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Random Thoughts

British loyalists


In April 1775 the American Revolutionary War began. People living in the colonies along the Atlantic coast of North America revolted, wanting independence from Great Britain. Great Britain, by the way, was created in 1707 when England, Wales and Scotland united.

Old history textbooks used a phrase which, thankfully, newer books rarely do. The old texts referred to Great Britain as the colonists’ “mother country.” This meant, of course, that the British government had given birth to the colonies.

The theory holds that the colonists had grown up and, like ungrateful children, wanted now to be free to make their own rules and no longer obey their parent.

There was, of course, much truth to the mother-children analogy even if today it seems a little corny. It is also simplistic. Many colonists, in fact, had not come from Great Britain but from other western European countries like Germany, Holland, France, Ireland and the Scandinavian region.

Perhaps equally important is the fact that many people in the British colonies had been born in North America and had never seen Europe. Their ancestors may have come from Great Britain but they had not.

George Washington, the leader of the colonial army during the Revolutionary War, was a fifth-generation American! His great-great-great grandparents had been born in England – but so what?

Moreover, many colonists (regardless of their place of birth) remained loyal to Great Britain during the war and even fought on the British side! They saw no reason to break away and become independent.

Many of these British loyalists were from the southern rural colonies, just as the most fervent advocates for independence were more often from the northern urban areas.

Much of this rural-urban split had to do with the taxes that the British government imposed on the colonies. More northerners shopped in city stores and had to pay taxes on the things they bought. Many southerners never shopped in stores.

Thus, those who were paying the taxes were more upset about them than those who were not paying. Some things, apparently, never change!


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