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Allan Everest

(by John H. G. Pell, Chairman, New York State American Revolution Bicentennial Commission)

When thirteen of Great Britain's mainland colonies declared for independence in 1776, the newest British colony in North America - Canada - decided against joining the revolt. But some Canadians refused to accept the decision of the majority in Canada to stay out of the fight for American independence. A large group of these people left their homes and crossed the border to be organized into military units by Moses Hazen. Led by Hazen, who was commissioned a general in the Continental army, these Canadian soldiers fought in many engagements throughout the war. After independence was achieved, Hazen led his followers to the northern reaches of New York to settle on land grants near the border of the country they had left years before. The story of these Canadians who came south to support the cause of American independence thus belongs both to New York and to the people of the United States at large….

(By Allan S. Everest, Plattsburgh, New York, Spring 1976)

This book is an attempt to offer belated recognition of those residents of Quebec and Nova Scotia who, for a variety of reasons, became refugees in the United States during the American Revolution. Whether motivated by the expectation of profit and adventure, anticipation of life in a freer society, or the desire to help drive the British out of Canada, hundreds of them chose what they thought was temporary exile from their homeland.
The refugees from Quebec were largely French, but they were joined by a significant number of Americans who had gone north to seek, and often to make, their fortunes after the conquest of 1763 - Moses Hazen, Edward Antill, James Livingston, Udny Hay, Thomas Walker, and others. From Nova Scotia the refugees were drawn from those transplanted New Englanders who migrated during the 1750s and 1760s but who subsequently caught some of the revolutionary fever that infected Boston in the 1770s. Whoever they were and wherever they came from, they left behind them their property and livelihood, their friends and, for many, their religion.
Most of the men joined the American army, while their families led a long, destitute existence, chiefly in the refugee camps of New York State. The great majority hoped that when the British were driven from Canada they could return to their own country, and they were the most enthusiastic and sometimes troublesome advocates of every new project for an invasion northward.
Although many of the refugees drifted back to Quebec or Nova Scotia after the war and picked up the threads of their prewar life, many more chose to remain permanently in exile. Displaced persons usually present a tragic aspect, and those of the American Revolution are no exception. Many sustained battle wounds or suffered physical breakdowns and the collapse of their prewar standards of living as a result of their war and postwar experiences. A notable example is Moses Hazen, an American who had established thriving enterprises in Canada.
The career of Moses Hazen was so intertwined with the lives and fortunes of the refugees that it is impossible to tell their story without including his. And so this book becomes partly a biography of Hazen and his close associates, from which emerges a stormy and fascinating character. These pages also give rise to a renewed admiration for the patience and integrity of George Washington in his dealings with the refugees and their quarrelsome champion, Moses Hazen.
The fact that there were refugees into the United States is usually forgotten because the focus of attention has been upon the American Loyalists who fled the country during and after the Revolution. The American refugees have always received a great deal of attention, traditionally portrayed as traitors to a great cause. Only recently have they begun to receive the sympathetic study they deserve. Instead of being branded as traitors, they are being appreciated for the idealism of their convictions. Canadians are likewise beginning to display more pride than was formerly the case in the lives of their exiles. In numbers the Canadians were much fewer than the American refugees, which is one reason why the Canadians have been generally overlooked. Another is the fact that the peace treaty at the end of the Revolution made no mention of them although it considerately tried to make possible the return of the American refugees to their native country. Forgotten or otherwise, the refugees created a two-way street, and this study deals with the incoming group…


