A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 6 -- "The Oath"

Towards the close of the last chapter, reference was made to the intransigency of the Acadians. I refer to their steadfast refusal to take an absolute oath of allegiance to the British crown. Now, an oath is a solemn or formal appeal to God, in witness of the truth of a statement, or the binding character of a promise or undertaking. It is an act which is proceeded with less thought in these modern days than it did in days past. The taking of an oath, for the Acadians, being the religious people that they were, was indeed a very solemn piece of business; hell and damnation was held in the balance.

We now shall trace the record from 1710 to 1755 in regard to the numerous British requests made of the Acadians for such an oath of allegiance; and their continuing refusal to give such an oath. Over this single issue: the Acadians were to loose their hereditary lands in Acadia.

Acadia, being the earliest European settlement in America, has the longest history. It is, too, an extraordinary one. The people from a very early period suffered from the neglect of France, internal strife by rival proprietors and frequent harryings at the hands of the English. It is, throughout its entirety, a history of conflict, an ancient one carried over from Europe. We see it, immediately these two rival countries, France and England, set up their first settlements in America. In 1613, Captain Samuel Argall sailed out of Virginia in the fourteen gun Treasurer, up to the Jesuit colony at Mount Desert and destroyed it, and then went on to do the same at St. Croix and at Port Royal. In later years there is the example of the raids carried out by Benjamin Church in 1696 and then again in 1704.1 Thus, the French Acadians had good reason to always be concerned that the English could, at any time, appear off their shores, -- intent to do them harm.

Queen Anne's Promise, 1713:

In 1710, during the course of The War of the Spanish Succession or Queen Anne's War, the British captured Port Royal. Three years later the war was brought to an end by the Treaty of Utrecht, and, by its terms, France granted that the English should keep Acadia. Among the exchanges2 was that the Acadians would be allowed their religion and to stay on their lands, if they wished; provided, however, that they make themselves subject to the English crown. These agreements were inked in 1713, at a time when the entire Acadian population was not much more than 2,000. If the Acadians chose not to submit to English sovereignty, viz., to take an oath of loyalty, then, it was agreed that they had but a year to remove themselves from the territory.3

Though France had given up her claims to Acadia, she did retain the islands at the mouth of the St Lawrence. It was on one of these islands that she determined to set up a new capital. And so, in 1713, Louisbourg was founded on Cape Breton (newly renamed on this occasion by the French to Ile Royale). Recognizing the benefit to them of having the Acadians come and settle on Ile Royale, the French determined to send a delegation to Port Royal (having been renamed by the English to Annapolis Royal). Thus, it was, during 1714 that two French vessels arrived off Annapolis Royal and the French officers aboard begged leave from the English governor, Francis Nicholson, to allow a representative of the French king, under the supervision of the English Governor, of course, to assemble and address the Acadians throughout the land. Nicholson allowed that the Acadians might be so assembled. The first of these assemblies was to be at Port Royal; where, representing the population thereabouts of 916, there stood 169 French Acadian men. The French military officers from Louisbourg headed by La Ronde Denys and their English counterparts from the local garrison then each took their turns and addressed the assembly. McLennan, a noted historian of the period describes what took place.

"They encircled the officers in the square, and heard read to them Nicholson's order for the meeting and the Queen's letter, both of which were translated for them, and the latter formally compared with La Ronde's copy. Then, invited by Nicholson, La Ronde made his propositions. If his letters indicate his oratorical style he was a fervid speaker, careless of grammar, and not altogether accurate as to facts. He, on this occasion, went beyond his instructions in the promises he made to the Acadians. He spoke of the goodwill of the King who would furnish to them vessels for their transport, provisions for a year to those who needed them, freedom from duties on all their trade for ten years, and added a promise which was of great importance to them, for the Acadians disliked the land system of Canada, that there would be no seignories, but that they would hold their lands direct from the King. Nicholson added that he was ready to receive any complaints of bad treatment."4
After the headmen at Annapolis River valley were so addressed, the French and British officers, it would seem, traveled to the Minas area where a similar meeting or meetings transpired. The population of Beaubassin and the other settlements about the Isthmus of Chignecto, however, apparently, were not visited by La Ronde, though undoubtedly the word was patched through to them that any arrangement made would have an equal application to them. La Ronde's mission was successful. With a few exceptions all the people he saw agreed to go to Isle Royale. No obstacle was put in their way, and the outcome would seem to have depended entirely on the French authorities carrying out the promises which had been made on their behalf. I should say that the principal promise was that ships would be sent for their transport.

