New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Giddy, Eccentric, and Discontented Characters, or Misguided Souls, or Turncoats?

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“Let us move — pray let us go. Oh Niagara; Niagara oh!”

Giddy, Eccentric, and Discontented Characters, or Misguided Souls, or Turncoats?

Following are two letters-to-the-editor of the Royal Gazette, written in 1802 by a person using the nom de plume Tammany. The letters are from The Winslow Papers, 1776 to 1826, edited by W.O. Raymond in 1901.

It was not unusual for people to use a nom de plume in letters-to-the-editor but, in this case, Raymond was convinced that Tammany was, in fact, Edward Winslow. The word Tammany is for a Delaware Indian chief, and could be used in those days to imply honesty. Later, Tammany was also the name of a New York political organization, and most definitions of the word will reference that organization. Winslow’s intent would only have been to imply honesty.

Winslow, then, criticizes the emigration of New Brunswickers to points west and to the United States during the Province’s formative years. He could not have known that this was the beginning of a westward migration that would continue for decades, not only from New Brunswick, but from all along the eastern coast.

Letter of Edward Winslow to the Royal Gazette, July, 1802

It is an observation made by a late traveller:— “That the people of America have a strange propensity to change their situations.” He says,— “It is not an uncommon thing to see families, who have encountered and overcome all the obstacles which naturally arise in forming new settlements, and are just beginning to realize the comforts and enjoy the sweets of their labour, consenting to abandon their possessions, and engaging anew in the same scenes of difficulty and distress.”— Had that judicious writer passed through the Province of New Brunswick, he would have seen instances of this disposition which might have excited a greater degree of astonishment than any which he could possibly have met with in the back parts of the United States.  *  *  *  It is an established fact that New Brunswick has been principally settled by an order of men who call themselves Loyalists—men who fought in the service of the King during a long war, and who, at the unfortunate termination of it, made election to plunge into a wilderness with their wives and children rather than to submit to the humiliating and degrading necessity of soliciting mercy from those whom they were in the habit of considering rebels.

Actuated by the same laudable and manly spirit they persevered, and they combated difficulties, fatigues and toils which, in a bad cause, they would have sunk under. Here they soon obtained a constitution or government similar (so far as was practicable) to the British. Lands were assigned to them, and cherished by a temporary bounty from a benevolent Sovereign they went to work with a degree of alacrity which was never exceeded. Huts were erected which at first were hardly sufficient to shelter their families, and little holes were cut in the forest. A few potatoes and a scanty crop of rye were the only rewards for the immense labor of the first and second years. During the 3d, 4th, 5th and 6th, although the prospects brightened a little, the difficulties were great and many discouraging circumstances occurred; but under all this pressure of care and perplexity the voice of murmur could scarcely be heard among them.

At the expiration of fifteen or sixteen years the scenes are materially changed. Enter the habitations of the Farmers in almost every part of the Province now and, with very few exceptions, you’ll find them tight, warm and comfortable, you’ll see the man and woman surrounded by a flock of children—robust, hearty and useful, clad in homespun, feeding upon their own mutton, with bread, butter and cheese in abundance. In many instances you may discover not only the comforts of life, but luxuries procured by their over-plus produce, which never fails to find an easy and sure market,— or by their winter exertions in masting, getting timber, wood, &c, for which they receive the most liberal wages. Their barns and out-houses contain a stock of cattle, horses, sheep, swine, &c, of more value than their ancestors in [New] Jersey or New England ever possessed for three generations before they were born. Enquire among ’em for a Grievance and they’ll not be able to point out one:—

Are you oppressed with taxes? No.

Does anybody interrupt you in matters of conscience? No.

Do the laws afford you sufficient protection? Why yes.

This is the unexaggerated state of the Province now, and this too at a time when one half the countries in the world have been ruined by a calamitous war.

Notwithstanding all which, among the very people I have described, a few giddy, eccentric, and discontented characters have appeared who, forgetting all the favors which they received from our government, have made a voluntary sacrifice of their former honorable principles and professions, have sold the lands that were granted them, and meanly skulked into the United States. There they have made their submission; there they have become literally “hewers of wood and drawers of water”; and as an act of grace are permitted to eat, drink and vegetate. But in place of being buoyed up under affliction by the reflection of having done their duty as honest men and faithful subjects, they are compelled to consider the most meritorious actions of their lives as the most atrocious offences which they ever committed.

