George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Stephen Parker, 15 January 1776

From Stephen Parker

Yarmouth Nova Scotia
15th Jany 1776

May it please your Excellency

Impelled by the triple tyes of affection for my Country, Attachment to Liberty, and concern for my family Interest and place of residence, I am embolden’d to break thro’ the rules of formality, and inform your Excellency, that at Annapolis in this Government, a schooner with hands impressed, which had two Cask of Powder, and an equivalent in ball, ship’d by some officers in the Governments service, was sent to St Johns river, with orders to put the Powder, Ball, &c. into the hands of the savages there, and stir them up to cut off the inhabitants of Mechias, having an Officer on board to whose care the matter was committed, Thrice they put out of the harbour & by violent winds, were drove back, the last time the vessel narrowly escaped being lost, which adverse Providence has induced them to lay by their design at present. At the sameplace a Ship of Six hundred tons, collecting stores for Boston, was lately cast away with entire loss of vessel & Cargo—This intelligence may be relyed on.

Altho I am from circumstances, disagreably here at Present, my most fervent wishes are, that the noble struggles for American Liberty may be succeeded; That your Excellency may recieve all Wisdom, Valour, and Protection, in your exalted station, from the Supreme Parent of those Blessings, and be the happy Instrument of bringing our present distresses to an honorable, speedy, and effectual close, is the unfeigned prayer, of Your Excellencys most obedient devoted humble servant

Stephen Parker

ALS (photocopy), DNA: RG 45, area 7, file 1–15–76. This letter may not have been sent to GW. A note in Parker’s writing on the manuscript reads: “This letter was wrote with a view of embracing the first oportunity to send it [to] the General. John Frevoy of Yarmouth in Mr Stanleys schooner promis’d to call at my lodgings before he saild for Marblehead last winter, but failing of calling I had not oportunity to send it, fearing to give it [to] him long before he saild, lest it might be known in Nova Scotia.”

Stephen Parker (b. 1743) of Machias, District of Maine, went to Philadelphia in July 1775 to obtain provisions for the inhabitants of the town. Having no success there, he left after a month’s stay. On his return home Parker stopped at Nantucket Island, where he agreed to act as supercargo on a brig going to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with a load of corn, flour, and bread. Because Congress had prohibited all exportations to Nova Scotia, the brig was stopped from sailing to Yarmouth. Parker then got permission from the Falmouth committee of safety to sail to Machias, but the brig went as originally planned to Yarmouth, where Parker sold the cargo, bought a load of fish for the brig to take to Jamaica, and put the vessel under Nova Scotian registry. For those services the owner of the brig allowed Parker to keep part of the provisions in the first cargo as his commission. Parker then engaged a sloop to take those provisions and a large quantity of much needed hay from Yarmouth to Machias, but failing to obtain good hay, Parker returned to Machias in early May 1776 with only the provisions.

Suspecting that Parker had been involved in illegal trade, the Machias committee of safety referred his case to the Massachusetts General Court on 25 May. Parker claimed that he was unaware of Congress’s prohibition on exports to Nova Scotia and professed unwavering loyalty to the American cause. “May it please your Honors,” he said in a petition to the Massachusetts General Court dated 11 May, “Ignorance, inadvertence & absolute necessity were the sole cause of my setting foot in the government of Nova Scotia & during my continuance there . . . I neither corresponded countenanced or associated with any of the enemies of America but most warmly espoused the cause of Liberty & bore unfeigned testimony against the iniquitous tyranical ministerial measures & acts of Brittish parliament, nor was this confined to my tongue alone but my hand witnessed the same as leisure & oportunity gave me leave, Copies of which I humbly crave leave to lay at the feet of your Honours most solemnly declaring them to be authentic” (Maine Hist. Soc. Col. description begins Collections of the Maine Historical Society. Portland, Maine, 1831–1916. description ends , 2d ser., 14 [1910], 343–46; see also Parker to James Bowdoin, 13 May, and the Machias Committee of Safety to the Massachusetts General Court, 25 May 1776, ibid., 346–48, 350–51). Parker may have included a copy of his letter to GW of this date among the documents that he submitted to the General Court, and it is possible that he wrote the letter after the fact for that purpose alone. The General Court referred the matter to a committee and apparently took no further action on it.

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