L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia
In Times of War
[This text was written by Arthur G. DOUGHTY and was publihed in 1916. For the precise citation, see the end of the document.]
When Philipps had set at rest the question of the oath of allegiance, he returned to England, and Armstrong, less pacific than his chief, again assumed the administration, and again had some trouble with the priests. Two Acadian missionaries had been expelled from the country for want of respect to the governor; and Armstrong informed the inhabitants that in future he must be consulted regarding the appointment of ecclesiastics, and that men from Quebec would not be acceptable. Brouillan, the governor of Ile Royale, had taken the ground that the Acadian priests, not being subjects of Great Britain, were not amenable to the British authorities. This view was held by the priests themselves. The president of the Navy Board at Paris, however, rebuked Brouillan, and informed him that the priests in Acadia should by word and example teach the obedience due to His Britannic Majesty. This pronouncement cleared the air; the disagreements with the missionaries were soon adjusted; and one of them, St Poncy, after being warned to cultivate the goodwill of the governor, was permitted to resume his pastoral duties at Annapolis Royal.
On the death of Armstrong, on December 6, 1739, from wounds supposed to have been inflicted by his own hand, John Adams was appointed lieutenant-governor and president of the Council. In the following spring, however, Adams was displaced by a vote of the Council in favour of Major Paul Mascarene. 'The Secretary came to my House,' wrote Adams to the Duke of Newcastle, 'and reported to me the judgment of the Council in favour of Major Mascarene, from whose judgment I appealed to His Majesty and said if you have done well by the House of Jerubable [Jerubbaal] then rejoice ye in Abimelech and let Abimelech rejoice in you.’ (1) After this lucid appeal, Adams, who had deep religious convictions, retired to Boston and bemoaned the unrighteousness of Annapolis. (2)
It was under Mascarene's administration that Nova Scotia passed through the period of warfare which now supervened. For some time relations between France and England had been growing strained in the New World, owing chiefly to the fact that the Peace of Utrecht had left unsettled the perilous question of boundary between the rival powers. There was the greatest confusion as to the boundaries of Nova Scotia or Acadia. The treaty had given Great Britain the province of Acadia 'with its ancient boundaries.' The 'ancient boundaries,' Great Britain claimed, included the whole mainland of the present maritime provinces and the Gaspe peninsula; whereas France contended that they embraced only the peninsula of Nova Scotia. Both powers, therefore, claimed the country north of the isthmus of Chignecto, and the definition of the boundary became a more and more pressing question.
The outbreak of the war of the Austrian Succession in Europe in 1741 set the match to the fuse. By 1744 the French and English on the Atlantic seaboard were up in arms. The governor of Ile Royale lost no time in attacking Nova Scotia. He invaded the settlements at Canso with about five hundred men; and presently a band of Indians, apparently led by the Abbé Le Loutre, missionary to the Micmacs, marched against Annapolis Royal. Towards these aggressions the Acadians assumed an attitude of strict neutrality. On the approach of Le Loutre's Micmacs they went to their homes, refusing to take part in the affair. Then when the raiders withdrew, on the arrival of reinforcements from Boston, the Acadians returned to their work on the fort. During the same year, when Du Vivier with a considerable French force appeared before Annapolis, the Acadians aided him with provisions. But when the French troops desired to winter at Chignecto, the Acadians objected and persuaded them to leave, which 'made their conduct appear to have been on this occasion far better than could have been expected from them.' (3) Once more the Acadians resumed their work on the fortifications and supplied the garrison with provisions. They frankly admitted giving assistance to the French, but produced an order from the Sieur du Vivier threatening them with punishment at the hands of the Indians if they refused.
