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1710-1754 Conflict for Acadia

While in the West all the signs of the sky foreboded storm, another tempest was gathering the East, less in extent, but not less in peril. The conflict in Acadia has a melancholy interest, since it ended in a castastrophe which prose and verse have joined to commemorate, but of which the causes have not been understood.


Acadia--that it to say, the peninsula of Nova Scotia, with the addition, as the English claimed, of the present New Brunswick and some adjacent country--was conquered by General Nicholson in 1710, and formally transferred by France to the British Crown, three years later, by the treaty of Utrecht. By that treaty it was "expressly provided" that such of the French inhabitants as "are willing to remain there and to be subject to the Kingdom of Great Britain, are to enjoy the free exercise of their religion according to the usage of the Church of Rome, as far as the laws of Great Britain do allow the same"; but that any who choose may remove, with their effects, if they do so within a year. Very few availed themselves of this right; and after the end of the year those who remained were required to take an oath of allegiance to King George. There is no doubt that in a little time they would have complied, had they been let alone; but the French authorities of Canada and Cape Breton did their utmost to prevent them, and employed agents to keep them hostile to England. Of these the most efficient were the French priests, who, in spite of the treaty, persuaded their flocks that they were still subjects of King Louis. Hence rose endless perplexity to the English commanders at Annapolis, who more than suspected that the Indian attacks with which they were harassed were due mainly to French instigation.[72] It was not till seventeen years after the treaty that the Acadians could be brought to take the oath without qualifications which made it almost useless. The English authorities seem to have shown throughout an unusual patience and forbearance. At length, about 1730, nearly all the inhabitants signed by crosses, since few of them could write, an oath recognizing George II as sovereign of Acadia, and promising fidelity and obedience to him.[73] This restored comparative quiet till the war of 1745, when some of the Acadians remained neutral, while some took arms against the English, and many others aided the enemy with information and supplies.

[Footnote 72: See the numerous papers in _Selections from the Public Documents of the Province of Nova Scotia_ (Halifax, 1869), pp. 1-165; a Government publication of great value.]

[Footnote 73: The oath was _literatim_ as follows: "Je Promets et Jure Sincerement en Foi de Chrétien que Je serai entierement Fidele, et Obeierai Vraiment Sa Majesté Le Roy George Second, qui (_sic_) Je reconnoi pour Le Souvrain Seigneur de l'Accadie ou Nouvelle Ecosse. Ainsi Dieu me Soit en Aide."]

English power in Acadia, hitherto limited to a feeble garrison at Annapolis and a feebler one at Canseau, received at this time a great accession. The fortress of Louisbourg, taken by the English during the war, had been restored by the treaty; and the French at once prepared to make it a military and naval station more formidable than ever. Upon this the British Ministry resolved to establish another station as a counterpoise; and the harbor of Chebucto, on the south coast of Acadia, was chosen as the site of it. Thither in June, 1749, came a fleet of transports loaded with emigrants, tempted by offers of land and a home in the New World. Some were mechanics, tradesmen, farmers, and laborers; others were sailors, soldiers, and subaltern officers thrown out of employment by the peace. Including women and children, they counted in all about twenty-five hundred. Alone of all the British colonies on the continent, this new settlement was the offspring, not of private enterprise, but of royal authority. Yet is was free like the rest, with the same popular representation and local self-government. Edward Cornwallis, uncle of Lord Cornwallis of the Revolutionary War, was made governor and commander-in-chief. Wolfe calls him "a man of approved courage and fidelity"; and even the caustic Horace Walpole speaks of him as "a brave, sensible young man, of great temper and good nature."

Before summer was over, the streets were laid out, and the building-lot of each settler was assigned to him; before winter closed, the whole were under shelter, the village was fenced with palisades and defended by redoubts of timber, and the battalions lately in garrison at Louisbourg manned the wooden ramparts. Succeeding years brought more emigrants, and in 1752 the population was above four thousand. Thus was born into the world the city of Halifax. Along with the crumbling old fort and miserably disciplined garrison at Annapolis, besides six or seven small detached posts to watch the Indians and Acadians, it comprised the whole British force on the peninsula; for Canseau had been destroyed by the French.

