In the first part of our book on Acadia, we confined ourselves to the early 1600s, a time when the eastern edges of North America were being first opened up to Europeans. In Acadia, we saw how the French, on account of fishes and furs, came in their small and frail sailing ships on their southwestern courses and set themselves up as feudal barons in the wilderness. During these early years, we saw how the French precariously perched themselves at Port Royal, which was really but another outpost on an ill-defined boundary between the lands in North America claimed by the French and the English. It is historically apparent that these claims disregarded the notion of possessory rights.
In 1710, Port Royal exchanged hands for the last time, as British forces attacked and captured it. The neutrality of the some 2,000 Acadians that made their home in Acadia in the year 1710 was not much questioned then at the time, or thereafter, as the dramatic events unfolded in the ensuing fifty years. The Acadians continued to raise their families and, in behind their hand-made dikes, to farm their lands that stretched east from the newly named capital, Annapolis Royal, to the shores of the Minas Basin and beyond towards the Isthmus of Chignecto.
On the turn of the century, 1700, Acadia's population was almost exclusively French. The population of Port Royal, though captured by the English in 1710, continued to be French. There were only a few English families and those that did exist were structured with an English soldier and a French Acadian girl at its head. So it was that the only Englishmen to be found in Nova Scotia were the English soldiers. Of those, there were altogether but a few hundred located at Annapolis Royal and at Canso. This situation was not to change until Cornwallis arrived with his settlers in 1749.1
The War of the Spanish Succession (the British colonies called it Queen Anne's War), began in 1701, and ended in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. Louis XIV was too anxious to see that one of his relatives took the Spanish throne and the result was that England, in 1713, made "an advantageous peace." France was to give away to her successful rival three sections of her holdings in North America: Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Acadia ("according to its ancient limits").2 Canada with its stronghold at Quebec, a possession to be retained by the French, was to be preserved by the sentinel islands at the mouth of the mighty St. Lawrence. These islands included Ile St. Jean and Ile Royale (the present day islands of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton).
Much of the reign (1643-1715) of Louis the Fourteenth, the "Sun King," occurred before the historical times with which we are about to deal; Louis the Fourteenth was to die in 1715. (His grandson, age fifteen, was to succeed him with the Duke of Orleans to act as regent.) So, France was under a new royal regime when Acadia came into English hands; and, interestingly enough, so too was England. Queen Anne died in 1714 and the first of the Hanoverians, George the First, took the throne. One might have thought that new rulers on both sides would make for a better relationship between the two nations; but there is no discounting the bloody and bitter competition which had existed for centuries between these two European nations. War, declared or not, was to continue between France and England throughout the next century with, up to 1760, one of its principal battle fields being Acadia. Such is the international and political landscape as our story opens in a geographically unique peninsula located high on the northeastern coast of North America: Nova Scotia.
[NEXT: Pt. 2, Ch. 2 - The Visit of Intendant de Meules (1685/6):]