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Early America: Independence To The Civil War

William Franklin (1730 – 1813) was the son of American Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin.  The one-time governor of New Jersey was a Loyalist who fought alongside the British.  In 1782, he went into exile in London where he died in 1813.

Bedford Basin by Robert Petley, 1835.  This watercolor painting depicts an African American Loyalist family moving through Nova Scotia.  Some three to five thousand Americans of African descent (free, formerly enslaved, and enslaved) left the United States for British territories in Canada, including New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

From the settlements of Jamestown and Massachusetts to the writings of the founding fathers to the musings of Hector Saint Jean de Crèvecœur in his Letters from an American Farmer (1782), there emerged the idea of American identity separate from Great Britain and the European continent.

Against the backdrop of an American revolutionary spirit, there were early, native-born colonial era Americans who either rejected or were deeply skeptical of American independence.  Whether against independence or seeking to escape the contentious aftermath of the American Revolution, some 75,000 American loyalists left the American colonies for lives in Canada (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and the British Caribbean (The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, and Bermuda).  Others left for England and her colonies in Africa.

Plantation-based economies in the French-controlled Louisiana territories of the American south forged uniquely porous and diverse racial hierarchies in the region.  The American acquisition of these territories prompted concerns around the reordering of race relations from the French to the more rigidly restrictive Anglo-American model.  Both before and after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, mixed race gens de couleur libre (free people of color) sought refuge and artistic training and validation in France.

  • American Loyalists
  • Canada, British Caribbean
  • Louisiana Territory’s Free People of Color
  • France, French Caribbean