The French had never reconciled themselves to the loss of Acadia, and were resolved, by diplomacy or force, to win it back again; but the building of Halifax showed that this was to be no easy task, and filled them at the same time with alarm for the safety of Louisbourg. On one point, at least, they saw their policy clear. The Acadians, though those of them who were not above thirty-five had been born under the British flag, must be kept French at heart, and taught that they were still French subjects. In 1748 they numbered eighty-eight hundred and fifty communicants, or from twelve to thirteen thousand souls; but an emigration, of which the causes will soon appear, had reduced them in 1752 to but little more than nine thousand.[74] These were divided into six principal parishes, one of the largest being that of Annapolis. Other centres of population were Grand Pré, on the basin of Mines; Beaubassin, at the head of Chignecto Bay; Pisiquid, now Windsor; and Cobequid, now Truro. Their priests, who were missionaries controlled by the diocese of Quebec, acted also as their magistrates, ruling them for this world and the next. Bring subject to a French superior, and being, moreover, wholly French at heart, they formed in this British province a wheel within a wheel, the inner movement always opposing the outer.

[Footnote 74: _Description de l'Acadie, avec le Nom des Paroisses et le Nombre des Habitants, 1748. Mémoire à  présenter à  la Cour sur la necessité de fixer les Limites de l'Acadie,_ par l'Abbé de l'Isle-Dieu, 1753 (1754?). Compare the estimates in _Censuses of Canada_ (Ottawa, 1876.)]

Although, by the twelfth article of the treaty of Utrecht, France had solemnly declared the Acadians to be British subjects, the Government of Louis XV intrigued continually to turn them from subjects into enemies. Before me is a mass of English documents on Acadian affairs from the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle to the catastrophe of 1755, and above a thousand pages of French official papers from the archives of Paris, memorials, reports, and secret correspondence, relating to the same matters. With the help of these and some collateral lights, it is not difficult to make a correct diagnosis of the political disease that ravaged this miserable country. Of a multitude of proofs, only a few can be given here; but these will suffice.

It was not that the Acadians had been ill-used by the English; the reverse was the case. They had been left in free exercise of their worship, as stipulated by treaty. It is true that, from time to time, there were loud complaints from French officials that religion was in danger, because certain priests had been rebuked, arrested, brought before the Council at Halifax, suspended from their functions, or required, on pain of banishment, to swear that they would do nothing against the interests of King George. Yet such action on the part of the provincial authorities seems, without a single exception, to have been the consequence of misconduct on the part of the priest, in opposing the Government and stirring his flock to disaffection. La Jonquière, the determined adversary of the English, reported to the bishop that they did not oppose the ecclesiastics in the exercise of their functions, and an order of Louis XV admits that the Acadians have enjoyed liberty of religion.[75] In a long document addressed in 1750 to the Colonial Minister at Versailles, Roma, an officer at Louisbourg, testifies thus to the mildness of British rule, though he ascribes it to interested motives. "The fear that the Acadians have of the Indians is the controlling motive which makes them side with the French. The English, having in view the conquest of Canada, wished to give the French of that colony, in their conduct towards the Acadians, a striking example of the mildness of their government. Without raising the fortune of any of the inhabitants, they have supplied them for more than thirty-five years with the necessaries of life, often on credit and with an excess of confidence, without troubling their debtors, without pressing them, without wishing to force them to pay. They have left them an appearance of liberty so excessive that they have not intervened in their disputes or even punished their crimes. They have allowed them to refuse with insolence certain moderate rents payable in grain and lawfully due. They have passed over in silence the contemptuous refusal of the Acadians to take titles from them for the new lands which they chose to occupy.[76]

[Footnote 75: _La Jonquière à  Ã‰vêque de Québec, 14 Juin, 1750. Mémoire du Roy pour servir d'Instruction au Comte de Raymond, commandant pour Sa Majesté à  l'Isle Royale_ [Cape Breton], _24 Avril, 1751_.]

[Footnote 76: See Appendix B.]

"We know very well," pursues Roma, "the fruits of this conduct in the last war; and the English know it also. Judge then what will be the wrath and vengeance of this cruel nation." The fruits to which Roma alludes were the hostilities, open or secret, committed by the Acadians against the English. He now ventures the prediction that the enraged conquerors will take their revenge by drafting all the young Acadians on board their ships of war, and there destroying them by slow starvation. He proved, however, a false prophet. The English Governor merely required the inhabitants to renew their oath of allegiance, without qualification or evasion.

It was twenty years since the Acadians had taken such an oath; and meanwhile a new generation had grown up. The old oath pledged them to fidelity and obedience; but they averred that Phillips, then governor of the province, had given them, at the same time, assurance that they should not be required to bear arms against either French or Indians. In fact, such service had not been demanded of them, and they would have lived in virtual neutrality, had not many of them broken their oaths and joined the French war-parties. For this reason Cornwallis thought it necessary that, in renewing the pledge, they should bind themselves to an allegiance as complete as that required of other British subjects. This spread general consternation. Deputies from the Acadian settlements appeared at Halifax, bringing a paper signed with the marks of a thousand persons. The following passage contains the pith of it. "The inhabitants in general, sir, over the whole extent of this country are resolved not to take the oath which your Excellency requires of us; but if your Excellency will grant us our old oath, with an exemption for ourselves and our heirs from taking up arms, we will accept it."[77] The answer of Cornwallis was by no means so stern as it has been represented.[78] After the formal reception he talked in private with the deputies; and "they went home in good humor, promising great things."[79]

[Footnote 77: _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 173.]

