Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 156

Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--1783.) Sir Guy Carleton. Letter of recommendation for a New York Loyalist seeking refuge in Nova Scotia. Contemporary manuscript copy of a letter as commander in chief of the British army in North America, to John Parr, Governor of Nova Scotia, in the hand of Carleton's commissary general Sir Brook Watson and bearing Watson's signature. One manuscript page, 12 1/4 x 7 3/4 inches, plus integral blank with docketing; moderate wear not affecting legibility. New York, 4 September 1783

Additional Details

As the Treaty of Paris slowly moved through diplomatic channels, the thousands of anxious American Loyalists in occupied New York sought new homes elsewhere in the empire, with Nova Scotia being the most popular destination. As they departed northward, they were sometimes granted letters of recommendation by the British military leadership, such as this example:

"I beg leave to recommend to your Excellency's favourable notice and assistance the bearer Mr. Nemiah Haydon, who is a zealous Loyalist and has rendered many services to government during the late war. He intends to proceed from hence with several other Loyalists with him in a vessel of their own to Port Shelburne, where they are desirous of setling, and as they are chiefly ship carpenters and mean to enter into the business of ship building there, which may prove of great benefit to that settlement, I have no doubt but they will receive that protection and countenance from your Excellency so usefull a body of people deserve."

The Loyalist in question, Nehemiah Hayden (1755-1791), came from an important shipbuilding family in Saybrook, CT; he did indeed settle in Chester, NS and later died in Bermuda.

Sir Brook Watson (1735-1807), who wrote out and signed this file transcript, is best known for a shark attack which cost him his leg in 1749. In 1774, he commissioned Boston artist John Singleton Copley to commemorate his rescue with the now-famous painting, "Watson and the Shark."

The date of this letter is interesting, although just a coincidence. The Treaty of Paris, first drafted in November 1782, was actually signed in Paris on this date, 4 September 1783. However, there would have been no way for General Carleton to know that in New York. The final British evacuation took place on 25 November.

An earlier partial draft of this letter was abstracted in the 1909 "Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain," Volume IV, page 326.