What Do the Terms "loyalist," "patriot" and "neutralist" Mean?

terms-loyalist-patriot-neutralist-mean Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images/The Washington Post/Getty Images

During the American Revolutionary War, loyalists were colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, patriots were colonists who rebelled and openly fought against the British monarchy and neutralists were colonists who did not fight and did not side with a specific faction. Loyalists and patriots acted out of economic and socio-political interests. Neutralists often maintained their neutrality because they lived too far away to fight.

Patriots were ideologically against the abuses of the British Empire. Among the offenses they attributed to the mother country were the Tea Act, the Stamp Act and the Intolerable Acts. They objected to being taxed without representation in Parliament. They also resented the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade the colonists from settling west of the Appalachians after the French and Indian War. Patriots reproached the monarchy and favored republican principles espoused by the likes of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Loyalists tended to believe that the Crown was the legitimate government over the colonists and that revolution was morally wrong. Often, loyalists were older and financially better established with close ties to Britain. During the Revolution, loyalists were often the victims of abuse, such as tar and feathering. This violence led many British sympathizers to join the loyalist side and fight against the patriots.

Neutralists kept themselves from the conflict for a number of reasons: indecision, fear, or simply distance from epicenters of the war.