A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 5, "The Intermission"TOC
Chapter. 6, "Foreign Protestants
By the Shipload" (1750-52).

England's desire was to have the inhabitants of Nova Scotia loyal to it. The difficulty was that the inhabitants were French. These Acadians had come over directly from France in the mid-seventeenth century and grew to a sizable population, one that had spread from its starting point at Port Royal to the fertile and ancient flood plains as surrounded their communities of Minas, Cobequid and Beaubassin (see map). The Acadian population was somewhat less than 2,000 at the time the English wrested Port Royal away from the French in 1710. For 39 years thereafter, Acadia became a forgotten country. The French sent in no help except for a few ministering priests who the English believed (with good reason) were French agents: the English changed the name of Port Royal to Annapolis Royal and put in place a small garrison both there and at the other end of the peninsula, Canso. Except for one or two at Annapolis Royal, there were no English families in Nova Scotia. In the meantime, during the years 1710 to 1749, there was continued growth in the Acadian population, such that by the mid-eighteenth century there were to be 10,000 Acadians: all of them possessing the French tongue; the French culture; and the French religion, Roman Catholicism. The proper conclusion of history is that these Acadians, at least not in any great numbers or to any great degree, did not go against their English overlords at Annapolis Royal. However, though the English tried, over and over, to get them to do it, the Acadians would not swear unconditional allegiance to the English crown. They would promise not to take up arms against the English but they were not prepared to take up arms against Frenchmen (invasive military men from Quebec). Fundamentally, what the Acadians wanted was to simply be left alone so to farm their lands and raise their families -- two things they were very good at.

The worry of the English, was, that the Acadians in a time of war would turn into "Fifth Columnists." It was a worry which caused them to take extreme measures in 1755; but, as of 1749, it was thought that all that might be necessary was to dilute the French population by putting in amongst them, or to match them community for community, inhabitants that would be loyal to the English crown; those of a culture, different than that of the French; and, principally, those who were of the Protestant religion. Englishmen would do just find. The first of them came over with Cornwallis in 1749; they, some 2,500 of them, proved to be a sad lot; only but a few of them were cut out for the pioneering life, especially a pioneering life that included cold winters and butchering Indians. The problem was that there was an easy back door to any mobile Englishman who came to the barren shores of Nova Scotia: grab the first New England schooner going south. It struck the English authorities, that if they could not muster a shipload of suitable immigrants in England, then, they might be able to do so in northern Europe where there then existed, due to centuries of war, a population which was naturally inclined to dislike the French, one, which was primarily of the Protestant faith. What was necessary was to find these willing and suitable immigrants and in this regard they hired an agent, one, John Dick.

Thus, it was, that John Dick was to be the official agent of the British government on the continent whose job it was, was to round up and convince people who wished to take passage to America to do so on one of his chartered ships and settle in Nova Scotia. Terms were to be worked out as between the British government (the Board of Trade) and Dick for his work. Terms were also worked out between Dick and his passengers whereby the cost of their passage would be financed and paid back in Nova Scotia where they were guaranteed work ("public work at Halifax"). Into the bargain, the new settler would get "free land," provisions and implements; and, victualing for the first year. The authorities in England emphasized with the recruiters that what was wanted were "young single men."1 The thought was that old men, women and children2 would not be able to contribute much to the work required in the building of a new colony; indeed, they would just be a drain. In fact, as Cornwallis was soon to observe, this was a bad policy. Single men were entirely too mobile.3 Women and children may have been a drain on the colony; but, by and large, it was only the married men who stuck around to do the work.

There was in these times a great competition for immigrants. America was is need of people and the governors of the English colonies all had their recruiting agents in Europe. Competition was keen, but, it certainly seems that John Dick had the best deal for those willing to go to the northern part of the American eastern seaboard, Nova Scotia. Those who wished to go to the more southern colonies were obliged, generally to pay their own way; though, government help on the other side was near as generous as it was to be for those who took passage to Nova Scotia. Dick's competitors were keen to fill up their own vessels which were headed to Pennsylvania or Georgia; these recruiters were ready to turn people off on the idea of going to Nova Scotia. Thus, stories were spread. Nova Scotia was, "a barren land, good for nobody but fishermen" and where the unprotected settler would be "in constant danger from French and Indians." And if that were not enough, there were those "vicious rattlesnakes."4 Another pamphleteer was to give no comfort or credit when he wrote at London: "Many unfortunate people died of cold the first winter after their settlement. This indeed, may be imputed to the want of houses, which only such as could build were able to obtain; and to see the vast flakes of snow lying about the tents of those who had been accustomed to warm fires about Newcastle and London, was enough to move the heart of stone ..."5 In fact, the winters at Halifax as far as northern winters go are quite mild, and, the evidence is that it was not the cold that knocked off so many of the English settlers in that first year, but rather disease and sickness due, most likely, to the bad habits of this first lot of settlers.

