A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 3, "Annapolis Royal and Louisbourg (1713-45)"TOC
Chapter 5, "Annapolis Royal (1720-39)."

The years following the Treaty of Utrecht, were for both England and France, by and large, peaceful. France, financially exhausted, simply had to stay out of trouble. England's direction was pretty much under the influence of the policies of Robert Walpole (1676-1745).1 Walpole was a Whig, a squire, one of those turn of the century country gentlemen: rough and influential. His good fortunes rose with the ascension2 of George I in 1714. Walpole was to become what might be described as England's very first prime minister (1721-42). He hung tenaciously to the belief that England's best role was that of a peacemaker. With his resignation, as we will see, in 1742, England was soon involved in war, one which was to extend over a 20 year period and have its greatest impact on large stretches of the North American continent. In England during these years, the active Jacobites were few, and the Tories were broken and dispirited.

Since its armed takeover in 1710, British rule in Nova Scotia was asserted simply through military fiat; though, by 1720, a more formal looking governmental apparatus came into being when the first Council was appointed at Annapolis Royal.3 The government, however, was still, and was to continue to be until 1758, in the hands of the chief military officer in the province, dubbed the governor or lieutenant-governor. As for the governing Council set up by Governor Philipps in 1720: he might well have been inclined to put civilians on Council, except there were no English civilians about to serve in such a capacity. As for the French inhabitants, the Acadians: they were to be governed by the English Council at Annapolis Royal through appointed deputies.4

By 1720, there were plans afoot in Britain to pay better attention to her holdings in North America. The Board of Trade5 was working on a report which caused it to send out orders to its various governors in America to make surveys of the "location, trade, and structure of government" of each of the colonies from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. It was to be "a catalogue of the resources which those colonies could muster against the French."6 One such order was given to Mascarene:7 he was to travel throughout Nova Scotia and gather up information, particularly on its inhabitants, the Acadians. Mascarene, a Huguenot was well suited to this job as he was completely fluent in the French language. Mascarene's report was to be transmitted by Governor Philipps to the Lords of Trade. In his report we can see Mascarene describing Annapolis Royal and its river (the British River); 'Les Mines', "a kind of scattering town"; the 50 French families at Cobequid, a hub with connections to Chibucto (which in 1749 was to become known as Halifax) and Bay Verte; Chignecto, "abounds in more cattle than any other"; and, Canso and its value as a place "so convenient and advantageous for catching and Curing Cod Fish." Further quotes may be had from Mascarene's report concerning the inhabitants, particularly those at some distance from the English fort at Annapolis Royal; "all the orders sent to them if not suiting to their humors, are scoffed and laughed at, and they put themselves upon the footing of obeying no government. It will not be an easy matter to oblige these Inhabitants to submit to any terms which do not entirely square to their humours."8

We have seen, during the first years of the English at Annapolis Royal, its leadership swung between William Vetch and Francis Nicholson; but, by 1717, Nova Scotia was under the wing of Governor Richard Philipps. It was to be a few years before Philipps got around, in 1720, to come to inspect his command at Annapolis Royal.9 A contemporary report on Philipps' first observations exists, and, reads, in part, as follows:

"Intrigues with the Indians. Chief of the River Indians (a small tribe) has come in, and been satisfied with my [Phillipps'] replies to his questions. Has not sent for other chiefs, as presents have not arrived. Inhabitants clearing a road to Minas, in order to retreat thither. Forbidden to do so. Deputies returned from Minas. Council resolved to send them away with smooth words, in order to gain time, and obtain instructions from England. Situation difficult. People cannot be made English, and will not remain quiet if the peace is broken. Believe only their priests, who are opposed to the Regent: danger also from the Indians. Two hundred Mohocks should be brought from New York to operate against them. Land at Minas very productive; but may be drowned by cutting dykes."
Philipps observed that quarrels between the officers were frequent, due "to idleness, want of discipline, and strong liquors." Thus, we see where Philipps moved to get rid of the troublemakers and put his own people in place. With a letter to the Secretary of War at London he enclosed a list of "useless officers" to be either reprimanded or removed. In April, 1720, Gilliam Phillips, a relative, was sworn in as a councilor.10 Further, the governor arranged for his brother-in-law, Alexander Cosby, to come out and assume an important civil position at Annapolis Royal.