It was going to be almost an impossibility for the Acadians to make their way to Cape Breton with their essential possessions without sea going vessels being made available. The British never felt obliged to go through the expense and trouble to arrange for transport; and while the French promised to do so, they never saw to it. As it turned out, through the years, 1710-1749, only but a few Acadians were to find their way to the French territories (and when they did, they did so entirely at their own expense). The vast majority, for whatever reason5, preferred to stay on the lands which they had worked for generations, past. Thus, the transfer of the Acadians to Cape Breton, so ardently hoped for, at first, did not take place; and, the likelihood of it decreased with the passing years.

Philipps' Compromise, 1729/30:

With the death of George I, it being the custom to request such things upon the ascension of a new sovereign, the English asked the Acadians to take an oath of loyalty to the new sovereign. Therefore, during September of 1727, word having been received of the death of the English king, a detachment of soldiers from Annapolis Royal were sent forth to proclaim George II "throughout the province and invite the habitants and Indians to take the oaths."6 The Acadians made it known that they would give no absolute oath; but that they would give a conditional one, viz., that they be allowed to have their priests reside among them and that they would not be obliged to bear arms during a time of war. This position being unacceptable to the English, the Acadian deputies were summoned to appear before the Council at Annapolis Royal. The deputies were advised of the governor's displeasure, and, in an effort to send out some kind of a message, they were clapped into irons and marched off to jail.7

It would not appear that the deputies were imprisoned for long, and, within a matter of weeks, calm was once again restored to Acadia. In the autumn of 1729, a new tack of a more amiable and conciliatory nature was taken by the English. We see where Abbe Breslay was approved to take up his position as the parish priest at Annapolis Royal. This led to good feelings all around and shortly thereafter, undoubtedly through the intervention of Abbe Breslay, an oath of allegiance was to be secured.8 The following year, with the breakup of winter, in 1730, a detachment under the orders of Governor Richard Philipps, traveled throughout Acadia proffering the same oath as had been administered at Annapolis Royal the previous year. Except for "six scattering families on the eastern coast" whom he had intended to visit at a later point, Philipps was successful in getting all Acadians (every man, age 16 years and upwards) to sign. He acknowledged, as the Board had subsequently pointed out to him, that the wording of the oath might have been "stronger." Incidently, the total Acadian population was estimated by Philipps at 4,000.9

The Acadian oath (1729/30) as was secured by Governor Philipps was unconditional, at least on paper it was.10 It seems, however, that the Acadians were talked into signing the oath on the basis of "verbal promises" made. They were told at the time that they would be exempt from the necessity of bearing arms in the event of a conflict with the French. This compromise -- and it seems there was not much doubt that it was made -- was to haunt the masters of Nova Scotia for the next 25 years and contribute significantly to the tragic developments that were to culminate with the deportation of 1755.

The parties -- the English (really just a few English soldiers at Annapolis Royal) and the Acadians -- thereafter, were to enter into a long period of relative stability, reflective of the peaceful relationship that was to exist between France and England through the years 1713-44. No doubt, though, the general faithfulness and peaceful disposition of the Acadians in these intervening years were much to the credit of one man: Paul Mascarene and his careful cultivation of the English/Acadian relationship.11 This period of time in Nova Scotia is one which is dealt with in some detail in Part 3 of this work, and, in particular, I direct the reader's attention to the chapter, Annapolis Royal (1720-39). Beyond 1739, in the five years leading up to war, the English became increasingly more nervous about their position in Acadia. Acadians and their English governors were becoming more and more impressed with the French military presence which had blossomed into the stone fortifications at Louisbourg. All the English had was a little garrison at Annapolis Royal; there were no English settlers from one end of Acadia to the other. How was it expected to keep thousands of French Acadians in line, especially with Louisbourg looming in the distance and with the French priests in their midst spreading subversive messages. War12 did break out in 1744; and, it was the New Englanders that saved Acadia for the English during that War, which by 1748 had come to an uneasy end. Everyone seemed to know that the following period, that between the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the beginning of The Seven Years War, 1748 to 1756, was but an intermission in the hostilities. The English at the beginning of this intermission, in 1748, finally came to grips with the problem of Acadia, in that, for them, was an undermanned and undersettled territory. In Part 5 I take up the dramatic steps which England took to establish her presence in Nova Scotia with the establishment of Halifax, in 1749; and, thereafter, the general fortification of Nova Scotia.

