North of America: Loyalists, Indigenous Nations, and the Borders of the Long American Revolution


April 15, 2024
by Al Dickenson Also by this Author


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BOOK REVIEW: North of America: Loyalists, Indigenous Nations, and the Borders of the Long American Revolution by Jeffers Lennox (Yale University Press, 2022)

When thinking about the American Revolution and its succeeding Founding Era, two nations first come to mind: the British Empire and the fledgling new nation, the United States of America. While there is a lot of discussion on how the parent nation influenced its child, there is comparatively little acknowledgement of how Britain’s other North American child, Canada, influenced its sibling, the United States. In his book North of America: Loyalists, Indigenous Nations, and the Borders of the Long American Revolution, Wesleyan University professor Jeffers Lennox illustrates the influences that the sibling nations had on one another between 1770 and 1810. In this manner, Lennox reminds readers that it is false to assume that the War for Independence was only close to home and not an international affair (page 18). While of course most major events occurred on American (that is, New World) soil, there were various international elements of the war, including those involving the United States’ northern neighbor. One of the first steps Lennox takes to illustrate to readers how Americans and Canadians saw each other is to show the similarities their shared: the sense of home the colonial natives felt in their respective countries (p. 30), the general dislike of Catholics (p. 35), and their disregard for set colonial boundaries between what would become states and provinces (p. 64), to name a few. More than that, Lennox shows readers how the British Imperialists looked askance at not only Americans, but also Canadians, which drew the two nations closer together in many ways (p. 30, 48, 55). It is vitally important to remember that, like the American colonies, Canada faced internal strife among Patriots, Loyalists, and those relatively indifferent to the cause(s), though to a lesser degree (p. 64). Lennox uses the first few chapters to note how, once the Declaration of Independence was signed, several prominent Americans made efforts to bring Canada into the fold, rousing Canadian Patriots disillusioned with British rule to fight alongside them. While the attempts were not as successful as the American negotiators and agitators were hoping, there were Canadians who joined the cause of American Independence. More than just a history of Canada’s involvement in the War of Independence, Lennox’s book also discusses the various factions in Canada at the time: the Loyalists wishing to maintain order as it was, the Patriots seeking greener pastures without colonial oversight, and the various Indigenous Nations who saw potential partnerships with Americans, Canadians, and British interests. Lennox then places these elements in the boarder time period’s fascination with exploration, especially the western parts of the New World. As the book’s narrative moves beyond the Revolution and into the post-war period, Lennox illustrates how Canada still influenced American minds. After the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolution and gave the new United States more land than they were able to functionally manage, Lennox goes in depth on how Canada (with Britain pulling the strings, largely) facilitated border disputes, the turning over of leadership along trade routes, and the administration of various forts and posts beyond the easy reach of the Atlantic coast (p. 170).

In probably the most interesting portions of a terrific book, Lennox shows readers the different attitudes people had on borders and where those borders were. For instance, though the United States and Canada were separate countries, in much of New England, especially the northern reaches, borders appeared to matter less than they did out west. In the northeast, there were constant border crossings, Canadians coming to America and Americans heading into Canada. These crossings were for trade, but also for visitation and the post-war migratory pushes of Patriots and Loyalists. Farther west, beyond the St. Lawrence River and Appalachian Mountains and heading in the Great Lakes region, the governing bodies of both countries took a much more stringent approach to borders, in part to reduce theft and illicit trading (p. 150). Lennox’s work offers readers an insightful perspective on the migration trends of the era and region, particularly how loyalties impacted movement to and from a certain country or even region by region.

Lennox ends his book in the 1790s and early 1800s with a particular focus on the Indian Wars and Westward Expansion. Though the term “Manifest Destiny” was not in common parlance at the time, there was a considerable push to understand the farthest reaches of the New World in both American and British Canadian circles (p. 214). While the Canadians sought to support Native Americans hostile to American expansion, like at the Battle of Fallen Timbers or later, during Tecumseh’s War, the Canadians themselves, largely with Britian again pulling the strings, sought to map the western reaches of their own nation and stake claim to as much land as they could, preventing American expansion and power growth (p. 190-191). In reality, many of these issues were not to be resolved until later treaties, like Jay’s, or those of Ghent and Oregon, were enacted. Lennox makes a final and rather stirring point that right up until the War of 1812, many Americans still wished their northern sibling would join them (p. 269).

Lennox’s book is a wonderful mix of history and geography and how the two interplay to form nations, people, and events. While a somewhat laborious read, it is quite enjoyable for those interested in this period of American, Canadian or British Colonial history. With a focus on place over people, once the reader learns to ignore a few typos and grammatical inconsistencies, you will be able to appreciate not only the American side of the Revolution and its subsequent era, but also that of its closest neighbor.

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One thought on “North of America: Loyalists, Indigenous Nations, and the Borders of the Long American Revolution

  • WHY, do so many people NOT UNDERSTAND that Canadians are Americans too. As are all the other Americans in the other Countries and Territories in the Continent. Look up the definition of “of” [do want to — well here it is, preposition expressing the relationship between a part and a whole: the sleeve of his coat | the days of the week | a series of programs | a piece of cake .]
    Education is harmed when writers and the media fail us [ It is time us in the US use our name correctly].

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