Loyalist vs. Patriot

What's the Difference?

Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War, while Patriots were those who supported the independence movement and fought for freedom from British rule. Loyalists believed in maintaining ties with Britain and preserving the existing political and social order, while Patriots sought to break away from British control and establish a new, independent nation. Both groups were passionate in their beliefs and were willing to fight for their cause, leading to a bitter and divisive conflict that ultimately resulted in the birth of the United States of America.


Photo by Christina Brinza on Unsplash
BeliefsSupport British ruleSupport independence from Britain
Political stancePro-BritishAnti-British
LocationOften in urban areasOften in rural areas
Economic interestsOften wealthy landownersVaried economic backgrounds
MotivationsDesire for stability and orderDesire for freedom and self-governance
Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

Further Detail


During the American Revolutionary War, there were two main factions that emerged - the Loyalists and the Patriots. Loyalists were individuals who remained loyal to the British Crown, while Patriots were those who sought independence from British rule. These two groups had distinct attributes that set them apart from each other.

Beliefs and Loyalties

Loyalists believed in the authority of the British government and the benefits of remaining part of the British Empire. They felt a strong sense of loyalty to the Crown and believed that the British government had the right to govern the American colonies. On the other hand, Patriots believed in the principles of liberty, democracy, and self-governance. They were inspired by Enlightenment ideals and sought independence from British rule in order to establish a new nation based on these principles.

Geographic Distribution

Loyalists were more likely to be found in urban areas, especially in cities like New York and Philadelphia where British influence was strong. They tended to be wealthier and more conservative, with ties to the British government through business or social connections. Patriots, on the other hand, were more prevalent in rural areas and smaller towns, where they could organize resistance to British rule without interference. They were often farmers, tradesmen, and laborers who were willing to fight for their beliefs.

Actions and Support

Loyalists actively supported the British government during the Revolutionary War, providing troops, supplies, and intelligence to the British forces. They were often targeted by Patriots for their loyalty, leading to persecution and confiscation of property. Patriots, on the other hand, organized militias, boycotted British goods, and engaged in acts of civil disobedience to protest British policies. They received support from other colonies and foreign powers, such as France, in their fight for independence.

Impact on Society

The divide between Loyalists and Patriots had a significant impact on American society during the Revolutionary War. Families and communities were torn apart by conflicting loyalties, leading to social unrest and violence. Loyalists faced discrimination and persecution for their beliefs, while Patriots were hailed as heroes for their resistance to British rule. After the war, many Loyalists fled to Canada or other British territories, while Patriots celebrated their victory and established a new nation based on democratic principles.

Legacy and Memory

The legacy of Loyalists and Patriots continues to shape American identity and memory. Loyalists are often portrayed as traitors or villains in American history, while Patriots are celebrated as founding fathers and champions of liberty. However, recent scholarship has sought to provide a more nuanced understanding of both groups, recognizing the complexity of their beliefs and motivations. By examining the attributes of Loyalists and Patriots, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges and conflicts that shaped the American Revolutionary War.

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