A Blupete Biography Page

American Revolution, Part 4 to the Life & Works of
Sir John Wentworth

This biographical sketch on John Wentworth is meant to be supplemental to my larger History of Nova Scotia and I next but set forth a few paragraphs to cover the years from when Wentworth became the Governor of New Hampshire in 1766 to that point in time 26 years later, when, in 1792, he was to become the Governor of Nova Scotia. These 26 years were very eventful ones, during which, of course, the American Revolution unfolded, an event, which, within a few years of John and Frances Wentworth settling into the governor's mansion at New Hampshire was to have the effect of turning them out of it. The first real sign of serious difficulty was to occur in 1773, when, not very far away at Boston, rebels poured tea into the harbour. This was followed up in 1774 by a series of acts (The Intolerable Acts) passed by the British parliament and aimed at bringing the North American colonies under control. By 1775, fighting erupted at Lexington and Concord. It was too, in 1775, that Frances Wentworth was delivered of her son, Charles Mary. So we might have seen Frances nursing her baby, while outdoors a rebel mob besieged the mansion. It was so bad, that, in 1775, the Wentworths fled New Hampshire to the comparative safety of Boston where the British army yet had a presence and exercised some control at the core of the city. By January of 1776, however, Frances took herself and her one year old son to England. Two months later, in March of 1776, Washington forced Howe to evacuate Boston. Wentworth, who had stayed behind while his wife and child sailed for the safety of England, was to eventually hire a sloop, and, following Howe's lead, came up to Halifax from Boston with about a dozen of his New Hampshire friends.8

Howe's strategy, in June of 1776 -- and it would appear John Wentworth was there to assist -- in bringing the troops down from Halifax which he had brought up with him from Boston in April of that year, was to position himself at New York and from there he would cut off New England from the south, then destroy the rebellion at its heart, in Massachusetts. Fortune was first on the side of the British. Howe was able to put Washington and his forces on the run, though Washington was able to save much of his army by retreating across the Hudson to New Jersey. Generally, however, the war went badly for the British. In 1777, Burgoyne surrendered the British forces at Saratoga. In 1778, France recognized the independence of the United States. I suppose at this point Wentworth realized that it made no sense to continue on, for, he, as I am sure many did, realized that the British cause in the American colonies was lost. In April of that year (1778) Wentworth sailed for England to be with his wife and child, and with it, it seems, a determination to wait out the war in England. In October of 1781 a great blow was to occur to the British forces which was to swing the balance of political power in England to the antiwar faction. Cornwallis surrendered his forces at Yorktown. That event did not immediately put an end to the conflict, but from then on it was obvious to all, that it was soon to be ended. Matters dragged on, mostly because the British authorities needed time to get the loyalists out of the colonies. Many flooded into Nova Scotia with the promise of assistance and free grants of land. In November of 1783, The Paris Peace Treaty having been formally signed but a month earlier, the last of the loyalist havens, New York, was evacuated.

So, there it is. At age 29, through good fortune, John Wentworth was the governor of New Hampshire, and through bad fortune, he was, seventeen years later, to be without any position at all. To be sure, in England, Wentworth made the rounds looking for a new position, but there was nothing to be had in the colonies except in such loyal places as Nova Scotia or Canada. The few positions available were eagerly being sought after by the many loyal colonial petitioners, who were also making the rounds in London. Wentworth did manage to get himself, once again, appointed as the surveyor general, and that summer of 1783 Wentworth sailed from England for Nova Scotia in the Greyhound packet, leaving his wife and son behind. He was in the company of the newly appointed lieutenant-governor, Edward Fanning, a fellow New Yorker.9 On September 20th, Wentworth arrived at Halifax. A year later, in the spring of 1784, having left her son, Charles Mary, in the care of relatives (he was to attend Westminster School) Frances Wentworth came out to join her husband.10 She was soon to become unhappy with her new circumstances and was missing her son. Further, her husband was away for great lengths of time attending to his duties.

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Peter Landry
2012

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