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English Merchant


Letter to the Earl of SANDWICH, upon the Expedition to LOUISBOURG

LONDON, April 22, 1775.

MY LORD: I have waited a considerable time, in expectation either that some abler advocate for the living and the dead, would have exposed the fallacy of your late extraordinary harangue in the House of Lords, as it was printed in the publick Newspapers; or that a positive contradiction would have appeared from authority; I mean a solemn asseveration that you never made use of such absurd terms, or related such an improbable particular instance, attended with such ludicrous circumstances concerning the brave Sir Peter Warren, and the equally brave North Americans. This latter expectation was rather reasonable in me, because, though I was admitted to the honour of being present at the memorable siege of Louisbourg, in 1745, I cannot, in these times of inquisitorial secrecy, be admitted to the like honour at the assemblies of the British sages; I mean in the House of Lords or Commons, and of course cannot depend upon what may be said to have passed there. The constituents of the Commons are rudely thrust out of the gallery of their own House; and as that celebrated botanist, philosopher, favourite, and Knight of Polar Star, Sir John Hill, says in the preface to his Animadversions upon the Royal Society, I have the honour not to be a member of either. But, my Lord, I was an eye witness to the siege in question, was much nearer than Sir Peter at the time of, and assisted to cover the landing, which was heroically effected; and I do most absolutely deny your second-hand character and account given of the Americans, if it is yours, to be true. I was also frequently an ear witness to the declarations of Sir Peter, which were always directly contrary to what he hath been lately made to relate; I therefore also sincerely believe that part of the harangue in question not to be true. You know, my good Lord, dead men tell no tales; it is well for some they cannot, or perhaps if they could, in this refined and free thinking age, they would not be believed, no, not even Moses and the Prophets, were they to arise. Your Lordship will excuse the quotation; you was always extravagantly fond of the Scriptures, at least I have been told so; and one tale, my good Lord, may bo as true as another, you know; and yet, after all, your Lordship, far from declaiming so fallaciously, may never have even seen the ludicrous tale you are represented to have so ludicrously embellished. You may, my Lord, be infinitely above reading of Newspapers; nevertheless, in justice to your Lordship, as well as the rest of the concerned, it once more makes its appearance, with a few remarks; and would your Lordship condescend so far, you might learn how injuriously to your honour you have been libelled in the publick prints.

"As to their prowess, I remember very well when I had the honour to be at the Board at which I now preside, I had the curiosity to inquire about the surprising feats said to be performed by those people, [the Americans] at the siege of Louisbourg, of the great Naval officer who commanded on that expedition, as able and honest a seaman as ever lived, (Sir Peter Warren) who told me very frankly they were the greatest set of cowards and poltrons he ever knew; they were all bluster, noise, and conquest, before they got in the presence of their enemies, but then they were good for nothing. I remember a particular instance he told me, which, from the ludicrous circumstances attending it, made a very deep impression on my mind. Soon after their landing, there was a battery, called the Island Battery, which commanded the entrance of the Harbour. Sir Peter having ordered them to attack it; they engaged to perform it; but what was the consequence? They ran away on the first fire. And how did you manage? Did you employ them afterwards, or upbraid them with their cowardice? says I; No, answered Sir Peter, neither would it have been prudent; I formed the Marines and part of the Ships' crews into a body, to act on shore; and instead of upbraiding them, I told them they had behaved like heroes; for, if I had acted otherwise, I should have never taken the Town, as their presence and numbers were necessary to intimidate the besieged.

"Their numbers, [meaning the Americans at large] and extent of country both, will unite with their cowardice to render their conquest the more easy; for, in the first place, it will be more difficult to assemble them, and when they are assembled, the more easy to defeat them. I would be better pleased that the Standing Army should meet two hundred thousand of such a rabble, armed with old rusty firelocks, pistols, staves, clubs, and broomsticks, than twenty thousand, as the war would be at an end, and instead of five victories, one on our part would be equally decisive."