Philipps, on his arrival, also took steps to take control of the civilian population. In April of 1720, he nominated four Acadians ("oldest and richest") to act as deputies for the troublesome inhabitants at Minas.11 Deputies, as we have seen, had been appointed for the Annapolis area; but, this area, being less remote, was more easily controlled by direct intervention, intervention which was new to the Acadians and naturally not liked. Indeed, the Acadians saw an advantage in distancing themselves from the British and determined to build a road over which they might haul their possessions to the more remote areas of Mines or Beaubassin (see map). "The Acadians of the Annapolis River began to cut a road through the woods to Minas and were ordered to stop."12

Another of the steps taken by Philipps was to put in place administrative procedures (he arrived with a copy of "His Majesty's Instructions to his Governor in Virginia"). In April of 1721, imitating Virginia, Philipps set up a general court at Annapolis Royal with the Council to act as a judicial panel (much of Council's minutes were taken up with the hearing of cases brought before them by the French inhabitants of all the districts, especially land disputes). Before the arrival of the British at Nova Scotia there was, practically speaking, no authority to which the inhabitants could turn in order to settle disputes.13 Thus, to have an authority in place which would settle disputes was new to the Acadians, and equally new was the mode of British punishment: I speak of the pillory and the whip, which, in those times, throughout England and her colonies, was a common enough sight. One was liable to even more severe punishment, as for example, being "Whipt at the carts tail." Examples can be readily had of the punishment meted out at Annapolis Royal during the years under review.14

In addition to putting in place a court, Governor Philipps took steps to increase the English presence in Nova Scotia. Though he was woefully short of them, he sent troops to Canso. Canso15 was a natural choice to establish a garrison and to build a small fort. It was at the other end of the province and very handy to the French strongholds on Cape Breton; and handy, too, to the Acadian tract used to run produce into Louisbourg, a trade which the British sought to interdict. As it happened, the English fishermen -- who, oblivious to international politics, had long since established themselves there, at Canso -- on August 8th, 1720, were "plundered" by Indians.16 In the fall of the year 1720, Philipps sent a company of men17 to hold Canso until the return of the fishermen in the spring.18 At that time, Armstrong had just come back to Annapolis Royal from England where he had spent four years' leave. Phillips, likely not caring for Armstrong the irascible Irishman, was only too happy to send him off to take the Canso command.

Philipps further observes of the Indians -- though only infrequently to be found around Annapolis Royal -- that their minds have been poisoned by their masters: the French. The Indians, mainly because of their limited numbers,19 in fact did not prove to be a constant problem; but the defenceless who were working in the field or on the shore just could never tell when a roving band would show up and do its worst. The result was that a work party had to always go with an armed guard, which put pressure on the limited resources of the English. We can see from the record that Canso suffered from a number of Indian raids; and this, I suppose, because they could retire to a nearby retreat, Louisbourg.20 Annapolis Royal suffered less from these sorts of Indian excursions; this, likely because the locals at Annapolis Royal, who gave aid to the Indians, were promptly clamped into irons.21 The larger Indian raids against Annapolis Royal -- as for example, the one that took place in July, 1724 -- involved contingents from the larger Abenaki confederacy which would have come up the coast and across the Bay of Fundy.22 The English fisherman who worked away from the main fortifications at Canso, during this period (1710-1724), were at the greatest risk of Indian raids.23 However, the Indian war, that had been going on between the English from Canso straight through and along the present day coast of Maine, was eventually brought to an end through negotiations in 1726; in November of that year, there was a great gathering of Indians at Boston. "After discussions which lasted more than a month an agreement was arrived at, the Indians engaging to abstain from further hostilities, and to give up there prisoners. They acknowledged the sovereignty of King George to the Province of Nova Scotia or Acadia. This treaty was ratified at Annapolis Royal by the chiefs of Cape Sable and St. John, and at Falmouth in the following August, where it was signed by twenty-six chiefs, Paul Mascarene being present to represent Nova Scotia."24

With the coming of George the Second to the throne of England, it became the duty of all officers in command to make the appropriate proclamation. Armstrong, during September of 1726, was to make such a proclamation throughout Nova Scotia. We see where instructions were given to Ensign Robert Wroth to embark on the schooner Success, John Underwood, Master, and "by the first fair wind to proceed on your voyage to proclaim his Majesty King George the Second." Wroth was to display as much "Ceremony & Solemnity" as he could muster in these proclamations to the Acadians. This display, as was spelled out for Wroth, was to be made in order to get the Acadians finally swung over, "Promise them that they will have a free Exercise of their Religion and title to their lands." The route laid out for Ensign Wroth was to first go to the Indians of the St. John and then to Mines, Cobequid, Pisiguith, and, then, afterwards, to Checanectoo. It is recommended that he consult in all these matters with Capt. Edward How. Further, in all his dealings, Ensign Wroth was to keep in mind "his Majesty's Honour & Service." He was to show "all manner of Civility to the Indians who you are likewise to entertain ..."25 Ensign Wroth departed Annapolis Royal on September 28th. On the 4th of October he was on the St. John River, where he met with Chief Mepomoit. All of the Indians were duly impressed with the proclamation that there was a new English king and gave their assurances they wished to be friends of the English and had always suspected that the French told them lies. The very next day, with the winds being fair, he left for Chegnecto and was there met enthusiastically by the Acadian deputies. From there, Ensign Wroth sailed to Menis arriving on the 17th. While the inhabitants of Menis were considering their position, Wroth carried on to Pisigitt. (He seem to deal with Cobequid in a remote fashion.) The Acadians in all places seemed to respond in the same manner, as if orchestrated. Certainly, word could not have gotten to all the communities, just in advance of Wroth and his group; they were on a fast sailing schooner. It seems without exception, all the French Inhabitants were happy with the proclamation that there was a new king in England. Indeed, there was much partying and rejoicing. They seemed to have all signed the proclamation, but would not sign the oath as proffered unless a change was made: from the words "seray fidéle et obeiray," "obeiray" was to be struck. Wroth apparently was of the view that the oath was not going to be signed unless he adjusted the wording, so he did just that.26 In the result, Ensign Wroth reported considerable success in that he signed up a number of the French inhabitants throughout Acadia, who, in so doing, declared their allegiance to the English crown. However, in addition to giving way on the question of obedience to the crown (the Acadians were to consistently maintain, thereafter, that they owed no obedience in respect to taking up arms against the French), Wroth granted certain concessions in respect to trade. There was to be debate about Wroth's authority to grant such concessions; though, it seems clear, that without them, the Acadians would not have signed the oaths - as in fact they did during 1726. We see, however, where Armstrong reported to the Secretary of State that he (Armstrong) vetoed it as he thought that Wroth had "fallen into very great errors by making some unwarrantable concessions which I have refused to ratify ..."27

