Date of Award

Fall 1996

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Charles E Clark


The dissertation examines the creation of loyalist identity during the American Revolution. Two distinct identities were fashioned, one by the loyalists themselves and a second competing identity which was created for them by their opponents, the radical faction of the revolutionary movement. Both identities were created consciously and for political or economic motives.

The identity created by the loyalists through their actions and words is to be found in a close reading of the claims filed with the Claims Commission created by Parliament in 1783. The dissertation argues that loyalists self-fashioned an individual political identity, as part of the creation of a self-conscious minority seeking redress from the British government for the losses they suffered during the war, and as individual participants in an ideational community formed by the trauma of a generation at war. The self-fashioned identity found its expression in the memorials presented to the Claims Commission and in the public and private writings of various participants.

Simultaneously, the rebel leaders, writers, and ideologues created another identity for their enemies. Through legal fictions such as bills of attainder and confiscation, through pamphlets, and through newspapers, rebel leaders and writers created an identity for the loyalists as traitors, bloodthirsty acolytes of a demonized British King, and enemies of the country of their nativity. The content of the claims are supported and supplemented by petitions, trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and pertinent official documents of the "rebel" government.

The dissertation enters into the ongoing discussion concerning the communal history of self-conscious minorities, as well as an exploration of political identity. The work also analyzes the revolution in New Hampshire in terms of a culture war, a discursive battle between two ideologically opposed groups, each striving to convince the populace in general of the desirability of embracing its vision of the way society ought to be. This study also adds to the growing number of works which concentrate on the loyalist experience at the provincial level.