Letter written by Ebenezer Greeley, census taker for Madawaska settlement, from Fredericton Jail, June 1837

This document was located by Larry Glatz. Below is his introduction and transcription of the letter.

Location of document: Hodsdon Papers, MHS Collection 8, Folder 5 (The letter is three or four documents from the back of the folder.)

* Introduction:

One of the incidents which precipitated the “Aroostook War” was the arrest by Canadian authorities of a Maine official attempting to conduct a census in Madawaska in 1837. A special census was required that year because the state had received “surplus revenue” from the federal government and had determined to distribute these funds back to the various towns based on population. Ebenezer Stevens Greely (1797-1869), Maine’s census agent for Madawaska, was twice arrested by Canadian authorities and was finally incarcerated in Fredericton. From the jail, Greely wrote to Major General Isaac Hodsdon (1781-1864), who was in command of the state’s militia division based in Bangor and who would eventually lead Maine’s troops in the Aroostook campaign.

* The letter:

Frederickton Goal, Province of New Brunswick
June 19, 1837

Gen. Isaac Hodsdon,

Dear Sir, You probably have heard the story of my arrest and confinement by the authorities of this Province -- I have written to the executive department of the State. I now take the liberty of addressing a few lines to you and, through you, to the bone and muscle of the State of Maine -- Have things come to this, that the State of Maine cannot have the privilege of sending their servants on to the disputed territory to do their business, without being molested, arrested and imprisoned by the authorities of New Brunswick? Can the brave sons of Maine pass this over with impunity? Will they adventure such conduct without proper resentments? -- I thought that when I was in Madawaska at the time when I was there arrested, if you were only there with a few of the sons of Maine, that there would have been a different aspect in Madawaska -- If I could have been supported by the muscular Strength of Maine, I should have finished my business there, and not have fallen into the power of Great Britain -- I wish you could now have the privilege of visiting Madawaska with a few volunteers from your division, you would then teach them a lesson they ought to have been taught years ago -- It is high time that this boundary question should be settled -- If the State of Maine have any claims to this disputed territory she must maintain them -- and when she assumes an attitude to protect her rights and privileges, then Great Britain will settle this boundary question -- and [it] will be affected undoubtedly without the shedding of blood -- But so long as she can have the possession of this country, and have the communication to the Canada’s, and draw the wealth into her coffers, and monopolize the trade of this territory, she will evade this question -- I will now call your attention to the Inhabitants of Madawaska -- I have taken the number of 1247 -- the whole number will probably be abut 2800. They are mostly French -- a few Americans and a few British (or blue noses) -- the French people are a timorous People. They dread the calamities of war, and rather suffer than fight -- &c -- There are only three families [of] British, that now rule the whole population of Madawaska to my knowledge -- And how do they do it? They do it by being supported by the authorities of N. Brunswick -- When these families undertake to do anything, the Province backs them right up -- If soldiers are necessary they forward them -- (*** instances of organizing Madawaska by the Friends of Maine) -- By the same rule the State of Maine ought to back up [her ser]vants -- and give them their own play -- How [page torn] [every]thing ought to be done to alleviate the wants and distresses of the People of Madawaska and the Aroostic -- I saw many families of Madawaska who had nothing to eat but a few potatoes -- They are not allowed to cut any of the pine timber this year. If they do, it is all seized, except they can smuggle it in with [** **** ] who has a [*****] &c -- They have not been able to raise their bread &c for three or four years past, on account of cold and frost -- If they each had the privilege of cutting a limited quantity of this timber, the privilege of getting it to market, selling, and buying from tr[****]es we should not hear their children crying for bread or clothing, but they would meet us with smiling countenances, and not with complaints &c as now is -- I could say much more but I have now probably strained your patience -- What I have said amiss here, you will have the goodness to pardon -- Remembering that I am under the screws of British authority that I can not help squirming and speaking out to my friends in my humble way --
I remain sir, respectfully, yours &c., Ebenr. S. Greely

[Addendum, written vertically:] You will have the goodness to write me -- I shall always be pleased to hear from my Friends -- It all helps pass the time here -- I have taken a straight forward course thus far -- I shall not do any thing, intentionally, to tarnish the character and dignity of the State of Maine -- not regarding the results respecting myself -- I know this government (the Province) dare not abuse me nor ill treat me -- And I ask no favors of them. E.S. Greely

Return to Information about the 1837 Maine Census of Madawaska

Last revised 27 Aug 2010
©2010 C.Gagnon