also invite reflective comment.

Sir Frederick Augustus Abel (1827 - 1902). Chemist, invented cordite. President of Chemical and other societies

  A survey of the current historical research on the emergence of the provincial mythologies and, in particular, Norman James Knowles' work on the birth of the UELA of Ontario in 1896, prompts two questions.  Were the early Upper Canadian Loyalist traditions nothing more than inventions of the colony's metropolitan four hundred?  Were the later traditions merely self-indulgent constructions of late nineteenth century social climbers and genealogists?  In a literal and simplistic sense, the answer could be a qualified "yes" to both questions.  However, unifying mythologies in the history of a nation or a people are highly mutable themes.  Human actions and motives are complex and they often become institutionalized.  In turn, social and political institutions shape behaviour.  The stories of the United Empire Loyalists in Ontario were created, modified and recreated in a continuing search for a different North American identity -- a quest for a provincial self-definition.  The British-American duality intrinsic to the pioneers found lasting expression in the tensions created by the Loyalist myth.  One has to avoid the pitfall of assuming a continuity of conscious purpose or of insinuating into Victorian Ontario the existence and tyranny of some ubiquitous imperial ideology when historical facts offer no support for such views.  The development of the Ontario Loyalist legend was not deliberate, but the process by which it unfolded are intelligible and understandable.

  It is too easy to resolve history into class conflicts where patriotism and heritage become the intellectual properties of small, self-serving and isolated elites.  On the contrary, collective memories, including patriotic inventions, are conditioned by historical and cultural processes which cannot necessarily be interpreted in terms of class consciousness, social control or subversion.  The Loyalist and the closely related imperialist traditions in Ontario can only be understood contextually.  They emerged in response to intricate societal and political influences, some of which were external to provincial society.  Such Loyalist descendants as George Grant and George Parkin, for example, had remarkably unique views on the nature and purposes of Empire.  Their writings are infused with political imagination, reformist social criticism and religious progressivism.  They had a sense of activist mission and believed in the essential unity of the English-speaking people.  In short, to view Canadian or provincial imperial nationalists, including those who founded the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario, as narrow and self-serving, is to miss both the complexity and vitality of late Victorian intellectual thought in the province.

  Opposed to the Empire nationalists were the anti-imperialists.  Among them were John W. Dafoe, the editor of the Manitoba (later Winnipeg) Free Press; the constitutional lawyer and essayist, J. S. Ewart, and Goldwin Smith, the British-born historian and journalist who promoted the annexation of Canada to the United States.  These men and other anti-imperialists made equally creative contributions to Canadian political thought.  They realized, quite correctly, that the infra-structures for the continental expansion of the Dominion had been achieved and that national development would continue, barring unforeseen circumstances.  By the late nineteenth century, the Canadian nationalists also saw that Britain and the United States had too much to lose by returning to the mutual distrust and hostility of an earlier epoch.  Moreover, it was clear to all that the American republic, by the 1880's, was emerging as the most powerful country in the world.  In the event of war, neither Canada nor Britain would have been able to forestall the inevitable conquest of the northern Dominion.

  The twentieth century was on the side of the advocates for Canadian independence.  This century also witnessed the end of the European empires and the relative decline of the United Kingdom in the face of far greater world powers.  Ironically, the Dominion of Canada, while gaining its independence, also lost it history.  Over the past thirty years, postmodernist interpreters have either abolished the collective memory of English-Canada, or have revised history to assure that past realities conform to the present-minded demands of the nationalist state.  In 1997, the nation is at a crossroads.  One province has never lost its historical consciousness and the rest of the country, divided and confused, has rejected the history, symbols and affections which one guaranteed its existence and unique continental identity.  The historical foundations which once supported the existence of the country have collapsed.  The Canadian federation is in trouble and so, in a lesser sense, is the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada.

  Given the present environment, it is not surprising that the current membership of the Association is often confronted by a fashionable rhetoric of contempt which portrays the Loyalists as obsequious, pretentious lackeys to the British mafia in the Thirteen Colonies and subsequently, in the Maritimes and Upper Canada.  These popular views form an "anti-Loyalist" tradition which is now well-entrenched in the folklore journalism of the Canadian establishment.  There is a special irony in this new (and often republican) perspective.  It is guilty of historical revisionism, obfuscation and obscurantism far in excess of the same vices which might be reasonably imputed to some strains of the older patriotic heritage.  The venom is actually a form of code slur.  The targets are not really the Loyalists but rather their modern descendants and apologists who simply will not go away or wait too long to die.

