During the American War of Independence, the British merchants who settled along the Canadian coasts were particularly vulnerable to American privateers. These merchants represented everything the Americans were fighting against: the exploitation of settlers, the British Crown and an Empire using the resources of the colonies for its own profit.

That is why the privateers targeted British trade with their attacks and looting, but tried not to harm French Canadian settlers and Aboriginals, who helped them in return.

Charles Robin

The most prominent merchant family in the history of the Gaspé Peninsula, the Robins, was subjected to privateer attacks, as were many families.

A particularly aggressive incident occurred in the summer of 1778, when some American privateersmen disembarked at Charles Robin's home in Paspébiac. They proceeded to confine him to his home and loot all of his possessions, even the buckles from his shoes. The privateersmen then took all of the pelts and fish they could find and set off for the United States.

Henry Shoolbred and William Smith

Merchants Henry Schoolbred and William Smith, owners of fishing posts along Chaleur Bay, were particularly hit hard by American plundering because the French Canadian settlers and Aboriginals sided with the American privateers.

In fact, the privateers were piloted by settlers, who pointed where merchandise was hidden and participated in the pillaging. The settlers and Aboriginals were even rewarded for their services in the form of goods obtained by looting British stores, wampum and even medals from the United States Congress.

This situation drove some merchants to leave the peninsula. In William Smith's case, the move led to his ruin: his company dissolved in 1784.

William Smith to Henry Shoolbred:

The whole inhabitants of this country are becoming Enemies to Englishmen and I am determined to leave the Bay as easily as I can.

Laval University Library, FC 411 H159 A4, Reel 105, Page 27, 08/07/1778.
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