In May of the following year (1745) a party of Canadians and Indians, under the raider Marin, invested Annapolis. Again the Acadians refused to take up arms and again assisted the invaders with supplies. By the end of the month, however, Marin and his raiders had vanished and the garrison at Annapolis saw them no more. They had been urgently summoned by the governor of Ile Royale to come to his assistance, for Louisbourg was even then in dire peril. An army of New Englanders under Pepperrell, supported by a squadron of the British Navy under Warren, had in fact laid siege to the fortress in the same month. (4) But Marin's raiders could render no effective service. On the forty-ninth day of the siege Louisbourg surrendered to the English, (5) and shortly afterwards the entire French population, civil and military, among them many Acadians, were transported to France.
The fall of Louisbourg and the removal of the inhabitants alarmed the French authorities, who now entertained fears for the safety of Canada and determined to take steps for the recapture of the lost stronghold, and with it the whole of Acadia, in the following year. Accordingly, a formidable fleet, under the command of the Duc d'Anville, sailed from La Rochelle in June 1746; while the governor of Quebec sent a strong detachment of fighting Canadians under Ramesay to assist in the intended siege. But disaster after disaster overtook the fleet. A violent tempest scattered the ships in mid-ocean and an epidemic carried off hundreds of seamen and soldiers. In the autumn the commander, with a remnant of his ships, arrived in Chebucto Bay (Halifax), where he himself died. The battered ships finally put back to France, and nothing came of the enterprise. (6) Meanwhile, rumours having reached Quebec of a projected invasion of Canada by New England troops, the governor Beauharnois had recalled Ramesay's Canadians for the defence of Quebec; but on hearing that the French ships had arrived in Chebucto Bay, and expecting them to attack Annapolis, Ramesay marched his forces into the heart of Acadia in order to be on hand to support the fleet. Then, when the failure of the fleet became apparent, he retired to Beaubassin at the head of Chignecto Bay, and proceeded to fortify the neck of the peninsula, building a fort at Baie Verte on the eastern shore. He was joined by a considerable band of Malecites and Micmacs under the Abbé Le Loutre; and emissaries were sent out among the Acadians as far as Minas to persuade them to take up arms on the side of the French.
William Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts, who exercised supervision over the affairs of Nova Scotia, seeing in this a real menace to British power in the colony, raised a thousand New Englanders and dispatched them to Annapolis. Of these only four hundred and seventy, under Colonel Arthur Noble of Massachusetts, arrived at their destination. Most of the vessels carrying the others were wrecked by storms; one was driven back by a French warship. In December, however, Noble's New Englanders, with a few soldiers from the Annapolis garrison, set out to rid Acadia of the Canadians; and after much hardship and toil finally reached the village of Grand Pré in the district of Minas. Here the soldiers were quartered in the houses of the Acadians for the winter, for Noble had decided to postpone the movement against Ramesay's position on the isthmus until spring. It would be impossible, he thought, to make the march through the snow.
But the warlike Canadians whom Ramesay had posted in the neck of land between Chignecto Bay and Baie Verte did not think so. No sooner had they learned of Noble's position at Grand Pré than they resolved to surprise him by a forced march and an attack by night. Friendly Acadians warned the British of the intended surprise; but the over-confident Noble scouted the idea. The snow in many places was 'twelve to sixteen feet deep,' and no party, even of Canadians, thought Noble, could possibly make a hundred miles of forest in such a winter. So it came to pass that one midnight, early in February, Noble's men in Grand Pré found themselves surrounded. After a plucky fight in which sixty English were killed, among them Colonel Noble, and seventy more wounded, Captain Benjamin Goldthwaite, who had assumed the command, surrendered. The enemies then, to all appearances, became the best of friends. The victorious Canadians sat down to eat and drink with the defeated New Englanders, who made, says Beaujeu, one of the Canadian officers, 'many compliments on our polite manners and our skill in making war.' The English prisoners were allowed to return to Annapolis with the honours of war, while their sick and wounded were cared for by the victors. This generosity Mascarene afterwards gratefully acknowledged.
