Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bon Voyage Britain!

On this day in 1783, the final remnants of British troops withdrew from New York, a city and harbor they had controlled for over seven years. The withdrawal came three months after the finalization of the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the war between Britain and her former American colonies.

After the final British soldiers left the harbor, General George Washington made his triumphant entry back into the city that he had failed to defend seven years earlier. The loss of New York was arguably the toughest pill to swallow for the General. Washington had always taken the loss of New York personally and had suggested leading an attack on the city numerous times over the next seven years -- a prospect that his aids and associates back in the Continental Congress did not share.

The History Channel website has the following comments on the importance of New York and what the withdrawal of British troops meant to the new infant nation:

Four months after New York was returned to the victorious Patriots, the city was declared to be the capital of the United States. In 1789, it was the site of Washington's inauguration as the first U.S. president and remained the nation's capital until 1790, when Philadelphia became the second capital of the United States under the U.S. Constitution.

New Yorkers shaped the history of two new nations. The British evacuated their New York Loyalists to remaining British territories, mainly in Canada. These families had been dispossessed of their land and belongings by the victorious Patriots because of their continued support of the British king and were able to regain some financial independence through lands granted to them by the British in western Quebec (now Ontario) and Nova Scotia. Their arrival in Canada permanently shifted the demographics of what had been French-speaking New France until 1763 into an English-speaking colony, and later nation, with the exception of a French-speaking and culturally French area in eastern Canada that is now Quebec.

In 1784, one year after their arrival, the new Loyalist population spurred the creation of New Brunswick in the previously unpopulated (by Europeans, at least) lands west of the Bay of Fundy in what had been Nova Scotia. In 1785, the Loyalists yet again made their mark on Canadian history when their combined settlements at Parrtown and Carleton of approximately 14,000 people became British North America’s first incorporated city under the name City of Saint John. The division between the Anglophile and Francophile sections was ultimately recognized by creating the English-dominant province of Ontario, west of Quebec, in 1867.
Yes, New York has always been the "City that never sleeps."