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FEBRUARY 15, 1793


C-1457 TO

DesBarres Papers, Series 5 (M.G. 23, F1-5, Vols. 7-12, Representation of DesBarres case, 1788-1804, Reel 3, pp. 1803-1823, February 15, 1793

[Eaton Street, 15th February, 1793]

[pp. 1804-1805]

... 4. The Complaints, or Representation of Samuel Sparrow, framed by or transmitted through the House of Harrison & Co,  Merchants of London. There is the greater Cause of entering into these Complaints or Representations, as Mr. Sparrow has been One of the Confidential Persons from whose wretched Authority the Secretary of State's office appears to have derived much of the Misinformation that seduced it. Mr Sparrow had been One of the Traders from whom I was sometimes under the Necessity of purchasing Articles for the Service in Cape Breton. He had some of the protested Bills at the Time my Credit was stopt here; but I had pledged to him in Securing more than double their Amount of my most valued personal property, which has not been recovered but in a very mangled State. He was notwithstanding One of those that afterwards seized, and, in consequence of that Seizure, dismantled my landed Estates in Nova Scotia, and finding much Encouragement in the Public offices, in order to sink me beyond the Possibility of ever bringing him to account, he ceased not to retail the most flagrant Falsehoods. When he found the protested Bills were in a Course of Payment, he began to trump up more Accounts against the Service, which I resisted and it brought on a general Arbitration, which lasted nearly two Years. In this Arbitration I had proposed to bring under review my Damages in consequence of his Calumnies in the Public Offices, And the Testimony of the Undersecretary (Mr. Nepean) being referred to, he refused to declare - saying that none in the Offices could be obliged to denounce an Informer, or Information, or, to produce any paper but by Order of Parliament. The Arbitrator accordingly were unable to enter into the Matter; but sensible I had been atrously injured, they referred me to future Redress from [Government?] as the next best Recourse, as appear by their Letters to the Lords of the Treasury: the more particularly as the Damages against Mr Sparrow would exceed his Compass, and because the Calumnies could have produced no Effect Without the corresponding Reception on the Part of Government in the Public Offices and the Measures taken in consequence Out of the due Course of Justice, Laws, and Policy ....

[p. 1806]

Upon all these Charges, contained or implied in the Six specific Heads mentioned, I repeat the Demand of my Right to be tried as soon as possible, and I plead, not guilty ...

[p. 1810]

How then could Lord Sydney think about destroying my Character ...

[signed] J.F.W. DesBarres

DesBarres Papers, Series 5, M23, F 1-5, Volumes 7-12, Representation of DesBarres Case, 1788-1804, February 15, 1793, pp. 1804-1806, 1810     



[p. 1828]

4th. The Complaints, or Representation of Samuel Sparrow, framed by, or transmitted through the House of Harrison & Company,  Merchants in London. There is the greater cause for entering into these Complaints or representations that Sparrow has been one of the confidential persons from whose wretched authority Mr. Nepean derived much of the Misinformation that seduced him ....

DesBarres Papers, Series 5 (M.G. 23, F1-5, Vols. 7-12, Representation of DesBarres case, 1788-1804, Reel 3, p. 1828, Post February 15, 1793 - A Draft


London, February 15, 1793

DesBarres to Dundas. 

Gratitude for his answer of the September 26, 1791 to his letter of September 17, 1791 asking for a trial of his case. Hopes there is no more obstacle in the way to a decision.

There was in Nova Scotia a party of officers and traders opposed to the settlement of Cape Breton from fear of curtailment of their importance or profits. They did everything to ruin the enterprise. Six of the civil and military officers entered into a combination to oppose all undertakings and made allegations to the Colonial Office against him. He asks for copies of these and to be tried upon the following:

From Lord Sydney's correspondence with him, the case cannot be fully understood, as he contented himself with reporting to him the actual state of things, denying all complaints generally, and many letters remained unanswered or, after long delay, but partially answered. He was told that his letters and the explanations of the Chief Justice, whom he sent to England, were 1793 insufficient to remove allegations against him, but how could it be otherwise, when such allegations were never communicated to him. The correspondence shows a complete lack of knowledge, so the only way out is a public and impartial trial. 

It is of no use to say that the incriminating papers are not in the office. That would be strange and also suspicious. But he can furnish a copy of the Remonstrance and Petition No. 1. He could also prepare a summary of all the facts with the complaints, and have it printed. And he is ready to stand by the judgment of any competent persons on the matter. He is ready to risk anything for a trial at any rate. The pretence of Lord Sydney for withdrawing it - that he did not know whether the government was authorized to recall or remove him - cannot deprive him of his right to a trial. Besides one cannot be removed without being proved guilty, which guilt can only result from hearing both sides. 

During the war, he received praises from Townshend, Amherst, etc. In Newfoundland, he contributed to the army's success. He made a survey of the principal harbours there, and also of the harbour of Halifax, and it was proposed to him to survey the coast of Nova Scotia. Thus he was led to compose and publish the Atlantic Neptune, after twenty years of hard work, losing in the meantime his opportunity of preferment. 

He has not even been paid all his expenses. Still this book is one of the most useful works of the kind and has been very useful to the navy and commerce. At the time, the Board of Trade was in a tottering situation, so he had to rely on his own and friends' resources to finish his book. He did not secure the military preferment he was entitled to, but only recommendation for some mark of the Royal favour for his services.

Accordingly the following year, he was appointed to Cape Breton. Such being the case, how could Lord Sydney destroy his character without a trial? He cannot submit to that. Is it not the duty of government to protect faithful servants? Had the minister fulfilled his promises of help and considered the difficulties of the situation, the officer, who was charged with creating the settlement and who accounted for everything, should have been treated with liberality, not with distrust. 

