Prior to establishing independence, American Colonists were subject to laws enacted by the British Parliament, a ruling body in which they had no representation. Opposition to these laws, particularly those regarding taxation, would eventually lead the Colonists to revolt. Not all Colonists favored breaking away from England, however. It's estimated one in six Colonists were Loyalists and preferred to remain part of the British Empire. Loyalists suffered many abuses at Patriot hands and risked life and property to remain faithful British subjects. Many also fought for the British during the American Revolution.
No Gain, No Loyalty
Benedict Arnold was an officer in the Continental Army and, between 1775 and 1777, participated in several successful campaigns defending central New York from British forces. However, Arnold was continually passed over for recognition and promotion. Disillusioned and suffering from a leg wound, Arnold accepted the military governorship of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1778. Arnold soon become involved in a plot to surrender the American fort at West Point, New York, in return for money and a commission in the British army. The plot was uncovered, but Arnold nevertheless joined the Loyalists and fought for the British in several campaigns. At the war's conclusion, Arnold settled in England. He finally received recognition in America -- as a traitor.
No Tolerance for Paine
Lt. Col. James Chalmers considered the pen and the sword to be of equal might. Writing under the pseudonym "Candidus," in 1776 he published the pamphlet "Plain Truth," which argued against the pro-revolutionary theories espoused by Thomas Paine in his book, "Common Sense." Chalmers also served as a commander of the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists during the Revolution. Paine's work inspired many to support revolutionary ideals, but Chalmers work failed to stir opposition to the cause. After the Revolution, Chalmers returned to England.
After fighting in defense of the Colonies during the French and Indian War, John Butler, a landowner in New York's Mohawk Valley, supported the British in the Revolution. He founded the Loyalist guerrilla group Butler's Rangers and soon was joined by his son, Walter, and Native Americans from the Six Nations tribes. The Rangers wreaked havoc and death upon Colonial settlers from New York's Hudson Valley south to Kentucky. Thirteen-year-old Peter Bowman and his nine-year-old brother, sons of Jacob Bowman, a Loyalist and Mohawk Valley neighbor, joined the Rangers in burning down the Mohawk Valley's farms, including their own. Members of Butler's Rangers settled in Canada after the war on land given them by the British.
Fight for Freedom
Loyalist sentiments were not limited to those of European ancestry. Joseph Brant, an educated and respected Mohawk war chief of the Six Nations tribes, accepted a captain's commission in the British army. He convinced many Native Americans to support the British. An escaped slave named Titus, later known as "Colonel Tye," participated in raids throughout New Jersey while with the Royal Ethiopians. Thomas Peters, a slave from North Carolina, responded to a call to arms from Virginia governor and Loyalist Lord Dunmore, who promised to free all slaves supporting the British. A member of the Black Pioneers, Peters helped build forts and roads. He was one of more than 3,000 slaves who were re-settled by the British in Nova Scotia.
- USHistory.org: The Loyalists
- The Online Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies: Arnold's Proclamation to the Continentals, 1780
- History.com: Benedict Arnold
- ConstitutionFacts.com: Famous Loyalists
- USHistory.org: Thomas Paine
- CBC: History: Canada: A People's History: Butler's Rangers
- Archiving Early America: Chief Joseph Brant: Mohawk, Loyalist and Freemason
- USHistory.org: African Americans During the Revolution: Teacher Reference Sheet
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images