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Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker (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 Britainmarker or elsewhere in British North America (especially New Brunswickmarker), where they were called United Empire Loyalists; some went to the British West Indies, especially the Bahamasmarker). Black Loyalists made up some of the Loyalist community. They lost all the property left behind, but were compensated by British claims procedures.

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

Loyalists in wartime

By July 4, 1776 the Patriots had gained control of virtually all territory in the 13 colonies, expelling all royal officials. No one was allowed to remain who openly proclaimed their loyalty to the king. 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 that fought for the king.

The British had been forced out of Bostonmarker by March 17, 1776; but they returned to New Yorkmarker in August to convincingly defeat George Washington's army at Long Islandmarker and in doing so, captured New York Citymarker and its vicinity, where they remained until 1783. From time to time they also seized control of other cities such as Philadelphiamarker (1777), Savannah (1778–83) and Charleston (1780–82), together with various slices of countryside. However, 90% of the colonial population lived outside the cities. The result was that the Congress always 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 Georgiamarker 1779–82, although the Americans still controlled the northern part of the state. The British were only able to maintain power where they had a strong military presence.

About Canada

In Canadamarker, rebel agents were active, especially John Brown, agent of the Boston Committee of Correspondence, along with Canadian merchant Thomas Walker, a rebel sympathiser, and others, during the winter of 1774–1775. They won over some inhabitants to sympathy with the US Congress. However others — probably the large majority — remained neutral, also not joining the militia which the British had called out to protect against the rebel invasion in late 1775. Although only a minority openly expressed loyalty to King George: about 1500 militia fought for the King in the Siege of Fort St. Jeanmarker. In the region south of Montreal occupied by the rebels, some inhabitants supported them and raised two regiments to join them. In Nova Scotiamarker, a large settlement of Yankees tried to win more support, but with the powerful British naval base there, this was quickly stamped out.

Loyalists in the Thirteen Colonies

Historian Robert Calhoun wrote concerning the proportion of loyalists and rebels:

Earlier estimates were somewhat higher, reaching one-third of the population, but are no longer accepted by most scholars. Adams did indeed estimate in another letter, 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 In the late 1960s Paul H. Smith arrived at the lower figure of 19.8% by statistical calculations based on the strength of the loyalist regiments fighting for the British.

Historian Robert Middlekauff summarizes scholarly research on who was a Loyalist 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.

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

Calhoun (1973) shows that Loyalists tended to be older, more likely merchants and wealthier, but there were also many Loyalists of humble means. Many active Church of England members became Loyalists. Some recent arrivals from Britainmarker, especially Scots, had a high Loyalist proportion. Loyalists in the southern colonies, however, were suppressed by the local Revolutionaries who controlled local and state government. Many people — such as some of the ex-Regulators in North Carolinamarker — refused to join the Revolutionaries as they had earlier protested against corruption by the local authorities who later became Revolutionary leaders. Such pre-Revolutionary War oppression by the local Whigs contributed to the reason that much of backcountry North Carolina tended to be loyalist.

In areas under rebel control— that is most of the country — Loyalists were subject to confiscation of property. 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. Two Philadelphia residents were executed for actively aiding the British army when it occupied the city. In September 1775 William Drayton and Loyalist leader Colonel Thomas Fletchall signed a treaty of neutrality in the interior community of Ninety Sixmarker, South Carolinamarker.

Black Loyalists and slavery

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 Landingmarker. They then fought the Battle of Great Bridgemarker 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.

About 400 to 1000 free blacks went to London and joined the community of about 10,000 free blacks there. About 3500 to 4000 went to the British colonies of Nova Scotiamarker and New Brunswickmarker, where the British provided them with land. Over 1,500 settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotiamarker, instantly making it the largest free black community in North America. However, mainly because they were willing to work for less money than their white counterparts, some old prejudices crept back in. Britain, still wishing to stand by their commitment, offered to transport those that were dissatisfied elsewhere, so about 1,500 left Nova Scotia for the British colony of Sierra Leonemarker in Africa where they named the capital, Freetownmarker. After 1787 they became Sierra Leone's ruling elite.


French Canadians had been appeased by the British government's Quebec Act of 1774, which offered religious and linguistic toleration, and were less receptive to the Declaration of Independence. While some Canadians took up arms for the republicans, the majority remained loyal to the King.

Because the British had only captured Quebec in 1759marker, most of the English-speaking settlers there were newly arrived and many were British-born - a group which was generally less likely to support separation from Britain. The older British colonies such as Nova Scotiamarker and Newfoundlandmarker also remained loyal to the crown, and contributed military forces.

In 1775 the rebels, led by Major General Benedict Arnold and Colonel Montegomery, sent a force into the Province of Quebec, hoping to recruit it into joining the revolution. They were turned back by a combination of the British military under Governor Guy Carleton, the difficult terrain, and an indifferent local response.

1,500 Canadians also took part in a British expedition that eventually led to the surrender of Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratogamarker in 1777. After the entry of France into the war in 1778, many Canadians feared that an effort would be made by the French to reclaim their old Canadian lands, which contributed further to Anglo-Canadian 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, but were unsuccessful in the final settlement, except for what is now Michiganmarker. Although the British posts at Detroitmarker 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. 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. 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.


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.

Approximately ten to fifteen percent of the Loyalists left (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 Scotiamarker, 2,000 to Prince Edward Islandmarker and 10,000 to Ontariomarker. 7,000 went to Great Britain and 9,000 to the Bahamasmarker and British colonies in the Caribbeanmarker. 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 Brunswickmarker, 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 Quebecmarker, especially the Eastern Townships of Quebec and modern-day Ontariomarker. 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 Brunswickmarker 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 Indiesmarker and the Bahamasmarker, particularly to the Abaco Islandsmarker.

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

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 Leonemarker 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 Institutionmarker in England.

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 recognized as 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. In that role, he 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.[94508]

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."

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. Loyalists who stayed in the U.S. retained 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. Mason Wade, The French Canadians (1955) 1:67–9.
  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. Calhoun 1973
  12. See online
  13. American Revolution - African Americans In The Revolutionary Period
  14. Smith 264–7.
  15. Calhoon 502.
  16. Van Tyne, pp. 182–3.
  17. Lohrenz (1998)
  18. Canada, A People's History Volume 1
  19. Patrick Bode, "Upper Canada, 1793: Simcoe and the Slaves." Beaver 1993 73(3): 17-19
  20. Bradley 1974
  21. Gordon Wood, The radicalism of the American Revolution (1991) pp. 176-77; quote on p 177.
  22. Hankinson Online: An Online Resource for Hankinson Genealogy
  23. 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.

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