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Tory Believers: Which Higher Loyalty?

During the Revolutionary War, many preached Loyalism as the Christian response.

This article was originally published in the July 2, 1976 issue of Christianity Today.

Colonial Americans who remained loyal to Great Britain during the Revolution have only recently become a subject of serious study. For a very long time, writers on American history perceived the Revolution much as the original patriots did. So long as the virtue of the patriot cause and the magnitude of British evil were accepted without question, the historian could look upon colonial Tories only as sadly deluded, stubbornly obnoxious, and crassly self-serving lackeys of the British tyrants. And from a religious perspective, belief in the manifest righteousness of the patriot effort prevented later Americans from being able to understand how a colonist could be both a genuine believer and a Tory.

There were, however, Christian roots to the Loyalist point of view. The political commitments of the Christian Loyalists may have to be rejected, but a study of their religious perspective can enlighten American Christians who are concerned about sorting out loyalties to God, church, and country.

The motives that led colonial Americans to remain loyal to Britain were as many and varied as those that prompted others to seek independence. In all, some one-fifth to one-third of the colonists are thought to have had Tory leanings or to have actively supported the British connection. Some of these, particularly crown officials and Anglican ministers, were predisposed by their positions to Loyalism. Some were bound to England by commercial, family, or traditional ties. Some were convinced through reading the political writings of the day that the argument for Loyalism was intrinsically better than the case for rebellion. And many were simply indisposed ...

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