18th century North America
In North America, the term loyalist characterised colonists who rejected the American Revolution in favour of remaining within the British Empire. American loyalists included royal officials, Anglican clergymen, wealthy merchants with ties to London, demobilised British soldiers, and recent arrivals (especially from Scotland), as well as many ordinary colonists who were conservative by nature and/or felt that the protection of Britain was needed. Colonists with loyalist sympathies accounted for an estimated 15% to 20% of the white colonial population of the day, compared with those described as "Patriots", who accounted for about 40-50% of the population. This high level of political polarisation leads historians to argue that the American Revolution was as much a civil war as it was a war of independence from the British Crown.
British military strategy during the American Revolution relied on mobilising loyalist soldiers throughout the Thirteen Colonies. Throughout the war, the British military formed over 100 loyalist line regiments whose strength totaled 19,000 of which 9,700 served most at one time. Including militia and marine forces more than 50,000 served. The Patriots used tactics such as property confiscation to suppress loyalism and drive active loyalists away. After the war, approximately 80-90% of the Loyalists stayed in the new United States, and adapted to the new conditions and changes of a republic. However, almost 50,000 Loyalists sought refuge elsewhere in Lower Canada, Quebec (divided in 1791 into what is now Quebec and Ontario), the Maritime provinces, Jamaica, the Bahamas and in Britain, often with financial help from the Crown. Most re-settled in the British North American Provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia in present-day Canada. They were joined by 20,000 or more "Late Loyalists" who settled in Ontario in the early 1790s at the invitation of the British administration and given land and low taxes in exchange for swearing allegiance to the King, Liberty's Exiles, American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, Maya Jasanoff, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, pp. 206-208 for a total of 70,000+ new settlers. This migration also included Native American loyalists such as Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, the "Black Loyalists" – former slaves who had joined the British cause in exchange for their freedom, and Anabaptist loyalists (Mennonites). These Loyalists were the founders of modern English-speaking Canada, and many of their descendants of these King's Loyal Americans still identify themselves with the nominal hereditary title "UEL" (United Empire Loyalist) today.
18th century Ireland
The term loyalist was first used in Irish politics in the 1790s to refer to Protestant British settlers in Ireland who opposed Catholic Emancipation and Irish independence from Great Britain. Prominent Irish loyalists included John Foster, John Fitzgibbon and John Beresford. In the subsequent Irish Rebellion of 1798, the term ultra loyalist was used to describe those who were opposed to the United Irishmen, who were in support of an independent Irish Republic. In 1795, Ulster loyalists founded the Orange Order and organised the Yeoman Militia, which helped to put down the rebellion. Some loyalists, such as
Richard Musgrave, considered the rebellion a Catholic plot to drive Protestant colonists out of Ireland.
England and Wales
During the early 19th century, nearly every English and Welsh county formed a Loyalist Association of Workers in an effort to counter a perceived threat from
radical societies. The first such association was founded in Westminster on 20 November 1792.
The Sydney and Parramatta Loyalist Associations, with approximately 50 members each, were formed in 1804 to counter radical societies in those counties, and subsequently helped to put down the Castle Hill convict rebellion later that year.
During the Spanish Civil War, the Republicans who remained loyal to the Spanish Republic against Franco's "Nationalists." were called loyalists.