Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thank You, Nova Scotia!

     On June 19, 1777, Boston, Massachusetts newspaper The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser reported news from Nova Scotia.  The editor did capitalize as many words as a modern editor might. 
     The Independent Chronicle reported, “On Sunday last [that is, on June 15, 1777], a person arrived in this town from Halifax, who left it the 29th of May, from whom we have collected the following authentic Advices….That the American prisoners, to the number of 200, confined on board the lord stanley prison-ship, in that harbor, are treated in the most barbarous and inhuman manner possible; and was it not for the kind interpositions of some of the inhabitants of Halifax, the last winter, in supplying them with necessaries, numbers of them must inevitably have perished, they having but 4 british soldiers allowance for 6 of them (poor allowance indeed) and that thrown to them, as if to dogs….”
     Commanders in the British Navy apparently made no distinction between American civilians captured at sea and American sailors captured in service.  The Independent Chronicle reported that “our navy-men and merchantmen are considered on an equality of footing, and are treated more like savages than christians, when they fall into the hands of perjured George’s emissaries.” 
     The suffering of Americans in prison ships off Nova Scotia was not the fault of the Canadian people.  The blame must fall heavily on Mariot Arbuthnot, the British naval commissioner and the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.  Historian Edwin G. Burrows wrote, “During his…posting at Halifax, Arbuthnot tolerated conditions on the prison ships Bellona and Lord Stanley that allegedly dismayed even British observers….”  Consult Edwin G. Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The UntoldStory of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War (New York: Basic Books, 2008), page 304note22.
     For another 1777 report on American prisoners in Halifax, please consult the post here.  Please also consider reports of prisoners in Halifax from 1778 and 1782.  Learn more about Arbuthnot at the post here.  
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