Renewed Pressure, Cornwallis, 1749:

Cornwallis' first order of business upon his fleet anchoring in Chebucto Harbour (Halifax), in 1749, was to get a message off to Mascarene. He and five of his councilors, having traveled up from Annapolis Royal, presented themselves to Cornwallis on July 12th.13 Mascarene in the next few weeks (he returned to Annapolis Royal in August) recounted the history of the Acadians especially up from the time the British took Port Royal some thirty-nine years earlier. No better person could be found to brief Cornwallis. Mascarene had been there with General Francis Nicholson when Acadia was captured in 1710, and, his official duties had kept him there ever since.14 In his French accented English Mascarene filled Cornwallis in on the nature and character of the Acadians; and, how, the best that could be expected of them, in the event of war with France, was that they would be neutral; and the worst -- they would assist any invading French military force with supplies and even fighting men. Cornwallis was to conclude then that he would set about to immediately get these Acadians to sign an unconditional oath; and, there was to be no shilly-shally about it. At Halifax: the English had a settlement like none they ever had before with thousands of settlers loyal to the English crown now on the ground; and, with the addition of the troops having come down from the vacated Louisbourg garrison, a military presence, too, like had never been seen before. Cornwallis summoned the Acadians. Within days a small delegation traveled overland to pay their respects. They had walked the fifty miles which separated Halifax from the eastern edges of their homelands (St Croix River) and which marked, going westward, the beginning of a string of fertile valleys of which the Acadian lands consisted. There were three of them: Jean Melanson of Canard River, Claude LeBlanc of Grand Pre and Phillipe Melancon of Piziquid.15 Cornwallis, in the airs of his aristocratic background, figured it was time to remind these presumptuous, homespun clad Frenchmen of a few things. He told them that it was only out of pity for their situation and their inexperience in the affairs of government that he condescended to reason with them, "otherwise, the question would not be of reasoning, but of commanding and being obeyed."16 The exchange that next took place was recorded in the minutes:

"The Deputys being asked if they had any thing to offer from their several Departments answered, they were only sent to pay their Respects to His Excellency & to know what was to be their Condition henceforth, & particularly - whether they should still be allowed their Priests - His Excellency assured them they should always have them provided that no Priest should officiate within the Province without a License first obtained of His Excellency - Copys of His Majesty's Declaration, & of the Oath were given to the Deputys to issue to the Inhabitants, & they were commanded to return within a forthnight & to report the Resolutions of their several Departments - They were also ordered to send to the other French Settlements to let them know His Excellency desired to see their Deputys as soon as possible."17
In keeping with this order, ten men from the Acadian districts arrived at Halifax on the 29th of July, 1749. On the 31st, all of them boarded small boats at a roughly hewed wharf at the base of the new community and were then rowed out to the transport ship, Beaufort. (The Beaufort was serving, and was to continue to serve throughout Cornwallis' first summer as his headquarters.) A meeting of the Council had been convened18 and the Acadian Deputies were to present themselves. The men were: Alexander Herbert, Annapolis; Joseph Dugad, Annapolis; Claude LeBlanc, Grand Pre; Jean Melancon, River Canard; Baptiste Gaillard, Piziquid; Pierre Landry, Piziquid; Pierre Gotran, Cobequid; Pierre Doucet, Chignecto; Francois Bourg, Chignecto; and, Alexander Brossart, Chippodie. Out of the small boats and onto the deck they went. After being kept on the deck for a period of time, a signal was relayed from the companionway. The men were then escorted into a crowded chamber below decks. There, before them were a number of earnest looking Englishmen, there, at a table, with assistants of varying kinds hovering in the background. Among the seated were Colonel Edward Cornwallis, Colonel Peregrine Thomas Hopson, Colonel Jean Paul Mascarene, Lieutenant Colonel John Horseman, and Major Charles Lawrence -- military men, all. So, too, at the table was John Gorham, a New Englander who headed up an Indian fighting unit known as Gorham's Rangers. For the most part, these inquisitors were finely dressed, and, stood out in contrast to the ten standing men in their homespuns.

