The Daily Telegraph - 1882-11-25

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To-day is the anniversary of two important events, both intimately connected with the early history of this Province. The first of these is the evacuation of New York by the British troops, which took place on the 25th November, 1783, just ninety-nine years ago. During the whole period of the Revolutionary war, New York was in the possession of the British, and may be said to have been the head-quarters of the British army in America. Although active operations ceased in 1782, it was not until the spring of 1783 that news of the signing of the armistice arrived in New York; but the order for evacuating the city did not come until late in the year, after the Treaty of Peace was signed. In the mean time, Sir Guy Carleton, the Commander-in-Chief, was kept busy sending the Loyalists to Nova Scotia, which then included New Brunswick, and to England. Transport was provided for more than twelve thousand persons, a portion of whom arrived at St. John in May, 1873, after the announcement of the armistice. The definitive Treaty of Peace was signed on the 3rd September, 1783, and Sir Guy Carleton notified Washington, who was encamped not far from the city, that he would be prepared to evacuate New York on the 25th Nov. Early on that day, the British troops had been drawn in from Kingsbridge, McGowan’s Pass and Paulus Hook. By request of Carleton, and to prevent any disorder which might occur as the British retired, a detachment of American troops under Knox, marched from Harlem on the morning appointed, down the Bowery road to a point near Fresh-Water Pond and there remained, seated on the grass, until one o’clock in the afternoon. As the rear guard of the British began to embark, they moved forward to the Battery and took possession of the fort. Know then galloped back to Harlem to escort Washington into New York. Thus quietly and peacefully was the last scene in the momentous War of the Revolution brought to a close. [Section Break] This is the ninety-eighth anniversary of the appointment of the first Bench of New Brunswick, their commissions being dated the 25th Nov. 1784. The Chief Justice was George Duncan Ludlow, a native of New York, who, at the era of the Revolution, was one of the judges of the Supreme Court of that Colony. He was a member of the first council formed in this Province. His death took place at Fredericton in Feb., 1808. The other judges were: Jas. Putnam, Isaac Allen and Joshua Upham. The first named was a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Harvard. He was a very able lawyer, one of the best in America, and John Adams, was one of his students. He died in this city in 1789 and is buried in the tomb in the Old Burying Ground. Isaac Allen was a native of Trenton, New Jersey, and during the war was Lieut. Colonel of the 2nd Battalion of New Jersey Volunteers. He died in Fredericton in 1806, at the age of sixty-five. His grandson, the Hon. John C. Allen, Chief Justice of this Province, is, to day, presiding at the Circuit Court in this city. Joshua Upham was a native of Massachusetts and a Colonel of Dragoons in the Revolutionary War. He died in England in 1808. Chas. W. Welton, M. P. for the City and County of St. John, is his grandson. The men who formed the first Bench of New Brunswick were eminent in their profession and have not been surpassed by any of their successors. They were legislators, as well as lawyers, and have left the impress of their minds on our statute books. The day which is the anniversary of their appointment to their high and responsible duties is, therefore, one well worthy of being noted at a time so near that Centennial period in which we desire to evoke the memories that cluster around the founding of St. John; at a time, also, in which we wish to prepare for the worthy Centennial Celebration of that memorable anniversary. It is a peculiar feature of human nature to look back with interest on the past, and to invest it with the hues of romance. Viewed through the vista of years, the ordinary commonplace routine of life of one generation becomes romantic to the generations which follow it; small details, which are hardly thought to be worth recording, become of interest and value, and are cherished fondly as remembrances of those who have gone before. This year, the centenary of the founding of St. John is a time which lends itself with peculiar readiness to comparisons between the old and the new, between the circumstances which surrounded the founders of this and sister Provinces, and those which are familiar to us. In that hundred years the world, at large, has changed in its customs and methods, more than in many preceding centuries so that the conditions of life, and the modes of business are entirely different from what they were one hundred years ago. A century ago the war of the Revolution was virtually over and tidings of the signing of a peace were daily expected. The United States has gained their Independence and only a few points were held by the British troops. One of these was the City of New York which had been occupied by the Royal Army since the autumn of 1776 and was the headquarters of British power in America. There, at the beginning of the year 1783, were gathered the Loyalist refugees, who had been obliged to fly from their native States, or who had voluntarily sought the shelter of the flag which they loved. Many of these men had served in the Loyalists Corp during the war, and spilt their blood in the field of battle. Some of these men had originally been rich; others had been poor, but whether rich or poor their condition was now the same, for they had lost their all; their property, their homes, their local attachments, in many cases the love of their kindred – all had been sacrificed in the struggle. Their prospects were then dark indeed. The numerous acts of confiscation which had been passed by the several States had rendered them penniless; their persons were not safe from insult if they ventured back to the places where they had formerly resided, and none of the debts which were due to them by the victorious rebels could be collected. Is it any wonder that many of them were sick at heart, when they thought of what was before them, especially those who had been reared in affluence, who were no longer young, and who were physically incapable of enduring the hardships that were to be expected in a new country. Some of these forlorn exiles turned their eyes toward England, and hoped there to find a home, but the majority looked to those Provinces of America which still remained under the British crown, Canada and Nova Scotia, which included what is now New Brunswick, then, all, in almost a wilderness state. If anyone could throw himself back for one hundred years and see this country as it was then, it would take strong evidence to convince him that what he then saw was a real picture of what once had been. The resident of St. John would see the site of his own city without inhabitants, the home only of the wild animals of the forest; expect a few scattered houses near the head of the harbor on what is now Portland and a few clearings in Lancaster, no signs of human habitation would meet his gaze. He would see St. John a mass of forest crowned rock, so rugged as to be almost impassable, the most unpromising of sites for a city. As he looked he would wonder at the hardihood of the men who would dare to found a seat of commerce on such a spot. One hundred years ago half the conveniences which we now enjoy were unknown in the most civilized places, and in the wilderness into which the Loyalists were about to enter there was but little prospect of even the comforts which were available elsewhere being enjoyed for a long time to come. These men were not only separating themselves from their kindred but they were divorcing themselves from nearly everything which they had deemed essential to the proper enjoyment of life. They could only hope to hear the news of the outside world at long intervals; it would be years before their fields would be fit for cultivation with the plough and decades before trade would pass beyond the petty limits of barter. Churches, schools, roads; all had to be built at great cost, and hardships had to be endured, which less resolute men would have quailed. Some, indeed, did quail and turn back, willing to make any humiliating concessions, provided they might be permitted to return to their old homes, but the great majority were firm and accepted their destiny bravely, wherever it might be. All honor then to their memory, both as pioneers of this new community and as brave men, who had made their choice and were willing to abide by it.