Sir Peter Warren, then a Commodore only, was as able and honest a seaman as ever stept between the stem and stern of a Ship; he might have been advised with; nay, he certainly was, because the most perfect harmony subsisted between the Land and Sea Officers; but he never ordered the Land Forces to attack any part of the Fortifications,


nor would they have engaged to perform such orders, if he had; the chief Naval Officer understood discipline much better than to trench upon the Province of General Pepperell; such orders must have bred ill-blood. Can any man be brought to believe, that the General, or his brave volunteer irregulars, about three thousand eight hundred in number, every one of whom belonged to America; nay, almost to a man New Englanders, would have suffered such treatment? Besides, would any mere Naval officer in his senses, have made himself unnecessarily responsible for consequences so hazardous? Lastly, and beyond all, who could have imagined that an English First Lord of the Admiralty would have espoused such a doctrine, and approved of such conduct?

The Island Battery stood upon a small rock, almost inaccessible, about twenty yards broad, and two hundred long, with a circular Battery of forty-two pounders towards the neck of the Harbour, in front, with a guardhouse and barracks behind. How could they, the Americans, run away, then, on the first fire? Or where to? unless into tho Ocean; for the Whaling and Ships' boats were sunk, or obliged to draw off; as it was they made a noble stand. One Brooks, an American officer, had nearly struck the flag of the Fort; it was actually half down, when a French Swiss Trooper clove his scull. Their courageous landing; their dragging of eighteen pounders several miles over rocks, and through morasses; their drilling of forty-two pounders left in the deserted grand Battery, which had been spiked up by the French, and then conveying them round the Northeast Harbour to the Light-house; the speedy and close approach of the fascine Batteries to the ramparts, and the general alertness of the successful besiegers, entitles them, surely, to more than a sneer; it justly entitles them to the real appellation of heroes. Could men so circumstanced exert themselves more? Do such an handful of undisciplined soldiers deserve the opprobrious epithets of cowards or poltrons?

The Admiral, it is true, blocked up the Harbour effectually, and neglected nothing in the power of an experienced and valiant Naval officer, on Sea or Shore, to assist the Land Forces; but did any one besides your Lordship ever hear him boast, that if he had acted otherwise, than by crouching and lying to cowards and poltrons, HE should have taken the Town? Modesty is a constant attendant upon real merit; the Admiral would have modestly insisted, that the Fleet blocked up the Port and did its duty, but that the Army took the Town.

You have been libelled, my Lord, or you have paid a poor compliment to the memory of Sir Peter Warren, and much poorer to the manes of the brave North Americans who perished before the walls; neither have you done justice to the survivors upon that expedition; I bled in this business, my Lord; and though an Old Englishman, feel for the honour of the British Empire in every quarter of the globe. I feel also my proportionate part of the ungenerous and degrading insult; but every defamation that gross falsehood and sheer ignorance can suggest against our truly meritorious and much injured brethren of America, is now courtly, and of course fashionable.

How would your Lordship approve of it, to have the ashes of your departed, your broken-hearted brother, Captain Montagu, commonly called Mad Montagu, raked up? Would you like to be reminded of his drunken skirmishes, his nightly window-breakings, and his amorous rencounters at Boston? I have been an eye witness to several such particular instances, attended with ludicrous circumstances likewise; and cannot but remember when one of those brave fellows whom you are said to have stigmatized with the base character of cowards, poltrons, and rabble, (Joe Pierrepont) a small sized man of Roxbury, near Boston, nicknamed the Duke of Kingston, fairly fought with, and drubbed him within an inch of his life. I will go further, my Lord, than you perhaps have chosen to do; to your brother' s credit, it shall be recorded that he regarded the man for the residue of his days.

I have done with your Lordship for the present, but not with the publick. As the best refutation to such illiberal malice, I lately caused even Doctor Smollet to give testimony against it, and will, in a few days, make other apt quotations from other historical writers, written at a period when some lute pernicious Tory doctrines had not been broached; or if they had, would not have been countenanced, much less encouraged; I mean in the reign of King George the Second, under whom, as Sterne makes uncle Toby declare of King William the Third, I had the honour to serve, though now I am no more than




* "Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay, New-Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island; 3,850 voluntary Soldiers, principally substantial persons, and men of beneficial occupations; this brave, determined, though undisciplined band of Soldiers, embarked from Boston on the 30th of March for Canso; and, pray for us, while we fight for you, was the valiant and endearing language wherewith they animated their desponding; countrymen, on their departure from their families, their fortunes and their occupations." — Foit' s Impartial Representation, &c˙, Volume 4, Fol, 13.