  Two other developments in the twentieth century have undermined the Loyalist traditions but have also opened new opportunities.  The growth of academic history in Canada and the emergence of a widespread genealogical cottage industry have reinvigorated Loyalist studies and have helped to preserve the work of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada.  Professional historians, perhaps beginning with the work of W. S. Wallace, have successfully demythologized the Loyalist refugees.  Their efforts have demolished the legends of an elite class.  Today, American and Canadian historians have given the world a far more realistic picture of the American Revolution and its participants.  Thanks to the efforts of such Canadian scholars as Carl Berger, Murray Barkley, Jo-Ann Fellows, Dennis Duffy and Norman James Knowles, we also have a far superiour understanding of the social, political and intellectual forces that combined to produce the Loyalist legend in Ontario and other parts of the Dominion.  In the past twenty-five years, genealogy has mushroomed everywhere and had been democratized.  No longer perceived as a status symbol of the idle rich, genealogy has benefited from technological revolutions undreamed of even fifty years ago.  Rapid travel to distant lands, computers, photocopiers, desktop publishing, the Internet -- all have come to the aid of traditionalists.  Genealogy, the search for identity has possibly arisen both as a product of postmodernity and yet, paradoxically, as a reaction to the abolition of those collective pasts spurned by the postmodernist and multicultural advocates of the new statist culture.

  A stubborn relic of the Victorian age, an institution born of a long-forgotten imperial cause that failed, and a product of older mythologies which it helped to shape, the UELA may be facing oblivion unless it is capable of changing.  the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada is still so deeply tied to lineage that we have forgotten the nineteenth century culture and the mythologies which gave birth to the Association and its structures.  We have surrendered to a fossilized traditionalism and forgotten the tradition.  We focus on the United Empire Loyalists and have forgotten and ignored united empire loyalism.  The latter represents that amalgam of lively mythologies, histories and imperial thought constructed by a large number of colourful, fascinating, and sometimes eccentric characters who believed in the essential unity of the great English-speaking nations.  They also created the institutions intended to preserve the memory of the Loyalist founders.

  In attending Sunday afternoon meetings of the Grand River Branch of the Association, I have been struck by the Victorian ethos of the gatherings.  The polite decorum, the formal structure of the meetings, the opening with the presentation of the "colours" and the Royal Anthem are only surface features of a late 1800's cultural phenomenon that runs much more deeply in our veins.  The monthly meetings are actually Victorian teas.  The quiet reserve, the gentility, the sometimes shy, self-effacing etiquette are remnants of a strongly ingrained sense of respectability.  Remove the maple leaf flag and the TimBits, substitute tea for coffee and imagine the ladies in corsets, properly attired in their Harper's Bazaar spring toilettes and the gentlemen, proudly displaying their mutton chops, walrus moustaches, and railroad watches, dressed up in spiffy four-button sack suits and high-crowned Mona-style bowlers.  You get the picture.  However, it is by no means my intention to imply sarcasm or to deprecate this historically conditioned culture which we have preserved.  I do believe that we have to "lighten up", but the road to reformation does not necessarily entail the abolition of the past.  Rather, we have to follow the path of re-enactment and recover a forgotten era which is vital to our self-conception.

  Heritage organizations are something like nations or even provinces.  Both cannot live without romance and chronicle.  Like the political jurisdictions of which patriotic and heritage groups are a part, the latter also need to develop their own politics and wider causes.  The member of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada must question the foundations, constitution and structures of the national body.  The strength of the Association lies solidly in its grassroots branches linked together by a national coordinating office.  It is a loose "decentralized federation" which, in dissolving the former provincial bodies, has successfully avoided complete disintegration.  Across the Dominion there is ample room for branch development.  In particular, the Association requires creative and exciting ideas at the local level in order to attract younger people.

