What Was the Debate Between Patriots and Loyalists?

The debate between the American Patriots and Loyalists regarded whether the British should govern the 13 American colonies. Patriots believed that the colonies should form their own country, while Loyalists believed that the colonies should remain in British hands.

The Patriots' desire for freedom had a number of sources. The ideals of the Enlightenment, for example, which valued the individual and called-for governments based on rights and the consent of the governed, fueled the drive for revolution. Also, many merchants believed that they could thrive without British trade constraints. Loyalists also had complex motivations. Many wealthy Loyalists had established trade networks within the colonial system. Others, such as the Native Americans, believed that a free American government would trample on their rights. Still others favored an orderly transition to independence over the violent upheaval of revolution.