The frustrations of Governor Armstrong extended much beyond those that he had with his subordinate officers, as we see it did with, for example, Ensign Wroth. His frustrations were many, and included: the "Boston antimonarchical traders"28; the French missionary priests29; the Indians30; the Acadians31; and, probably most frustrating of all, getting some simple directions from the authorities back home.32

Armstrong's life and death in Nova Scotia is but representative of the desperate and lonely struggle of those British soldiers stationed there during the first 40 years of British presence in Nova Scotia. A sad testimonial to this effect is to be had by looking to a dispatch sent off from Annapolis Royal and dated December 8th, 1739: "Lieutenant-Governor Lawrence Armstrong, the commanding officer at Annapolis Royal, has taken his life."

"It hath been observ'd that Governor Armstrong has been for a long time frequently afflicted with melancholy fitts, the consequences of which none ever suspected till they found him dead on Thursday 6th Instant. On whose body, Maj. Cosby Lieut. Gov of the Garrison, having ordered the officers to sitt, they brought in their Verdict Lunacy."33
With the death of Armstrong, Mascarene, long connected with the province, came to its command as the acting Governor. Changes in the administration of the province were immediately observable, as can be seen from the governor's correspondence. Vessels over five tons (this pretty well excluded only small open boats) of which a number were being built along the shores of Minas Basin (Grand Pré) "must take out a Register for them before they go a trading" and make oath that no stranger or foreigner has directly or indirectly any share in them, and that the sails, cables, cordage and other tackle are of British manufacture.34

Trade with Louisbourg was to grow through the years of its development. Among the traders were Acadians, as well as certain "antimonarchical" traders from Boston. From the Acadian farms to the tables of Louisbourg (and at Annapolis Royal) came foodstuffs. The commanders at Annapolis Royal took steps to prohibit such trade. In 1734, we see the following order made at Annapolis Royal by Lieutenat-Governor Armstrong:

"Certain inhabitants of 'Menis, Cobaquid, Chignectou and other places' for their 'own Private Interests & Selfish views' do, in contempt of this proclamation [Phillips' order of 1731], export annually great quantities of cattle both slaughtered and alive to Cape Breton, to the detriment of British subjects 'all manner of provisions being thereby enhanced and the Stocks are Impaired and greatly diminished by such pernicious proceedings, in violations of the Laws of nations which direct all Governments and Societys of men to Defend and provide for themselves the necessaries of Life.' Prohibition renewed 'strictly and Expressly.' No cattle to be taken out of the province except at Annapolis or Canso. Even driving cattle to any other point but A. and C., as named, in order to ship them out of the province is an offence. Penalty, one year's imprisonment, and fine [50£], which may be levied by distress upon the goods of the guilty person. Half to go to the informer, 'who shall sue for the Same.'"35
But passing laws and the enforcement of laws are very different things. The fact of the matter is that the small British garrison of a couple of hundred men located in the south end of the province, and another contingent, smaller yet, at the north end (Canso) could hardly be expected to enforce laws over the larger territory of Nova Scotia, over a territory by and large occupied by people possessing different tongues and different cultures; it made no difference that these few British officers thought their laws should apply. Enforcement called for a much larger military presence that then existed and which did not, as a matter of fact, exist until Cornwallis arrived in 1749; up to this point, British law in Nova Scotia was written on the wind.36 Blissfully oblivious to the rules written in English at a small and far away garrison, the French farmers at the head of the Fundy drove their cattle37 over pathways leading to the north side of the isthmus, to Baie Verte; and there, either to board ships or to drive along the shores of Northumberland Strait until they arrived to the land of similar tongued traders from Ile Royale (see map). French silver was flowing into Louisbourg and being spent on massive fortifications and this is what drew the Acadians and their produce. Silver coin, something that could not be found at Annapolis Royal,38 was what the Acadians wanted; and silver coin was good currency at Boston.


[NEXT: Pt. 3, Ch. 6 - Canso & War (1744).]

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