[Footnote 78: See _Ibid._, 174, where the answer is printed.]

[Footnote 79: _Cornwallis to the Board of Trade, 11 Sept. 1749._]

The refusal of the Acadians to take the required oath was not wholly spontaneous, but was mainly due to influence from without. The French officials of Cape Breton and Isle St. Jean, now Prince Edward Island, exerted themselves to the utmost, chiefly through the agency of the priests, to excite the people to refuse any oath that should commit them fully to British allegiance. At the same time means were used to induce them to migrate to the neighboring islands under French rule, and efforts were also made to set on the Indians to attack the English. But the plans of the French will best appear in a despatch sent by La Jonquière to the Colonial Minister in the autumn of 1749.

"Monsieur Cornwallis issued an order on the tenth of the said month [_August_], to the effect that if the inhabitants will remain faithful subjects of the King of Great Britain, he will allow them priests and public exercise of their religion, with the understanding that no priest shall officiate without his permission or before taking an oath of fidelity to the King of Great Britain. Secondly, that the inhabitants shall not be exempted from defending their houses, their lands, and the Government. Thirdly, that they shall take an oath of fidelity to the King of Great Britain, on the twenty-sixth of this month, before officers sent them for that purpose."

La Jonquière proceeds to say that on hearing these conditions the Acadians were filled with perplexity and alarm, and that he, the governor, had directed Boishébert, his chief officer on the Acadian frontier, to encourage them to leave their homes and seek asylum on French soil. He thus recounts the steps he has taken to harass the English of Halifax by means of their Indian neighbors. As peace had been declared, the operation was delicate; and when three of these Indians came to him from their missionary, Le Loutre, with letters on the subject, La Jonquière was discreetly reticent. "I did not care to give them any advice upon the matter, and confined myself to a promise that I would on no account abandon them; and I have provided for supplying them with everything, whether arms, ammunition, food, or other necessaries. It is to be desired that these savages should succeed in thwarting the designs of the English, and even their settlement at Halifax. They are bent on doing so; and if they can carry out their plans, it is certain that they will give the English great trouble, and so harass them that they will be a great obstacle in their path. These savages are to act alone; neither soldier nor French inhabitant is to join them; everything will be done of their own motion, and without showing that I had any knowledge of the matter. This is very essential; therefore I have written to the Sieur de Boishébert to observe great prudence in his measures, and to act very secretly, in order that the English may not perceive that we are providing for the needs of the said savages."

"It will be the missionaries who will manage all the negotiation, and direct the movements of the savages, who are in excellent hands, as the Reverend Father Germain and Monsieur l'Abbé Le Loutre are very capable of making the most of them, and using them to the greatest advantage for our interests. They will manage their intrigue in such a way as not to appear in it."

La Jonquière then recounts the good results which he expects from these measures: first, the English will be prevented from making any new settlements; secondly, we shall gradually get the Acadians out of their hands; and lastly, they will be so discouraged by constant Indian attacks that they will renounce their pretensions to the parts of the country belonging to the King of France. "I feel, Monseigneur,"--thus the Governor concludes his despatch,--"all the delicacy of this negotiation; be assured that I will conduct it with such precaution that the English will not be able to say that my orders had any part in it."[80]

[Footnote 80: _La Jonquière au Ministre, 9 Oct. 1749_. See Appendix B.]

He kept his word, and so did the missionaries. The Indians gave great trouble on the outskirts of Halifax, and murdered many harmless settlers; yet the English authorities did not at first suspect that they were hounded on by their priests, under the direction of the Governor of Canada, and with the privity of the Minister at Versailles. More than this; for, looking across the sea, we find royalty itself lending its august countenance to the machination. Among the letters read before the King in his cabinet in May, 1750, was one from Desherbiers, then commanding at Louisbourg, saying that he was advising the Acadians not to take the oath of allegiance to the King of England; another from Le Loutre, declaring that he and Father Germain were consulting together how to disgust the English with their enterprise of Halifax; and a third from the Intendant, Bigot, announcing that Le Loutre was using the Indians to harass the new settlement, and that he himself was sending them powder, lead, and merchandise, "to confirm them in their good designs."[81]

[Footnote 81: _Resumé des Lettres lues au Travail du Roy, Mai, 1750_.]

