Loyalist (American Revolution): Wikis


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Britannia offers solace and a promise of compensation for her exiled American born Loyalists.

Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain (and the British monarchy) during and after the American Revolutionary War. They were often referred to as Tories, Royalists, or King's Men by the Patriots, those that supported the revolution. When their cause was defeated, about 20% of the Loyalists left the US to resettle in other parts of the British Empire, in Britain or elsewhere in British North America, especially New Brunswick, where they were called United Empire Loyalists; some went to the British West Indies, especially the Bahamas. Black Loyalists made up some of the Loyalist community. They lost all the property left behind, but were compensated by British claims procedures.[1]

Historians have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the white population of the colonies were Loyalists.[2] Historian Robert Middlekauff estimates that about 500,000 colonists, or 19 percent of the white population, remained loyal to Britain.[3]


Loyalism and military operations

In the opening months of the Revolution, military activity was focused on the British forces that occupied Boston until early 1776; outside of New England, the rebellion was largely confined to the seizure of arms and civil authority by those who sympathized with the aims of the patriot faction. By July 4, 1776 the Patriots had gained control of virtually all territory in the colonies between Georgia and New Hampshire, and expelled all royal officials. No one who openly proclaimed their loyalty to the Crown was allowed to remain, so for the moment, Loyalists fled or kept quiet; some of those who remained later gave aid to invading British armies or joined uniformed Loyalist regiments.[4]

The British had been forced out of Boston by March 17, 1776; they attacked New York in August, handing a convincing defeat to George Washington's army at Long Island and capturing New York City and its vicinity. The British forces would occupy the area around the mouth of the Hudson River until 1783. British forces would also seize control of other cities, including Philadelphia (1777), Savannah (1778–83) and Charleston (1780–82), as well as various slices of countryside. But 90% of the colonial population lived outside the cities, with the effective result being that the Congress controlled 80–90% of the population. The British removed their governors from colonies where the Patriots were in control, but Loyalist civilian government was re-established in coastal Georgia[5] from 1779 to 1782, despite presence of Patriot forces in the northern part of Georgia. Essentially, the British were only able to maintain power in areas where they had a strong military presence.


Loyalists in the Thirteen Colonies

Historian Robert Calhoon wrote in 2000, concerning the proportion of Loyalists to Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies:

Historians' best estimates put the proportion of adult white male loyalists somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. Approximately half the colonists of European ancestry tried to avoid involvement in the struggle — some of them deliberate pacifists, others recent emigrants, and many more simple apolitical folk. The patriots received active support from perhaps 40 to 45 percent of the white populace, and at most no more than a bare majority.[6]

Before Calhoon's work, estimates of the Loyalist share of the population were somewhat higher, with a commonly cited figure of one-third, but these are no longer accepted by most scholars.[7] Adams did indeed estimate in another letter of that year that in the American Revolution, the Patriots had to struggle against approximately one-third of the population, while they themselves constituted about two-thirds of it; he did not mention neutrals.[8] In the late 1960s, Paul H. Smith arrived at a lower figure, with 19.8% of the population as Loyalists; Smith's calculations were based on the strength of the Loyalist regiments.[9]

Historian Robert Middlekauff summarized scholarly research on the nature of Loyalist support as follows:

The largest number of loyalist were found in the middle colonies: many tenant farmers of New York supported the king, for example, as did many of the Dutch in the colony and in New Jersey. The Germans in Pennsylvania tried to stay out of the Revolution, just as many Quakers did, and when that failed, clung to the familiar connection rather than embrace the new. Highland Scots in the Carolinas, a fair number of Anglican clergy and their parishioners in Connecticut and New York, a few Presbyterians in the southern colonies, and a large number of the Iroquois Indians stayed loyal to the king.[10]

Johnson Hall, seat of Sir John Johnson in the Mohawk Valley.

