Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The "Inhuman" Arbuthnot

   The Pennsylvania Evening Post of March 8, 1777 carried this news with the dateline of Boston, February 13, 1777: “Last week arrived at Ipswich, from Halifax, a schoonerwhich left it the 23d of January: The Captain of which informs…That our countrymen, to the number of about two hundred, are confined on board the Belona guard ship of fifty guns, where they are treated in the usually barbarous manner, by the inhuman Commodore Arbuthnot….”
   Mariot Arbuthnot was the British naval commissioner at Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1775 to 1778 and Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1776-1778.  
The cruelty of Arbuthnot was not representative of the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The captain of the schooner also reported that the few Loyalists refugees who fled Boston with the British withdrawal from the city on March 17, 1776 “are treated with the greatest contempt” by the local residents.  

   Officers of the British Navy and Army made Halifax a scene of cruelty throughout the war, despite the compassionate disposition of the civilian population.  For an October 1778 account of American prisoners starving in Halifax prisons and prison ships, please visit the post here.  For a January 1782 account of American prisoners returning from Halifax “in a very emaciated, sickly condition,” please visit the post here.
For the infamy the British Navy gained during the Revolutionary War for using cruelty to coerce prisoner enlistment, please consult, Philip Ranlet, “British Recruitment of Americans in New York during the American Revolution,” Military Affairs volume 48 (January 1984): pages 26-28.  For more on Ipswich, Massachusetts, please consult the Wikipedia entry on same.  For the cultural link between Puritan Massachusetts and the English region of East Anglia, home of the English town Ipswich, please consult David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) and Roger Thompson, Mobility and Migration: East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629-1640 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994). 
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