These men and their leaders will furnish subject matter for a future essay. I shall therefore quit ’em for the present and pass on to another class, who are not quite so culpable, but who appear to be influenced by the same extraordinary caprice — I mean those who have lately removed with their families to other parts of the King’s dominions, particularly to Niagara. In comparing the two countries I declare that I have no intention of casting a reflection upon the Province of Upper Canada. I have a high respect for the government there, a good opinion of the country, and sincerely wish it prosperity. The final determination of a few changeable people with respect to the place of their residence is a matter of no importance either to them or to us, and the remarks which I shall make will perhaps apply with equal force to those who would wantonly and inconsiderately leave that Province and come to this. The principal object I have in view is to enquire whether there is any sufficient temptation offered to induce a Farmer, who has conquered the great difficulties of making an establishment here, to disturb the peace of his family and to undertake the arduous task of removing to a place so difficult to approach and so remote. It is obvious that there is no essential difference between the constitutions and the laws of the two Provinces. Allow that in Canada the climate is more mild, the winters not so long, the land if you please easier cleared, and the crops (particularly of wheat) more abundant. Possibly these considerations might have afforded good reasons for an original preference, but let us put against these advantages the acknowledged unhealthiness of the climate, the impossibility of selling that part of their produce which they cannot consume, the immense prices of many of the necessaries of life and the total want of winter employment. Would any man in his senses readily barter sound health for fevers, agues and debility? Would he relinquish a Farm, cleared with his own hands, which supplies him with everything he wants and something to spare, for a redundance of wheat, which he can’t sell and a surplusage of Pork which he can’t find salt to save?

Now let us throw into the scale a small proportion of the troubles which must be encountered in the course of such a removal. I hate misery so cordially that I can hardly bear to draw a picture of it, but in the present case I can’t help it. Mark then the progress.

One of these adventurers who has arrived at Niagara, and finds himself a little in a scrape—on the principle of the old song of “Welcome, welcome, brother debtor”—sits down and writes a letter to his Cousin B__ in New Brunswick in which he courts him to come to the same place, and amuses him with a ridiculous and romantic tale of produce without labour, spontaneous grain, and wild hogs. B__ reads this letter to his wife Martha just as they are going to bed —both of them dream that they are transported to the Elysian fields where they have nothing to do but to gaze on the beauties of the scene — to open their mouths and swallow the delicious things that are cut and dryed for them. In the morning they compare notes, and they are astonished at the similitude of their delightful visions. From this moment the whole matter is settled. Time begins to hang heavily. Labor becomes more severe. Even the winters grow longer in imagination—nothing now is heard but,

“Let us move — pray let us go. Oh Niagara; Niagara oh!”

Without much ceremony the place is offered for sale—to the credit of the country be it written—a purchaser instantly appears, and the bargain is concluded. Now comes the trying scene. The new proprietor calls to take possession. Those who bought the cattle apply for them; one drives off a favorite cow, another the oxen, a third takes the mare and colt. Even the beasts as they face to the right about seem to reproach their former owner for this unnatural and wanton separation. The plough and harrow are transferred to other hands, the articles of furniture, collected with care, are scattered and sold for less than half their value. B__ and his wife, followed by their train of children, walk slowly from the habitation where till lately they were content and happy and seek a temporary shelter among the neighbors. In a few days you find them at the first place of embarkation, waiting for a vessel or a wind — exposed to heavy expences and many inconveniences. If you follow them to St. John, you will see them for days together loitering in the streets, the man and woman beginning to be dejected, the children in their best clothes staring about eating cookies, the money going in all directions. At length an opportunity offers for New York; they are cram’d on board a vessel, and in a few hours are tumbling upon the ocean, seasick and completely wretched. After a long passage they arrive in that great city, where in a few days young Joshua is seized with the yellow-fever and dies—others of the family are sick, their pockets are picked by cruel extortioners. And thus oppressed with grief and almost borne down by the weight of their misfortunes the unfortunate parents with their surviving children are compelled to set off upon their tedious journey.

God forbid that I should attend them a single step further or that I should bear witness to that variety of distress which they must necessarily experience. I had rather bring them at once to “the land of promise” with the miserable remnant of their hard earned property. * * * Let us suppose that every obstacle is removed and that they are put in possession of a tract of land; their stock of cash exhausted, every member of the family enfeebled by that most disheartening of all disorders the fever and ague, and that they begin to realize that they have the same serious duties to perform which they have been accustomed to in New Brunswick; that houses cannot be built without hands, and that crops are not produced without labor. This is the time to ask the solemn and important question, “What have we gained by all these sacrifices, sufferings and distress?”

Here I must leave them to settle the account. In the mean time I call upon speculative readers of all denominations, between the two great extremes of Philosophers and Fools, inclusive, to account for that passion or propensity, or whatever else you may call it, which causes some of the children of men thus voluntarily to surrender the peace, comfort and happiness of themselves and their families.


It is not quite certain that Edward Winslow wrote this letter, and that follows in these pages under the same nom de plume, but the internal evidence is so strong that there can be little doubt that he was the writer. [This is Raymond’s footnote.]