New York City and Long Island were the British military and political base of operations in North America from 1776 to 1783 and had a large concentration of Loyalists, many of whom were refugees from other states.[11]

According to Calhoon [11], Loyalists tended to be older and wealthier, but there were also many Loyalists of humble means. Many active Church of England members became Loyalists. Some recent arrivals from Britain, especially those from Scotland, had a high Loyalist proportion. Loyalists in the southern colonies were suppressed by the local Patriots, who controlled local and state government. Many people — including former Regulators in North Carolina — refused to join the rebellion, as they had earlier protested against corruption by local authorities who later became Revolutionary leaders. The oppression by the local Whigs during the Regulation led to many of the residents of backcountry North Carolina sitting out the Revolution or siding with the Loyalists.[11]

In areas under rebel control, Loyalists were subject to confiscation of property, and outspoken supporters of the king were threatened with public humiliation such as tarring and feathering, or physical attack. It is not known how many Loyalist civilians were harassed by the Patriots, but the treatment was a warning to other Loyalists not to take up arms. In September 1775, William Drayton and Loyalist leader Colonel Thomas Fletchall signed a treaty of neutrality in the interior community of Ninety Six, South Carolina.[12] For actively aiding the British army when it occupied Philadelphia, two residents of the city would be executed by returning Patriot forces.

Slavery and Black Loyalists

As a result of the looming crisis in 1775 the Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, issued a proclamation that promised freedom to servants and slaves who were able to bear arms and join his Loyalist Ethiopian regiment. About 800 did so and were able to convincingly rout the Virginia militia at the Battle of Kemp's Landing. They then fought the Battle of Great Bridge on the Elizabeth River, wearing the motto "Liberty to Slaves," but this time they were defeated. The remains of their regiment were then involved in the evacuation of Norfolk, after which they served in the Chesapeake area. Unfortunately the camp that they had set up there suffered an outbreak of smallpox and other diseases. This took a heavy toll, putting many of them out of action for some time. The survivors joined other British units and continued to serve throughout the war. Blacks were often the first to come forward to volunteer and a total of 12,000 blacks served with the British from 1775 to 1783. This factor had the effect of forcing the rebels to also offer freedom to those who would serve in the Continental army. This promise was not kept after the war.[13]

About 400 to 1000 free blacks went to London and joined the community of about 10,000 free blacks there. About 3,500 to 4,000 went to the British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where the British promised them land. Over 2,500 settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia, instantly making it the largest free black community in North America. However, the inferior grants of land they were given and the prejudices of white Loyalists in nearby Shelburne, who regularly harassed the settlement, made life very difficult for the community.[14] In 1791 Britain's Sierra Leone Company offered to transport dissatisfied blacks to the British colony of Sierra Leone in Africa, with the promise of better land and more equality. About 1,200 blacks left Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone, where they named the capital Freetown.[15] After 1787 they became Sierra Leone's ruling elite.

Loyalism in Canada

Rebel agents were active in Canada in the months leading to the outbreak of active hostilities. John Brown, an agent of the Boston Committee of Correspondence,[16] worked with Canadian merchant Thomas Walker and other rebel sympathisers during the winter of 1774–1775 to convince inhabitants to support the actions of the First Continental Congress. However others — probably the large majority — remained neutral, neither joining the militia which the British had called out to protect against the rebel invasion in late 1775, nor siding with the rebels.

Although some Canadians took up arms in support of the rebellion, the majority remained loyal to the King. French Canadians had been satisfied by the British government's Quebec Act of 1774, which offered religious and linguistic toleration; in general, they did not sympathize with a rebellion that the saw as being led by Protestants from New England, who were their commercial rivals and hereditary enemies. Most of the English-speaking settlers had arrived following the British conquest of Canada in 1759-1760, and many were British-born and unlikely to support separation from Britain. The older British colonies, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, which at the time included present-day New Brunswick, also remained loyal to the crown and contributed military forces in support of the Crown.

In late 1775 the Continental Army sent a force into Canada, led by General Richard Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold, with the goal of convincing Canadian settlers to join the Revolution. Although only a minority of Canadians openly expressed loyalty to King George, about 1500 militia fought for the King in the Siege of Fort St. Jean. In the region south of Montreal that occupied by the Continentals, some inhabitants supported the rebellion and raised two regiments to join the Patriot forces.[17] In Nova Scotia, a large settlement of Yankees tried to win support, but with powerful British forces at the naval base of Halifax, this effort was quickly stamped out. Although the Continentals captured Montreal in November 1775, they were turned back a month later at Quebec City by a combination of the British military under Governor Guy Carleton, the difficult terrain and weather, and an indifferent local response. The Continental forces would leave Canada in 1776, after the breakup of ice on the St. Lawrence River and the arrival of British troopships in May and June. There would be no further meaningful attempt to challenge British control Canada until the War of 1812 .