  I am personally in favour of the formation of "Victorian costume branches".  Their mandate would involve historical re-enactment of particular individuals and settings in authentic period fashions from the mid- to late Victorian age.  The purpose of such endeavours ought to be public interpretation and education about an era which is basically unknown to English-speaking Canadians.  Understanding the collective memories, the propaganda, the antiquarian nostalgia and Victorian intellectual and imperialist thought is relevant and necessary to modern Loyalist descendants and, in a wider sense, to the whole of English-speaking Canada.  These proposed branches could cooperate with other local history and heritage groups in many events.  Underlying all such initiatives should be a common unifying theme which we have remotely inherited from the United Empire Loyalists and from the late Loyalist traditions: to further public understanding and unity among the English-speaking nations, irrespective of their historical origins.

  There is also a genuine need for the recovery and re-enactment of the rural, pastoral traditions of the Loyalist pioneer era.  The exile, the struggle against a daunting wilderness, later romanticized as a pastoral world of quiet, natural beauty is a tradition with a nucleus of historical accuracy.  The erosion of this layer of the Ontario Loyalist tradition followed the end of the imperial age and the gradualist approach to the dissolution of the monarchy and the British connection in Canadian political life.  At the same time, the rise of the metropolis and the urbanization of the regional landscape has weakened the previous romanticism once attached to the social memory of the Loyalist pioneer.  As a people, we need romantic story-telling and "Loyalist pioneer branches" are another possibility for encouraging local initiative and cooperation with many other heritage organizations.

  Although the Association is still a quasi-aristocratic lineage society, great strides have in fact been made towards the modern conceptions of genealogy.  Tracing one's ancestry to the Loyalists delivers clear benefits to historians, geographers and demographers.  The Loyalist migrant is a gateway into colonial America and a key to learning more about pre- and post-Revolution settlement patterns.  Genealogy is also of value to scholars concerned with migration and population movements within the Canadian colonies.  Family history also opens new avenues of investigation into social and political history.  Why did one brother side with the British, another with the Patriot movement?  There are always gaps in the historical record.  Like amateur astronomers who study variable stars or search for comets, Loyalists descendants can make a significant contribution to history through genealogy.

  Lineage, especially as it is practiced through the instrument of the U.E. certificate, is astonishingly patriarchal.   If the Association is to attract youth, especially young women, it must come to recognize that mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were also a very significant part of the Loyalist migration.  Women's history is a major component of current historical research and scholars such as Janice Potter-MacKinnon are opening new understandings of the role of Loyalist women in the Revolution and afterwards.  Prospective members who either have or are tracing their ancestors to the loyal refugees ought to be given the opportunity to identify and specify female ancestors on the certificates.

  The UELA needs to open bridges to its sister organizations in the United States, in particular, the Sons of the American Revolution and the much larger Daughters of the American Revolution.  There is more to be gained by cooperation than by continuing the chauvinistic sham battles of a century ago.  Of course, the Revolutionary War can be fun, especially when it is re-enacted by the Battalions of the American Revolution and the King's Royal Regiment of New York.  Shooting at each other with muskets is far more valuable to our mutual causes than shadow boxing with the nasty ghosts of Teddy Roosevelt and Joseph Chamberlain.  The point you see, is not to abolish the traditions, but to change them to meet the needs of the time.

  Finally, the United Empire Loyalists' Association is constrained by an archaic constitution pertaining to membership.  The original membership limitations, actually rather cunning partitions or classes, were intended to ensure the dominance of a Loyalist elite who could be depended upon to serve the late Victorian imperial cause.  The conception of "allegiance" is also ambiguous and anachronistic.  Today, as in 1896, the legal interpretations of allegiance are not easily distinguished from hidden political assumptions.  Our notions of allegiance to the Crown probably derive from the ideas of the eighteenth century jurist, Sir William Blackstone.  He held that a subject could not simply abjure allegiance not have it revoked by the monarch acting alone.  Allegiance, in Blackstone's thought, could be conferred by an act of Parliament and only revoked by that body.  Your allegiance in reality is "owned" and commanded by the state and if you are serious about revoking it (as has one Timothy McVeigh in the United States, by bombing a federal building), then you must be prepared to face the consequences.

  One hundred years ago, the founders of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Ontario naturally expressed a good deal of contempt for anti-imperialist and annexationist thought.  Goldwin Smith was the contemporary enemy, just as William Lyon Mackenzie was the evil villain of Upper Canada.  Thus over the years, the UEL Association has insisted that only Canadian citizens who are of Loyalist descent can claim regular membership by virtue of their "allegiance" to the reigning British monarch, who has also been the King or Queen of Canada.  However, patriotism is not allegiance.  Sentiment is not law.  The time is long overdue for change to a more inclusive organization.