Letter of Edward Winslow to the Royal Gazette, September, 1802

In a former letter I expressed my intention to take further notice of those men whose example, in my opinion, had some influence in causing the removal of a few simple people from this Province to the United States. The persons to whom I particularly allude are officers of the Half-pay list, who came to this country with the Provincial troops, and soon afterwards abandoned it. I shall not controvert the right of man to remove from one country to another as interest, ambition or fancy may dictate. * * * I mean only to relate a number of facts for the purpose of wiping off any unfavorable impressions which may have been made with respect to that country, where it has pleased Almighty God to place me, and which with his blessing I trust will soon become prosperous and happy. Possibly in so doing I may appear to bear hard upon some individuals. I can only say that I have no personal enmity towards them, but I consider it necessary for my present purpose to give a concise account of those persons, who by leaving the Province of New Brunswick at a critical period, afforded a triumph to our enemies and set an example injurious to our interests. * * *

This task I shall perform in my own way. I am not at elegance. I write to be understood.

I presume I should give just cause of offence to any gentleman who engaged in the military service of the King during the American rebellion, if I did not at once allow him to have been governed by principles of loyalty and honor. The dispute with Great Britain was whether the colonies should be independent or not. The war was against the British Crown and the rights of Parliament — not against us. When honorable rank and liberal pay was bestowed on these gentlemen, they must on their part have stipulated to vindicate the cause of their lawful sovereign, and to support the principles of the British constitution.

Either they meant this or they meant nothing. At the close of the war the Provincial officers were placed in a situation of peculiar embarrassment, and they made a manly representation of their circumstances to the then commander in chief, the venerable Lord Dorchester, by whom it was transmitted to his Majesty. In the memorial paper then presented, among other sentences of great energy, was one to the following effect: “The animosities are so heightened by the blood which has been spilt in the controversy that it will be impossible for us to return to our former homes.” This consideration undoubtedly operated upon the benevolent mind of the Father of his People and upon the magnanimous British nation, when the half-pay for life was indiscriminately granted.

A great proportion of those officers came to this Province, took up their lands, and instantly engaged in the arduous duties of organizing a government. To their unremitted exertions in the various capacities of Legislators, Magistrates, &c, it is principally owing that the tranquility of this Province has been preserved through all the confusion which modem philosophy has produced. * * *

I now reluctantly descend to those who (apparently) came here upon speculation. Some of ’em were “heroes of the first water.” Othello like, they told of “disastrous chances,” “hair breadth ’scapes,” and “battles hardly fought,” and they discovered a wonderful degree of enthusiasm in all their operations; but as soon as they had secured to themselves every benefit which could possibly result from such a situation, they commenced their negotiations for leave to visit their friends in the States. After a variety of difficulties they obtained it; two or three of ’em, whose accommodating nerves qualify’d ’em for any situation, and whose allegiance, like their epaulets was made to rig and unrig, set off to reconnoitre.

At first, says an accurate informer, they were not very kindly received, nor were they admitted among the better sort of folks, though after they had remained some time in obscurity, they were allowed to go into company with elderly ladies at their evening parties. Thus far, and I really believe no farther, did they advance on their first visit.

By the persevering efforts of their importunate solicitors, who did not fail to represent their kinsmen as deluded men who had never bloodied their fingers, which in some instances I suspect was very true, they were indulged to make a second visit. A bold push was then made and the interests of all the families were united and exerted.

Suffice it to say that after a series of solicitations, for the result of which they were waiting in continual agitation, they were favored with licence to become citizens, and we now find them exercising their various callings of hucksters, grocers, auctioneers, &c. What became of their pride or their loyalty during these negotiations it is not for me to inquire. I shall only add at present that they yet remain in the enjoyment of their half pay and that the inhabitants of our mother country have, through a war of infinite expence, home tax, after tax to supply the fund out of which these trading subjects of Thomas Jefferson have received their allowances.

Nay my brethren! when lately at the call of your country your honest hearts were beating quick with loyalty; when you were curtailing yourselves and your families of some of your rational enjoyments, and were pressing forward to contribute your mite towards relieving the national burden; it was to replenish that stock a part of which has been thus appropriated.

Presumptions as it may appear for an obscure man in an obscure corner to make remarks upon the application of the public monies of the nation, I am not ashamed to avow that such reflections have arisen in my mind, and I think they will intrude themselves upon the mind of every man who has the dignity of the sovereign and the honor of the Government fairly at heart.

The defection of these officers, I say, had a tendency to weaken that principle of duty which ought to exist in the breast of every genuine loyalist and every faithful soldier of the King.

Shall I be told in answer to this, in the common mercantile cant of the times, that every man will go to that place where he can make most money? Let it be observed that my remarks do not apply to these gentlemen in their “trading capacities.” They are addressed to them as military gentlemen, as men who voluntarily entered into the service of the Sovereign of Great Britain, who received honorable marks of his favor such as rank, pay, &c, and who are still enjoying his bounty.

If these considerations produce no remorse for having alienated themselves from his dominions—I can only say that in my opinion the country which has adopted them will have but little reason to boast of the acquisition, and that which they have left will never lament their departure.



Written by johnwood1946

March 16, 2016 at 8:07 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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