In 1777, 1,500 Canadian militia took part in a British expedition that eventually led to the surrender of Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. After the entry of France into the war in 1778, many settlers of Loyalist sympathies feared that the French would attempt to reclaim their former colony on the St. Lawrence, which solidified their support for the British crown.

During peace negotiations in Paris, negotiators from the United States made repeated attempts to acquire territory in what is now Canada. They were unsuccessful in the final settlement, except for what is now Michigan. Although the British posts at Detroit and Mackinac (administered as part of the Province of Quebec) had never been challenged during the war, all territory "south of the lakes" was nevertheless included in the settlement. Michigan would not come under American control until 1796.

Military service

The Loyalists rarely attempted any political organization. They were often passive unless regular British army units were in the area. The British, however, assumed a highly activist Loyalist community was ready to mobilize and planned much of their strategy around raising Loyalist regiments. The British provincial line, consisting of Americans enlisted on a regular army status, enrolled 19,000 loyalists (50 units and 312 companies). Another 10,000 served in loyalist militia or "associations." The maximum strength of the Loyalist provincial line was 9,700 in December 1780.[18][19] In all about 50,000 at one time or another were soldiers or militia in British forces, including 15,000 from the main Loyalist stronghold of New York.[20] The majority of Loyalists fought in the southern colonies and were not from the north. In addition, a large number of Americans served in the regular British army and in the Royal Navy.


Shelburne, Nova Scotia, a major me early destination of Loyalist refugees

The vast majority of the white Loyalists (450-500,000) remained where they lived during and after the war. Starting in the mid-1780s a small percentage of those who had left returned to the United States.

During and following the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, Loyalists (especially soldiers and former officials) could choose evacuation. Loyalists whose roots were not yet deeply embedded in the New World were more likely to leave; older people who had familial bonds and had acquired friends, property, and a degree of social respectability were more likely to remain in the US.[21]

Approximately ten to fifteen percent pee left insted of forward(about 62,000 white Loyalists, or about 2 percent of the total US population of 3 million in 1783). The figure of 100,000 Loyalists is often given for the number who went into exile, but this figure is an estimation that could be more accurate if it included Native American and African-American Loyalists and emigrants to Canada from the USA from 1783 to 1800. Many of these later emigrants were motivated by the desire to take advantage of the British government's offer of free land, but many also were disillusioned by the continuing hostility to Tories and eventually decided to leave the new Republic.

About 46,000 went to British North America (present-day Canada). Of these 34,000 went to Nova Scotia, 2,000 to Prince Edward Island and 10,000 to Ontario. 7,000 went to Great Britain and 9,000 to the Bahamas and British colonies in the Caribbean.[22] The 34,000 who went to Nova Scotia, where they were not well received by the Nova Scotians who were mostly descendants of New Englanders settled there before the Revolution, so the colony of New Brunswick, until 1784 part of Nova Scotia, was created for the 14,000 who had settled in those parts. Of the 46,000 who went to Canada, 10,000 went to the Province of Quebec, especially the Eastern Townships of Quebec and modern-day Ontario. The Haldimand Collection is the main source for historians in the study of American Loyalist settlement in Canada.

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.

The postnominals "U.E." are rarely seen today, but the influence of the Loyalists on the evolution of Canada remains. Their ties to Britain and their antipathy to the United States provided the strength needed to keep Canada independent and distinct in North America. The Loyalists' basic distrust of republicanism and "mob rule" influenced Canada's gradual path to independence. The new British North American provinces of Upper Canada (the forerunner of Ontario) and New Brunswick were founded as places of refuge for the United Empire Loyalists.

The wealthiest and most prominent Loyalist exiles went to Great Britain to rebuild their careers; many received pensions. Many Southern Loyalists, taking along their slaves, went to the West Indies and the Bahamas, particularly to the Abaco Islands.