To this the Minister replies in a letter to Desherbiers: "His Majesty is well satisfied with all you have done to thwart the English in their new establishment. If the dispositions of the savages are such as they seem, there is reason to hope that in the course of the winter they will succeed in so harassing the settlers that some of them will become disheartened." Desherbiers is then told that His Majesty desires him to aid English deserters in escaping from Halifax.[82] Supplies for the Indians are also promised; and he is informed that twelve medals are sent him by the frigate "La Mutine," to be given to the chiefs who shall most distinguish themselves. In another letter Desherbiers is enjoined to treat the English authorities with great politeness.[83]

[Footnote 82: In 1750 nine captured deserters from Phillips's regiment declared on their trial that the French had aided them and supplied them all with money. _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 193.]

[Footnote 83: _Le Ministre à  Desherbiers, 23 Mai, 1750; Ibid., 31 Mai, 1750_.]

When Count Raymond took command at Louisbourg, he was instructed, under the royal hand, to give particular attention to the affairs of Acadia, especially in two points,--the management of the Indians, and the encouraging of Acadian emigration to countries under French rule. "His Majesty," says the document, "has already remarked that the savages have been most favorably disposed. It is of the utmost importance that no means be neglected to keep them so. The missionaries among them are in a better position than anybody to contribute to this end, and His Majesty has reason to be satisfied with the pains they take therein. The Sieur de Raymond will excite these missionaries not to slacken their efforts; but he will warn them at the same time so to contain their zeal as not to compromise themselves with the English, and give just occasion of complaint."[84] That is, the King orders his representative to encourage the missionaries in instigating their flocks to butcher English settlers, but to see that they take care not to be found out. The injunction was hardly needed. "Monsieur Desherbiers," says a letter of earlier date, "has engaged Abbé Le Loutre to distribute the usual presents among the savages, and Monsieur Bigot has placed in his hands an additional gift of cloth, blankets, powder, and ball, to be given them in case they harass the English at Halifax. This missionary is to induce them to do so."[85] In spite of these efforts, the Indians began to relent in their hostilities; and when Longueuil became provisional governor of Canada, he complained to the Minister that it was very difficult to prevent them from making peace with the English, though Father Germain was doing his best to keep them on the war-path.[86] La Jonquière, too, had done his best, even to the point of departing from his original policy of allowing no soldier or Acadian to take part with them. He had sent a body of troops under La Corne, an able partisan officer, to watch the English frontier; and in the same vessel was sent a supply of "merchandise, guns, and munitions for the savages and the Acadians who may take up arms with them; and the whole is sent under pretext of trading in furs with the savages."[87] On another occasion La Jonquière wrote: "In order that the savages may do their part courageously, a few Acadians, dressed and painted in their way, could join them to strike the English. I cannot help consenting to what these savages do, because we have our hands tied [_by the peace_], and so can do nothing ourselves. Besides, I do not think that any inconvenience will come of letting the Acadians mingle among them, because if they [_the Acadians_] are captured, we shall say that they acted of their own accord."[88] In other words, he will encourage them to break the peace; and then, by means of a falsehood, have them punished as felons. Many disguised Acadians did in fact join the Indian war-parties; and their doing so was no secret to the English. "What we call here an Indian war," wrote Hopson, successor of Cornwallis, "is no other than a pretence for the French to commit hostilities on His Majesty's subjects."

[Footnote 84: _Mémoire du Roy pour servir d'Instruction au Comte de Raymond, 24 Avril, 1751_.]

[Footnote 85: _Lettre commune de Desherbiers et Bigot au Ministre, 15 Août, 1749_.]

[Footnote 86: _Longueuil au Ministre, 26 Avril, 1752_.]

[Footnote 87: _Bigot au Ministre, 1749_.]

[Footnote 88: _Dépêches de la Jonquière, 1 Mai, 1751_. See Appendix B.]

At length the Indians made peace, or pretended to do so. The chief of Le Loutre's mission, who called himself Major Jean-Baptiste Cope, came to Halifax with a deputation of his tribe, and they all affixed their totems to a solemn treaty. In the next summer they returned with ninety or a hundred warriors, were well entertained, presented with gifts, and sent homeward in a schooner. On the way they seized the vessel and murdered the crew. This is told by Prévost, intendant at Louisbourg, who does not say that French instigation had any part in the treachery.[89] It is nevertheless certain that the Indians were paid for this or some contemporary murder; for Prévost, writing just four weeks later, says: "Last month the savages took eighteen English scalps, and Monsieur Le Loutre was obliged to pay them eighteen hundred livres, Acadian money, which I have reimbursed him."[90]

[Footnote 89: _Prévost au Ministre, 12 Mars, 1753; Ibid., 17 July_, 1753. Prévost was _ordonnateur_, or intendant, at Louisbourg. The treaty will be found in full in _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 683.]

