During the American Revolutionary War, the people living in the Thirteen American Colonies had to decide whether they wanted to break away from the British rule and gain independence, or remain British citizens. These two groups were the patriots and the loyalists.
Patriots wanted the Thirteen colonies to gain independence from Britain. They wanted to create their own laws and form the United States of America.
The Patriots wanted freedom from British rule because didn’t think they were treated well. The British kept introducing new taxes and laws and the colonists had no representatives on the government – which lead to unrest and calls for “liberty”. Patriots did not want to be ruled by the British any longer.
There were a number of famous Patriots. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and John Adams both eventually became president. George Washington was a patriot who led the Continental Army and after the American Revolution he became the first President of the United States.
A number of patriots became known as the Founding Fathers of the United States. They include Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Ethan Allen.
Some people wanted to stay part of Britain and remain British citizens. A lot of the colonists had British relatives or ancestors, and some were just very grateful for the opportunity to farm peacefully in this British-ruled land.
A significant amount of loyalists were African-American slaves. The British promised to free the slaves from their Patriot masters and around 50,000 slaves (roughly 10% of the total slave population in the 1770s) fled their masters to side with the loyalists.
Other colonists had business interests in England. They know that British trade was important to the economy and their livelihood and thought British rule would be better for them than the patriots. and knew that English trade was important to the economy.
One of the most famous loyalists was Benedict Arnold. He was a general in the Continental Army and defected to fight for the British instead. There aren’t as many famous loyalists as there are patriots because they lost the war, but other famous loyalists included the governor of the Massachusetts colony, Thomas Hutchinson, Joseph Galloway, the Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress who later worked for the British army, John Butler, the leader of the loyalists troops Butler’s Rangers, and the mayor of New York City, David Mathews.