Many Loyalists brought their slaves with them to Canada (mostly to areas that later became Ontario and New Brunswick) where slavery was legal. An imperial law in 1790 assured prospective immigrants to Canada that their slaves would remain their property.[23]

Thousands of Iroquois and other Native Americans were expelled from New York and other states and resettled in Canada. The descendants of one such group of Iroquois, led by Joseph Brant Thayendenegea, settled at Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest First Nations reserve in Canada. A group of African-American Loyalists settled in Nova Scotia but emigrated again for Sierra Leone after facing discrimination there.

Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) was a loyalist who fled to London when the war began. He became a scientist noted for pioneering thermodynamics and for his research on artillery ordnance. He expressed a desire to return to the United States in 1799 and was eagerly sought by the Americans (who needed help in fighting the Quasi-War with France). Rumford eventually decided to stay in London because he was engrossed with establishing the Royal Institution in England.[24]

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 1794.

Return of some exiles

The great majority of Loyalists never left the United States, they stayed on and were allowed to be citizens of the new country. Some became nationally prominent leaders, including Samuel Seabury and Tench Coxe. Alexander Hamilton enlisted the help of the ex-Loyalists in New York in 1782-85 to forge an alliance with moderate Whigs to wrest the state from the power of the Clinton faction. Several thousand of those who had left for Florida returned to Georgia. There was a small, but significant trickle of returnees who found life in Nova Scotia too difficult. Some Massachusetts Tories settled in the Maine District. Nevertheless the vast majority who did leave never returned.

Captain Benjamin Hallowell, who as Mandamus Councilor in Massachusetts served as the direct representative of the Crown, was considered by the insurgents as one of the most hated men in the Colony, but as a token of compensation when he returned from England in 1796, his son was allowed to regain the family house.[3]

Impact of the departure of Loyalist leaders

The departure of so many royal officials, rich merchants and landed gentry destroyed the hierarchical networks that had dominated most of the colonies. In New York, the departure of key members of the DeLancy, DePester Walton and Cruger families undercut the interlocking families that largely owned and controlled the Hudson Valley. Likewise in Pennsylvania, the departure of powerful families--Penn, Allen, Chew, Shippen--destroyed the cohesion of the old upper class there. New men became rich merchants but they shared a spirit of republican equality that replaced the elitism and the Americans never recreated such a powerful upper class. One rich patriot in Boston noted in 1779 that "fellows who would have cleaned my shoes five years ago, have amassed fortunes and are riding in chariots."[25]

Prominent Loyalists

See also


  1. ^ The Americans promised in the peace treaty to recommend that states redress the losses, but that seldom happened. Exiled loyalists received ₤3 million or about 37% of their losses from Britain. Some Loyalists who stayed in the U.S. were able to retain their property. Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole, eds, A Companion to the American Revolution (2004) pp. 246, 399, 641-2
  2. ^ Calhoon, "Loyalism and neutrality" p. 235
  3. ^ Middlekauff (2005) pp. 563-564
  4. ^ Middlekauff (2005)
  5. ^ Georgia Encyclopædia.
  6. ^ Robert M. Calhoon, in 'A companion to the American Revolution', (2000); p 235.
  7. ^ John Adams has sometimes been cited as having claimed, in a 1813 letter, that one-third of the American people supported the revolution and one-third were against. However, the passage in question actually refers to the French Revolution of 1789. see Only 1/3rd of Americans Supported the American Revolution?, by William Marina. 6-28-2004. Retrieved on July 14, 2008.
  8. ^ See The American Revolution and the Minority Myth. January 1, 1975. By William Marina. Retrieved on July 14 2008; "The Works of John Adams", Volume X, p. 63: To Thomas McKean, August 1813.
  9. ^ Lucas, Jeffery P. 2007 Cooling by Degrees: Reintegration of Loyalists in North Carolina, 1776-1790. M.A., NCSU. pp.3-4
  10. ^ Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789 (1985), p 550.
  11. ^ a b c Calhoon (1973)
  12. ^ See online NPS.gov
  13. ^ American Revolution - African Americans In The Revolutionary Period
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Aptheker, Herbert (1960). The American Revolution, 1763-1783. International Publishers Co. pp. 169. ISBN 0717800059. http://books.google.com/books?id=gSzhKlXUhmIC&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=%22+John+Brown%22+%22+Boston+Committee+of+Correspondence%22&source=web&ots=Sci--pQj2A&sig=ZAYH33knKpY8DT-h63-_tqjwl8E&hl=xx-elmer&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=16&ct=result.  
  17. ^ Mason Wade, The French Canadians (1955) 1:67–9.
  18. ^ Smith 264–7.
  19. ^ Calhoon 502.
  20. ^ Van Tyne, pp. 182–3.
  21. ^ Lohrenz (1998)
  22. ^ Canada, A People's History Volume 1
  23. ^ Patrick Bode, "Upper Canada, 1793: Simcoe and the Slaves." Beaver 1993 73(3): 17-19
  24. ^ Bradley 1974
  25. ^ Gordon Wood, The radicalism of the American Revolution (1991) pp. 176-77; quote on p 177.
  26. ^ Hankinson Online: An Online Resource for Hankinson Genealogy
  27. ^ Historical Biographies, Nova Scotia, 1800-1867