[Footnote 90: _Prévost au Ministre, 16 Août_, 1753.]

From the first, the services of this zealous missionary had been beyond price. Prévost testifies that, though Cornwallis does his best to induce the Acadians to swear fidelity to King George, Le Loutre keeps them in allegiance to King Louis, and threatens to set his Indians upon them unless they declare against the English. "I have already," adds Prévost, "paid him 11,183 livres for his daily expenses; and I never cease advising him to be as economical as possible, and always to take care not to compromise himself with the English Government."[91] In consequence of "good service to religion and the state," Le Loutre received a pension of eight hundred livres, as did also Maillard, his brother missionary on Cape Breton. "The fear is," writes the Colonial Minister to the Governor of Louisbourg, "that their zeal may carry them too far. Excite them to keep the Indians in our interests, but do not let them compromise us. Act always so as to make the English appear as aggressors."[92]

[Footnote 91: _Ibid., 22 Juillet_, 1750.]

[Footnote 92: _Le Ministre au Comte de Raymond, 21 Juillet_, 1752. It is curious to compare these secret instructions, given by the Minister to the colonial officials, with a letter which the same Minister, Rouillé, wrote ostensibly to La Jonquière, but which was really meant for the eye of the British Minister at Versailles, Lord Albemarle, to whom it was shown in proof of French good faith. It was afterwards printed, long with other papers, in a small volume called _Précis des Faits, avec Pièces justificatives_ which was sent by the French Government to all the courts of Europe to show that the English alone were answerable for the war. The letter, it is needless to say, breathes the highest sentiments of international honor.]

All the Acadian clergy, in one degree or another, seem to have used their influence to prevent the inhabitants from taking the oath, and to persuade them that they were still French subjects. Some were noisy, turbulent, and defiant; others were too tranquil to please the officers of the Crown. A missionary at Annapolis is mentioned as old, and therefore inefficient; while the curé at Grand Pré, also an elderly man, was too much inclined to confine himself to his spiritual functions. It is everywhere apparent that those who chose these priests, and sent them as missionaries into a British province, expected them to act as enemies of the British Crown. The maxim is often repeated that duty to religion is inseparable from the duty to the King of France. The Bishop of Quebec desired the Abbé de l'Isle-Dieu to represent to the court the need of more missionaries to keep the Acadians Catholic and French; but, he adds, there is danger that they (the missionaries) will be required to take an oath to do nothing contrary to the interests of the King of Great Britain.[93] It is a wonder that such a pledge was not always demanded. It was exacted in a few cases, notably in that of Girard, priest at Cobequid, who, on charges of instigating his flock to disaffection, had been sent prisoner to Halifax, but released on taking an oath in the above terms. Thereupon he wrote to Longueuil at Quebec that his parishioners wanted to submit to the English, and that he, having sworn to be true to the British King, could not prevent them. "Though I don't pretend to be a casuist," writes Longueuil, "I could not help answering him that he is not obliged to keep such an oath, and that he ought to labor in all zeal to preserve and increase the number of the faithful." Girard, to his credit, preferred to leave the colony, and retired to Isle St. Jean.[94]

[Footnote 93: L'Isle-Dieu, _Mémoire sur l'État actuel des Missions, 1753_ (1754?).]

[Footnote 94: _Longueuil au Ministre, 27 Avril, 1752_.]

Cornwallis soon discovered to what extent the clergy stirred their flocks to revolt; and he wrote angrily to the Bishop of Quebec: "Was it you who sent Le Loutre as a missionary to the Micmacs? and is it for their good that he excites these wretches to practise their cruelties against those who have shown them every kindness? The conduct of the priests of Acadia has been such that by command of his Majesty I have published an Order declaring that if any one of them presumes to exercise his functions without my express permission he shall be dealt with according to the laws of England."[95]

[Footnote 95: _Cornwallis to the Bishop of Quebec, 1 Dec. 1749_.]

The English, bound by treaty to allow the Acadians the exercise of their religion, at length conceived the idea of replacing the French priests by others to be named by the Pope at the request of the British Government. This, becoming known to the French, greatly alarmed them, and the Intendant at Louisbourg wrote to the Minister that the matter required serious attention.[96] It threatened, in fact, to rob them of their chief agents of intrigue; but their alarm proved needless, as the plan was not carried into execution.

