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July 10 1812: Prevost's Prudence




On July 10, 1812, Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada, writes to Major General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada. Prevost does not want Brock to take offensive measures. Prevost believes that public opinion in the United States is so divided that Americans, in turn, will not be taking offensive measures. In this regard, Prevost is quite wrong. General Hull will march from Detroit in two days to invade Upper Canada. Prevost on July 10 writes:
"Our numbers would not justify offensive operations being undertaken, unless they were solely calculated to strengthen a defensive attitude. I consider it prudent and politic to avoid any measure which can in its effect have a tendency to unite the people in the American States. Whilst disunion prevails among them, their attempts on these provinces will be feeble; it is, therefore, our duty carefully to avoid committing any act which may, even by construction, tend to unite the eastern and southern states, unless, by its perpetration, we are to derive a considerable and important advantage. But the government of the United States, resting on public opinion for all its measures, is liable to sudden and violent changes; it becomes an essential part of our duty to watch the effect of parties on its measures, and to adapt ours to the impulse given by those possessed of influence over the public mind in America." 
Prevost's letter is reproduced below.

Sir George Prevost to Major-General Brock.

Montreal, July 10, 1812.

Colonel Lethbridge's departure for Kingston affords me an opportunity of replying more fully and confidentially to your letter of the 3d instant, than I could venture to have done the day before yesterday by an uncertain conveyance. That officer has been desired to transmit to you, together with this dispatch, a copy of the instructions given to him for his guidance until the exigencies of the service make it necessary in your estimation to substitute others, or to employ the colonel in any other situation of command. In them you will find expressed my sentiments respecting the mode of conducting the war on our part, suited to the existing circumstances; and as they change, so must we vary our line of conduct, adapting it to our means of preserving entire the king's provinces.

Our numbers would not justify offensive operations being undertaken, unless they were solely calculated to strengthen a defensive attitude. I consider it prudent and politic to avoid any measure which can in its effect have a tendency to unite the people in the American States. Whilst disunion prevails among them, their attempts on these provinces will be feeble; it is, therefore, our duty carefully to avoid committing any act which may, even by construction, tend to unite the eastern and southern states, unless, by its perpetration, we are to derive a considerable and important advantage. But the government of the United States, resting on public opinion for all its measures, is liable to sudden and violent changes ; it becomes an essential part of our duty to watch the effect of parties on its measures, and to adapt ours to the impulse given by those possessed of influence over the public mind in America.

Notwithstanding these observations, I have to assure you of my perfect confidence in your measures for the preservation of Upper Canada. All your wants shall be supplied as fast as possible, except money, of which I have so little, as to be obliged to have recourse to a paper currency.

The adjutant-general has reported to you the aid we have afforded, in arms and ammunition, to your militia at Cornwall, Glengary, Dundas, and Stormont.

To prevent an interruption to the communication between the two provinces, it is fit a system of convoy should be established between Montreal and Kingston; and as Major-General de Rottenburg is to remain here in command of a cordon of troops, consisting of regulars and militia, (established in this neighbourhood to prevent an irruption for the plunder of Montreal,) whilst I attend to parliamentary duties at Quebec, on that subject you may communicate direct with the major-general, as he has my instructions to co-operate with you in preserving this important object.

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