If you were a colonist during the American Revolution, which side would you have taken and why? Can you justify the opposing side's stance?

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At the outset of the American Revolution, Loyalists and Patriots both had compelling reasons for their beliefs. Loyalists believed that they were part of the British Empire and that remaining part of this empire was their duty as British citizens. In a similar vein, they believed that they were responsible for paying for the French and Indian War (or Seven Years' War) that had ended in 1763. The debts stemming from this war were part of the reason that Britain had decided to re-enforce the Navigation Acts that controlled trade between Britain and the colonies (after many years of not enforcing these acts). In addition, the British crown decided to tax the colonies to pay for the war. After all, the Loyalists argued, the war had been intended to help British colonists by dislodging the French from lands east of the Appalachian Mountains.

In addition, the Loyalists argued, they had representation in the British Parliament in the way all British citizens did. While they weren't represented directly in the Parliament, the system of British representation did not allow for this direct kind of representation. In this sense, the colonists were similar to all other British citizens. Perhaps most importantly, cultural ties kept some colonists loyal to Britain. They were British, and many were members of the Church of England.

The Patriots had political and economic arguments to support the idea that they should break away from England. Much of their reasoning came from the Enlightenment and the idea of the social contract, written about by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and others. The idea of the social contract is that the government must represent the needs of the governed and that people have certain inalienable or natural rights, referring to rights that are inborn and cannot be taken away. Many Patriots believed that the colonists deserved direct representation in Parliament. In addition, many of their colonial legislatures had become quite powerful, and they were used to this level of representation in government.

The Patriots also had commercial arguments. The Proclamation of 1763, issued by the British king, had prevented the colonists' movement roughly beyond the area west of the Appalachian Mountains after the French and Indian War, and many colonists wanted to expand west for new economic opportunities (many Patriots also saw the Proclamation of 1763 as curtailing their political rights). Patriots were also opposed to re-enforcement of the Navigation Acts, which said that trade between the colonies and Britain had to be carried on British ships. They protested against other forms of taxation and British power, including such acts as the Stamp Act (later repealed) and other acts, such as the Declaratory Act (which said the British Parliament could make laws that the colonies had to follow) and Quartering Act (which required colonists to provide accommodations for British soldiers). These acts, they thought, stymied colonial business and were also forms of the British king overreaching in the exercise of his rights. As the events before the Revolution unfolded, the colonists were angered by the British responses, such as the Boston Massacre of 1770, in which British soldiers killed several colonists in a fight. This event angered the colonists. 

No matter which side a person takes, he or she should carefully consider the arguments of the other side. It was likely a difficult choice to make and one that had cultural, political, and economic arguments behind it. 



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