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Moore, Christopher.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1984. 2l8pp, cloth, $27.95, ISBN 0-7715-9781-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Robert Nicholas Bérard

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

Christopher Moore's first book, Louisbourg Portraits* was awarded the 1982 Governor General's award and established its author's reputation as one of Canada's most promising popular historians. Academic commentators praised the book for its scholarly integrity, while journalists commended the author for his taut and engaging style. Moore has now turned from an important aspect of French-Canadian history to a central theme in the history of English Canada, the Loyalist migrations, not a surprising choice in view of last year's Loyalist bicentennial celebrations.

As the subtitle indicates, the book is divided into three parts. The first outlines the breakdown of political consensus in the Thirteen Colonies and the growing pressure on those who resisted local revolutionary committees as relations with Britain worsened. A second section traces the progress of the Revolutionary War and the steady movement of Loyalists to safer harbours as their position within the Colonies grew more precarious. Finally, Moore examines the preparations made by British colonial officials to receive the massive influx of Loyalist refugees in the still-loyal colonies and concludes with three short chapters on Loyalist settlements in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Upper Canada.

Many of the strengths of Moore's earlier work are present here. His writing is graceful; drama never descends to melodrama, and the portraiture of individual Loyalists is sympathetic and revealing. For example, he tells the story of James Alien, a prominent lawyer from Philadelphia. An early friend of liberty, Alien became distressed both by what he perceived to be the insensitivity of the British authorities to the rights of the colonists and by the militancy, escalating often to violence, of the Patriot cause. With the Declaration of Independence, Alien retreated to his country home, suspected and harrassed by the revolutionaries, "yet never quite able to hope wholeheartedly for a British conquest of his home." In far too many past studies of the Loyalists, the ambivalence and complexity of their relationships with their revolutionary neighbours has been neglected. Moore captures, while by no means exhausting, the diversity of the Loyalist population, the reactions to them in their home colonies, and their reception in exile.

Louisbourg Portraits offered compelling biographies of ordinary people as a means to develop the history of Louisbourg as a community. Similarly, Moore in this book approaches the establishment of the major Loyalist colonies through biographies of a leading individual, such as Edward Winslow in New Brunswick and Gideon White in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, in being able to devote only a few paragraphs to each of the many Loyalists he has chosen to examine, the author dissipates his biographical skills. In the earlier work the major characters were fully enough developed that they became familiar to the reader; in The Loyalists one comes to feel that he knows too little about too many people. The intimate knowledge of personal details and of the context of the small, unique community of Louisbourg provided a depth and richness that is all but impossible to achieve in this study of a large, heterogeneous body, scattered in very different communities. To link his unsatisfyingly brief sketches of the fascinating characters included in the study, Moore devotes considerable space to retelling, without adding any significant new insights, the familiar history of the American Revolution and the Loyalist migrations.

The book is not, despite several pages of notes and a substantial, if incomplete, bibliography, a satisfactory scholarly overview of the Loyalists. The treatment of the nature and consequences of Loyalism is far too shallow, as are, of necessity, most of the biographical pieces. On the other hand, the book could serve as a useful introduction to the Loyalists for the general or younger reader. The volume is extensively and handsomely illustrated, and its layout contributes almost as much to its readability as Moore's fluid prose. Christopher Moore has proven himself a historical miniaturist of surpassing skill, but a broad-brush approach to such a vast topic as the Loyalists demands far wider research and more critical reflection than is exhibited in this book.

Robert Nicholas Bérard, Department of Education, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S.
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