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Hostages to Fortune

The United Empire Loyalists and the Making of Canada


Esteemed Canadian author Peter C. Newman recounts the dramatic journey of the United Empire Loyalists—their exodus from America, their resettlement in the wilds of British North America, and their defense of what would prove to be the social and moral foundation of Canada.

In 1776, tensions in the British colonies were reaching a fever pitch. The citizenry was divided between those who wished to establish a new republic and those who remained steadfast in their dedication to the British Empire. As the tensions inevitably boiled over into violence, fault lines were exposed as every person was forced to choose a side. Neighbours turned against each other. Families divided. Borders were redrawn.

The conflict was long and bloody, and no side emerged unscathed. But there is one story that is often overlooked in the American Revolutionary canon. When the smoke from the battles had settled, tens of thousands of individuals who had remained loyal to the crown in the conflict found themselves without a home to return to. Destitute, distraught, and ostracized—or downright terrorized—by their former citizens, these Loyalists turned to the only place they had left to go: north.

The open land of British North America presented the Loyalists with an opportunity to establish a new community distinct from the new American republic. But the journey to their new homes was far from easy. Beset by dangers at every turn—from starvation to natural disaster to armed conflict—the Loyalists migrated towards the promise of a new future. Their sacrifices set the groundwork for a country that would be completely unlike any other. Neither fully American nor truly British, the Loyalists established a worldview entirely of their own making, one that valued steady, peaceful, and pragmatic change over radical revolution. The Loyalists toiled tirelessly to make their dream a reality. And as the War of 1812 dawned, they proved they were willing to defend it with their very lives.

In Hostages to Fortune, Peter C. Newman recounts the expulsion and migration of these brave Loyalists. In his inimitable style, Newman shines a light on the people, places, and events that set the stage for modern Canada.

Peter C. Newman has been writing about Canadian history and politics for half a century. His previous works include the bestselling history of the Hudson's Bay Company, Company of Adventurers, as well as books on prime ministers John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Brian Mulroney. A former editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star and Maclean’s, Newman has won a half dozen of the country’s most illustrious literary awards, including the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize for his memoir, Here Be Dragons: Telling Tales of People, Passion and Power. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada. Newman lives in Belleville, Ontario.

Throughout his long and stellar career, Peter Newman has always had an excellent nose for a great story. Hostages to Fortune is yet another example of his unerring gift.  Fascinating in its own right, Newman graphically demonstrates how the exodus of United Empire Loyalists from the U.S. to Canada during the Revolutionary War shaped both countries.

– Allison Griffiths & David Cruise, bestselling authors of Vancouver

"The Loyalist history does well in the hands of one of Canada's best-known historians, whose experience shows in academic diligence and artful restraint...Newman's retelling of the United Empire Loyalists' history evokes a nostalgia for Canada's humble beginnings never more timely than today."

– National Post

"The finest journalist of his generation. . . .The only certainty of Canada, now and forever, is that the tireless Peter C. Newman will be there to tell our story."

– The Globe and Mail

"Canada made Newman and in some ways Newman made Canada."

– Winnipeg Free Press

"Of all the literary lions who roamed the Canadian landscape, Newman is the fiercest."

– Toronto Star