A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 5, "The Intermission"TOC
Chapter. 5, "The Return of Louisbourg" (1749).

On October 18th, 1748, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed and with it came the return of Louisbourg. The giving back of Louisbourg to the French brought on feelings of intense anger and indignation in the colonists of New England; its capture had come about as the result of the blood and sweat of their sons.1 Louisbourg's return was as a result of a trade made at the treaty table. In exchange: France was to give back Madras and other Indian territories; and to abandon her support it had given to the Scottish rebels; and to dismantle the fortifications at Dunkirk. These were all very great concessions on the part of France -- what was Louisbourg but a far off piece of territory of no great consequence. Thus it was that Louisbourg became a small chip in an international "peace" making deal.2 And so, in the bargain, the colonial governors, who had spent much and gained much upon its capture, were to lose Louisbourg.3

So, that's it -- Louisbourg was to be returned.4 About July 12th, 1749, Des Herbiers, the new French governor, "entered the city, escorted by two 80-gun ships, a French garrison and large quantities of military supplies in 20 transports. Some of these transports were placed at the disposal of Colonel Hopson, the retiring Governor and the two British regiments stationed at Louisbourg." As the vessels proceeded slowly into the harbour, cannons echoed from shore to shore as the ground batteries returned the blank shots of the French Men'O'War. Those aboard, -- 500 troops, plus many returned civilians5 -- came ashore to take Louisbourg back and to raise the French flag over her ramparts once again. The transfer went smoothly:

"The opportune arrival of Cornwallis at Halifax set free British transports which came to Louisbourg. They were supplemented by French Ships, and so effectively were the arrangements made and carried out, that on the 23rd of July Des Herbiers marched into the town, and received its keys from Hopson. The French flag replaced that of England over the citadel and batteries. Hopson received a certificate that the transfer was complete and satisfactory, and the English forces and people withdrew to Halifax."6
It was plain, now, in this second era, 1749-58, that the French authorities were intent not to commit the same errors which had brought the mighty fortress down and into the hands of Englishmen in 1745. After the fort had been taken over and put on a regular footing, in 1751, Jean Louis, Comte de Raymond was appointed as Louisbourg's governor. Raymond was a military man, and this was the first time that Louisbourg was to see an army officer as its governor, prior to Raymond they all had been naval. With his appointment, just so that everyone was to know the importance which the French authorities attached to the position came a promotion; Raymond at the same time was made a Major-General; his aids were also to be high ranking military officers. "There was to be a girding of the loins in the bureaux of the French Admiralty, when Louisbourg was again under its care. ... the raising of the garrison until it approached in number that of Canada, showed that a high value was set on Louisbourg and its security."7

Louisbourg has been, by times, portrayed by the authors as poor and as rich. The descriptions range from the early springs8 when the French colony would be diseased and starving, having suffered through an ill provisioned winter; to a time, in season, as a port rich in trade. I suspect the tough times generally occurred earlier on in her history, but by the second French occupation Louisbourg, no doubt, exhibited the attributes of a busy seaport, bustling in trade.9

"Louisbourg was thus an important commercial centre as well as the greatest military stronghold on the northern coasts, and 'ships of all nations' rode at anchor in her ample port. In 1751 150 English vessels traded there, and the commerce of the city was increasing so rapidly that 30 Boston ships could sometimes be counted in the port.
An English traveler who visited the city found 30 sail of English ships loading and discharging there; 20 vessels from France lay at the quays, discharging wines, oils, cambrics, linens, silks, velvets, and, 'in short, an assortment of all the manufacturers of France'; and others arrived almost daily from the West Indies laden with rum, sugar, molasses, coffee, cotton, indigo and cocoa. These commodities were purchased on a large scale by the New England and other 'Colonial' merchants for the British 'Colonial' markets as far south as South Carolina. Most of them were paid for in good silver dollars; and as the trifling commodities the British traders could sell were chiefly lumber, the balance of trade was greatly in favour of France. Louisbourg was also the emporium of a fishing industry, which competed with the fishing industry of New England, employed fully 2,281 vessels, manned by 15,138 men, and is stated to have supported an export of 974,700 quintals of fish per annum."
10
C. Ochiltree Macdonald illustrates his point by setting forth a table of the French fishing villages (tributary to Louisbourg) giving forth in separate columns the number of larger and smaller vessels found in each village. It is an interesting exercise to run down the list with a map in hand. Macdonald lists twenty villages beginning with Egmont Bay (Bay St. Lawrence?) and working itself along the northern and eastern shores of Cape Breton until one arrives "in places in Straits of Canso." After Louisbourg, with 600 hundred sailing vessels (300 of then "decked"), came Ingonish with 245 "shallops" and Main-a-dieu with 190. The outer exposed harbours had just the smaller sailing vessels the larger decked vessels were to only be found in the more secure harbours found at the end of deep waters which ran inland for aways, such as St Anne's. The total count for this area of Cape Breton, including Louisbourg, was 726 "decked vessels" and 1,555 shallops.

Of course, Louisbourg had always been a refuge and haven for those who preyed on English shipping, with the hand-back, she eagerly clutched at this role once again. Clearly this might be expected during times of war11: 1744-48 and 1756-63. But, the years in between were almost as bad. There were always desperate men who ran armed vessels, and whose sole aim was to plunder any under-gunned or under-manned vessel that should come into range.12 Those who had relieved an English vessel of its cargo could always put into Louisbourg and find there helpful people who were ready, able and willing, to look the other way, to falsify papers and generally to play booty.13


[NEXT: Pt. 5, Ch. 6 - Foreign Protestants By the Shipload (1750-52).]

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