Refugees After the American Revolution – Consortiumnews

The most destitute refugees, the roughly 3,000 formerly enslaved people who evacuated the Colonies with British forces, needed the most help. But the colonial British government gave these free Black refugees swampy land unsuited for farming. Extreme poverty forced many Black refugees, especially refugee women and children, to work in homes of white loyalists, where they faced the threat of reenslavement, either in Nova Scotia, where slavery remained legal through the early 19th century, or possibly through transportation to the Caribbean.

White refugees and working British Nova Scotians blamed the free Black population for depressed wages. From late July through August 1784, disbanded British soldiers and white refugees attacked the free Black population of Shelburne. They not only inflicted physical violence on Black workers, but they also looted their homes before burning dozens to the ground. The violence drove the free Black population from Shelburne, but it did little to create long-term economic opportunities for white Nova Scotians. At its peak in 1784, Shelburne was one of the largest settlements in British North America. By the early 19th century, most of its homes sat deserted.

But even the refugees who had money struggled. Britain had promised to compensate loyalists for their lost property, but refugees found the process both arbitrary and painfully slow. The Loyalist Claims Commission’s final report in 1790 revealed that of the 3,225 refugees who petitioned the crown for reimbursement, only 2,291 claimants received compensation. On average, loyalists received only about 37 percent of the amount they claimed.

Refugees After the American Revolution – Consortiumnews