Loyalism at Akwesasne and Glengarry in the Age of Revolution

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Peter Cook, University of Victoria
Katie McCullough, Simon Fraser University
This poster invites viewers to explore the meaning and practice of loyalism in two neighbouring communities on the upper St Lawrence River in the era of the American Revolution. One, Akwesasne, was predominantly Mohawk. The other, the so-called “Highland colony” centred around Glengarry County, was Scottish. These were two predominantly Catholic communities, formed of speakers of Mohawk and Gaelic (for the most part) respectively, who had long been regularly constructed as savage others by English-speaking Protestant elites in the British Atlantic world. For that, as well as for their relatively recent expressions of loyalism (dating, for both groups, from the period of the Seven Years Wars), those same elites sometimes viewed Akwesasronon and Highlanders with equal suspicion. The poster’s comparative approach reminds viewers of the complexity and diversity of loyalists and loyalism in the turbulent politics of the age.

Within only a few years of its founding in the mid-1750s, Akwesasne found itself allied to the losing side in a vast imperial struggle. At the Treaties of Longueuil and Kahnawake in 1760, its leaders abandoned the French alliance and joined the other Seven Nations of Canada in forging a separate peace with the British, thereby joining the Covenant Chain that bound the latter to the Iroquois confederacy and a host of other Indigenous nations in the Northeast. In the decades to come, Akwesasne would repeatedly remind the British of this solemn covenant and their firm loyalism, expressed in the conventional kinship metaphors of the alliance and with reference to the belts of wampum that recorded past agreements.

Over the same period, the participation of large numbers of Highland Scots in the North American campaigns of the Seven Years’ War rehabilitated the Highlander in the British imagination: no longer a savage Jacobite rebel, the Highlander developed a reputation as a loyal servant of the crown. This pattern was repeated in the American Revolution, following which many Scottish loyalists settled in Quebec, and in the Irish Rebellion and Napoleonic Wars. The various waves of Scottish migrants who formed the “Highland colony” in Glengarry county near Akwesasne shared a broad commitment to anti-republicanism. Among them were retired Nor’Westers, former fur traders who were few in number but influential due to their wealth and connections. Their commitment to the expansion of empire through imperial trade bolstered the image of the Highlanders as vigorous defenders of British interests in North America. At Glengarry, Highlanders of different stations demonstrated their loyalism through varied means, from the rhetoric of the Catholic bishop Alexander Macdonell to the acquisition of “certificates of loyalty” and to, most spectacularly, the Glengarry militia’s construction of a massive cairn dedicated to Sir John Colborne on an island in the St Lawrence River in the late 1830s.

See more of: Poster Session #3
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