Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 an independent nation. Their rebellion was based on the political philosophy of republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

, as expressed by pamphleteers, such as Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

, and Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...


They called themselves Whigs after 1768, identifying with members of the British Whig party (including the Radical Whigs
Radical Whigs
The Radical Whigs were "a group of British political commentators" associated with the British Whig faction who were at the forefront of Radicalism...

 and Patriot Whigs
Patriot Whigs
The Patriot Whigs and, later Patriot Party, was a group within the Whig party in Great Britain from 1725 to 1803. The group was formed in opposition to the ministry of Robert Walpole in the House of Commons in 1725, when William Pulteney and seventeen other Whigs joined with the Tory party in...

), who favored similar colonial policies.

As a group, Patriots represented an array of social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds. They included college
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

 students like Alexander Hamilton; planters
Plantations in the American South
Plantations were an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum .-Planter :The owner of a plantation was called a planter...

 like Thomas Jefferson; merchants like Alexander McDougall
Alexander McDougall
Alexander McDougall was an American seaman, merchant, a Sons of Liberty leader from New York City before and during the American Revolution, and a military leader during the Revolutionary War. He served as a major general in the Continental Army, and as a delegate to the Continental Congress...

; lawyers like John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

; and plain farmer
A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, who raises living organisms for food or raw materials, generally including livestock husbandry and growing crops, such as produce and grain...

s like Daniel Shays
Daniel Shays
Daniel Shays was an American soldier, revolutionary, and farmer famous for leading the Shays' Rebellion.-Early life:...

 and Joseph Plumb Martin
Joseph Plumb Martin
Joseph Plumb Martin was an American Revolutionary War soldier who published an account of his experiences as a soldier in the 8th Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Army in 1830.-Life:...


About the Patriots

Many Patriots were active before 1775 in groups such as the Sons of Liberty
Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty were a political group made up of American patriots that originated in the pre-independence North American British colonies. The group was formed to protect the rights of the colonists from the usurpations by the British government after 1766...

. The most prominent leaders of the Patriots are referred to today by Americans as the Founding Fathers of the United States
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

. The Patriots came from many different backgrounds. Among the most active of the Patriots group were highly educated and fairly wealthy individuals. However, without the support of the ordinary men and women, such as farmers, lawyers, merchants, seamstresses, homemakers, shopkeepers, and ministers, the struggle for independence would have failed.

In 2000 historian Robert Calhoon said the consensus of historians is that in the Thirteen Colonies between 40 and 45 percent of the white population supported the Patriots' cause, between 15 and 20% supported the Loyalists, and the remainder were neutral or kept a low profile.

Those colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 called themselves Loyalists
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

, "Tories
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

", or "King's men." During and after the war about 80,000 Tories left the United States. Most went to Canada, Britain, Florida or the West Indies. Most Tories remained in America.


One way to understand the Patriots is to compare their psychology with that of the Loyalists. Labaree (1948) has identified eight characteristics of the Loyalists that made them essentially conservative; opposite traits characterized the patriots. Psychologically, Loyalists were older, better established, and resisted innovation. They thought resistance to the Crown—the legitimate government—was morally wrong, while the Patriots thought morality was on their side. They were alienated when the Patriots resorted to violence, such as burning houses and tarring and feathering. Loyalists wanted to take a middle-of-the road position and were angry when forced by the Patriots to declare their opposition. Many Loyalists, especially merchants in the port cities, had a long-standing sentimental attachment to Britain (often with business and family links to other parts of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

). Some Loyalists were procrastinators who realized that independence was bound to come some day, but wanted to postpone the moment; the Patriots wanted to seize the moment. Loyalists were cautious and afraid of anarchy or tyranny that might come from mob rule; Patriots made a systematic effort to use and control mob violence. Finally, Labaree argues that Loyalists were pessimists who lacked the Patriots' confidence that independence lay ahead.

No taxation without representation

The Americans rejected taxes not imposed by their own legislatures. "No taxation without representation
No taxation without representation
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution...

," was their slogan—referring to the lack of representation in the British parliament. The British countered there was "virtual representation," that is, all members of Parliament represented the interests of all the citizens of the British Empire.

Though Patriots declared that they were loyal to the king, they believed that the assemblies should control issues relating just to the colonies. They should be able to run themselves. In fact, they had been running themselves after the period of "salutary neglect" before the French and Indian War. Some radical Patriots tarred and feathered tax collectors and customs officers, making those positions dangerous, especially in New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, in which lived the most Patriots.

