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Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, Volume 5 (October 1983)

by Patrice Williams

During the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1782, two parties fought valiantly against each other, hoping to achieve various goals. One of the parties was called Patriots or Rebels while the other was referred to as Royalists, Loyalists or Tories. For the Patriots the ultimate goal of the war was independence, for the Loyalists re-instatement of British rule.

At the onset of the war the British Government believed that the majority of Americans were loyal to England. It was said that "two thirds of the people were on the British side only awaiting the presence of the British army to rise up against the tyranny of the Continential Congress."1 In actual fact, however, only one third of the American population was loyal to the British Crown.2 This group was composed of many well-to-do Americans, such as lawyers, doctors, clergymen, government officials, merchants and land owners.3 These people were reluctant to involve their persons and their property in the turbulent quest for independence. Of these Americans some rightly deserved the name of Loyalists as their hatred for the leaders of the Revolution in the South eclipsed the fear of tyranny from overseas.4 Their hatred stemmed from continuous mistreatment and ill use. It is small wonder, therefore, that they looked to the Mother Country, which had treated them favourably, for relief against the unfair system of representation by which they were taxed without consent and against the judicial system which denied them access to the courts.5 "For these Loyalists, tryanny began at home."6

Compare these people to others who bore the name "Loyalists" but practised a certain type of neutrality. Of these, John C. Miller in his book Triumph of Freedom said, "In Revolution many seek only to survive: safety rather than glory is the greatest good."7 And so, during the war of American Independence thousands were contented to take comfortable seats on the side lines, cheer both sides and be the first to congratulate the winner. By passing as a Loyalist with the British and as a Patriot with the Americans one hoped to possess "doubled-barrelled insurance"8 against molestation or loss of property. Once their duplicity was revealed these people were branded by both sides as traitors.


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  1. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, United States 1948, pp 54-59.
  2. Ibid. Also see The Spirit of Seventy-Six: The Story Of The Revolution as told by Participants. Edited by Henty Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, New York, 1967.
  3. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, United States 1948, pp 54-59.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.