in 1814 in the
EIGHTIETH YEAR OF HIS AGE
A FRIEND of mine has repeatedly requested me to put on paper
some of the occurrences of about Twenty Years of my life from
1775 to 1794 which he had heard me relate in conversation.
When the Revolutionary War began in 1775 I saw clearly that
the only line of conduct to be pursued by us, the Inhabitants of the
Island of Nantucket, was to take no part in the contest, and to
endeavor to give no occasion of offence to either of the contending
A great portion of the Inhabitants were of the Denomination of
Friends, and a large number of the considerate of other Societies
united in the opinion that our safety was in a state of Neutrality
as far as it could be obtained, though we had no doubt that suffer-
ing would be our lot, which we often expericnced from both
parties. Our situation was rendered more difficult by having a few
restless Spirits amongst us, who had nothing to lose, and who were
often thwarting our pacific plan, and subjecting us to danger, not
caring what confusion they brought upon us, if they could get
something in the scramble.
My own trials begun soon after the War broke out. In the year
1764 I had taken the Goods of a Merchant in Boston, deceased in-
solvent, who was deeply indebted to me.
Among these were a number of muskets, some with, and others
without bayonets. The straights of Beileisle opened a new field for
the Whale Fishery, where wild fowl were abundant, and my Guns
met with a rapid sale. Whenever those with Bayonets were chosen,
I took that instrument from them. The purchaser would insist on
having it, as an appendage belonging to the Gun, and I as strenu-
ously withheld it, and laid them all by. Many Years afterwards I
removed to another store, leaving much rubbish in the one I had
left. Among the rubbish were these Bayonets, neglected and for-
gotten; until the War commenced, when to my surprise they were
brought into view by an application for them, made by a person
from the Continent.
The time was now come to endeavor to support our Testimony
against War, or abandon it, as this very instrument was a severe
test. I could not hesitate which to choose, and therefore denied the
applicant. My reason for not furnishing them was demanded, to
which I readily answered, "As this instrument is purposely made
and used for the destruction of mankind, I can put no weapon into
a mans hand to destroy another, that I cannot use myself in the
same way." The person left me much dissatisfied. Others came
and received the same denial, it made a great noise in the Country,
and my life was threatened. I would gladly have beaten them into
pruning hooks, but I took an early opportunity of throwing them
into the sea.
A short time after I was called before a Committee appointed
by the Court then held at Watertown near Boston, and questioned
amongst other things respecting my Bayonets.
I gave a full account of my proceedings, and closed it with say-
ing, "I sunk them in the bottom of the sea, I did it from principle,
I have ever been glad that I had done it, and if I am wrong I am to
be pitied." The Chairman of the Committee Major Hawley (a
worthy character) then addressed the Committee, and said "I be-
lieve Mr. Rotch has given us a candid account, and everyman has
a right to act consistently with his religious principles, but I am
sorry that we could not have the Bayonets, for we want them very
The Major was desirous of knowing more of our principles on
which I informed him as far as he enquired.
One of the Committee in a pert manner observed "then your
principles are passive Obedience and non-resistance." I replied
"No my friend, our principles are active Obedience, or passive suf-
fering." I had passed this no small trial respecting my Bayonets,
But the clamor against me long continued.
From the Year 1775 to the end of the War, we were in continual
embarrassments -- Our Vessels captured by the English, and our
small vessels and boats sent to the various parts of the Continent
for provisions, denied, and sent back empty, under pretence that
we supplied the British, which was without the least foundation.
Prohibitory Laws were often made in consequence of these un-
founded reports. By this inhuman conduct we were sometimes in
danger of being starved. One of these laws was founded on an
information from Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, who had been
imposed upon respecting our conduct in supplying the British.
I wrote to the Governor on the subject, and laid our distress very
home to him, assuring him at the same time that nothing of that
kind had taken place. He was convinced of his error, and was ever
after very kind in assisting us within his jurisdiction.
But there were so many petty Officers, as Committees of Safe-
ty, Inspection, etc. in all parts, and too many of them chosen much
upon the principle of Jeroboams Priests, that we were sorely
It was about the year 1778 when the current in the Country was
very strong against us at Nantucket, the vessels we sent after pro-
visions, sent back empty, and great suffering for want of food was
likely to take place, that the people who thought we ought to have
joined in the War (not Friends) began to chide and murmur against
me. They considered me the principal cause that we did not unite
in the War (which I knew was measureably the case,) when we
might have been plentifully supplied, but were now likely to starve,
little considering that if we had taken a part, there was nothing
but supernatural aid (which we had no reason to expect) that could
have prevented our destruction.
Though I had done everything in my power for our preservation,
this murmuring of the people operated so severely upon my spirits,
that I was once (a time never to be forgotten) on the point of asking
of that Divine Being who gave me life, that he would take it from
me, for my affliction seemed more than I could bear. But being
restrained by that good hand, which had so often been my deliv-
erer, after shedding a flood of tears, my mind was more easy, and
my spirit revived.
In the Year 1779 seven armed Vessels and Transports with
soldiers from Newport came to us, the latter commanded by George
Leonard, an American, as were his troops in general, having joined
the English. They plundered us of much property, some from me,
hut a considerable amount from Thomas Jenkins. While they were
plundering his store, I attempted to pass the Guard they had set,
being desirous to see Leonard, and intercede with him to desist.
But the Guard arrested my progress with the Bayonet. After some
time Timothy Folger succeeded in speaking to him, and advised
him to go off, for time people would not bear it much longer. He
took the limit, and retired much enraged.
We soon had information that Leonard & Co. were preparing
another and a more formidable expedition to visit us. The Town
was convened to consult what measures should be taken in this
trying emergency, which resulted in sending Dr Benjamin Tupper
Samuel Starbuck and myself to Newport, to represent our case to
the Commanders of the Navy and Army. We arrived in the harbor
of Newport, where Captain Dawson commanded the Navy, and
General Prescott the Army.
QUEST, P.O. Box 82, Bellefonte PA 16823