Sir, -- I hope it will be a sufficient apology for commencing a correspondence with you, to whom I am utterly unknown, to acquaint you that it is undertaken at the request of Timothy Ruggles, Esq'r., formerly of Hardwicke in Massachusetts Bay, New England, a Gentleman for whom I have the highest veneration and esteem, and whose unshaken loyalty has made him, with many other worthy men, emigrants to this new country of Nova Scotia. His scheme is to fix a regular system of intelligence from different parts of this country with you in London. He has done me the honour to desire me to open a correspondence with you from this place [Shelburne], assuring me that it will be well received on your part, and that every piece of information that I may be able to give will be made use of for the public good. I have therefore undertaken the business with great satisfaction, and if I shall be able to give you any information which may produce any good to my country, I shall esteem it an ample reward for my pains.
The matters about which Mr. Ruggles tells me you desire to be particularly informed are:-
(1) Whether the new settlers are required to take an Oath of Allegiance and Loyalty to the King and Parliament?
(2) Whether they are tolerably comfortable, and how the settlement at Port Roseway goes on?
(3) Whether Nova Scotia can furnish lumber sufficient for the demand of the English West India Islands?
(4) What number of Indians there are in Nova Scotia? And whether one of the S.P.G. missionaries would be of service?
To which he added some queries of his own -- viz., whether the Fishery is likely to succeed, and what number of vessels and hands are employed in that business or in any other at Port Roseway?
Respecting all which I would inform you.
In the first place, at Port Roseway, the settlers were all called upon to take the oath of allegiance to the King and subscribe a declaration acknowledging the supremacy of the British Parliament over the whole Empire, but this was explained as not to be extended to taxation. I believe the magistrates attended to this business regularly. I say I believe so, for being in the surveying service and at the head of the department in the district of Shelburne, I have been so entirely taken up in the duty of my office as not to be able to know with exact precision and certainty every circumstance of this kind.
Respecting the second query -- The new settlers here have suffered no other hardships and difficulties than are commonly incident to the settling of a new country -- a proof of which is the universal state of good health enjoyed in this place, no other disorders having prevailed than such as are usual in the country in general, and if some tender worn out constitutions have fallen a sacrifice, more have been bettered by the change of climate from N. York to N. Scotia. The greatest difficulty they have had to encounter has, in my opinion, been the living in less roomy and commodious habitations than some had been heretofore used to, but that is every day growing better. We have been well served with the King's provisions, which have been very good of their kind, particularly the bread. There has been likewise a distribution of clothing, working tools, some boards, &c., but in what proportion I do not know, those matters being out of my line.
The progress of this settlement has been very rapid. The first location upon house lots was on the 23d May, 1783, and on the 1st February, 1784, there were 1,127 houses built -- 80 of which were indeed only temporary ones put up for the winter by some late comers who could not be immediately provided for: 231 of these were framed houses, the rest what are called Log-Houses, built of pieces of Timber framed together at the ends -- and these are sometimes clapboard over; they may be made permanent buildings to endure many years. Since that time more than 250, or near upon 300 houses have been built, houses and stores; and these later buildings are altogether framed houses and most generally large, commodious, and some of them elegant buildings.
Besides the House lots in Town and the Store and Wharf lots -- which amounted last fall to 2,400 House lots and 837 Store and Wharf lots -- there have been laid out 800 country lots of from 50 to 500 acres each.
There have been two saw mills erected in the neighbourhood of the Town, one of which has been at work thro' the winter, the other began working some time in June.
The number of vessels belonging to the port I cannot precisely ascertain. They are somewhere about 50 sail, or may be more. About half the number are employed in the cod fishery -- a business which the settlers at Shelburne are yet unacquainted with (for it is to be observed that that business was no where carried on on the Continent of America but from four or five towns in Massachusetts Bay, in which it was reduced to a system and the rules and regulations were the result of the experience of a century) and therefore it is not to be wondered at if their first experiments should turn out, as they have, not very successful. But there have lately arrived among them some persons acquainted with the business, by whose information they will be able another season to undertake it with better success.
The Whale fishery has met with better success. A vessel fixed out last fall from N. York by a gentleman, who is now a resident in Shelburne, has returned this spring with a fine cargo of oil, and is now gone (or going) on a new voyage. This has stimulated others to undertake the same business, and there is a considerable sum subscribed to fit out vessels for that business. Whaling is a more simple business than the cod fishery -- in one 'tis only requisite to get people dextrous in killing the whale, in the other all depends on proper dressing and curing.
The other vessels of this place, except a few employed in the coasting and lumber trade, are employed, some few in the West India trade, but most of them in voyages to New York, from whence, under color of bringing the effects of Loyalists, much smuggling is carried on of Gin, Brandy, &c. But these matters will I suppose be better looked into when the bustle of settling is a little over. This country is better situated for the cod fishery than any part of America, and with the same industry must out do them. The southerly and southwesterly winds, which chiefly prevail on these coasts in the summer season, are the occasion of very long passages to the N. England men from the Banks -- 3 weeks or a month is common -- which often spoils their fish entirely, always renders it of worse quality by being kept so long on shipboard. With the same wind vessels may come directly from the Banks to these coasts; and add to that the distance is shorter by 100 leagues, or more as it may be.
Whether Nova Scotia can supply the British Islands with lumber is a question I cannot take upon me to absolutely determine in the affirmative, but when it is considered that some of the finest lumber countries in the Bay of Fundy are still within the British lines, and that the peninsula of N. Scotia and the Island of St. John's do likewise abound in the same article, I think there can be no doubt of it. A little experiment would determine the question in the best manner, but that perhaps could not be made fairly at present, as the wants of the new settlers will for some time occasion a great home consumption. Lumber used to be shipped from Boston and the other ports of the Massachusetts Bay at from 30 to 36 shillings sterling p. M. The general price at Shelburne is now, and has been for some time, from 50 to 60 shillings delivered at the wharf. Before this war the prices in this and New England at the saw mills used to be from 20 to 25 shillings sterling p. M. at an average.
The number of Indians in the peninsula of Nova Scotia are reckoned from 300 to 400 fighting men. They depend entirely upon the British inhabitants for arms, ammunition, clothing, and what few utensils they want in their way of life. They are peaceable and friendly. They are all Christianized to the Church of Rome, and there are one or two Romish priests allowed them, who receive some stipend from Government. Whether changing these for missionaries of the Church of England would make these poor ignorant creatures better men is a matter very uncertain. They are kept in great decorum by their present priests, and in point of morals are in general not worse men than their better instructed British neighbours. 'Tis observable they have during this war been always inimical to the Rebel privateers who have infested the coast. They are generally very friendly and humane to shipwrecked people, and have saved many a one who must have otherwise perished after escaping drowning.
This country has as many natural advantages as any one part of America. Climate healthy, the winters rather more open than they are on the continent (I speak now of the peninsula), the summers not so hot, which will -- as it is naturally productive of grass -- make it the first grazing country in America. Wheat and all other kinds of grain grow here in equal perfection as in the more southern provinces. The oats excel all others.
There are rich mines of coal, likewise copper and iron -- our needles frequently point out as we are surveying in the woods. Great plenty of the best limestone abounds, and in some places inexhaustible supplies of the stone from which is made the best kind of Plaster of Paris.
Commodiously situated for the cod and whale fishery, Nova Scotia needs nothing but industry, a good constitution of government, and that steadily administered, to make it a country in which life may be spent with as much pleasure and satisfaction as most parts of this terrestrial globe.
I am Sir, with the greatest respect,
Your most obed't
And most humble Servt,