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Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 2, "The English Takeover: 1690-1712"TOC
Chapter 2, "Intendant de Meules' Visit (1685)."

On February 6th, 1685, Charles II of England died with all his court around him: "brave, witty, cynical, even in the presence of death"; and for his mistress, Nell Gwynn, he had his last words, "Do not let poor Nelly starve." James, the dead king's brother, the Duke of York, took the throne of England.

"His mind was dull and narrow, though orderly and methodical; his temper dogged and arbitrary, but sincere. ... [James II] cherished an entire belief in the royal authority and a hatred for parliament. His main desire was for the establishment of Catholicism as the only means of insuring the obedience of his people; and his old love of France was quickened by the firm reliance which he placed on the aid of Louis in bringing about that establishment."1
In spite of his views, however, James vowed to the people, a vow the whole country welcomed with enthusiasm: "I will preserve this government both in church and state as it is established." What in the mind of James had been established, and what was in the collective mind of the population, was, I am afraid, two different sets of establishments. James thought that Catholicism and monarchy had been established with his Ascension, the people thought otherwise. England possessed a state sponsored religion, the Church of England, and -- as the next few dramatic years would show -- it was to remain that way: not by royal authority, but by a government driven by popular demand.

During these three years (1685 to 1688) there was much turmoil in England, at all levels, as James attempted to force his Catholic views on the people. ("Catholics were admitted into civil and military offices without stint ..."2) Englishmen in large numbers were hanged, whipped, imprisoned, and "sold into slavery beyond the sea."3 James was to stand "utterly alone in his realm. The peerage, the gentry, the bishops, the clergy, the universities, every lawyer, every trader, stood aloof from him." And, soon, even his soldiers would leave him. The Glorious Revolution (1688) came about; and by it England was to turn permanently Protestant; and by it the English people had important civil rights enshrined.

In what almost seems like a reaction to the political occurrences in England, Louis XIV in 1685 revoked a treaty (Edict of Nantes) which, in 1598, had provided for religion tolerance and a guarantee to protestants that they could practice their religion without fear. There followed, after the year 1685, the destruction of a people, which came about because of the merciless persecution and resultant dispersal of about a million French Huguenots.

Both France and England extended their holdings in North America: La Salle, in 1682, reached the mouth of the Mississippi and in the same year a group of Quakers followed William Penn (1644-1718) across the Delaware River into the wilderness and thus began Pennsylvania.4

And while one has to be impressed with the wide sweep the French were making through the vast wildernesses of North America, the number of Frenchmen on the ground were very thin, indeed. In Acadia there were but about 885 French people (see population table). The population centers (if we can call them that) were located at Annapolis Royal (592), Minas (57), and Beaubassin (127).

At Port Royal there were but 30 soldiers, and that is all we seem to know of the French military establishment of Acadia. These 30 men were quartered on the inhabitants, a fact which supports the proposition that there was a lack of fortifications at Port Royal in 1686.5 The civilian population occupied the marsh lands ascending up the rivers away from Port Royal, mainly on Riviere Dauphin (the Annapolis River of today). Despite the setbacks brought on by both nature and man, the Acadians had survived their first 50 years and had, though small and simple, a prosperous base.

A Visit by the Intendant and Bishop:
Jacques de Meules,
6 the Intendant at Quebec, visited all of the Acadian settlements during the years 1685-6. Apparently, too, at the same time, Bishop St. Vallier (Quebec) made a pastoral visit; so, there being both the Intendant and the Bishop, there must have been quite an entourage.

We can see from the history of things that a number of important matters were attended to at this time in Acadia; undoubtedly this was on account of de Meules. A census was conducted, which as I have already pointed out, amounted to a total count, as of 1686, for all of Acadia, of 885 persons. In addition to the 592 at Port Royal, there was 127 at Beaubassin, 57 at Minas, 19 at Le Heve and Mirliguaiche (modern day Lunenburg), 15 at Cape Sable, 16 for all of the Maine coast (mostly at Pentagoet [Castine]), 6 at Miramichi (Richard Denys family), 6 at Nepisiguit (Bathhurst; Philips Esnault family), 26 at Isle Percee and 15-20 at Chedabucto (the town of Guysboro); on the St. John there were to be found the three Damour brothers, M. Martignon (his wife Jeanne LaTour (age 60) and their daughter, Marianne, aged 24.7

A map, doubtlessly in connection with his visit to Acadia, was issued by "Jacques de Meulles, Intendant of New France," and drawn by "Jean-Baptiste-Franquelin, King's hydrographer." The original of this map is yet in France (Service Hydrographique de la Marine, Paris), and a copy is to be found at the Public Archives at Ottawa.8