The career of Moses Hazen spanned the epic period of two great wars - the struggle with France for control of North America, and the American Revolution. In both he played a creditable and occasionally brilliant role. Most of his service in the French and Indian War was spent as a Ranger which involved the dashing but brutal kind of warfare instigated by the notorious Ranger Commander, Robert Rogers. Indeed, Hazen came to be thought of as Rogers' counterpart in the Canadian theatre of operations. Despite the stain of the massacre at St. Anne, he was promoted and ultimately taken into the prestigious British Forty-fourth Regiment, from which he was retired on half pay for life. If he had been willing to accept the chances of regimental assignments abroad, he probably could have become a career officer in the British army. But he developed a yearning to become a member of the landed gentry, and he went a long way toward attaining that goal by his feverish search for property in Canada.
The American Revolution completely demolished his way of life. His seigneury lay in the path of the American invasion of 1775. For a man of his temperament neutrality was impossible, but the choice of sides occasioned excruciating pains of indecision. On the one hand his fellow countrymen were the invaders; on the other, he owed his military pension and his Canadian estate to British authority. At first his loyalty was British but then, for reasons he never fully explained but which were probably based on his belief in American victory, he tendered his services to the American cause. Once he had made up his mind, he never wavered in his loyalty even though he knew long before the end of the war that Canada was not going to be conquered.
For his choice he paid a high price. Never again would he be a seigneur on the Richelieu, with all the privileges it entailed. Indeed, before he left Canada he saw his buildings and crops utterly destroyed. He received compensation for only those parts of his estate that were confiscated for the use of the American army, and after the war he failed to regain his Canadian property.
The men and their families that he led out of Canada suffered as much as he, although they had fewer material things to lose. Either deluded by the expectation of personal gain, or inspired by the vision of a liberated Canada, they accepted temporary exile until the day they could return as freedom-bearing conquerors. Although several plans were later projected for an "irruption" into Canada, no campaign actually developed. Consequently, Hazen's men never had the opportunity to free Canada from British rule or to return home as warriors at all. And the families who followed them as refugees existed on a meagre public dole for more than a decade.
Most of the difficulties that befell Hazen and his Canadians were beyond their power to correct. The regiment was created and staffed as a special unit subject only to an already overburdened Congress, whereas the rest of the army consisted of units based upon individual states. A few of the states were no more alert to the needs of their men than was Congress, but others, such as Massachusetts, were timely and generous with their assistance. Since Massachusetts tended to be used as a model, Hazen's regiment suffered from a decline in morale whenever comparisons were made. The problem of morale also divided the regiment internally because Hazen, lacking enough Canadians to complete a regiment, was directed to recruit among the states with the result that he led a mixed group, a minority of whom were Canadians. His American officers and men were regularly serviced by their state of origin, but his Canadians had to wait for the dilatory actions of an impoverished Congress. Their sharpest grievance was the congressional system of promotion according to state quotas, which contained no separate quota for the Canadian regiment. Consequently, no Canadian officers received promotions during the seven years many of them served. Only at the end of the war were some of them granted brevet, or honorary, promotions, and those carried no increase in pay or other benefits.
In spite of these drawbacks the regiment gained a reputation for its fighting qualities, although sometimes referred to as the "Infernals." Three years after the war it was rewarded with a large grant of land in northern New York. But the majority of the Canadians preferred to sell out and take their chances back in Canada, where they tried to reestablish their old relationships with homeland and church, from which they had been separated for so long.
Just as during the two wars, when the mercurial Hazen had reflected the spirit of the times, so in the post-Revolutionary world he imbibed the prevailing feeling of freedom from restraint and the vision of a new country waiting to be exploited. In common with many others of his generation he was a speculator in lands, certificates, and other public securities. His ambitions outran both his judgment and his financial resources; his restlessness drove him into ever more impractical projects, and his indebtedness landed him in jail fourteen times. Yet some of his contemporaries-William Duer, Alexander Macomb, and Robert Morris - also spent time in jail after the collapse of even larger speculative enterprises than Hazen seemed to dream of.
Hazen differed from the others in two important respects: he suffered a physical breakdown, and several of his arrests involved money owed him by Congress. He shared with other speculators an insatiable appetite for personal gain. He was, moreover, a victim of circumstance as well as of his own makeup. Through no fault of his own he and his regiment occupied an anomalous position throughout the war; he could not persuade Congress to settle his accounts during his lifetime, and he lacked the influence and resources to battle Christie for control of his Canadian property.
Yet when all this is said in his behalf, he might after the war have lived a life of comfort, dignity, and attention to a few selected projects. But instead of learning to live with his difficulties, he seemed compelled to be doing things, anything, so long as he kept in motion. A psychologist's reflection on Hazen's life leads him to the following conclusion:
The picture is that of an individual driven by uncontrollable personal forces, going from one pointless activity to another, one useless acquisition to another, one inconsistent commitment to another, none of these being at any time integrated into a coherent system of living. It is the picture of a person driven, rather than driving, whose seemingly advantageous activities in fact brought with each of them an ominous increase in his already chronically high physical tensions which, producing in their turn premature physiological features of senility, eventually resulted in a stroke, a cerebral catastrophe quite unusual in a man of his age, a final explosion of energy almost typical of the way he lived his life.'
Moses Hazen was a man obsessed. Knox saw him marked by "as obstinate a temper as ever afflicted humanity." His agent, William Torrey, found him impossible to work for: he could not stand disagreement; he got so angry "I expected he would go into fits," and "courts & law suits seem to occupy much of his thoughts."
These comments were made after his stroke. Yet throughout his life he was restless, impatient of restraints and deeply frustrated when he could not brush them aside, aggressive, combative, and stubborn. He was hypersensitive on the point of his own honor and took personally any criticisms of his command's performance. In his later years this took the form of imagined conspiracies against him by friend and foe alike. He possessed an imperious disposition that reveled in giving orders, filing complaints, and seeking satisfaction. A military career was probably best suited to his talents, but even here he went too far. For example, General Washington thought that his vendetta with Major Reid was trifling and smacked of persecution. It is not surprising that Hazen was at the center of several courts - martial; what is surprising is that he was not involved in any duels.
All of these characteristics were magnified by his illness. His enforced physical inactivity added to his frustrations. It was galling to have to rely on others to carry out his instructions, which were never performed to his satisfaction. His projects became more unrealistic with the passage of time. Torrey found him erratic, talking "every day more oddly." During his last months a court found him of unsound mind.
The career of Moses Hazen is one of the tragedies of the Revolutionary era. A man of marked abilities and great drive was prevented by circumstances and his own temperament from achieving his aspirations. A buccaneer in an age of buccaneers, he might after the war have become one of the great colonizers of his generation- at Detroit, in northern New York, or in the Coos Country. Instead, his health gave way and his vast dreams came to nothing.
Nevertheless, he made a notable contribution to the American Revolution by mobilizing and leading its Canadian sympathizers, fighting for their rights and prerogatives, and heading the drive to get them onto lands of their own in the United States. These are no small achievements.