To George Washington from a Citizen of Nova Scotia

Lightly edited for legibility.

Cumberland Nova Scotia February 8th 1776

“Sir: You may Reasonably imagine that it is presumption in me to take such Liberty in writing your Excellency, still its Going from one whose principles are Actuated from A Genuine feeling of Liberty, and an Indelible Anxiety for the happiness of his Country, Animates an Assurance that it will meet, rather with a feeling of sympathy then Censure, more particular as it is Addressed to you sir who is at the head of that Army who is Opposing the mandates of a Corrupt and despotic ministry, whose Views and Intent Can be founded on no other principle, then to bring the subjects of Britain to an abject slavery, as the subjects of the most Arbitrary Eastern monarch—

Sensible I am of the Importance of this proceeding, my Inability of performing any thing in this Great struggle and the Danger I Expose myself and Family to, in being Treated with that accumulated Vengeance used by such men, who Are Actuated by public as well as private prejudices, Still my fear and dread is Yet more when I Consider the state of my Country, that by lying passive I Expose myself and posterity to be bound in Chains of slavery & Wretchedness not only that but have, that Infamous Epithet Entailed upon them, of being Like those sluggish & slothful wretches as Represented of the Tribe of Issachar, you will therefore pardon this Impudence of mine.

The Great Contest between Britain and America, has hitherto been only Treated with Speculation among us, a Spirit of Sympathy I presume for our brethren on the Continent reigns in the breasts of the Generality of the Inhabitants—with gladness and Cheerfulness would we be Active in the Glorious struggle; had our situation and Circumstances been any way such that there was the Least Glimpse of success, but our Remoteness from the other Colonies and our form of Government Joined with the Indigent Circumstances of the Inhabitants renders it in a manner Impossible without succor from some other quarter.

Time not permitting and my mind Impressed with Accumulated Troubles for Our situation, nor is it Necessary for the present Intention to Give a Detail of the different proceedings and managements of Government, so much will suffice as will give your Excellency an Idea of the Rise of our Impending Calamity if providence does not stir up some means to Avert it—the Generality of the province as I before mentioned sympathized with the Colonies—the Least Encouragement or Opportunity would have Excited the people to Join in the Defense of the Liberties of America, always Rejoicing when the[y] heard any flying Report that an Invasion was intended.

A Necessity there was that the Rulers in Government should use every mean and method to prevent giving uneasiness to the people if they had had a mind to Preserve peace, Yet notwithstanding the men at the Head of Government with their Emissaries, following the Example of their patrons the Ministry, stimulated with an Expectation of Recommending themselves by showing their Jealousness for the prerogative—Prompts on the Governour to Issue proclamations Laying Certain Restraints on the people—then Joining in Association offering their Lives and fortunes in the Defense of the supremacy of parliament, and then to Complete the matter advices the Governour to Call the Assembly together at a time when the small pox was raging at a great degree, many of the Country members Could not attend on Account of the Distemper—

A Bill was passed for Raising a Regiment By Ballot, and another for Raising a Tax to support them, The preamble to the Latter was such that in my View it Carried the greatest Implication of a Declaration of war against the Colonies, This flagrant proof of the Intention of these miscreants, roused a spirit among the people & public declarations was made, which before was not heard—some were immediately for applying to your Excellency—business was Entirely stagnated, nothing to be heard but war, This County in particular, The Inhabitants being Called to Appear by the Commanding Officer of Militia, They Complied with the order and when met, they all to a man Charged the Officers on their peril to draw a person—The Inhabitants then Agreed that an Address Remonstrance and petition be sent the Governour, praying the suspending the Execution of said Acts and to dissolve the house of Assembly & Call a new one to meet immediately, The Governour Gave no other Answer, then ordering the Officers of Militia & Tax Gatherers to Desist for the present the putting the Acts into Execution, on the receipt of this the County of Cumberland Again met and Resolved almost unanimous that it was no way satisfactory, and that it was only to delay time till a number of Troops Could be distributed through the different parts as we had sufficient Reason to Imagine so by the preparation & other Intelligences at Halifax, We have therefore again petitioned, pressing His Excellency the Governour to Answer our former Request by Dissolving the Assembly, and for the first time hinting to him our feeling for the Commotions in the British Empire &c.—

