Why American Colonists Did Not Want Independence From Great Britain
Published 18 May 2017
It is known from history that the American War of Independence ended with the victory of colonists that laid grounds for the existence of a young nation. Yet it would be wrong to presume that all colonists in the 13 states were striving for independence from Great Britain. According to Calhoon, about 15 to 20 percent of the colonists eventually stayed loyal to the crown (Calhoon 235), while among the rest many hesitated before they took the side of independents, or avoided the struggle. Active freedom fighters were actually a minority making about 40-45% of the colonies population, while the majority either did not want freedom, or had not certain position. In this paper I will argue that many colonists never wanted independence and analyze the reasons that caused them to do so.
Perhaps the most obvious reason was the desire of stability. Revolutionary war would obviously cause much changes in the society and the way of life in the colonies, that large conservative groups appeared to prevent those changes. The Loyalist party consisted mostly of older and wealthier men (Calhoon 237), who were quite content with their present status and would hardly risk to loose everything for ephemeral ideals of freedom.
The second reason that made many colonists reluctant about independence were emigrational processes. Massive migration of Europeans to the British colonies in America continued throughout 18th century, and many of recent immigrants did not yet feel that America was their land. They felt like living in a part of the British Empire, but not in a different land that could create a different nation. The situation has been aggravated by religious groups such as Quakers, who confronted any war, even the most independent one. As Middlekauff writes, “the Germans in Pennsylvania tried to stay out of the Revolution, just as many Quakers did, and when that failed, clung to the familiar connection rather than embrace the new. Highland Scots in the Carolinas, a fair number of Anglican clergy and their parishioners in Connecticut and New York, a few Presbyterians in the southern colonies, and a large number of the Iroquois Indians stayed loyal to the king” (Middlekauff 550).
The third reason for antagonism to independence was fear that the colonies would not survive separately. This concerned both political and economic factors. A tiny nation would stay alone in the world where it would have to stand against other empires such as France and Spain as well as against strong Indian tribes, and in this world a short period of freedom could be followed by another dictatorship. From the economic point of view the colonies were an agrarian land that was extremely dependent on import. War against Britain would ruin old economic ties and leave the colonists without the most necessary commodities needed for mere survival.
And the last but not least important reason was of philosophic character. Many of the colonists did not understand the idea of the republic and could not imagine any government except king’s government. Royal power symbolized order, while the republic was a symbol of chaos for many. The King was an Anointed One, but who was Washington? This is perhaps the most important reason: many colonists simply never believed in the Patriot’s cause but believed that they have to be loyal to their king same as God.
1. Calhoon, Robert M. “Loyalism and neutrality”. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution Ed. Jack P. Greene and J.R. Pole, Blackwell Publishers, 1991.
2. Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.