Date of Award

Spring 1983

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Before the Revolution New Hampshire had one of the strongest, pro-British governing elites of the colonies. After 1775 however, the Loyalist faction in the state was one of the weakest and least effective. This dissertation seeks to examine the uniqueness of this experience by studying the general situation, the lives of many of the province's Loyalists, and by classifying the Loyalists through their connections with Great Britain.

Governor Benning Wentworth tightly controlled the colony through a network of family and business associations which came to dominate the politics and the economy of the province. However, when his nephew John Wentworth succeeded him in 1767, it was a different era, with a declining demand for the colony's products, unstable support in England, and revolutionary madness in America. The rebels soon took to extralegal methods of opposition, outmaneuvering the Loyalists, who were trapped into following constitutional avenues until they became only helpless observers.

Because the leading Loyalists followed Wentworth into exile, the movement was decapitated, and with no British occupation, there was no place for the Loyalists to band together. It was easy then for the rebels to identify and control the Loyalists. Yet not all Loyalists were helpless; many served England by facing death as spies, counterfeiters, and soldiers.

The end of the war found many Loyalists in permanent exile, mostly in Atlantic Canada. More important to the new nation were the hundreds of Loyalists who remained silent during the war and were allowed to live in comparative peace. These men formed a conservative force in the politics of the new state, and some Loyalists managed to rise to the heights of post-war politics.

By studying the New Hampshire Loyalists it is possible to categorize them according to their connections to Great Britain. However, whether influenced by governmental, mercantile, military, or intellectual connections, the decision to remain loyal was a deeply personal one, determined frequently by the inherent conservative nature of man. No matter what influenced their actual decision, they all sincerely believed in the British cause, and many risked their lives trying to defeat the Revolution.