Home Button
Culture Button
Commerce Button
Islanders Button
Transportation Button
Environment Button
Services Button
Perspectives Button
Site Map ButtonGallery Button
Bibliography Button
Credits Button

The English Header

The “English” Islanders are a difficult group to identify. They include Loyalists and others from the United States, the Welsh, and folk from virtually every county in England. Nevertheless, in spite of their numeric minority (comprising 15 percent to 20 percent of the population), the “English” were by far the economic elite during the period of British colonial rule.

Initially lured to the Island by the abundant fishing during the seventeenth century, the English began to colonize the territory in the early 1760s, after the British won the island colony from France. Upon occupation, soldiers took over the fort at the entrance to Hillsborough Bay and named it Fort Amherst. After the fort was decommissioned, many soldiers purchased land and remained on the Island. In 1764, Samuel Holland and George Wright embarked on a survey of the Island that divided the territory into 67 townships or lots of 20,000 acres. These two Crown servants brought with them numerous English settlers. The Crown then distributed the townships among favourites of the British government— distinguished naval and military men, politicians, merchants and civil servants; many of them land speculators. Many Islanders today are descendants of these British colonists who came to the Island either as proprietors or as agents to administer the colony and develop its land.

After the American Revolution, approximately 100,000 inhabitants of the thirteen colonies who had sided with the British left the new republic and moved to the British colonies to the north. These men, women, and children became known as the “Loyalists.” 40,000 Loyalists came to the Maritime colonies and a number of these were lured to Prince Edward Island with offers of land and free passage. Some of the wealthy among them brought along their slaves, many of whom later settled in Charlottetown’s West End when they were granted freedom. In 1784, fourteen townships were made available for settlement. However, these new arrivals were not properly treated during the 1780s and 1790s as only a fraction of those eligible to receive land actually did take possession. Indeed, many proprietors who had offered land to the arriving Loyalists ultimately reclaimed their title or were found to be not legally entitled to make the transfer in the first place. In the end, considerably fewer than one hundred of the 545 known Loyalists actually received any land, and “the Loyalist Question” remained unresolved for three quarters of a century.

Nonetheless, during this period the English had the best access to education; they had the most capital, and the best training in agriculture, business, and fishing. Most of the Island’s greatest merchants, ship-builders and professionals and, for a time, the overwhelming majority of legislators, came from this group. Today, class divisions of a cultural nature have been largely eliminated and Islanders of English, Scottish, Irish, Acadian, and all other origins share equal status.

Ethnic Heritage Link

The Irish | Multiculturalism | The Mi’kmaq
The Scots | Acadians and Francophones