The American Revolutionary War that occurred between 1765 and 1783 divided the people living in the American colonies into two groups: the patriots and the loyalists. Patriots wanted colonies located in America to gain independence from the Great Britain and form their own country known as the United States. On the other hand, loyalists were of the opinion that they would be better off if the colonies continued to be under British rule. They wanted to remain part of Britain and as British citizens.
Patriots belonged to the thirteen British colonies that rebelled against British rule in the course of the American Revolutionary War, instead choosing to support the US Continental Congress. They were against the imposition of British taxes and the fact that colonists were not represented in the British Parliament. After the French and Indian War that took place between 1753 and 1763, the colonies attained a lot more independence as a result of salutary neglect. This was a policy by the British of allowing them to infringe on strict trade restrictions as a way of spurring economic growth. During the conflict, patriots sought to have this policy formally acknowledged through independence. Since they were confident of gaining independence in the near future, they resorted to violence directed towards tax collectors and pilling pressure on fellow colonists to adopt a position on the matter.
The rebellion by patriots was influenced by the political philosophy of republicanism that was fronted by the then top public figures. This philosophy put emphasis on civic virtue while rejecting aristocracy and monarchy. Although not all colonists favored a violent rebellion, about 45% of the white population either identified themselves as patriots or were in support of the patriots cause. On the other hand, between 15% and 20% of them were on the loyalists side that supported the British. The rest of the population chose not to take a well-defined position in the conflict. Eventually, people joined the Patriot cause or remained as loyalists based on the side they felt best represented their interests. Patriots mainly consisted of yeoman farmers. Those with family or business ties to Great Britains elite class together with prominent merchants in port towns tended to be on the loyalist side. All in all, individuals from all socio-economic classes identified themselves with both sides of the conflict.
Notable early patriots included Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin. These were the masterminds of the early United States republic and the US Constitution, and are considered as among its founding fathers. Before 1775, many of these men were active members of an organization called the Sons of Liberty that was formed with the aim of protecting the colonists rights from seizure by the British government. In the course of the revolutionary war, the strategy adopted by the British heavily relied on a misguided notion that loyalists could be recruited into forming regiments. However, such expectations for real support were never fully satisfied.
Members of the thirteen colonies did not offer unanimous support to the Patriot Siege of Boston that took place between 19th April 1775 and 17th March 1776. There was prevalent corruption among local authorities which isolated colonists from the Patriots cause. Colonists in New Jersey, New York, and certain areas of North and South Carolina were indecisive on whether or not to take part in the Revolution. Loyalism was especially strong in the Quebec Province. Despite some Canadians taking up arms to support the Patriots cause, most of them remained loyal to the British Crown. Slaves were influenced into joining the Loyalist cause by the promise that they would be set free once the war was over. Patriots copied this strategy by freeing slaves who served in the Continental Army. However, after the war came to an end, both sides often failed to fulfill these promises of freedom.
By the fourth of July 1776, patriots were in control of most parts of the thirteen territories, having expelled almost all royal officials. The colonists who openly pledged their loyalty to the British government were chased away from their communities. Often, loyalists went underground and offered support to the British covertly. Long Island and New York City were the political and military bases of operations within North America between 1776 and 1783. They hosted a large number of loyalists, most of whom were refugees who had fled from other states. All in all, loyalists maintained power in limited territories where the British had a formidable military presence.
Once the loyalist cause was defeated, many of its supporters fled to Britain and various other parts of the British Empire such as Canada and Nova Scotia. The departure of wealthy merchants and royal officials damaged the hierarchical networks that flourished within the colonies. Top members of elite families in control of most of the industry and business in Boston, Philadelphia and New York left the United States. Such a situation greatly undermined upper class cohesion and transformed the colonies social structure.
Raphael, Ray. A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. New Press, The, 2016.
Smith, Paul H. Loyalists and Redcoats: A Study in British Revolutionary Policy. UNC Press Books, 2014.
Washington, George, and Continental Army. The American Revolution: 1775-1783. Vol. II. Boston: Little, Brown, 2014.
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