Who was Enos Collins?

Wednesday, August 15 @ 10:30PM / 7:30PM PT

Enos Collins was born in 1774 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, the oldest of 26 children. His father was a merchant and trader, and Enos was sent to work on his father’s ships from a young age. By 19, he was master of a schooner, and quickly began participating in the business world himself.

During Britain’s war with Napoleonic France, Collins made some money breaking a Spanish blockade to replenish the British stationed at Cadiz. Later he received a “letter of marque” licencing him to prey on enemy merchant shipping as a privateer.

By 1812, Collins was outgrowing the business scene in Liverpool, and moved to Halifax, where he began buying up captured American ships.

Collins was part owner of three privateer ships, including the Liverpool Packet, which became famous for capturing 50 American merchant vessels for the British. The ship began its career as a slaver, which was captured by the British and sold in Halifax. When Collins bought it, it still had the horrific stench from poorly housing human cargo. After cleaning it up, he began using it to courier mail and people back and forth to Liverpool, NS.

At the dawn of the war, the Liverpool Packet gained a letter of marque to aggressively pursue and capture American ships. She quickly made a name as a fast and effective privateer. The Liverpool Packet was eventually captured near Portsmouth, Maine, but was recaptured by fellow Nova Scotian privateers, and Collins re-purchased his own boat at auction. After the war, Collins continued to prove himself a shrewd businessman both in Nova Scotia – and in America, now that relations were friendly again.

In 1825, he made a good marriage with a wealthy Halifax family and went in with some partners in starting a bank. The bank was held within Collins’ storehouses, and it began to be called “Collins’ Bank.” He was offered a seat on the Council of Twelve, the governing body in the colony of Nova Scotia.

From 1840 onward, Collins spent the last thirty years of his life in retirement, keeping an eye on his accounts and contributing donations to the Church of England and as a member of the “Poor Man’s Friend Society.” He also fought mightily against Confederation.

On his death at age 97, Enos Collins was reported to be the wealthiest man in Canada, with an estimated fortune of six million dollars.

Legend has it…
The British Navy wasn’t supposed to pressgang the good sailors from allied privateering ships, but occasionally the Navy would make raids on the privateers. Historian Dan Conlin shared an apocryphal story about one such attempted raid on Enos Collins’ Liverpool Packet.

As the Liverpool Packet was about to sail, Enos Collins got word that a British navy ship was waiting for it at the mouth of Halifax harbour, where a British captain was planning to pressgang the pick of the sailors aboard the Liverpool Packet. Collins dismissed the whole crew, and walked up and down the Halifax waterfront hiring the worst men he can find: disabled men, drunks and men who had never been to sea.

The fake crew managed to get the ship out of harbour, and sure enough: a British frigate pulled alongside, and the Navy men were horrified by the crew they found aboard. The British captain dismissed the Liverpool Packet and it sailed on to a small fishing port where the real crew waited. The Liverpool Packet crew gave their imposters enough money for a night of revelry and sailed for American waters.

Leave a comment