Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Historical Insights Loyalists During the American Revolution

During the Revolutionary War, patriot mobs punished Loyalists with the painful and humiliating practice of tarring and feathering. About 1780, Boston, Massachusetts. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Loyalists During the American Revolution

About a third of American colonists from all religions, classes, and professions stayed true to the British Crown during the American Revolution.

During the American Revolution, the colonies were a house divided, and choosing a side was no easy task. An estimated 500,000 (about 30 percent of colonists) were Tories, who stayed faithful to the British Crown. Also known as Loyalists, many were businessmen, wealthy landowners, and government workers whose livelihoods depended on trade with the British Empire. Facing violent persecution by the Patriots, some were tarred and feathered, others whipped and put in stocks. Their homes, animals, and goods could even be seized by law. While some fought in the Revolutionary War in the British Army, around 70,000 escaped to other regions in the British Empire, leaving their possessions—and sometimes family members—behind. The majority fled to Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Born and raised in America, many Loyalists had never lived anywhere else, but after the patriot victory, were forever banished from their homeland.