The meeting had begun before the ten Acadians had been called into the chamber. There was some preliminary business, including the swearing in of a new man, one who was to play a central role in the stirring events that were to unfold over the next ten years in Nova Scotia, Major Charles Lawrence. We can but assume that Lawrence came down with the Louisbourg troops, newly arrived at Halifax under the command of Colonel Hopson. Hopson, himself was but on his way through; that autumn he sailed for England. The 65 year old Mascarene had just handed the reigns of power over to Cornwallis. Mascarene had a knowing and tired look about him: the rest were all newcomers to the territory. Mascarene, who as a young man fled his homeland in France as a persecuted Protestant, a Huguenot: knew these French deputies; knew their families and their ways; and knew what might be expected of them.

When a general inquiry was made of the deputies as to whether those whom they represented intended to sign the oath as has been demanded of them: Jean Melancon stepped forward. What was wanted, one and all, were reassurances that they should be able to carry on with their priests and their religion. Doubtlessly there was some impatience by the English spokesman which was immediately displayed: "Yes, yes, -- your religion and your priests ... practice your religion, whatever you like; and as for your priests: they need but register themselves with the governor's office." "But," with a quick look at a parchment on the desk before him, "this business of you not wanting to bear arms in a time of war; well, as British citizens, which you all are to become upon swearing and signing the oath, you must come to the aid of your country when called upon." Then impatient observation broke out into peremptory demand, as was written in the minutes:

"[Your people must] take the Oath of Allegiance as offered them, for His Majesty would allow none to possess lands in His territory whose allegiance and assistance in case of need could not be depended upon. And that such as should behave as true subjects ought to do will be supported encouraged and protected equally with the rest of His Majesty's subjects."19
The deputies were told to return to their communities and tell everyone that they had until October 26 (NS): and, this would be the last day allowed to them to sign such an oath. Offices for the purposes of taking these oaths would be set up at both ends of the main Acadian valley, at Halifax and at Annapolis Royal; and the inhabitants (males above age 16 years) could go to either place and the oath would be administered and recorded.

On the 6th of September, a Council Meeting was once again convened on Board the Beaufort. Hopson had by this time apparently returned to England; Mascarene was now at Annapolis Royal in semi-retirement; and John Gorham was off at the St John cementing into place the recent treaty the English had entered into with the Malecites. The other council members, as we would have seen on 29th of July, were present. Governor Cornwallis was presiding. The French deputies are again to be seen entering the chamber. A long roll of parchment was produced by the deputies at the bottom of which were row upon row of signatures, Xs, mostly. It was produced by the French Deputies and supported by oral presentations in broken English and translated French. The Acadians were thankful for all the British have done for them, however, "we are in great peril from the savage nations. Should we sign an unconditional oath as requested -- we shall assuredly become the victims of their barbarous cruelty."20 It is for this reason, they explained, that they are resolved not to take the oath unless they were exempted from taking up arms. Indeed, they explained, they have already taken such an oath, years ago, when Richard Philipps was governor, and it was understood by those that signed that they and their heirs were bound by it. "If your Excellency is not disposed to grant us what we take the liberty of asking, we are resolved, every one of us, to leave the country." The spokesman went silent; everyone in the room was still. Then the deputy spoke once again, as if an afterthought, -- "We beg to know from your Excellency whether his Majesty has annulled the oath given to us by General Philipps." The chamber, again fell silent.21

Cornwallis drew himself into an upright posture. A moment, no doubt was spent eyeing those he was about to address:

"We have cause to be much astonished at your conduct. This is the third time that you have come here from your departments, and you do nothing but repeat the same story without the least change. To-day you present us a letter signed by a thousand persons, in which you declare openly that you will be the subjects of His Britannic Majesty, only on such and such conditions. It appears to me that you think yourselves independent of any government; and you wish to treat with the King as if you were so. ...
Gentlemen, you allow yourselves to be led away by people who find it to their interest to lead you astray. They have made you imagine it is only your oath which binds you to the English. They deceive you. It is not the oath which a King administers to his subjects that makes them subjects. The oath supposes that they are so already. The oath is nothing but a very sacred bond of the fidelity of those who take it. It is only out of pity to your situations, and to your inexperience in the affairs of government, that we condescend to reason with you; otherwise, Gentlemen, the question would not be reasoning, but commanding and being obeyed. ...
Gentlemen, you have been for more than thirty-four years past, the subjects of the king of Great Britain, and you have had the full enjoyment of your possessions and your religion. Show now that you are grateful for these favors, and ready to serve your king when your services are required. ...
Thus, Cornwallis voiced his disappointment; but, he did not threaten them any further; nor, did he say that anything was about to happen to them. It is plain that the Acadian resolve, not to sign the requested oath, impressed Cornwallis and his Council. He expressed his thoughts in a letter written five days later: "As I am sure they will not leave their Habitations this season, when the letter was read to the Council in their presence, I made them answer without changing any thing of my former Declaration, or saying one word about it. My view is to make them as useful as possible to His Majesty while they do stay.... They went home in good humour promising great things."23 The fact is that when faced with the reality of it, at least at this time, the English knew that they needed the Acadians to be working the lands: there were English soldiers and settlers at Halifax that needed to be fed. At the conclusion of his address to the Acadians aboard the Beaufort on 6th of September, Cornwallis was to end on, an up-note: "We are going to send a detachment of His Majesty's troops to Minas to establish themselves there24 -- for your protection against the Indians. We hope you shall assist them. They will pay for every thing that you supply to them with ready money.25 I expect, and hope that you will manage to let me have here in ten days, fifty of your men, in order to assist me in building houses for the settlers that have arrived with me. These men will be paid in ready money and be fed on the king's provisions."26

Before the worst part of winter set in, the Acadians did come overland to assist the English newcomers. On December 23rd, 1749, Salusbury wrote into his diary: "The French come down with cattle. Some of them engage again in the works." And, the 29th, "Provisions in plenty from Minas."27 And, so, the winter passed with the English and the French in relative harmony. In the spring there came to Halifax a further delegation of Acadians. This time there were four deputies: Jacques Teriot from Grand Pre; Francois Granger from the River Canard; Batiste Galerne and John Andre from Piziquid. They presented a petition to the governor for permission to "evacuate the province and carry off their effects." This must have come as somewhat of a surprise to Cornwallis as he had done nothing to press them on the signing the oath since their refusal to do so the previous fall. He did know however that the French military had established a presence at the Isthmus of Chignecto and undoubtedly had heard rumours that the Acadians at the isthmus were crossing over into French territory. Now, it seemed that the Acadians located in other centres, ones closer to Halifax, intended to do the same. They declared they were not going to put their crops into the ground and would spend the summer moving their people and animals over the Cobequid mountains and beyond, all in order to pass into French territory. The councilors spoke pleadingly to the deputies. "You are listening to the wrong people; your priests are leading you astray; you would be better off to stay on the lands and to be under the benevolent rule of the British," -- as we might have heard them say, and, as were written in the minutes:

"For once more my friends, you are the subjects of the king of Great Britain, and not of France. It is true that you refused to take the oath of allegiance to our king last autumn... I informed you then that neither your situation nor your duties as subjects were at all changed by that act. It was at that time that you were indebted to us for not having made you leave the country even during winter.
But after having passed the winter in the province and commenced to prepare the lands in the spring, it is ridiculous to come and tell me that you will not sow having resolved to withdraw. My friends, you must go and sow your lands.
Now, what was concluded as a result of this meeting, -- I cannot say. It might be supposed that the deputies returned without getting the requested permission for the Acadians of their districts to leave. There then must have followed some late night meetings in the Acadian cottages throughout the Minas and Piziquid areas. The vote, if there was such a thing, had to split. The majority determined to stay on and to continue to work their lands. A large number, however, the records disclose, took their leave of the province and fled to the French held territories beyond peninsular Nova Scotia. Justice Patterson was to write of this:
"From 1750, till the year of the Expulsion the threats and inducements of the French agents [Abbe Le Loutre being the principal one] were having their effect and the Acadians in large numbers left the colony, and Cobequid in common with the other places suffered a loss in population. Some went to Cape Breton, St. John River, and to the Isthmus, but the largest number went via Tatamagouche to St. John's Island [Prince Edward Island]. In August 1750, it was reported from Port La Joye (Charlottetown) that the Acadians were arriving daily and that there were seven hundred persons on rations.29 But they did not go willingly. The Governor of Isle St. Jean, himself writing of the inhabitants of Cobequid said, 'they leave their homes with great regret and they began to move their luggage only when the savages compelled them.' This is cogent evidence that coercive methods were being used by the French, quite impervious to the suffering they were inflicting upon those of their race and religion. Many reached the Island in a state of virtual starvation and their condition there was little better."30
On the 25th of May, 1750, the Council at Halifax was faced with a similarly written petition presented by those Acadians along the Annapolis River. The Minutes show that the council members were very suspicious: these petitions, as drawn up, were not the words chosen by the Acadians; why, it was rare to find even one among them that could even write out his name! They were asked about the contents of the petition and the two deputies (Charles Pregian and Jacques Michel) "seemed not to understand the petition themselves and being asked when where and by whom the petition was wrote, they could not and would not make an answer."31