List of prominent Patriots

Most of the individuals listed below served the American Revolution in multiple capacities.

Statesmen and office holders

  • John Adams
    John Adams
    John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

  • John Dickinson
    John Dickinson (delegate)
    John Dickinson was an American lawyer and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. He was a militia officer during the American Revolution, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of...

  • Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin
    Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

  • Jonathan Shipley
    Jonathan Shipley
    Jonathan Shipley was the son of a London stationer; his mother's family were owners of Twyford House, a large manor in Winchester, England. He was ordained a minister in the Church of England and became both Bishop of Llandaff and Bishop of St Asaph.Jonathan grew up at Walbrook in the City of...

  • William Paca
    William Paca
    William Paca was a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Maryland, and later Governor of Maryland and a United States federal judge.-Early life:...

Pamphleteers and activists

  • Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

  • William Molineux
    William Molineux
    There are several people bearing the name of William Molyneux: for the list, see Molyneux William Molineux was a hardware merchant in colonial Boston best known for his role in the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and earlier political protests.Molineux was unusual among the Boston Whigs in having been...

  • Timothy Matlack
    Timothy Matlack
    Timothy Matlack was a merchant, surveyor, architect, statesman, and patriot in the American Revolution. A delegate from Pennsylvania to the Second Continental Congress in 1780, he emerged during the Revolutionary period as one of Pennsylvania's most provocative and influential political...

  • Thomas Paine
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

  • Paul Revere
    Paul Revere
    Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

  • Patrick Henry
    Patrick Henry
    Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

  • Samuel Prescott
    Samuel Prescott
    Samuel Prescott was a Massachusetts Patriot during the American Revolutionary War. He is best remembered for his role in the "midnight ride" to warn the townspeople of Concord of the impending British army move to capture military stores kept there at the beginning of the American Revolution...

  • Molly Pitcher
    Molly Pitcher
    Molly Pitcher was a nickname given to a woman said to have fought in the American Revolutionary War, who is generally believed to have been Mary Ludwig Hays...

  • Roger Sherman
    Roger Sherman
    Roger Sherman was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a founding father. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic...

  • Philip Mazzei
    Philip Mazzei
    Philip Mazzei was an Italian physician and a promoter of liberty. He was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.-Biography :...

  • Quinton Young

Military officers

  • Nathanael Greene
    Nathanael Greene
    Nathanael Greene was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. Many places in the United...

  • Nathan Hale
    Nathan Hale
    Nathan Hale was a soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City but was captured by the British...

  • Francis Marion
    Francis Marion
    Francis Marion was a military officer who served in the American Revolutionary War. Acting with Continental Army and South Carolina militia commissions, he was a persistent adversary of the British in their occupation of South Carolina in 1780 and 1781, even after the Continental Army was driven...

  • Andrew Pickens
    Andrew Pickens (congressman)
    Andrew Pickens was a militia leader in the American Revolution and a member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina.-Early life:...

  • Daniel Morgan
    Daniel Morgan
    Daniel Morgan was an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. One of the most gifted battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War, he later commanded troops during the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion.-Early years:Most authorities believe that...

  • James Mitchell Varnum
    James Mitchell Varnum
    James Mitchell Varnum was an American legislator, lawyer and a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.-Early life:James Mitchell Varnum was born in Dracut, Massachusetts...

  • Joseph Bradley Varnum
    Joseph Bradley Varnum
    Joseph Bradley Varnum was a U.S. politician of the Democratic-Republican Party from Massachusetts.-Biography:...

  • George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

  • John Paul Jones
    John Paul Jones
    John Paul Jones was a Scottish sailor and the United States' first well-known naval fighter in the American Revolutionary War. Although he made enemies among America's political elites, his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to...

  • Thomas Sumter
    Thomas Sumter
    Thomas Sumter nicknamed the "Carolina Gamecock" , was a hero of the American Revolution and went on to become a longtime member of the Congress of the United States.-Early life:Thomas Sumter was born near Charlottesville in Hanover County, Virginia in 1734...

  • Francis Vigo
    Francis Vigo
    Francis Vigo was an Italian-American who aided the American forces during the Revolutionary War and helped found a public university in Vincennes, Indiana, USA....

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