HALE, ROBERT, doctor, politician, military officer; b. 12 Feb. 1702 (o.s.) in Beverly, Massachusetts, son of Dr Robert Hale and Elizabeth Clark; d. 20 March 1767 in Beverly.
As a youth of 16, Hale kept the Beverly grammar school and began his studies at Harvard College, where he received his degree in 1721. After teaching for a time at Exeter, New Hampshire, he undertook the study of medicine with Joseph Manning of Ipswich, Massachusetts. In 1723 he completed his apprenticeship and married Elizabeth Gilman (11 December). He and his new bride settled in Beverly, where he resumed the position of head master at the grammar school as a supplement to his medical practice. In the summer of 1731 Hale made a trading voyage to Nova Scotia aboard the schooner Cupid, in which he had part interest, and visited Annapolis Royal and settlements in the Chignecto area. He was an interested, though not unprejudiced, observer of Acadian customs. His journal notes the use of wooden shoes, the mining of coal, and the baleful effects of swarms of “Muskettoes.” The local priest appeared to him as “Habited like a Fool in Petticoats,” and women’s fashions, which looked “as if they were pitched on with pitchforks, & very often yr Stockings are down about their heels,” did not impress him.
Dr Hale, who was to hold every important local office in Beverly, was in 1733 appointed justice of the peace. In the same year he was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He was married again on 21 Dec. 1737, to Elizabeth Clark. In 1740 he was one of the organizers and directors of the Massachusetts land bank, a scheme meant to alleviate a shortage of currency in the colony. When Governor Jonathan Belcher opposed the scheme, the Massachusetts Council ordered its directors removed from all elective offices, but the house stood by Hale. He later received several posts, including one as manager of the provincial lottery.
Hale was involved in the planning of the 1745 expedition to Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), as a member of the committee on transportation. When the expedition sailed, Hale found himself colonel of the 5th New England Regiment, a position granted him by Governor William Shirley in return for his political support and intended to help him recoup his losses – about £125 – suffered in the collapse of the land bank scheme. At Louisbourg his regiment was posted on guard duty, and he served on the council of war from 14 April to 6 July. He became ill and feuded with William Pepperrell, alleging that the latter refused to provide medical aid for the regiment. Pepperrell pointed out that Hale had illegally detached “about two companys which he kept . . . principally to waite on himselfe.” Apparently Hale’s illness was not serious, for he found ample time to begin a farm at Louisbourg, known to Yankee fishermen for over a century as “Col. Hale’s garden.” Upon his return to Massachusetts late in the summer of 1745, Hale was rewarded for his services with an appointment as sheriff of Essex County. In this capacity he supervised in 1756 the distribution of 36 Acadian exiles among the towns of the county.
Hale represented the province of Massachusetts at a congress with the Iroquois at Albany in 1747. He was defeated in an election for the house in 1749, and was not re-elected until 1754. In 1755 he was chosen by Governor Shirley to persuade New Hampshire to participate in the expedition against Fort Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point) on Lake Champlain. Through his efforts, and his promise of free provisions for its troops, New Hampshire raised her quota from 400 to 500 men. Hale offered a set of plans for the expedition and was considered eligible for its command. When John Winslow*, a more experienced soldier, was given the post instead, Hale refused to serve in a medical role.
Little is known of Hale’s life after this time. In the spring of 1766, after a third of a century of steady, and occasionally distinguished, public service, Dr Hale “was strangely seized with an almost total loss of his Limbs and Reason, in which state he continued till his Death” on 20 March 1767.
American Antiquarian Soc. (Worcester, Mass.), Hale papers; Additional mss on French and Indian war, Robert Hale, “Chronicle relating [to] some remarkable transactions respecting the disputes between the english & french [1755–62]”; Curwin papers, IV. Mass. Hist. Soc., Gilman papers. [Benjamin Cleaves], “Benjamin Cleaves’s journal of the expedition to Louisbourg in 1745,” New Eng. Hist. and Geneal. Register, LXVI (1912), 113–24. Correspondence of William Shirley (Lincoln), II, 131–32. [Robert Hale], “Journal of a voyage to Nova Scotia made in 1731 by Robert Hale of Beverly,” Essex Institute (Salem, Mass.), Hist. Coll., XLII (1906), 217–44. Massachusetts, Journals of the House of Representatives . . . (40v., in progress, Mass. Hist. Soc. pub., Boston, 1919– ), XXII, 20–23, 118. New Hampshire, Provincial and state papers, published by the authority of the legislature of New Hampshire, ed. I. W. Hammond et al. (40v., Manchester, Concord, N.H., 1867–1943), VI, 361–63, 439–40. “The Pepperrell papers,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 6th ser., X (1899), 4, 33, 331–32, 354–55, 389, 504. [William Pepperrell], “The Sir William Pepperrell journal,” American Antiquarian Soc. Proc. (Worcester, Mass.), new ser., XX (1909–10), 139–76. Vital records of Beverly, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849 (2v., Topsfield, Mass., 1906–7), I, 161; II, 145. G. B. Billias, The Massachusetts land bankers of 1740 (University of Maine studies, 2nd ser., no.74, Orono, 1959). McLennan, Louisbourg. J. A. Schutz, William Shirley: king’s governor of Massachusetts (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1961). Shipton, Sibley’s Harvard graduates, VI, 483–87. E. M. Stone, History of Beverly, civil and ecclesiastical, from its settlement in 1630 to 1842 (Boston, 1843), 44.