A response to the Annapolis Royal petition was worked out between the councilors and read to the deputies by Governor Cornwallis:

"My friends, the moment that you declared your desire to leave and submit yourselves to another government, our determination was to hinder nobody from following what he imagined to be his interest. We know that a forced service is worth nothing and that a subject compelled to be so against his will, is not very far from being an enemy.
We frankly confess, however, that your determination to leave us gives us pain. We are well aware of your industry and your temperance, and that you are not addicted to any vice or debauchery. This province is your country; you or your fathers have cultivated it; naturally you ought yourselves to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
You possess the only cultivated lands in the province; they produce grain and nourish cattle sufficient for the whole colony.
I know that the troops put you to some inconvenience at present, as your custom is to leave the houses where they are. It is a matter of necessity which you must endure for some time. That will pass away and you will find it to your advantage. In the meantime you can rely upon our word, that as soon as tranquillity is reestablished in the province, we shall give passports to all those who shall ask for them. We have already given you to understand, that no government permits those who withdraw from it to carry with them their effects."
Though there was an attempt, as we have now seen, with the arrival of Cornwallis in 1749, to bring the Acadians to the British heel, matters after the spring of 1750 pretty much returned to what they had been. Though there were fewer of them on account of the outflow during the years 1749-51, the majority of the Acadians remained and went on working their family farms as they had done for generations. Putting aside that at the Isthmus of Chignecto, not much changed in the Acadian lands, except, that at Piziquid and Grand Pre there was now located English forts: Fort Edward and Vieux Logis33. The fort at Annapolis Royal, Fort Anne, continued to be manned by English soldiers as it had since 1710. (See nos. 1, 2, 3 & 11 on map.) Halifax, for the Acadians an out-of-the-way place, developed into an impressive capital in the wilderness. It became, mainly due to the Indian threat, well fortified; and, possessing a superb harbour with no tidal problems (unlike the Bay of Fundy), was fast becoming an important British terminus for ocean going vessels. The Acadian community at the isthmus, Beaubassin, a fertile place at which Acadians had started putting in their roots as far back as 1676, -- in 1750, disappeared. Most all of the French structures, being led by the French priest, Le Loutre, were burnt by the Indians and the population driven over the border into territory which these days we know as New Brunswick. (See The Burning of Beaubassin.) The English territory at the Isthmus of Chignecto, as of 1750, had no Acadian population. There, at the isthmus, the French military (not the Acadians) had drawn a line, as was represented by the Missaquash River (See the French map of 1750); the French were to remain to the north of it, the English to the south of it. There, too, at the isthmus, in 1750, the opposing sides built their forts: Fort Beausejour and Fort Lawrence. On a review of this period, 1750-54, it seems plain that the English concentrated their limited resources in the fortification of Nova Scotia and generally made no demands on the Acadians; and, in particular, the taking of the Oath of Allegiance.

Governor Cornwallis was unhappy with his post, he wanted to get back to his aristocratic life in England and the many entreaties made by him and his influential friends back home were to eventually bring him relief. Colonel Peregrine Thomas Hopson was appointed governor, a man we spoke of earlier who had been in Halifax briefly during the summer of 1749 and then had returned to England. Hopson arrived at Halifax in 1752 to take over from Cornwallis. He had been the last English governor at Louisbourg before it was returned back to the French, in 1749. It is reported that Hopson was a "mild and peaceable" officer and was well respected by has own people and by the French. He was equally respected by the Indians, and, within four months of his arrival at Halifax, had concluded a treaty with them. It was Hopson, too, who, incidently, finally dealt with the burdensome problem of an over collection of "English" settlers at Halifax: he saw to the establishment of Lunenburg. He had no time or inclination to stir up the Acadians by making any demands upon them; indeed, he made it a policy to deal with them as if they were British citizens.

