Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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WAIT, Benjamin, patriot, born in Markham township, Upper Canada, 7 September, 1813. He engaged in the Canadian rebellion, and was appointed a colonel in the insurgent forces that had their headquarters on Navy island. On a raid into Upper Canada he was captured, brought to trial for high treason, and condemned to be hanged on 25 August, 1838. Only a fortnight intervened between his sentence and its intended execution ; but in that short time his wife, MARIA Wait (nee Smith), surmounting almost impossible difficulties and the strong opposition of Sir George Arthur, governor of Upper Canada, obtained from Lord Durham, the governor-general, a commutation of his sentence from death to transportation for life to Van Dieman's Land. She then went alone and almost penniless to London to obtain his pardon. The case was laid before the queen's council, but they opposed any clemency so long as the disturbances continued to exist in Canada. Mrs. Wait supported herself at first by acting as companion to a wealthy lady, and then as teacher in an infant-school, meanwhile making constant efforts for the release of her husband. After two years, her health broken by long-continued suspense and privation, she decided to join her husband in his banishment. She was about to embark for Van Dieman's Land when the ministry had decided to grant a pardon to her husband and his six surviving companions in exile if it should be recommended by the governor-general of Canada. She set out at once for Toronto; but she received from the governor only a kindly refusal. Not disheartened by this, she besought the mere-bets of the legislature to exercise their influence, and succeeded at the end of a year in securing the signatures of fifty of the number to her petition. With this she again waited upon the governor, who again declined her request. She then induced her friends in the legislature to introduce a resolution recommending the governor to urge upon the queen a pardon to Wait and his associate exiles. The resolution was passed, and then the governor yielded. In March, 1842, an order was issued for their absolute release. Meanwhile Wait had been allowed unusual freedom in Van Dieman's Land, and at the very time when the British ministry were signing the order for his release, he succeeded in escaping from Hobart Town. He had arranged with an American whaler to take him and a single companion up at sea from a small boat; but they were missed in the darkness, and then for thirteen days they were tossed about with no food but raw fish. At last they were seen by an American vessel homeward bound. The ship was wrecked on the coast of Brazil, but none perished. Seven months afterward, ragged and penniless, Wait reached the United States, and rejoined his devoted wife, who was teaching at Niagara Falls. But, worn out with her efforts in her husband's behalf, Mrs. Wait's health had given way, and soon after his return she died. Wait is still living in Grand Rapids, Michigan
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