His difficulties were inconceivable: three vessels, loaded with provisions, were successively seized. Still the infant colony succeeded in exporting 40,000 in one year. It could have become a source of supplies for our West Indian Islands and secured us the chief part of the carrying trade of North America. The government not only did not communicate to him the complaints, but even restored officers he had suspended. Then government money ceased to be issued to his agent. This brought an inundation of protested bills, which he tried to settle from his personal resources. 

In October 1787, he left for England and his property has since been plundered. When leaving, two trunks of papers were stolen. He had to pay 200 for the old vessel which brought him to Jersey. Hearing that a watch was kept to seize him on account of the protested bills, he asked Lord Sydney for a safe conveyance to London, but without result. He succeeded in gaining London secretly in April 1788 and reached a sanctuary in the vicinity of Whitehall. He presented himself to the Colonial Office, demanding a speedy trial, but was told he was still the lieutenant-governor of Cape Breton and that justice would be done to him. He had not a guinea to himself, and was constantly visited by the holders of the protested bills. Then stopping all payments, the Secretary of State had recommended paying 7,000, but both the Colonial Office and the Treasury Board did nothing about it. 

He then heard through his friends of the accusations and calumnies circulated. He was petrified with astonishment and urged the Colonial Office to give a speedy trial. Communications followed for ten months. The Secretary of State relegated him to the Under Secretaries and then always prevented any progress. They tried to deter him from a trial, on account of the uncertainties of the complaints, arguing that he was not supposed to incur expense in Cape Breton, nor spend money for barracks or the relief of the people and the best thing was to have his accounts passed. But he still insisted on a trial. 

The pretence that no expense was to be incurred is astonishing: Cape Breton was to be reserved for the Loyalists. Haldimand was asked to send Loyalists there at the public expense and the Secretary told DesBarres to accommodate them with provisions and articles of bounty. The Secretary of State forgot that barracks were to be built. The measure was imposed on him. Besides it was a necessity. 

The expenditure of which he gives the details, incurred for the Loyalists, the barracks, wages, etc., amounted to 22,366. This is less than in the original plan. Had he known it was not to be executed, he could have realized some saving. But they had to live in continual suspense and to buy what supplies they could at any terms. The barracks were built very cheaply and the government has already saved more than their cost. 

He has seen a paper intitled " Remonstrance and Petition of the Principal Inhabitants of Cape Breton," which was exhibited by Mr. Hurd, who was suspended for misconduct from his office of surveyor in Cape Breton. He asked the Colonial Office for an official copy, but could not get it, nor copies of the Secretary of State's report, or of any complaint. 

Always some pretext being used for a refusal. Though a public servant may be removed as an executive measure, this does not extend to refusing a trial before punishment. As one of the Under Secretaries swore one day that he would ruin him, perhaps here is to be found the explanation of his difficulties. The complaints are linked with the accounts, since the former were examined in connection with the latter. And the Lords of the Admiralty could not proceed upon the accounts without first ascertaining the facts by a trial. If the reports to the Treasury had not included part of the complaints, the accounts could have been dealt with without reflecting on his conduct. The accounts could have been rejected, and he would have been a great loser, but then he would not have been considered a criminal but a meritorious man, having founded a colony. 

After ten months, the Secretary of State decided to refer the case to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, on February 21, 1789. This measure, without a previous trial, could bring no result as he was officially prejudged and could not expect any attention. It simply meant hanging up the case and so it proved to be. He was refused all copies of reports and nothing was done. 

But the importunity of Mr. John Drummond, one of the complainants, succeeded in bringing about an examination of his claims and complaints by the Comptrollers of the Army Accounts and they were not found to be what they were represented. Some of the holders of the protested bills began to agitate in order to find whether anything was done to him. Fearing longer postponement, the government at the end of 1789 issued 10,000 for 1793 payment of the bills, but only 7,171 went to pay the original, the rest being absorbed by interests and expenses. 

An arbitration decided the claims of Mr. Sparrow to be unfounded and his own conduct in the administration of Cape Breton, to be conducive to his honor, and suggested a more complete enquiry. At the request of the Secretary of State who said part of the original and duplicate vouchers had been lost, he presented the triplicates he had retained. One of the secretaries of the Treasury, Mr. Steele, compared them with the accounts and declared himself satisfied. But later they were missed from the office and he had to obtain an official acknowledgment before the Court of Exchequer for the lost vouchers. 

Then followed a long official silence, during which some of the complainants were privately examined and reports by Col. Macarmick laid before the Board. Out of this investigation a great number of queries of all kinds were submitted to him. It would have taken months to answer them. Evidently there was an intent to prolong the proceedings or raise some reason to postpone the public trial asked for. Therefore unwilling to submit any longer to a secret proceeding before the Board, he wrote to them, protesting against its proceeding with the case, before a trial was duly granted to him. Without answering, the Board addressed further queries, which relating solely to the accounts, were answered by him. 

He only wants justice. He was anxious to serve his country' and deserve commendation. He had so far succeeded well enough, and now he has been stripped of everything. He asks to be reimbursed the residue of his expenses in publishing the Atlantic Neptune; that the preferment lost in the army may be made up in the course of time; that the government of Cape Breton be restored to him; that his losses may be paid to him; that he may be tried upon all complaints and accusations.

Extracted, reformatted, and edited from the Report of the Public Archives for the Year 1923 (Ottawa: F. A. Acland, 1924), pp. 7-16 - British Museum, Additional MSS, 32880, 37845, 37885, 37886, 37890 ... Based on: DesBarres Papers, Series 5 (M.G. 23, F1-5, Vols. 7-12, Representation of DesBarres case, 1788-1804, Reel 3, pp. 1803-1823, Eaton Street, 15th Feb. 1793

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