"You [Hopson's subordinate officers] are to look on the French Inhabitants in the same light with the rest of His Majesty's Subjects, as to the protection of the laws of the government, for which reason nothing is to be taken from them in force, or any price set upon their goods but what they themselves agree to; and if at any time the Inhabitants should obstinately refuse to comply with what his Majesty's service may require of them. You are not to redress yourself by military force, or in any unlawful manner, but to lay the case before the Governor and wait his orders thereon. You are to cause the following orders to be stuck up in the most public part of the fort, both in English and French:
1. The provisions or any commodities that the inhabitants of the country shall bring to the fort to sell, are not to be taken from them at any fixed price, but to be paid for according to a free agreement made between them and the purchasers.
2. No officer, non-commissioned officer, or soldier, shall presume to insult or otherwise abuse any of the Inhabitants of the country, who are upon all occasions to be treated as His Majesty's, and to whom the laws of the country are open, to protect as well as to punish.
At the season of laying in fuel for the fort, you are to signify to the Inhabitants by their Deputies, that is his Excellency's pleasure they lay in the quantity of wood that you require, and when they have complied, you are to give them certificates specifying what quantity they have furnished, which will entitle them to payment at Halifax."
Due to health problems, in November of 1753, Nova Scotia was to lose Governor Hopson (he had serious eye problems). The scene was then set for Charles Lawrence to step forward. He was, with the departure of Hopson, the most senior man in the province.35 Lawrence had been in the province since 1749 and during the course of the time leading up to his appointment as the chief administrator of the province, in 1753, had had a number of direct dealings with the Acadians. The record36 gives us some indication that he was not liked by the Acadians; thus, it is likely, that his appointment was greeted, in the Acadian way, with a knowing look and a silent nod of the head as the one told the other; and in the background, we might have seen, perched on an Acadian tree, there high overlooking the scene, an omen-bearing bird, such as a ball-headed eagle or a wise old owl.

Lawrence was to take no precipitous steps in the first period of his administration, mainly, I think, because he was not so sure of his power. Hopson, or another favourite of the Lords of Trade, may well show up and announce that Lawrence was to reassume his secondary position; he was after all just holding things down until he heard from England. Lawrence did hear from England; and, to his great gratification, he was to receive papers on October 6th, 1754, direct from England: Charles Lawrence was to be the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia. On October 21st, amidst pomp and ceremony, Lawrence was officially sworn in at Halifax by Jonathan Belcher, who, by the way, and at the same time as Lawrence, was to learn of his appointment as the first Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. Winter was soon to close in, and those in Nova Scotia, whether English, French or Indian, would stick close to their respective home fires. In the spring, however, we see Lawrence writing his commander at Piziquid. Monckton's forces had just sailed from Boston and the plans were now set to attack the French garrison at Fort Beausejour. Lawrence wanted to give a stern warning to the Acadians; whom, he, as a careful military man, only ever considered were but a dangerous threat at the backs of the English.

"I [Lawrence] desire you [Captain Murray at Piziquid] would, at this time also, acquaint the Deputies that their Happiness and future welfare depends very much on their present behaviour, & that they may be assured, if any Inhabitant either old or Young should offer to go to Beausejour, or to take arms or induce others to commit any Act of Hostility upon the English, or to make any Declaration in favour of the French, they will be treated as Rebels, their Estates and Families undergo immediate Military Execution, and their persons if apprehended shall suffer the utmost Rigour of the Law, and every severity that I can inflict; and on the other Hand such Inhabitants as behave like English Subjects, shall enjoy English Liberty & Protection."37

[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 7 - The Deportation Orders.]

(Now Available As A Book)

Found this material Helpful?

Custom Search
[INTRODUCTION -- Book 1 (1500-1763)]
[INTRODUCTION -- Book 2 (1760-1815)]

2012 (2014)