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    Debbie Melon

    I am researching the American Revolution and live in Ontario, Canada. While reading about a British officer, John Graves Simcoe (The Life and Times of John Graves Simcoe, pp 40-41, which can be accessed at Internet Archives site) I found the below passage to be quite confusing because it appears to predate Lord Dunmore’s November 1775 proclamation to enlist Black men. I could be wrong.

    “He, therefore, importuned Admiral Graves to ask General Gage that he might enlist such negroes as were in Boston and with them put himself under the direction of Sir James Wallace who was then actively engaged at Rhode Island and to whom that Colony had opposed negroes : adding to the Admiral, who seemed surprised at his request, ‘that he entertained no doubt he should soon exchange them for whites’ . General Gage, on the Admiral’s application, informed him that the Negroes were not sufficiently numerous to be serviceable and that he had other employment for those who were in Boston.”

    Simcoe served with the 35th Foot in Boston from June 19, 1775 to March, 17, 1776. I’ve looked at the online Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1770-1776 and have been unsuccessful. Is it possible that Simcoe made this remark about Rhode Island opposing Blacks because the Colony prohibited the importation of slaves in 1774? Any assistance you can offer that would help me understand why Simcoe would such a comment would be greatly appreciated. Thank you


    Hello Debbie,

    Welcome to the forum! It’s great to share discussions with other folks who enjoy history.

    I think I have found the link to the book you have referenced: https://archive.org/details/lifetimesofgener00read

    Interesting question. I believe Simcoe was looking to form a Boston-sourced regiment in 1777. That might date it after 1775, and thus make it chronilogically accurate? I checked for pp 40-41 on the Internet Archives site, though there are several versions of the digital document available, and am unsure which one references the same pages you have noted.

    I will also reach out to our social media friends and see if anyone might have some insight.

    Are you researching work for a book or doing geneological research? Sounds fun!



    Hi Debbie,

    A gentleman from twitter shared some input. His mentions can be found here:

    Hopefully they might be insightful.


    Debbie Melon

    Hi Dan,
    Thank you for assisting with my query. Here is the book about Simcoe that I referenced in my post.


    I am currently researching Simcoe for a paper that may be included in a local history book. The paper is for a talk in November 2016. I am trying to add some not so well known information to his available narrative.

    His comment about the Rhode Island Colony appears to predate 1777 because he states that he approached Admiral Graves when he was stationed in Boston. What’s not clear is why he would say that Rhode Island opposed Blacks?

    Here are the responses I received from American Revolution enthusiasts in Canada and all of them find the remark to be quite puzzling because he appears to have said it while he was stationed in Boston.

    1) It could mean that Rhode Islanders were prejudiced against Blacks.
    2) Rhode Islanders opposed the idea of enlisting Blacks in the Crown forces.
    3) Blacks were opposed to Rhode Island rebels.
    4) Rhode Island had enlisted Blacks to oppose the British.
    5) Rhode Island opposed the use of Blacks in combat.

    I am thinking he said it because Rhode Island banned the importation of slaves in 1774, but I can only speculate as well, which is why I posted on your site. If I can’t resolve this by the spring, I will visit the Ontario archives and sift through the Simcoe collection.

    I did not watch all the TURN episodes, but I am aware that he was portrayed as a monster.


    Stan Neathery

    Perhaps it was because that there would have to be significant training that the British Army didn’t have the time to do as they were in the midst of a revolt. However, I’m sure that blacks, if they had the choice, would volunteer for the British, as the British promised them their freedom. After the war, many blacks who fought for the British migrated to Nova Scotia around Halifax.

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