A Blupete Biography Page

John William Hoffman
(b. d. unknown).

Not a whole lot is known of John William Hoffman. Winthrop Bell suggests1 that Hoffman came to Nova Scotia on the Alderney. Further, Bell writes, that Hoffman, "had some education, was competent in the English language, was 'in better circumstances than the rest,' and had made himself popular among them."2 Cornwallis chose him as a Justice of the Peace in December of 1750. Apparently Hoffman went about his job with considerable enthusiasm, as, he was to get a number of distinguished citizens upset; to such an extent, that they petitioned Cornwallis to remove Hoffman from office. They argued the legality of Hoffman's appointment, in that, he had not established the residency requirement, seven years; thus, not qualified for the office in the first place.

In October of 1751 Hoffman, for whatever reason took himself to Dartmouth but was to get into trouble there, "an ensign in Cornwallis' regiment [Gildart], who then had five soldiers seize and hold him, and finally put him by force into the ferry-boat returning to Halifax."3 This event caused Hoffman's detractors to press their case even further, to such an extent that Cornwallis agreed to get a ruling from London. In a letter to Cornwallis from the Board of Trade, dated 6th of March, 1752, the board sided with Hoffman's adversaries declaring that Hoffman's appointment was illegal in that he had not established the seven years' residency requirement. Not much was made of the affair: Cornwallis simply drew up a new list of "J.P's" dropping Hoffman and another fellow too by the name of Leonard C. Rudolf. Hoffman was however reinstated either because he shortly thereafter met, through the passage of time, the residency requirement; or, because of the complaints of the German population.

Hoffman was appointed as one of the eight captains named as leaders of the 1,500, or so, settlers that were chosen to go to found the new community of Lunenburg in May of 1753. The gentlemen, as chosen by Hopson, were to have the "ability, experience and reputation ... most likely to give general satisfaction."4

Of course, Hoffman comes to our historical attention because of his involvement in a rebellion that broke out shortly after the founding of Lunenburg, in 1753. His involvement made be read under the heading "The Hoffman Insurrection."

Though sentenced to serve 2 years in prison as a result of his involvement in the Lunenburg rebellion, one wonders after reading Bell's account whether he served the sentence in full or indeed if he served more than two years because of his inability to pay the court levied fine. In 1754, Hoffman may well have been out of prison and back at Lunenburg running a store.5 beyond that, it's difficult to figure out what was to eventually become of Hoffman; Doctor Brown thought that within a year or two of the trouble at Lunenburg (December, 1753) that he had left the area and "went to Philadelphia and made a fortune as a sugar maker."6


[1] Foreign Protestants, p. 210.

[2] Hoffman could apparently speak German, English and French. (Bell, op. cit., pp. 363, 454.)

[3] Ibid., p. 358.

[4] Ibid., p. 412.

[5] Ibid., pp. 443-463.

[6] As quoted by Bell, Ibid., at p. 463.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)