[Footnote 96: _Daudin, prêtre, à  Prévost, 23 Oct. 1753. Prévost au Ministre, 24 Nov. 1753_.]

The French officials would have been better pleased had the conduct of Cornwallis been such as to aid their efforts to alienate the Acadians; and one writer, while confessing the "favorable treatment" of the English towards the inhabitants, denounces it as a snare.[97] If so, it was a snare intended simply to reconcile them to English rule. Nor was it without effect. "We must give up altogether the idea of an insurrection in Acadia," writes an officer of Cape Breton. "The Acadians cannot be trusted; they are controlled by fear of the Indians, which leads them to breathe French sentiments, even when their inclinations are English. They will yield to their interests; and the English will make it impossible that they should either hurt them or serve us, unless we take measures different from those we have hitherto pursued."[98]

[Footnote 97: _Mémoire à  présenter à  la Cour, 1753_.]

[Footnote 98: _Roma au Ministre, 11 Mars, 1750_.]

During all this time, constant efforts were made to stimulate Acadian emigration to French territory, and thus to strengthen the French frontier. In this work the chief agent was Le Loutre. "This priest," says a French writer of the time, "urged the people of Les Mines, Port Royal [_Annapolis_], and other places, to come and join the French, and promised to all, in the name of the Governor, to settle and support them for three years, and even indemnify them for any losses they might incur; threatening if they did not do as he advised, to abandon them, deprive them of their priests, have their wives and children carried off, and their property laid waste by the Indians."[99] Some passed over the isthmus to the shores of the gulf, and others made their way to the Strait of Canseau. Vessels were provided to convey them, in the one case to Isle St. Jean, now Prince Edward Island, and in the other to Isle Royale, called by the English, Cape Breton. Some were eager to go; some went with reluctance; some would scarcely be persuaded to go at all. "They leave their homes with great regret," reports the Governor of Isle St. Jean, speaking of the people of Cobequid, "and they began to move their luggage only when the savages compelled them."[100] These savages were the flock of Abbé Le Loutre, who was on the spot to direct the emigration. Two thousand Acadians are reported to have left the peninsula before the end of 1751, and many more followed within the next two years. Nothing could exceed the misery of a great part of these emigrants, who had left perforce most of their effects behind. They became disheartened and apathetic. The Intendant at Louisbourg says that they will not take the trouble to clear the land, and that some of them live, like Indians, under huts of spruce-branches.[101] The Governor of Isle St. Jean declares that they are dying of hunger.[102] Girard, the priest who had withdrawn to this island rather than break his oath to the English, writes: "Many of them cannot protect themselves day or night from the severity of the cold. Most of the children are entirely naked; and when I go into a house they are all crouched in the ashes, close to the fire. They run off and hide themselves, without shoes, stockings, or shirts. They are not all reduced to this extremity but nearly all are in want."[103] Mortality among them was great, and would have been greater but for rations supplied by the French Government.

[Footnote 99: _Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760_.]

[Footnote 100: _Bonaventure à  Desherbiers, 26 Juin, 1751_.]

[Footnote 101: _Prévost au Ministre, 25 Nov. 1750_.]

[Footnote 102: _Bonaventure, ut supra_.]

[Footnote 103: _Girard à  (Bonaventure?), 27 Oct. 1753_.]

During these proceedings, the English Governor, Cornwallis, seems to have justified the character of good temper given him by Horace Walpole. His attitude towards the Acadians remained on the whole patient and conciliatory. "My friends," he replied to a deputation of them asking a general permission to leave the province, "I am not ignorant of the fact that every means has been used to alienate the hearts of the French subjects of His Britannic Majesty. Great advantages have been promised you elsewhere, and you have been made to imagine that your religion was in danger. Threats even have been resorted to in order to induce you to remove to French territory. The savages are made use of to molest you; they are to cut the throats of all who remain in their native country, attached to their own interests and faithful to the Government. You know that certain officers and missionaries, who came from Canada last autumn, have been the cause of all our trouble during the winter. Their conduct has been horrible, without honor, probity, or conscience. Their aim is to embroil you with the Government. I will not believe that they are authorized to do so by the Court of France, that being contrary to good faith and the friendship established between the two Crowns."