  • Bailyn, Bernard. The Contagion of Liberty. In The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, enlarged edition, 230-319. (1992).
  • Bailyn, Bernard. The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson: Loyalism and the Destruction of the First British Empire (1974), full scale biography of the most prominent Loyalist
  • Bradley, James E. "The Reprieve of a Loyalist: Count Rumford's Invitation Home." New England Quarterly 1974 47(3): 368-385. ISSN 0028-4866 in Jstor
  • Brown, Wallace. The King's Friends: The Composition and Motives of the American Loyalist Claimants (1966).
  • Calhoon, Robert M. "Loyalism and neutrality" in Jack P. Greene and J.R. Pole, eds., The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (1991)
  • Calhoon, Robert M. The Loyalists in Revolutionary America, 1766-1781" (1973), the most detailed study
  • Robert M. Calhoon, Timothy M. Barnes and George A. Rawlyk, eds. Loyalists and Community in North America (1994).
  • Jensen, Merrill; The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789 1950; detailed discussion of return of Loyalists, popular anger at their return; repeal of wartime laws against them
  • Kermes, Stephanie. "'I Wish for Nothing More Ardent upon Earth, than to See My Friends and Country Again': The Return of Massachusetts Loyalists." Historical Journal of Massachusetts 2002 30(1): 30-49. ISSN 0276-8313
  • Kerber, Linda. Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (1997)
  • Knowles, Norman. Inventing the Loyalists: The Ontario Loyalist Tradition and the Creation of Usable Pasts (1997) explores the identities and loyalties of those who moved to Canada.
  • Lohrenz, Otto; "The Advantage of Rank and Status: Thomas Price, a Loyalist Parson of Revolutionary Virginia." The Historian. 60#3 (1998) pp 561+. online
  • Middlekauff, Robert. "The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789." (2005 edition)
  • Moore, Christopher. The Loyalist: Revolution Exile Settlement. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, (1994).
  • Mason, Keith. “The American Loyalist Diaspora and the Reconfiguration of the British Atlantic World.” In Empire and Nation: The American Revolution and the Atlantic World, ed. Eliga H. Gould and Peter S. Onuf (2005).
  • Nelson, William H. The American Tory (1961)
  • Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (1996)
  • Peck, Epaphroditus; The Loyalists of Connecticut Yale University Press, (1934) online
  • Potter, Janice. The Liberty We Seek: Loyalist Ideology in Colonial New York and Massachusetts (1983).
  • Quarles, Benjamin; Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography University of Massachusetts Press. (1988)
  • Smith, Paul H. "The American Loyalists: Notes on Their Organization and Numerical Strength," William and Mary Quarterly 25 (1968): 259-77. in JSTOR
  • Van Tyne, Claude Halstead. The Loyalists in the American Revolution (1902) online
  • Mason Wade, The French Canadians: 1760-1945 (1955) 2 vol.

External links


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