APUSH Period 6, October 4, 2012
Loyalists and the Revolutionary War
Around the time of the mid-late 1700's, people in the United States (then the Thirteen Colonies) who supported Great Britain were called Loyalists. The Loyalists respected the king's authority and were opposed to the American Revolution. They were for the most part happy with the king, as the rebellion had been fueled by (the patriot's) general discontent with British rule (Allen xv). The Loyalists also had a chance to defeat the Patriots in the war, because they were much better prepared for war than the Americans. They had a stronger military and navy, and were a more powerful country overall. A huge part of our economy was dependant on trade with Britain. The colonies didn't know how to govern themselves yet, so Loyalists thought that the colonies would fall apart without the strong government rule that King and his army provided.
The Loyalist's political views were generally very different from the Patriot's. Although the term 'Loyalist' refers to someone who took the side of the British in the American Revolution, it should be noted that the British had other problems besides the Colonies' rebellion even during the war, such as how "French and Spanish warships patrolled the English Channel and threatened to invade England itself while her armies were across the Atlantic" (Allison 56). Loyalists thought that King George III was not an unjust or cruel leader, that he was doing the best he could regarding how he governed the colonies given the circumstances.
As mentioned in my thesis, the Loyalists realized that the colonies would have difficulty governing themselves if they became independant, especially because all of the thirteen were seperate and had no universal government connecting and ruling them all except for the British crown. Some of the colonies (i.e. Northeastern colonies that relied heavily on trade, Southern ones that were very rural and big on plantation and agriculture) were extremely different from each other in their needs and interests. How could thirteen colonies who had never governed themselves autonomously before hope to be successful as an independant country? They foresaw that seperating from England would cause some problems: "Our society would fall apart: The value of our property would drop; There would always be conflict between big and small colonies; In order to win the war we would have to have help from Spain and France. What's to keep these countries from trying to take over afterthe war? ...We need the protection that England can give us. They protected us in the French and Indian war. They can also protect us in future conflicts" ("Loyalist's Beliefs" 1).
The Loyalists defended many of England's actions that the Patriots criticized and used as justification for the rebellion. For instance, while a Patriot might say that the taxes King George III imposed (stamp act, stugar act, townshend taxes, etc.) were tyrannical and wrong because it was taxation without representation, a Loyalist might reply that they were justified because the King was using Britain's resources (money, soldiers, ships, etc.) to help protect and improve the quality of life in the colonies, and that it was only fair that the colonists do their part to pay back their debt. Aside from the ethical argument, the King was the rightful ruler at the time and it was within his power to levy taxes.
The majority of the colonists disliked the kings policies, or openly sympathized with the patriot cause. Because of this, many of the loyalists were treated very badly. People who were suspected of working for the king were beaten, had their house burned, or were tarred and feathered. Throughout the colonies, there was more and more open and widespread resentment towards the king: "Most of the Episcopal clergy's duties included prayers for the king... The Patriots had silenced most Episcopal clergymen in the colonies...
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