The visit of Jacques de Meulles was an illustration of how, during these years, 1685-88, France took an interest in the affairs of Acadia, the most she was ever to do. Hannay writes:9 "The French Government had sent two war vessels to the coast of Acadia in the Autumn of 1688, which captured six English ketches and a brigantine, which were engaged in fishing." Webster writes:10 "In 1688, the King sent the frigate, La Friponne, commanded by M. Beauregard, to guard the coasts and enforce order. On July 14, 1688, a ship of 250 tons, the St Louis of la Rochelle, arrived at Chedabucto Bay with supplies for the fishing company that had earlier established themselves there."11

Prior to 1686 there was not much of a settlement to be found at Minas, this because of the uncertainty of title. As is the case today, no one was interested in settling in and improving lands if there was a risk of being displaced by another with a better right to title. Two influential Acadians, Bellisle (LeBorgne) and Beaubassin (Michael Leneuf de la Vallie), were at odds with one another, both asserting seigniorial rights to the lands at Minas. Thus, there were to be found only 57 people at Minas12 (1686 census); none at Pisiquid (Windsor) or Cobequid (Truro). Hitherto, this land dispute held development back. Intendant Meules, being on site, brought the dispute to an end by giving the nod to Bellisle, who was then to be the seignior at both Port Royal and Minas; there was, therefore and thereafter, to be a significant transfer of population from Port Royal to the Minas area.13 Also at this time, in 1689, Cobiquid (present day Truro) Matthieu Martin (b.1636), a life long bachelor, having received one of the few signeuries ever given out in old Acadia, planted a settlement on the River Wecobequitk (Cobequid, the present day Truro).14

Further, in his effort to bring legal stability to Acadia, De Meulles appointed a local resident, Michel Broudrot, in 1686, as "etatit lieutenant-general à Port Royal et juge du lieu."15. Broudrot had come to Port Royal with his family in 1642 and, incidently is a direct ancestor of your author and of countless other people of Acadian descent.

Fort St. Louis at Chedabucto (Guysborough):
It was too, in 1686, that a company headed up by Gabriel Gautier
16 was granted a 20 year right to the fisheries at Cape Breton, Ile St. Jean (P.E.I.) and the Magdalens.17 On territory which was previously granted to another Company, Gautier, erected a small fort and fishing establishment at the head of Chedabucto Bay, on the site of the present day Guysborough. The establishment at Chedabucto, known as Fort St. Louis, consisted, in 1687, of two buildings, 60 X 20 feet each, defended by four cannon. "There were 150 residents, of whom 80 were fishermen. The Company owned a barque of 30 tons and a number of fishing shallops. Later, a detachment of regular troops was stationed at the fort acting under the Governor of Port Royal."

The Meneval Report:
Before coming to the milestone year of 1690, we should introduce into our history, Louis-Alexandre Desfriches, chevalier,
Sieur De Meneval, the governor of Acadia at the time it was attacked by the English in 1690. He arrived to take up his duties in October of 1687. Upon taking a measure of the place, he reported to the French authorities. This report discloses the tough conditions which presented: shortage of flour and workers, 19 muskets between 30 soldiers and a surgeon who was a drunkard. Further, as a practical matter, there were no fortifications behind which the French might hold out if attacked by the English. In this report we also see where it is suggested that the soldiers be encouraged to marry into the existing French population. It is also reported that Les Mines was developing. Further, in closing off his report of 1688, Governor Meneval points out that the English coveted Acadia.

The Meneval report, together with that which was likely filed by de Meules as a result of his official visit in 1685/6 motivated the French military hierarchy back in France to put in place a building program. With the arrival of Governor de Meneval, in 1687, there also arrived a French military engineer, one Pasquine. Pasquine also reported to his superiors and laid out specific plans for a fort at Port Royal. On the first of October, 1689, a French military Engineer by the name of Vincent de Saccardy was sent out from France. First calling in on Chedabucto (Guysborough), de Saccardy arrived at Port Royal in the frigate L'Embuscade. His orders, apparently, were to build a fort at Port Royal. He barely got started, when, on November 1st, 1689, he headed back to France for further instructions. Apparently he left the project in such an unfinished state that the palisades were left open, a situation which continued to exist, when the English were to arrive under Phips, the following spring.18


[NEXT: Pt. 2, Ch. 3 - Phips and the Taking of Port Royal (1690):]

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