A difference of opinion
Loyalists disagreed with the idea of the 13 colonies becoming an independent nation. Some believed that the colonies were safer if they were protected by the British Empire, and it was reasonable to pay for that protection through their taxes. Others had family in England or were recent immigrants and they were loyal to the “Mother Country.” Some had positions in the government, or businesses that depended on British trade.

Who were the Loyalists?
Who were Loyalists? They came from every walk of life: they were tradesmen and clergymen, farmers, soldiers, and slaves. They were from different religions, and different countries or origin. Some were recent immigrants from Europe who feared the instability of revolution and wished to have the protection of the British Empire.

Loyalists acted on their belief that the colonies should have peace, order and good government. Some organized to fight the rebels. Others left during the war for Quebec and Nova Scotia, the British Colonies to the north. Many worked to undermine the rebels by helping the British Army, acting as spies or secret agents and giving food and shelter to the British or to other Loyalists.

Those who voiced their disagreement and angered their rebel neighbors suffered serious consequences. People who supported the British government were persecuted in a number of ways. Some were denied their rights, such as the right to vote, sell land, or sue people who owed them money. They were prevented from working as doctors, lawyers, or teachers. Worst of all, people who supported the English government were sometimes physically harmed, stripped of their possessions and banished from their homes on pain of death.

No choice but to leave
After the Declaration of Independence in 1776 Loyalists were considered traitors and they were exiled by the new government, their land and possessions taken. In 1783 Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, which ended the War of Independence and recognized the United States of America as a new country.

Loyalists had no choice but to leave. Between 1775 and 1783 over 70 000 people left the 13 colonies, with as many as 50 000 moving north to build a new life in what would become Canada.