A Blupete Biography Page


Jean Paul Mascarene was a protestant Huguenot, born in a place near Castres in the Province of Languedoc, France. Like so many Huguenots, unwilling to put up with the persecutions of Louis XIV's dragoons, Mascarene's father and mother fled, but left their baby boy with his grandmother. At the young age of 12 -- bound to see his father, his hero (Mascarene, senior, had been captured at one point and spent two years in "the galleys") and of whom the son had only but heard -- Mascarene made his way; alone: across France, into the mountains to Geneva (where he stayed with relatives for a year), across borders, and to eventually arrive at Utrecht in the Netherlands. He arrived, however, just two days late: his father had died on April 6th, 1698.

For eight years Mascarene stayed on at Utrecht with his relatives; was educated there; and grew into a young man. In 1706, he moved to England. He undoubtedly spoke French fluently and was soon snapped up by the British army as plans were afoot to attack the French in North America. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in April, 1706. Arriving in Boston in April, 1709, together with his superiors, Vetch and Nicholson, he was to be with them next year, 1710, when, under Vetch, the British attacked and took Port Royal (Annapolis Royal to the British). He was a captain in charge of the bomb hurling grenadiers.

While not in the top position at Annapolis Royal, Mascarene had a "knack for making himself useful in matters requiring diplomacy, attention to detail, and a capacity for analysis." During these first years of British rule in Nova Scotia, Vetch was in charge and by Mascarene's account, "much of his time was occupied in translating Vetch's letters and proclamations into French." He did not spend all of his time at Annapolis Royal as he had additional duties in Placentia, Newfoundland, where a British infantry company was maintained. Also, for Mascarene, Boston was his home; he married a Boston girl, Elizabeth Perry. 1 Also, during this period (1710-1719) Mascarene managed at least one trip back to England at which time he was appointed as an engineer to the Board of Ordinance. Mascarene's ability as an engineer was to serve him and his small garrison in later years as the small earthen fort at Annapolis Royal was subjected to a number of attacks by the Indians and the French, and the crude defences under the direction of Mascarene's worked time and time again, in spite of the superior forces of the various invaders.

Colonel Richard Philipps, having been appointed in 172O came to Boston and, both having wintered over in Boston, formed a high opinion of Mascarene. In 1721, Mascarene explored the coast and went, at least, as far as Canso. While things between them went well during the first part of their time together, an estrangement between Philipps and Mascarene came about, unfortunately, when Mascarene, unwisely, expressed his annoyance to his superior, Governor Philipps, over Philipps appointing his brother-in-law, Major Alexander Cosby, to an important civil post. From 1721 to 1729, Mascarene was stationed away from Annapolis Royal as he became involved "in peace negotiations with the Indians of the New England seaboard." The DCB says that in 1735 (Philipps having in 1731 having been recalled to England) was back in Annapolis Royal to spend a year, and then again, possibly, in 1738. Mascarene, however, was content enough through these years as he spent most of his time in Boston building and maintaining his "Great Brick house" and looking after his motherless family of four.

Having received news of Armstrong's suicide (December 8th, 1739) Mascarene arrived at Annapolis Royal during March of 1740, to take what he thought was his rightful position as president of the council; but, others felt they had a better right since Mascarene had been absent from his post at Annapolis much of the time. Letters were sent off to London by Mascarene's enemies, Cosby and another by the name of Adams. The situation was considerably relieved with Cosby's death in 1742, and with that event Mascarene became the senior military officer at the fort and was recognized as the administrator and commander in chief of the Province of Nova Scotia, a position he held until the arrival of Edward Cornwallis in 1749.

It was only with this ascendency in power do we see Mascarence's real work unfold in Nova Scotia. Obviously in was worthwhile to have an English leader who could speak French fluently; but this, in his dealings with the Acadians, was not Mascarence's main strength. He had a fine sense of what the difference might be for the Acadians once the English gained the full military control of North America; a necessary and therefore an inevitable event as far as the civil and military leaders in North America were concerned. He attempted to show to the simple Acadians, through example, the virtues of English justice over that of the French. The Acadians, while never in wide open revolt, were never converted to a state of English loyalty, this due mostly to the early English fumbling, mainly in the person of Philipps (he early on accepted a conditional allegiance and the French felt that was all that they ever need do). However, Mascarene, a classically educated man, by persuasion and by conciliation, did much to ensure the neutrality of the French inhabitants. Mascarene "revealed the gentleness, reasonableness, and patience, which military men can seldom afford to practise. He was the antithesis of Armstrong." However, Mascarene did not succeed in getting the Acadians to give absolute loyalty to the English crown; nor did any one who followed in Mascarene's footsteps; nor, it is doubtful, that, in the circumstances, that anyone could have done so.

Mascarene's authority in Nova Scotia was completely eclipsed with the arrival of Cornwallis. In 1751, Cornwallis sent Mascarene to retire in his "fine brick house in Boston" among his children and his "numerous offspring of grand children," there to die in 1760.2

For a final word on Mascarene and his character I return to the earlier stated fact that he was a Huguenot. This meant he was French and thus could more easily communicate with his subjects, the Acadians. It meant, too, that as a Huguenot, Mascarene knew and understood what it meant for a people to be persecuted by those who are in power. But, above all, being a Huguenot, to a considerable extent, defined his character:

"Whatever may have been the temper which the Huguenots displayed when they were driven from France by persecution, they certainly carried with them something far more valuable than rage. They carried with them their virtue, piety, industry, and valour, which proved the source of wealth, spirit, freedom, and character, in all those countries - Holland, Prussia, England, and America - in which these noble exiles took refuge."3

[1] Mascarene had four children by Elizabeth: Elizabeth (b.1717), Joanna (b.1720), John (b.1722) and Margaret (b.1726). Elizabeth and Joanna married boys both with the surname, Perkins (not our Perkins). John, apparently from the private material I have come across, had only the son, who "lived without issue and died at Dorchester, Mass. ... he was the last of the Jean Paul's descendants of the surname Mascarene." The course of Margaret's life, from the perspective of a Nova Scotian historian, is more interesting. According to the notes that I have come across (See the author's copy of Brebner's, "Paul Mascarene of Annapolis Royal"), she married a "F. Hutchinson." This would have been Judge Foster Hutchinson of the Superior Court of the colony of Massachusetts; Judge Hutchinson's brother, Thomas, was the Governor of Massachusetts. Judge Hutchinson and Margaret, in 1776, fled to Halifax with their son, Foster (1761-1815). Foster was to become a very respectable citizen of Nova Scotia, indeed he was to become a judge in 1810. In addition to Foster, jr., Foster and Margaret Hutchinson had a daughter, Abigail (1776-1843). As for the son, Foster, he died in 1815, without issue.

[2] According to Akins Mascarene left a son and a daughter. Akins also writes (Selections From The Public Documents, fn at pp. 108-9.) that Judge Foster Hutchinson of Halifax and General W. Handfield Snelling were grandsons of Mascarene; by the mid 19th century they had died.

[3] Samuel Smiles, The Huguenots in France.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2021)