April 22, 1812: Brock writes to Prevost

On April 22, 1812, Major-General Brock, in Upper Canada, writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada.  Brock describes a tense situation on the border. American troops, armed and in "coloured clothes", are on patrol trying to enforce the American embargo on foreign trade.  There have also been some incidents where each side has shot at the other across the border. Brock's letter is reproduced below.

"YORK, April 22, 1812.

I had the honor yesterday to receive your excellency's letter, dated the 21st ultimo, and I entreat you to believe that no act within my control shall afford the government of the United States a legitimate pretext to add to a clamour which has been so artfully raised against England.

We have received the account of the renewal of the embargo, and that the most rigorous measures have already been adopted to prevent the least infringement of it upon the Niagara river. Armed men, in coloured clothes, are continually patroling along the shore. These troops are stated to have recently arrived, but I have not been able to ascertain whether they belong to the new levy or to the militia. They are reported to amount to about 300. Colonel Proctor has doubtless written fully on the subject, but unfortunately the letters, by some negligence, were left at Niagara. The accounts which have reached me are not therefore so satisfactory as could be wished. An idle boy is stated to have wantonly fired with ball at the guard opposite Queenstown, and it appears that the Americans were guilty of a similar outrage by firing during the night into a room in which a woman was sitting. Luckily no mischief followed. Being detained here upon civil business, I have sent Captain Glegg over to see how matters stand, and to arrange with both civil and military the best means of preventing a recurrence of a practice which may easily lead to serious consequences. I hope to be at Niagara myself the day after to-morrow.

I beg leave to assure your excellency, that I receive with no small degree of pride the praise bestowed on my endeavours to improve the militia system of this province; and as the bill underwent some alterations after the departure of Colonel M'Donnell, particularly in limiting its operation to the end of the ensuing session, I shall have the honor to forward for your excellency's information the law as now enforced. I have, by partial and gentle means, already commenced to give it operation, and I make not the least doubt that a sufficient number will be found ready to volunteer to complete the flank companies; and I here beg leave to call your excellency's attention to the clause which authorizes the training of the flank companies six times in each month; but as no provision is made for remunerating the men, I presume to submit for your excellency's indulgent consideration, that the commissaries be instructed to issue rations for the number actually present at exercise. These companies I expect will be composed of the best description of inhabitants, who in most cases will have to go a great distance to attend parade; and, unless this liberal provision be allowed, will be liable to heavy expense, or be subject to considerable privations. According to my present arrangements, the number embodied will not exceed 700, and when the companies are completed throughout the province, they must be calculated at 1,800; and, as during harvest and the winter months few or no parades will take place, the total expense attending the measure can be of no material consequence in a pecuniary point of view, and may in a political light be productive, at this juncture, of considerable benefit.

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