Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Daniel Blake Smith

Abstract

After the American Revolution a number of Loyalists, those colonial Americans who remained loyal to England during the War for Independence, did not relocate to the other dominions of the British Empire. Instead, they sought to return to their homes and restart their lives. Despite fierce opposition to their return from all across the Confederation, their attempts to become part of a newly independent America were generally successful. Thus, after several years of struggle most former Loyalists who wanted to return were able to do so.

Various studies have concentrated on the wartime activities of Loyalists, but few have examined their post-war return to America. This dissertation corrects this oversight by tracing the process of the reintegration of the Loyalists. It analyzes this development from a primarily American perspective, although former Loyalists are consistent members of the story. The work considers the emotional significance families and friends played in affecting the desire to return. On the American reception of their former enemies, this work explains that the nascent idea of federalism required the process to occur on a state-by-state basis. Also important to Loyalist assimilation was a critical shift from the republican ideological belief in the necessary of virtue to the survival of the community to a growing awareness, tolerance, and respect for individual rights, for those who held views perhaps inimical to the polity. Critical to the process of reintegration was a jurisprudential transformation from an older, English common law understanding of the law to a more modern view that law is commanded by a sovereign. It is my contention that popular sovereignty drove this transformation and allowed for the wartime legal persecution of the Loyalists, but in order for former Loyalists to peacefully co-exist, popular sovereignty had to be reined in by the very same and new legal ideology that it had helped develop. Finally, the process of reintegration required Americans to permit citizenship to their former traitors. Thus, the dissertation closes by showing the procedure former English subjects underwent to renounce their allegiance to England and become republican citizens.

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