Degree Year

1981

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Advisor(s)

Carol Lasser

Keywords

Loyalists, Massachusetts, Harvard

Abstract

Historians have tended to approach the American Revolution from the perspective of its winners. They have tried to understand the causes and consequences of the war in terms of the attitudes, perceptions and actions of the revolutionaries. Although this approach had been very fruitful, the focus on the reasons for a revolution has obscured the possibility that any sensible, right-thinking American could have opposed the Revolution. There has long been an interest, however, in those colonists who did not support the Revolution. Recently, historians have sought to explain the motivation of these loyalists as a result of the characteristics and interests common to the social, economic, or geographical groups that were most frequently opposed to the Revolution.

William Nelson, for example, suggested that rank and file loyalists tended to be members of economic or cultural minorities. Thus, their loyalism could be explained by their greater fear of dominance by a local majority than their fear of continued British rule. Nelson also studied the leaders of the loyalists, finding them to be distinguished from their ,more patriotic contemporaries by a dependence on Britain for their political authority, Other historians, like Wallace Brown and Leonard Labaree, have focused on the loyalists' occupations, government office holding and religious affiliations as important characteristics. Finding that the loyalists were frequently merchants, lawyers, royal officials and Anglicans they have suggested that these were the significant factors in their loyalism. The loyalists were, in this view, motivated by a combination of close ties to Britain and economic and political self-interest.

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