Robert Luist Fowle

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Robert Luist Fowle

Birthdate: (59)
Birthplace: Massachusetts, United States
Death: 1802 (59)
Brentwood, Rockingham, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Fowle
Brother of Zecharaiah Fowle

Occupation: Editor, printer, counterfeiter?
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Robert Luist Fowle

Rare Fowle Declaration Being Auctioned Today

Sunday, November 14, 2010 — Today the Boston auction house of Skinner, Inc. will sell to the highest bidder an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1776 by Robert Luist Fowle.

Robert Luist Fowle (1743 – 1802?) was a nephew and apprentice of Daniel Fowle, the founder of this newspaper (the New Hampshire Gazette). Robert became Daniel’s business partner in 1764, an arrangement that continued for about ten years, after which Robert moved to Exeter where he established his own print shop. The two parted ways over political differences.

Less than a year after he printed the Declaration, New Hampshire’s Revolutionary government asked Robert to print its currency. He may have been the low bidder, but he was not the best choice. A secret Tory himself, Robert conspired with Dr. Silas Hedges and others opposed to the Revolution to create and distribute a quantity of counterfeit currency — an act of economic sabotage. †

“The counterfeiting [of] our Paper currency,” the Committee of Safety recorded on May 8th, 1777, “is one of the many Diabolical Schemes mediated by our enemies to perplex & weaken the Country … Robert Luist Fowle was apprehended & committed to Goal [jail] and no person suffered to speak with him but the Committee.”

Exeter historian Charles H. Bell, Esq., in his History of the Town of Exeter (1888), relates what happened next. “[Fowle] had the effrontery then to propose to the committee that in case they would screen him from punishment, he would confess what he knew … The committee took him at his word, and he made disclosures … In return for his revelations the authorities were to allow him his liberties on bail. Whether it was that no one cared to be his surety [i.e., put up bail money] is not known, but he remained in jail until he took ‘leg bail,’ and escaped to the British lines.”

Robert went to England and stayed until the Treaty of Paris (1783). Then, speaking of effrontery, he returned to New Hampshire. Sustained by a British pension, he married the widow of his younger brother Zecharaiah, and lived out the rest of his days in Brentwood. Isaiah Thomas, America’s first historian of printing, who probably knew him personally, wrote wryly “[he] had very respectable connections.”

Robert Fowle, editor, was a partner with his uncle (Daniel Fowle] in the publication of the "New Hampshire Gazette," which was the only newspaper in New Hampshire at the beginning of the Revolution. As Daniel was a Whig and his nephew a loyalist, the partnership was terminated, and Robert established himself as a printer at Exeter. The paper currency of the period was printed in his office, and, as it was counterfeited soon afterward, suspicion rested on him as a participant in the crime, and he fled to the British lines in New York, and thence to England.

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Robert Luist Fowle's Timeline

Massachusetts, United States
Age 59
Brentwood, Rockingham, New Hampshire, United States
- 1732