Patriot and Loyalist Support for the American Revolution

When looking back at the outset of the American Revolution most assume that the colonies were united in their quest for independence. Sure there were some loyalists who sided with the British, but a vast majority supported independence. This chart shows this narrative to be incorrect. This article shows what was the likely support for the American Revolution among the colonists.

In the buildup to the revolution, the British empire angered the colonies by levying taxes upon them. The taxes were justified, per the British, in order to pay for the defense of the colonies and the costly war (Seven Years War) against France the British fought on the colonies behalf. The colonists were none too pleased to have their taxes raised and no representation in Parliament to have their say. After years of unrest, fighting broke out in 1775. A year later, the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Patriot and Loyalist Support for the American Revolution

Patriot and Loyalist Support for American Revolution chart

Propaganda in support of independence split the colonists into two groups: Patriots and Loyalists. Patriots were active supporters of independence, and willing to fight for it. Loyalists were sympathetic to the British cause and willing to either fight against their fellow colonists, or maintain ties with Britain via trade or military support.

In actuality, there was a third group that very nearly made up the majority of the populous. Nearly 40% of the colonists were neither Patriot nor Loyalist, but neutral. These people were the type that were either pacifists, recent immigrants, or simply apolitical. They simply had no interest in the matter or committing to either cause. Another term for this group was “fence-sitters”.

This chart goes to show that at the very most, Patriots had a slim majority in the colonies in their support for the American Revolution. Despite this, the Patriots were much more successful at persuading these Neutralists towards their cause. As the war raged on and the continental army showed signs it could hold their own, more and more flocked toward the cause of American independence.


Source: A Companion to the American Revolution

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