Biographical note in in the "Biographical Register of Saint Andrew's society of the State of New York, Volume 1, by William MacBean. Published in 1922.


David Sproat was the son of David Sproat of Port Mary, near Dundrennan Abbey, Kirkcudbright. He came to Philadelphia in the year 1760 and soon entered into mercantile business as an importer and dealer in cloths, dry goods, etc., being located in 1767-68 on Front Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets. On October 25, 1765, he was one of the signers of the Non-importation Resolutions. When war opened between the Colonies and Great Britain, he felt it his duty to cast his fortune with the mother country, and this proved to be at great pecuniary sacrifice.

He entered the British service as a volunteer under Lord Howe in the expedition to the Chesapeake, preparatory to the occupation of Philadelphia, and after the battle on the Brandywine, September 11, 1777, Mr. Sproat was commissioned Commissary of prisoners. On October 13, 1779, he was made Commissary-general of naval prisoners, and was stationed in New York City, where American prisoners of war were confined on a number of prison-ships in the harbour. Charges of cruel treatment of prisoners, as to their care, clothing and food, reflecting severely upon those in charge, were freely made in the public press and in letters and pamphlets; but a recent publication by Mr. James Lenox Banks, entitled, "David Sproat and Naval Prisoners in the War of the Revolution," shows, by letters and official documents, that Mr. Sproat had used all the means in his power to alleviate the condition of prisoners under his charge.

Mr. Banks in the book referred to says that many of the statements as to the treatment of prisoners were largely based upon unproven charges of early writers and upon traditions founded on the bitter feeling of the day, when accusations were made that might have been tempered upon second thought. Mr. Sproat endeavoured to secure release from his painful duties, but Lord Rodney prevailed upon him to continue in that service as "the only person I can find capable of managing the business properly."

Mr. Sproat made personal appeals for money to relieve the prisoners under his charge, for the purchase of suitable supplies of clothing and bedding, and advanced for this purpose £550 of his own money, which Congress in 1784, upon the recommendation of Robert Morris, ordered to be repaid to him, thus showing the confidence of that body in Mr. Sproat's honesty and in his work under such conditions. In a petition presented to the British Government for reimbursement for losses sustained, he said "that in consequence of his loyalty to the Crown he had been attainted of High Treason and his Estates confiscated and sold. His house was ransacked by the Committee, his desk broken open, his Books, papers and furniture much damaged, his clerk confined in a Dungeon, his Servants turned out of doors, and his House converted into a Hospital for the accommodation of the Rebel Soldiers."

Mr. Sproat left New York for Scotland in December, 1783, and settled on the entailed estate at Port Mary, Kirkcudbright. The following year he was elected a member of the Town Council and was twice elected Provost. He died there in October, 1799, aged 65 years.