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A Conduct Incompatible with Their Character: Patriots, Loyalists, & Spies: Espionage in the American Revolution and the Underlying Social & Ideological Revolution in the American Colonies


The American Revolution was a precarious and uncertain period in American history in which loyalties were tried, ideologies were tested, and identities shifted; the conflicted role of espionage in the American Revolution offers insight into this formative moment in the development of an American identity disparate from Britain. Espionage had a critical function in the American Revolution, both militarily and politically. Intelligence secured by spies affected the strategic outcome of the Revolutionary War and the public imagination was strongly influenced by the exposure of spies. However, experimentation in espionage during the Revolutionary War has been little examined by historians, especially in a social or ideological context. This paper will examine espionage in the context of colonial norms and conventions in order to reveal how it contributed to the underlying social and ideological revolution of the American Revolution and the emergence of a truly American identity.

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