When the Canadians returned to Chignecto with the report of their victory over the British, Ramesay issued a proclamation to the inhabitants of Grand Pré setting forth that 'by virtue of conquest they now owed allegiance to the King of France,' and warning them 'to hold no communication with the inhabitants of Port Royal.' This proclamation, however, had little effect. With few exceptions the Acadians maintained their former attitude and refused to bear arms, even on behalf of France and in the presence of French troops. 'There were,' says Mascarene, 'in the last action some of those inhabitants, but none of any account belonging to this province... The generality of the inhabitants of this province possess still the same fidelity they have done before, in which I endeavour to encourage them.'
Quite naturally, however, there was some unrest among the Acadians. After the capture of Louisbourg in 1745 the British had transported all the inhabitants of that place to France; and rumours were afloat of an expedition for the conquest of Canada and that the Acadians were to share a similar fate. This being made known to the British ministry, the Duke of Newcastle wrote to Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, instructing him to issue a proclamation assuring the Acadians 'that there is not the least foundation for any apprehension of that nature: but that on the contrary it is His Majesty's resolution to protect and maintain all such of them as shall continue in their duty and allegiance to His Majesty in the quiet and peaceable possession of their habitations and settlements and that they shall continue to enjoy the free exercise of their religion.’ (7)Shirley proceeded to give effect to this order. He issued a proclamation informing the inhabitants of the intention of the king towards them; omitting, however, that clause relating to their religion, a clause all-important to them. The document was printed at Boston in French, and sent to Mascarene to be distributed. Mascarene thought at the time that it produced a good effect. Shirley's instructions were clear; but in explanation of his omission he represented that such a promise might cause inconvenience, as it was desirable to wean the Acadians from their attachment to the French and the influence of the bishop of Quebec. He contended, moreover, that the Treaty of Utrecht did not guarantee the free exercise of religion. In view of this explanation, (8) Shirley's action was approved by the king. In Shirley's proclamation several persons were indicted for high treason, (9) and a reward of 50 pounds was offered for the capture of any one offender named. These, apparently, were the only pronounced rebels in the province. There were more sputterings in Acadia of the relentless war that raged between New France and New England. Shirley had sent another detachment of troops in April to reoccupy Grand Pré; and the governor of Quebec had sent another war-party. But in the next year (1748) the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, by which Ile Royale (Cape Breton) and Ile St Jean (Prince Edward Island) were restored to France, brought hostilities to a pause.
(1) Public Archives, Canada. Nova Scotia A, vol. xxv, p. 9.
(2) Writing from Boston to the Lords of Trade, Adams said: 'I would have returned to Annapolis before now. But there was no Chaplain in the Garrison to administer God's word and sacrament to the people. But the Officers and Soldiers in Garrison have Prophaned the Holy Sacrament of Baptism and Ministeriall Function, by presuming to Baptize their own children. Why His Majesty's Chaplain does not come to his Duty I know not, but am persuaded it is a Disservice and Dishonour to our Religion and Nation; and as I have heard, some have got their children Baptized by the Popish Priest, for there has been no Chaplain here for above these four years.' – Public Archives, Canada. Nova Scotia A, vol. xxv, p. 176.
(3) Nova Scotia Documents, p. 147.
(4) See The Great Fortress in this Series, chap. ii.
(5) June 17, Old Style, June 28, New Style, 1745. The English at this time still used the Old Style Julian calendar, while the French used the Gregorian, New Style. Hence some of the disagreement in respect to dates which we find in the various accounts of this period.
(6) See The Great Fortress, chap. iii.
(7) Newcastle to Shirley, May 30, 1747. – Canadian Archives Report, 1905, Appendix C, vol. ii, p. 47.
(8) Bedford to Shirley, May 10, 1748.
(9) Canadian Archives Report, 1905, Appendix C, vol. ii, p. 48.
Source: Arthur G. DOUGHTY, The Acadian Exiles. A Chronicle of the Land of Evangeline, Toronto, Glasgow, Brook & Company, 1916, 178p., pp. 47-58.
© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College