A version of the Union Jack as used from 1707 to 1801, which
can still be seen as a common Loyalist symbol in certain parts of Canada.

United Empire Loyalists

This group is important to the Seaman family story since not only was Caleb Seaman himself a Loyalist. But many of his children married the children of other Loyalists. These refugees from America had settled in the same geographic areas and the families shared similar values so it was only natural that they would inter-marry.

United Empire Loyalist is the name given to those British Loyalists who resettled in present day Canada at the end of the American Revolutionary War. Some of these people sought to recover fortunes (land and private property) lost under laws enacted by the Continental Congress as a way of financing the revolution. Most are believed, however, to have fled north because they personally rejected the republican and "excessively democratic" ideals driving the American Revolution, which they regarded as anarchistic. This group of Loyalists settled largely in Nova Scotia and Upper Canada (modern-day Ontario), where they received land grants of two hundred acres per person. Their arrival marked the beginning of a predominantly English-speaking population in the future Canada west of the Quebec border.

During the American Revolution, a significant proportion of the population of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia and other states were determined to remain loyal to the crown, and desired to remain within the British Empire. Their reasons were as varied as the people themselves, but the overriding principle was loyalty to the King.

Loyalists began leaving the American colonies early in the war while transport was still available. An estimated 70,000 Loyalists, about 3% of the total American population, left the thirteen states: 46,000 to Canada; 7,000 to Britain and 17,000 to the Caribbean.

Following the end of the Revolution and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Loyalist soldiers and civilians were evacuated from New York and resettled in other colonies of the British Empire, most notably in the future Canada which received over 42,000 additional refugees.

Many of the Loyalists were forced to abandon substantial amounts of property, and restoration of or compensation for this lost property was a major issue during the negotiation of the Jay Treaty in 1795. More than two centuries later, some of the descendants of Loyalists still assert claim to their ancestors' property in the United States.

  A portion of the UEL land petition filed by Caleb Seaman in May of 1798.

Realizing the importance of some type of consideration, on November 9, 1789, Lord Dorchester, the governor of Quebec, declared "that it was his Wish to put the mark of Honour upon the Families who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire..." As a result of Dorchester's statement, the printed militia rolls carried the notation:

"Those Loyalists who have adhered to the Unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their Children and their Descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following Capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. Alluding to their great principle The Unity of the Empire."

Modern-day descendants of those original refugees who took up arms or supported the Crown in other ways, oftentimes apply the term United Empire Loyalist to themselves, using "UE" as postnominal letters; the honorific is the only hereditary title in Canada. Such everyday practice is rare, even in the original Loyalist strongholds like southeastern Ontario. However, it is used extensively by historians and genealogists.