In this time some Recruiting parties Came among us, as also a person whom we have found to be a spy, these with others who Lives among us whose principle are Actuated by private prejudices besides their Enthusiasm for Arbitrary Authority are making strong Solicitations to have Troops sent among us, the fear of which has Occasioned much disorder and discontent among us many Are afraid of speaking—There is also among us several families which Lately Came from England, they in general speak something in favor of parliament are willing to submit to Little Taxes, as they have been Accustomed to pay so heavy ones in their own Country, these Encourages the minions of Government—We Can have no Certainty how matters Are passing, News are Constantly propagated to the disadvantage of the Americans, and of the Intentions & success of the other side, & that almost every foreign power intends Assisting Britain—sometimes we have a flying Report that the Americans has Allies to help them, but this is Generally stifled, all these things keeps us in a flutter.

The Straggling manner in which people has settled this New Country makes it very difficult and in a manner almost Impossible for them to Act either offensive or defensive, The people in General have Great families which will Occasion a lamentable scene should British Troops Arrive here before any succor Comes from your Excellency—We would Greatly Rejoice Could we be able to Join with the other Colonies, but we must have other Assistance before we Can Act Publicly—

I would observe to your Excellency Concerning the Acadians, I have dwelt among them near six & Twenty Years, I am well Acquainted with their manners & ways—I have taken Great pains in Conversing with them Concerning these Commotions, They Are to a man wholly Inclined to the Cause of America, I have often pitied them in their situation & the manner of proceedings Against them from time to time, I have made proposals to them & Promised if ever in my power to do my utmost for their Relief & to Lay the state of their matter before the Honorable the Continental Congress, not doubting but they would be Relived, by this Opportunity I have sent a young man belonging to themselves he may be able to Answer any Questions your Excellency may want to know.

A Committee was Chosen Lately by the Inhabitants to fall upon such methods As might be thought Conducive for the public safety—but on their meeting two or three times, suspicions Rise that they intended sending to the Continent, the News of which was sent immediately to Halifax—The Committee perceiving these things, found they Could not Continue As they subjected themselves to be made prisoners, they therefore Agreed to Lay aside the sending to New England as a Committee but if any should Choose to do any thing of themselves they might—The Bearer Captain Jonathan Eddy declared that he would immediately sett of by Land, and Lay our situation before your Excellency, a Number drew upon a small Incorrect address to Recommend him to your Excellency, he will no doubt fully prove that he is Capable for the undertaking—I have also at the same time sent two Frenchmen to Return immediately from Machias in Order to know what we Are to Expect.

(Jonathan Eddy (c.1727–1804), a native of Norton, Mass., participated in Lt. Col. John Winslow’s expedition to Nova Scotia in 1755 and settled there after the end of the French and Indian War. For Eddy’s efforts with John Allan to overthrow the royal government in Nova Scotia, see source note. In November 1776 Eddy attempted to capture Fort Cumberland in western Nova Scotia with a small force of men but failed. He returned to Massachusetts about 1777 and eventually settled in northern Maine.)

Your Excellency may see by this, with the other Information you may Receive, our situation, you have no doubt an Unlimited power to help the distress’d in this Critical time, I trust & Rely that this Joined with your own humane disposition, will Excite your Excellency to Give us Assistance.

