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American colonist loyal to Britain in the American Revolution. About one-third of American colonists were loyalists, including officeholders who served the British crown, large landholders, wealthy merchants, Anglican clergy and their parishioners, and Quakers. Loyalists were most numerous in the South, New York, and Pennsylvania, but they did not constitute a majority in any colony. At first they urged moderation in the struggle for colonial rights; when denounced by radical patriots, they became active partisans. Some joined the British army, including 23,000 from New York; when captured in battle, they were treated as traitors. All states passed laws against them, confiscating or heavily taxing their property. Beginning in 1776, about 100,000 loyalists fled into exile, many to Canada. Public sentiment against them diminished after 1789, and punitive state laws were repealed by 1814.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on loyalist, visit Britannica.com.