By Richard Yeomans
In recent months there has been a growing debate about New Brunswick’s loyalist past, and especially how it fits into the present with the question of whether to rename the University of New Brunswick’s law school building, Ludlow Hall. This is a debate worth having, even if it involves uncomfortable truths about our history.
To many, the loyalists of the American Revolution are understood as the founding mothers and fathers of this province. Through the 19th century, this thinking evolved into a kind of myth that later Canadian historians used to imagine the foundation of modern-day Canada. But in doing so, the 19th-century “tory myth” skewed our view of the loyalists as contrary-minded Americans that rejected revolution. In other words, the loyalists were remembered historically as a deferential group of refugees who wholehearted accepted the authority of Britain.To argue this point, past historians would often chronicle the life and political exploits of certain loyalist refugees. Famous loyalists such as Ward Chipman, Jonathan Odell and George Duncan Ludlow represented an elite minority, and their extensive written records have been easily taken as a blueprint of a larger loyalist ideology. Their involvement in the establishment of New Brunswick was easily traceable, and in the post-Confederation era, served Canadian historians as iconographic counterpoints to American figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Continue reading