During the Revolutionary War era, Loyalists were generally staunch supporters of the British government for personal incentive or people who were simply reluctant to overturn the entire sociopolitical order. While often labeled as traitors or cowards, many overt supporters viewed themselves as British citizens and considered the rebellion a disloyal movement. Loyalists in positions of political authority or commerce also recognized that their colonial prosperity was dependent upon British support, making them wary of cutting ties with the mother country.
Loyalists who openly supported Britain frequently came under personal attack, and people who refused to choose sides faced pressure from both sides. As a result, many Loyalists emerged in opposition to the colonial pressure to enlist and the aggressive tactics of the Patriots, which fueled their fears of anarchy. To many conservative colonists, the Patriots' behavior appeared radical and impulsive, especially as the wider community suffered from British retaliation against rebel events such as the Boston Tea Party.
Pacifist groups, such as Quakers, often became Loyalists by default because they refused to engage in violent actions, marking them as enemies of the Patriots. Many black Loyalists chose a side after the British government promised to free slaves who abandoned their Patriot masters, resulting in the recruitment of roughly 50,000 people. Other ethnic divides drove specific cultural groups, such as Native Americans and Scottish colonists, to support the Loyalist cause, as they had regularly faced oppression from the colonists or colonial governments.