Back to Black Loyalist Home Page Black Loyalists: Our Story, Our People Canada's Digital Collections

Home: People: Influential: Samuel Birch

Our Story
Loyalists Now

Samuel Birch was the British General in charge of keeping order in New York at the end of the war. Birch was a protector of the blacks in the city, trying to prevent them from being seized and carried off by their former owners. He personally signed most of the Certificates of Freedom held by the Black Loyalists.

Birch has an uncertain early background. He first comes to note as a Lieutenant Colonel with the 17th Light Dragoons, serving with distinction in several early battles of the American Revolution. Birch was promoted to Brigadier General around 1782, and was placed in charge of the evacuation of New York by Guy Carleton when he assumed command of the British forces.

Birch took an interest in the fate of the Blacks as soon as he took command of the city. The Light Dragoons included many black troops and attendants, and it seems likely he became friendly with them there. Birch arranged for Black Loyalist veterans to be assigned housing and given meals, something in which other commanders invested much less interest.

Birch's main contribution, however, comes from the fact that he signed the majority of Certificates of Freedom held by Black Loyalists. These certificates later became known as General Birch's Certificates. Birch supervised the creation of the Book of Negroes with Carleton and other British officials. He also settled disputes with Loyalist slave holders who claimed some of these people who claimed freedom were in fact their escaped slaves.

Birchtown in Shelburne was named in his honour. There was also a Birchtown named after him in Guysborough county.

Image of a Certificate of Freedom
One of the Certificates of Freedom Signed By Samuel Birch.

Story: Exile

Chaos in New York

Certificates of Freedom