Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Toilet Paper Incident

Well, I promised something a bit lighter than a series of disasters in my next post. Annapolis Royal has many quirky incidents which have happened through its history. One of my favorites is the toilet paper incident.

While it is difficult to see visible traces of the military today, Annapolis Royal has a long military history. The toilet paper incident takes us back to April of 1721 when the British had control of the fort at Annapolis Royal (the name Fort Anne comes much later). The Ordnance Storekeeper, Lieutenant John Washington, was a interesting character. If we read reports about him, we learn two things, he strongly disliked his superiors Governor Richard Philipps and engineer Paul Mascarene and he liked alcohol. In fact, Mascarene accused Washington of being continually drunk and unfit for business. Perhaps Mascarene's reports had something to do with the following.

One fateful morning Lieutenant Martin Groundman entered the fort's privy and met Lt. Washington who was on his way out. When Groundman asked Washington for a piece of "foule" (toilet) paper he was handed a written document. The paper turned out to be a copy of a letter from Washington to Major Lawrence Armstrong. In the letter Washington was highly critical of Philipps and the other officers of Annapolis Royal.

When Groundman left the privy, he made his way directly to the Governor. Philipps, in a rage I am sure, immediately siezed Washington's letter book which was filled with copies of letters to British officials. In these letters Washington made careful efforts to chronicle what he felt were the misdeeds of the officers of the fort. Most of the complaints dealt with supply contracts and missing payments to the soldiers.

In response to the letters, Philipps drafted a series of his own where he refuted the claims. Sadly for Lt. Washington, Philipps had substantial political connections and his complaints never amounted to anything. Two years later Philipps was back in Britain living as an aristocrat and Washington was replaced as Ordnance Storekeeper.

I feel like there should be a moral to this story but I can't imagine what it would be.

All for now

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