What foundation there was for this amiable confidence in the Court of Versailles has been seen already. "When you declared your desire to submit yourselves to another Government," pursues Cornwallis, "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 far from being an enemy. We confess, however, that your determination to go gives us pain. We are aware of your industry and temperance, and that you are not addicted to any vice or debauchery. This province is your country. You and your fathers have cultivated it; naturally you ought yourselves to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Such was the design of the King, our master. You know that we have followed his orders. You know that we have done everything to secure to you not only the occupation of your lands, but the ownership of them forever. We have given you also every possible assurance of the free and public exercise of the Roman Catholic religion. But I declare to you frankly that, according to our laws, nobody can possess lands or houses in the province who shall refuse to take the oath of allegiance to his King when required to do so. You know very well that there are ill-disposed and mischievous persons among you who corrupt the others. Your inexperience, your ignorance of the affairs of government, and your habit of following the counsels of those who have not your real interests at heart, make it an easy matter to seduce you. In your petitions you ask for a general leave to quit the province. The only manner in which you can do so is to follow the regulations already established, and provide yourselves with our passport. And we declare that nothing shall prevent us from giving such passports to all who ask for them, the moment peace and tranquillity are re-established."[104] He declares as his reason for not giving them at once, that on crossing the frontier "you will have to pass the French detachments and savages assembled there, and that they compel all the inhabitants who go there to take up arms" against the English. How well this reason was founded will soon appear.

[Footnote 104: The above passages are from two address of Cornwallis, read to the Acadian deputies in April and May, 1750. The combined extracts here given convey the spirit of the whole. See _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 185-190.]

Hopson, the next governor, described by the French themselves as a "mild and peaceable officer," was no less considerate in his treatment of the Acadians; and at the end of 1752 he issued the following order to his military subordinates: "You are to look on the French inhabitants in the same light as the rest of His Majesty's subjects, as to the protection of the laws and government; for which reason nothing is to be taken from them by 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."[105] Unfortunately, the mild rule of Cornwallis and Hopson was not always maintained under their successor, Lawrence.

[Footnote 105: _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 197.]

Louis Joseph Le Loutre, vicar-general of Acadia and missionary to the Micmacs, was the most conspicuous person in the province, and more than any other man was answerable for the miseries that overwhelmed it. The sheep of which he was the shepherd dwelt, at a day's journey from Halifax, by the banks of the River Shubenacadie, in small cabins of logs, mixed with wigwams of birch-bark. They were not a docile flock; and to manage them needed address, energy, and money,--with all of which the missionary was provided. He fed their traditional dislike of the English, and fanned their fanaticism, born of the villanous counterfeit of Christianity which he and his predecessors had imposed on them. Thus he contrived to use them on the one hand to murder the English, and on the other to terrify the Acadians; yet not without cost to the French Government; for they had learned the value of money, and, except when their blood was up, were slow to take scalps without pay. Le Loutre was a man of boundless egotism, a violent spirit of domination, an intense hatred of the English, and a fanaticism that stopped at nothing. Towards the Acadians he was a despot; and this simple and superstitious people, extremely susceptible to the influence of their priests, trembled before him. He was scarcely less masterful in his dealings with the Acadian clergy; and, aided by his quality of the Bishop's vicar-general, he dragooned even the unwilling into aiding his schemes. Three successive governors of New France thought him invaluable, yet feared the impetuosity of his zeal, and vainly tried to restrain it within safe bounds. The bishop, while approving his objects, thought his medicines too violent, and asked in a tone of reproof: "Is it right for you to refuse the Acadians the sacraments, to threaten that they shall be deprived of the services of a priest, and that the savages shall treat them as enemies?"[106] "Nobody," says a French Catholic contemporary, "was more fit than he to carry discord and desolation into a country."[107] Cornwallis called him "a good-for-nothing scoundrel," and offered a hundred pounds for his head.[108]

[Footnote 106: _L'Évêque de Québec à  Le Loutre_; translation in _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 240.]

[Footnote 107: _Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760_.]

[Footnote 108: On Le Loutre, compare _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 178-180, _note_, with authorities there cited; _N.Y. Col. Docs._, X. 11; _Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760_ (Quebec, 1838).]

The authorities at Halifax, while exasperated by the perfidy practised on them, were themselves not always models of international virtue. They seized a French vessel in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the charge--probably true--that she was carrying arms and ammunition to the Acadians and Indians. A less defensible act was the capture of the armed brig "St. François," laden with supplies for a fort lately re-established by the French, at the mouth of the River St. John, on ground claimed by both nations. Captain Rous, a New England officer commanding a frigate in the Royal Navy, opened fire on the "St. François," took her after a short cannonade, and carried her into Halifax, where she was condemned by the court. Several captures of small craft, accused of illegal acts, were also made by the English. These proceedings, being all of an overt nature, gave the officers of Louis XV. precisely what they wanted,--an occasion for uttering loud complaints, and denouncing the English as breakers of the peace.