Should your Excellency incline helping us, it would be Necessary to take Care how any Troops Comes, my Grand View in this is, to prevent the Effusion of blood for should it be known where they Came, I imagine that a force would be sent to Oppose—the present situation of the province Respecting force is very trifling & the fear our Great men is in Concerning an Invasion makes it more so, they have but about 1200 Regular Troops in Halifax, Including a Number of Raw Recruits from Newfoundland & other places—the 27th Regt Lately arrived is stationed in the Navel Yard & there Endeavoring to fortify Round the Town—but I think it is but trifling, We have this Comfort that should no other Troops Arrive they may not send up to molest us—had we at this present time Two or Three hundred men it would secure all that part of the province between this and Halifax and I am Convinced that that number would prevent 5000 from Coming through the woods—

Captain Eddy will make known to your Excellency the most suitable manner how to Interduce Troops—I am it may be said more particular in this, in Order to save some friends, one of my brothers is an Officer in the Regiment at Halifax, Galling As this is to me and the feeling of Anguish for this Calamity, will no ways deter me in my Pursuit for the welfare of the public, determined I am to prosecute the matter if God should spare me to Establish those Rights and privileges in this province which should by right be Enjoyed by every humane being—but should your Excellency with the Resolve of the Honorable the Continental Congress Determine not to Give any Assistance it must Occasion the most Direful and horrible Consequence—Let me Beseech your Excellency to help us, Give us an Opportunity of Joining with the other Colonies, it all depends on your bounty.

I must once more plead for your forgiveness for this Liberty I have taken as also Excuse the Incorrectness of my Writing, have not time to Copy and further must Earnestly Request your keeping this from the public, many other Information Could be given but the hurry of Departure of the bearer prevents my saying more, I Refer to him—Any Assistance I Can give your Excellency either by Intelligence or otherwise, I shall Esteem it an honor & duty to perform.

My best wishes for the success of your Arms, may the supreme Ruler of the Universe protect you may the Civil and Religious Liberties of America stand firm and unshaken to the Latest posterity Is my Earnest Prayer. I am with profound Respect Your Excellency’s most Devoted most Obedient & very humble servant”

This unsigned letter was probably written by John Allan (1747–1805), a prominent advocate of the American cause in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. Allan’s parents brought him to Nova Scotia from Scotland in 1749 or 1750. As a youth he was apparently educated in Massachusetts, and in 1767 he married into one of the many New England families that had settled in Nova Scotia. During 1775 Allan and Jonathan Eddy began organizing resistance to the royal government in western Nova Scotia. Their hopes for an insurrection in early 1776 were disappointed when it became clear that most of their fellow citizens were unwilling to take up arms without military assistance from New England. It was to obtain that assistance that Eddy carried this letter and the Nova Scotia petition of this date to GW. For Eddy’s meeting with GW, see GW to Hancock, 27 Mar. 1776. Referred to Congress by GW, Eddy went to Philadelphia but could not convince the delegates to send a liberating army to Nova Scotia. In August 1776 Allan set out on a similar mission apparently hoping to succeed where Eddy had failed. On 22 Dec. 1776 Allan discussed his plan for attacking Nova Scotia with GW at his headquarters in Pennsylvania, and two weeks later he presented his scheme to Congress then meeting in Baltimore. Congress recommended to the Massachusetts council on 8 Jan. 1777 that 3,000 men be raised for an expedition to Nova Scotia, and on 15 Jan. Congress appointed Allan superintendent of the eastern Indians (Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 7:20, 38–39). The Massachusetts authorities offered Allan little support, however, and he raised only a few men for his expedition. In the summer of 1777 Allan tried to establish a post on the St. John River in present-day New Brunswick with his small force, but the arrival of a flotilla of British warships obliged him to retreat. Allan served as superintendent of the eastern Indians for the remainder of the war and was instrumental in keeping the British out of eastern Maine. He settled in Maine in 1784.

(The special session of the Nova Scotia assembly that Gov. Francis Legge (c.1719–1783) called in the fall of 1775 passed an act requiring one-fifth of the militia to be drafted into a regiment for the defense of the colony and another act imposing a tax for the support of that force. Several outlying areas of Nova Scotia, including Cumberland County, objected to these laws and petitioned the governor for their suspension. For excerpts from Cumberland County’s petition of 22–23 Dec. 1775, see Brebner, Neutral Yankees, 311–12. In a circular letter of 12 Jan. 1776 Legge agreed that the militiamen could remain at home until an actual invasion occurred and that the new tax should be deferred.)

“To George Washington from a Citizen of Nova Scotia, 8 February 1776,” Founders Online, National Archives,