The plan, which had turned into Cornwallis' orders, was that he should get himself and his people established at Halifax and use it as a working base from which would be sent the settlers to a number of points throughout Nova Scotia for its "Englishification." This proved to be a multi-faceted problem. The Indian threat obliged the settlers to huddle together in one protected place, Halifax.6 With the arrival of the immigrant ships during 1751, Cornwallis was to acquaint his superiors that he had enough. They were proving to be more of a hinderance than help. Costs were going up and a year's worth of free victuals was not going to see the typical immigrant family through to the point when it might be considered self-sustaining. While Nova Scotia did have good farm lands (as were then, by and large, occupied by the Acadians) the part which the British had chosen to settle, along the Atlantic coast, was rock strewn and barren.7 If all the settler could do was to line up for another handout, then what was the use of more? "I should advise the not sending more till affairs change."8 The wheels of bureaucracy, if they grind at all, grind slowly; that is true today and certainly true in the mid-eighteenth century for the English government department responsible for colonial administration, the Board of Trade. The bureaucracy problem was made, back then, considerably worse because of the great amounts of time required, in these days of sailing ships, to get authoritative messages back and forth across the Atlantic. The directions or orders made in one year could not be implemented until the next. In December, 1751, the Board of Trade, upset as it was with the increasing costs of the new settlement at Halifax, and, in view of Cornwallis' comments, advised John Dick that his services were not required for 1752. John Dick was not a man to be put off that easily. He traveled to London in January of 1753 and made his case. He had already incurred great expense in getting things lined up for the forthcoming shipping season; he had numerous would-be-settlers on his hands who had sold their possessions in anticipation of the British promises. If the British were to pull their plans so abruptly, then, it would not be so easy to get things started in another year. In the end, Dick was to win out and the project was to be kept going for yet another year. Dick was to ship another 1000 souls or so to Nova Scotia during 1752; to be added to the 4000 that had come in during the years 1749-51.

While at Halifax, the "Foreign Protestants" were treated as people in transit. The lots at the core of Halifax, those inside the stockade had been awarded to the original English settlers; and, it would appear that newly arrived New Englanders were allowed to settle where they pleased including on a number of the choice lots in downtown Halifax. However, the Palatine Settlers were set up but in a temporary fashion. Since these foreigners were to be "out-settled," there was no sense in taking any great trouble with them until they were properly located; at which time they would be given their lots of land, tools, building materials, and alike. In the meantime they camped; and they waited. Two places were set up for them; the one at Dartmouth in the fall of 1750; the other principal settlement was to at the head of the North West Arm, later to be called Dutch (Deutsche, German) Village.9 A number of the single men, it would seem, were immediately housed on Georges Island in Halifax Harbour. This meant they could be put to work on a daily basis with its fortifications; and, at the same time, kept them herded together with their only escape being into the woods after a swim to the main land.10

None of these poor people piling up at Halifax could make a living there. Farming, for the reasons stated was out of the question; and, it would be years before Halifax -- with all the attending commercial opportunities -- was to become a military entrepot, that, indeed it was to become. Cornwallis and his council might have gotten matters in hand except the problem got worse and grew in accordance with a progression of immigrant ships which sailed into Halifax Harbour during the years 1750-1752. Thousands of fearful and ill kept German/Swiss immigrants hung in and around the protected position at Halifax. Provision or victualing lists were long and getting longer as one immigrant ship came in after another. Cornwallis took the heat. It was determined by those back in London that he was a good soldier but a poor bookkeeper. As for Cornwallis: he prayed to be relieved; and, his prayers were answered.

It will be recalled that Peregrine Thomas Hopson, a British army officer of good reputation, had come over to Louisbourg with the "Gibraltar troops" to relieve the English garrison at Louisbourg during 1746. He was to continue on there with the English forces during its occupation, 1745-49; indeed, in 1747, he took over as the English governor at Louisbourg. In July of 1749, after the hand back to the French, Hopson led the English garrison that had been at Louisbourg to Halifax, there to meet the newly arrived Cornwallis. Hopson, it seems, his work done, returned to England. In the early part of 1752, Hopson was chosen to go and replace Cornwallis.

Hopson took over from Cornwallis in August of 1752. What was before him was a town full of needy settlers. Hopson's immediate challenge was to get these immigrants settled and functioning on their own. Just at this time, on August 21st, the Pearl arrived. She had left Rotterdam on June the 6th. Two hundred and twelve persons were waiting to come ashore: they were sick and tired. The report delivered to Hopson was that 39 had died at sea. This high mortality together with the general condition of those aboard led Hopson to fear a contagious disease. The order went out to leave these immigrants aboard; they were not to disembark until his health officer was satisfied that it was safe to let these new arrivals loose into the existing population at Halifax. So, there was the Pearl lying at anchor; and those aboard, lean and bedraggled, looking out with their darkened and sunken eyes at their nearby and long desired goal. Little could be done except to put some fresh water and food aboard: they would just have to wait. Besides there was no extra accommodations ashore. Things take time. When finally they came ashore they could hardly move. Some were sent off to the hospital, others were, as charity cases, to be nursed back to health by adoptive families. Then September comes, and, on the 6th, a pair of immigrant ships come limping into the harbour: the Sally and the Gale.

