American Loyalists

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The historiography of the American Loyalists has changed significantly since 1960 as the field has gradually expanded and recognized the diversity and complexity of Loyalism. Scholars who partook in the field’s expansion were influenced both by their contemporary world as well as the belief that there were various benefits in examining Loyalism from new vantage points. In this study I examine the changes that have taken place in the field since 1960, and then discuss the principal reasons for these developments. This paper is divided into two sections. I begin by depicting how the historiography of the Loyalists has evolved since 1960, and then follow by highlighting and explain the reasons for field’s evolution. My argument is twofold. In…show more content…
In The King’s Friends, Brown used an innovative approach in considering Loyalism, examining all of the post-war Loyalist claims from each colony, and compiling the details quantitatively. Brown concluded that Loyalism was concentrated in urban and seaboard areas, and that there was little Loyalism in the interior of the continent outside of New York and the Carolinas. Brown also argued that many recent immigrants, particularly in the South, became Loyalists as they were yet to be Americanized. The Loyalist claims also showed, through numerical data, how Loyalists varied in terms of wealth. In New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, Brown argued that the “Loyalists recruited heavily from the poor people,” while in Massachusetts the Loyalists were wealthier. In The Good Americans, Brown stressed how colonials had varying motives in remaining loyal. Some remained loyal for pragmatic reasons, such as a living in an area occupied by British troops or in anticipation of a British victory, while others were loyal for political reasons, such as having faith in the British Constitution, while others still remained loyal due to family…show more content…
Brown argued “the Loyalist leadership could not remotely match the Whigs in talent,” and that their fear of chaos during the Revolution caused “some” to be timid. Brown also accused the Loyalists of having a “fatal complacency” on British aid. Nelson was critical of Loyalist leaders, notably Joseph Galloway, who Nelson called “fearfully inept.” More broadly, Nelson contended that the Loyalist leadership lacked continuity and failed to produce any national leaders, or unite behind any convincing ideals, all of which contributed to their failure in opposing the Revolution. Nelson also argued that the Loyalists as a whole were unimaginative and apathetic, and what ideas they did have they were “too afraid to submit to the American public.” Bernard Bailyn in his 1974 work, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, used a case study approach in considering Loyalism. Bailyn examined how the educated, conservative Massachusetts Governor coped with the radical upheaval of the Revolution. Bailyn concluded that Hutchinson was too rational, short in passion and lacking in idealism to understand the reasons for the Revolution as well as to effectively react to its origins in Boston
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