The highest code of morals in all countries ancient and modern has taught respect for parents. It sometimes occurs that three or four generations of one family live on together, as was recently the case in the imperial household of Germany. Now it is clear that the obligation to render honor to parents extended from the youngest of these up to the crown prince who would but fulfil his duty in paying respect and homage to the emperor. But not even when death intervenes and removes the head of the house, honored during life by his children, does the obligation cease. We feel it obligatory to cherish the memory, to recall the virtues, and with the mantle of charity to cover, as far as may be, the faults and weaknesses of those to whom we owe our being. The men of 1783, known to history as the Loyalists, have such claims upon their descendants. They have long since laid their heads to sleep in the quiet of our graveyards, here and there about the province, beneath the fields they reclaimed from the wilderness. Not alone for their loyalty we revere them. Not alone for their ancestral claim to reverence and respect. They have other claims. They were men of convictions and principles, who strove manfully and sacrificed much for their principles and convictions. Many of them, perhaps not all—that would be too much to expect of any considerable community—were men of high religious character, of sterling, manly worth, of sturdy independence, of truthfulness, honesty and virtue. They had left behind them across the border, as a prey to the spoiler, all their worldly possessions, churches they had built, and colleges they had endowed. And their early thoughts were given, in their new homes amid the surrounding forests, not alone to mere material considerations of personal comfort and convenience, but to those things which minister to the wants of the spiritual, the moral and the intellectual. They laid the foundations of a new state in faith and reverence. They recognized and taught the sacredness of family ties, the respect due to parents and the worship due to God. Much that is best in us, and most worthy in our laws and institutions, comes to us by inheritance from the men of 1783, and for which we owe them our tribute of sincere respect and admiration.
It was but natural that the sharp contest in which they had engaged with ill success, followed by the hardships, losses and sufferings they endured, should have carried them too far in opposition to some of the views and ways of those they had left behind. They saw there a republicanism leavened with infidelity, and in their prejudiced thought believed the states had but “cast off their monarch that their mob might reign.” They saw even in full civil liberty itself the danger of license, and they clung all too closely to the creed of divine rights, prerogatives and privileges. But their mistake was an honest one, and such natures as theirs contain always the elements that correct themselves. So it followed by inevitable law that the new provinces which they created speedily attained the highest form of civil and religious liberty. The children of the loyalists abolished slavery, establishing the equality of all classes, races and creeds before the law, and made the government responsible to the people, while yet the Legrees of the republic scourged to death their human victims, while men and women were there bought and sold like sheep in the shambles, and the fugitive slave law, promulgated from Washington, embodied the very spirit of a most atrocious tyranny.
If great reforms thus moved faster in our states of the republic, and a longer settled saved such an earthquake shock as that which nearly sundered the republic in twain though resulting in the emancipation of its slaves, we owe it largely to the character of the men of 1783, to the principles of order and justice they inculcated and to the basis of religious and moral principle they laid down. And we do well when the anniversary of the landing of the Loyalists comes round from year to year to remember for the time our obligations of reverence and gratitude.