Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Sarah H. Meacham


Historians of loyalism in Virginia during the American Revolution typically characterize supporters of the Crown as a small and unorganized group that had little bearing on the outcome of the war. However, these historians greatly underestimate the extent and nature of Virginia loyalists. Patriots throughout the state feared and loathed outright demonstrations of loyalty to the Crown, sought to identify and remove Tories in their communities, and worked to prevent the reentry of these Loyalists into postwar Virginia. Those loyalists who attempted to return to Virginia realized that continual attention was required to shape and present an image that would eliminate questions about their loyalty and protect interests and property.This study examines how a select group of returning loyalists sought to reestablish their citizenship and membership in the postwar Virginia community. To illustrate how young elites successfully negotiated their return into a hostile environment, the specific cases of Presly Thornton, John and Ralph Wormeley, and Philip Turpin are examined in great detail. As sons of well-to-do members of the community, they embraced Virginia's tradition of deference to elites and utilized social, political, and economic connections to achieve readmission. From studying the lives of these young men in the context of the vigorous anti-loyalist sentiment in Virginia, one can better understand the distinctly Virginian attitudes toward both loyalists and members of a select social class.


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