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What is a Patriot? - Definition & History

Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

Every patriot has qualities of bravery, devotion, and honor. Find out how history has shaped the ideal of patriotism in America. Quiz yourself to better your understanding!

Defining Patriotism

Have you ever wondered why some people live on through history and others don't? Some might say that only individuals who do great things can endure past death and end up in the annals of history. Yet, people from all walks of life have the power to make accomplishments that positively affect others. Living on into posterity becomes a matter of personal ambition and patriotic pride. The term patriotic refers to believing strongly in one's country and defending its honor. A person who possesses this patriotic spirit or patriotism is called a patriot.

Naturally, a patriot is bound to feelings of national loyalty because of an intense and passionate love of country. For as long as there has been history, there have been men and women who were patriots. For example, during the 1700's in American history, members of the thirteen British colonies, who denounced the British Parliament for lack of representation and undue taxation, were known as patriots. Inspired by civic virtue, these patriots rebelled during the American Revolution, rejecting the British monarchy and aristocracy. While the patriots sometimes resorted to violent tactics, they still gained the support of 45% of the colonists.

Profile of a proud patriot
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The Rise of the American Patriot

Juxtaposed to the patriots were the loyalists, colonists who remained loyal to England and King George. For the patriots, there was no alternative but to gain independence from England, the Mother Country. They worked tirelessly to bring those men who were on the fence or neutral into their brood, knowing that they needed to build a massive support base. Patriots were masters of propaganda, as they composed literature to spread the cause of American nationalism. Thomas Paine, a patriot and writer, shared the sentiment of his fellow man in a famous pamphlet called 'Common Sense.' His words echoed, 'These are the times that try men's souls,' and helped to incite the people's spirit against England.

There were many great patriot leaders following the French and Indian War and leading up to the Revolutionary War because of the constant tensions between the colonists and British soldiers. One such patriot was General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief. He led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, which consisted of a patriotic crew of soldiers from all the colonies. Washington's bravery and ingenuity on the battlefield roused support from them, and they elected him the first President of the United States.

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