The Sally and the Gale had apparently met up at sea, as, they had left Rotterdam at different times, though but only days from one another: the Sally on the 30th of May and the Gale on the 6th of June. They had long and stormy passages; an illness of some kind had swept through them and carried off an unusually large number of the passengers just as had happened on the Pearl. On the Sally, 40 had died; on the Gale, 29. Hopson's action was the same as that he had taken when faced with the same sort of problem a few weeks back. This time they were to remain in the stream for three weeks. So, with winter's start expected within eight to ten weeks; the colony was faced with yet more mouths to feed, with more people to house (somehow), more sick to take care of. And in this setting, on October 16th, 1752, Hopson wrote the Lords of trade: "... among the number of these settlers which Mr. Dick has sent this year there were many, very many poor old decrepid creatures both men and women who were objects fitter to have been kept in almshouses than to be sent over here as settlers to work for their bread."11 Hopson continued, and observed that a number of the settlers that had arrived at Halifax during September of 1752 "could not stir off the beach" and that within days "fourteen orphans belonging to these settlers that were taken in the Orphan house."

Much of the ocean passage for these immigrants was to be made while confined to the lower deck; there was no choice in that -- as we are here dealing with the age of sail and the top deck was an operating deck with every square inch of it needed for line handling seamen. Certainly, when there was no breeze, then a number of the passengers would be allowed to take the air on deck in a prescribed place, one group at a time. Such a situation (families living closely together confined by the wooden bulkheads and decks all around) to mention nothing about the discomfort of it, was unhealthy. However, compared to the transports that plied the oceans in those days, the conditions aboard Dick's vessels, I should say, were not that bad. The British government sent artificers over to Rotterdam from England in order to fit ventilators so that the air between decks was refreshed. The English authorities carried out inspections before they cleared port, and, indeed, the ships from Rotterdam that Dick had sent were to call in at either Gosport or Cowes for an inspection12 before setting out on their trans-Atlantic voyage. Generally the inspectors found that conditions were good with generous margins of safety in respect to water supply. Still the typical ocean voyage of the day was long, very long; and, poor diet and tedium was the rule. So, too, storms were bound to come up which would have had the effect of striking terror into the souls of the seaborne settlers.13

John Dick's involvement with Nova Scotia in the sending of the Palatine14 ships (ten of them) during the years 1750-52 was to end with the arrival of the Sally and the Gale in September of 1752. The controversy of John Dick's role in bringing about the suffering of these Protestant settlers started back then and has, through the writings of the historians, continued ever since. With such charges as laid by Governor Hopson15 the British government was bound to carry out an investigation. The complaints were sent to Dick and he did an admirable job of refutation, such that, no other than Lord Halifax was to conclude that Dick had "perfectly acquitted himself." The ships which brought the setters to Halifax in the mid-18th century were but a small number of a larger number which had brought thousands of settlers to the more popular English colonies lying south of Nova Scotia. The fact of the matter is that a trans-Atlantic voyage in those days of sail was a risky affair: it was expected that a certain number of the passengers would die. The success of any voyage in those days was gaged by the mortality rate.16 You could make it across the Atlantic in as little as 30 days (a rare event), but if the winds and weather were against you, four months might pass before land was sighted. Provision and fit out the transports as you will, a long time at sea meant misery for all and death to some. The water in the casks turned putrid and the hard biscuit wormy; people became sick; and there was nothing to be done about it. The evidence is that the British authorities and John Dick17, whether out of compassion or commercial expediency, took all the precautions that could be taken back then. Ventilators, a new contrivance, were, with the exception of one, built into each of the transports hired by Dick. The between deck spaces, were as commodious as any; indeed, Dick went beyond that which he had to do to accommodate the immigrants.18

Overall, Winthrop Bell, in his authoritative book on the subject, was to conclude19 that "Dick's emigrants were decidedly less crowded than almost any others in the 'Palatine trade' of the period ..." That the passengers of Heyliger's vessels20 (those on the Alderney and the Nancy which came over in 1750) and those of Dick's (those on the ten that arrived during 1750-53) "fared much better in the way of provisions on the voyage than did the great majority of 'Palatine' emigrants." As for the food: salted meat, dried peas and hard biscuit, while it "would not have satisfied a modern dietician," was as of good a quality as might be, a fact sworn to by the chief passengers, themselves.21 That some of the food and the water turned bad -- well, that was not the fault of Dick, but rather, and proportionately so, of the great amount of time required to cross the Atlantic ocean. Those that came to America as a result of the "Palatine Trade" suffered as did any who came by way of the passenger ship of the age. Those who stepped ashore at Halifax during these early years did indeed suffer from the misfortunes of their passage, and did so "due to the hazards of the sea and not to anything that could be charged against human agency."22


[NEXT: Pt. 5, Ch. 7 - The Indian Threat (1749-58).]

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