  I happen to be a monarchist for the simple reason that, at present, I believe it can still serve as a symbol of historic unity among the nations which grew from the great Anglo-Celtic diasporas of previous centuries, and which have adapted the British constitution and its institutions to their own needs.  The concept of linking history with cultural continuities is not racist and has much of value to commend it.  In affirming the idea of cultural unity (I do not mean union), we should remember that there are a great many Canadians and American of Loyalist, or perhaps non-Loyalist descent, who might like to serve in a more democratic Loyalist heritage society.  The Association should seriously consider the abolition of separate classes of membership and eliminate the proviso requiring allegiance to the Crown.  In Canada, the latter is already implicitly commanded by the state and insisting upon it is frankly unnecessary.  No person is going to join the Association who has not already subscribed to its basic objectives of commemorating the service of the Loyalists, and of working for the restoration of those re-vitalized traditions which the organization so desperately requires.  As members, we all have a responsibility to discard the old fear of being swamped by others who do not have the "right" ancestry.  To put it bluntly, we need new blood and it does not necessarily have to be true blue.

ASHER BROWN DURAND 1796-1886 : The Trysting Tree, 1868  : Oil on canvas

  Despite the seeming impotence of English-speaking Canada's heritage and the decline of romantic chronicle, Loyalist descendants have attempted to adapt to cultural change.  Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, for example, some Association spokesmen took their cues from the thesis of "limited identities" and the new field of multicultural history.  Although certainly informative, the attempt to ensconce the Loyalist experience within a multicultural perspective sometimes degenerated into an exercise in ethno-trivia.  Means became confused with ends.  The unstated policy of multiculturalism is one of negation and exclusion towards the Loyalist and colonial past.  The Loyalist traditions have not and never will be accommodated to the powerful diversity propaganda machine.  If there remains a sense of loss, of patriotic lethargy among loyal traditionalists, it can be partly attributed to transformations which have left them on the fringes of social and political involvement.

  Multiculturalism was introduced in the early 1970's under federal initiatives to construct as nationalist state with its own revisionist and mythological discourse.  By institutionalizing and funding "ethnicity", the government, with tacit support from the media, created a substitute patriotism which was intended to displace the older loyal patriotic culture.  There were of course immediate political gains.  Politics requires a sense of the cunning, and the politicization of "otherness" ensured major electoral support for the governing party.  The traditional populace also had to be prepared for major shifts in immigration policy.  Thus the construction of "racism" emerged as a powerful and remarkably cost-effective mechanism for thwarting xenophobia.  Opposition to multiculturalism was not totally silenced, but grumbling was "carceralized", to adapt a Latin term from Michel Foucault.  The narratives of opposition were increasingly "imprisoned" (incarcerated) by deploying the label of "racist".  Only in recent years are Canadians, especially new immigrant Canadians, becoming aware that the rhetoric of multiculturalism is astonishingly self-serving, primarily because language is actually the same old colonial discourse.  Multiculturalism is replete with metaphors of condensation, exotic displacement and, what is tragic, even self-negation.  Fortunately, multiculturalism is dying, if it is not already dead.  Its internal contradictions are becoming all too transparent and cannot be sustained by government bureaucracy.  It is of some significance to realize that most of the debates on multiculturalism are transpiring in the English language.  A nation, as a trans-cultural phenomenon must be understood in terms of the great common features of its historical and genealogical existence.  The whole is still much more important than the sum of its parts.  Today, the United Empire Loyalists' Association and its branches have a responsibility to foster a critical awareness of the unifying traditions and institutions of English-speaking Canada.  To move in that direction is not to dismiss Québec, but to realize that there can be no possibility of national unity until "Anglo-Canada" is capable of healing its own deep divisions and that step requires facing historical reality.

  The UELA and its traditions must change.  To survive much longer and remain relevant, the Association will have to broaden its outlook, expand its imagination and foster a critical "history of dissent" not simply a "history of descent".  Above all else, the Association and its members need a politics and a cause relevant to the times in which we live.  In conclusion, I remain hopeful that the United Empire Loyalists will survive in the public memory and serve as exemplars, not for Empire, but as bridge-builders to our own pioneer and Victorian heritage and as models for a new tradition that can bring better understanding between Canadians and Americans, an other nations of the Commonwealth.