George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander McNutt, 4 January 1779

From Alexander McNutt

January 4th 1779


I beg leave to lay before Your Excellency Copies of Such papers as I have presented to the Right Honourable the Congress,1 hope it will appear Evident that the People of Nova Scotia are only waiting for Directions from your Excellency what measures to take, for which purpose your Excellency Shall be furnished with a true State of that Colony in a very Short time after my arrival there, provided I be Empowered to give the Boat or Vessel a Protection or Some assureance that they will not be Molested by the United States—I hope your Excellency will See the utility of the Measure so as to recomend it to Congress—I have the Honor to be with due respect, Sir your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant

Alexr McNutt


Alexander McNutt (1725–c.1811) was born in Londonderry in Northern Ireland and emigrated to America as a young man, settling in Staunton, Va., by 1753. In 1756 he served as a militia officer under Maj. Andrew Lewis in an expedition against the Shawnee Indians; shortly thereafter he relocated to Londonderry, N.H., where he became a leader of the Ulster Scots community, served as a Massachusetts provincial captain, and attempted to raise troops for the conquest of Canada. In the early 1760s McNutt attempted to organize the systematic colonization of Nova Scotia by Scots-Irish settlers from Great Britain and America, but the British government did not support his plans, and privately funded ventures also fell through.

McNutt moved to Nova Scotia in the late 1760s, and when the Revolutionary War began he appears to have tried to play both sides, earning the distrust of both. He traveled to Boston and Philadelphia in 1778–79 to obtain compensation for damage to his property in Nova Scotia by American raiders and in hopes of persuading Congress to invade the province, but the delegates provided only monetary assistance (see note 1); by the end of the war he was back in Nova Scotia, developing plans to turn the province and adjoining lands in Massachusetts into the independent nation of New Ireland. Frustrated on every front, McNutt returned to Virginia in 1796 and died in obscurity.

1Enclosed were a letter of 17 Sept. 1778 from McNutt to Henry Laurens; a memorial of 14 Dec. 1778 from McNutt, Phinas Nevers, and Samuel Rogers to John Jay; and a letter of 23 Dec. 1778 from McNutt to the Continental Congress committee of conference (DLC:GW). No reply from GW has been found, but on 7 April 1779 Congress provided McNutt and his associates with $15,000 to carry on their work (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 13:428–29).

Index Entries