But the movement most alarming to the French was the English occupation of Beaubassin,--an act perfectly lawful in itself, since, without reasonable doubt, the place was within the limits of Acadia, and therefore on English ground.[109] Beaubassin was a considerable settlement on the isthmus that joins the Acadian peninsula to the mainland. Northwest of the settlement lay a wide marsh, through which ran a stream called the Missaguash, some two miles beyond which rose a hill called Beauséjour. On and near this hill were stationed the troops and Canadians sent under Boishébert and La Corne to watch the English frontier. This French force excited disaffection among the Acadians through all the neighboring districts, and constantly helped them to emigrate. Cornwallis therefore resolved to send an English force to the spot; and accordingly, towards the end of April, 1750, Major Lawrence landed at Beaubassin with four hundred men. News of their approach had come before them, and Le Loutre was here with his Micmacs, mixed with some Acadians whom he had persuaded or bullied to join him. Resolved that the people of Beaubassin should not live under English influence, he now with his own hand set fire to the parish church, while his white and red adherents burned the houses of the inhabitants, and thus compelled them to cross to the French side of the river.[110] This was the first forcible removal of the Acadians. It was as premature as it was violent; since Lawrence, being threatened by La Corne, whose force was several times greater than his own, presently reimbarked. In the following September he returned with seventeen small vessels and about seven hundred men, and again attempted to land on the strand of Beaubassin. La Jonquière says that he could only be resisted indirectly, because he was on the English side of the river. This indirect resistance was undertaken by Le Loutre, who had thrown up a breastwork along the shore and manned it with his Indians and his painted and be-feathered Acadians. Nevertheless the English landed, and, with some loss, drove out the defenders. Le Loutre himself seems not to have been among them; but they kept up for a time a helter-skelter fight, encouraged by two other missionaries, Germain and Lalerne, who were near being caught by the English.[111] Lawrence quickly routed them, took possession of the cemetery, and prepared to fortify himself. The village of Beaubassin, consisting, it is said, of a hundred and forty houses, had been burned in the spring; but there were still in the neighborhood, on the English side, many hamlets and farms, with barns full of grain and hay. Le Loutre's Indians now threatened to plunder and kill the inhabitants if they did not take arms against the English. Few complied, and the greater part fled to the woods.[112] On this the Indians and their Acadian allies set the houses and barns on fire, and laid waste the whole district, leaving the inhabitants no choice but to seek food and shelter with the French.[113]

[Footnote 109: La Jonquière himself admits that he thought so. "Cette partie là  Ã©tant, à  ce que je crois, dépendante de l'Acadie." _La Jonquière au Ministre, 3 Oct. 1750_.]

[Footnote 110: It has been erroneously stated that Beaubassin was burned by its own inhabitants. "Laloutre, ayant vu que les Acadiens ne paroissoient pas fort pressés d'abandonner leurs biens, avoit lui-même mis le feu á l'Église, et l'avoit fait mettre aux maisons des habitants par quelques-uns de ceux qu'il avoit gagnés," etc. _Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760_. "Les sauvages y mirent le feu." _Précis des Faits_, 85. "Les sauvages mirent le feu aux maisons." _Prévost au Ministre, 22 Juillet, 1750_.]

[Footnote 111: La Vallière, _Journal de ce qui s'est passé à  Chenitou_ [Chignecto] _et autres parties des Frontières de l'Acadie, 1750-1751_. La Vallière was an officer on the spot.]

[Footnote 112: _Prévost au Ministre, 27 Sept. 1750_.]

[Footnote 113: "Les sauvages et Accadiens mirent le feu dans toutes les maisons et granges, pleines de bled et de fourrages, ce qui a causé une grande disette." La Vallière, _ut supra_.]

The English fortified themselves on a low hill by the edge of the marsh, planted palisades, built barracks, and named the new work Fort Lawrence. Slight skirmishes between them and the French were frequent. Neither party respected the dividing line of the Missaguash, and a petty warfare of aggression and reprisal began, and became chronic. Before the end of the autumn there was an atrocious act of treachery. Among the English officers was Captain Edward Howe, an intelligent and agreeable person, who spoke French fluently, and had been long stationed in the province. Le Loutre detested him; dreading his influence over the Acadians, by many of whom he was known and liked. One morning, at about eight o'clock, the inmates of Fort Lawrence saw what seemed an officer from Beauséjour, carrying a flag, and followed by several men in uniform, wading through the sea of grass that stretched beyond the Missaguash. When the tide was out, this river was but an ugly trench of reddish mud gashed across the face of the marsh, with a thread of half-fluid slime lazily crawling along the bottom; but at high tide it was filled to the brim with an opaque torrent that would have overflowed, but for the dikes thrown up to confine it. Behind the dike on the farther bank stood the seeming officer, waving his flag in sign that he desired a parley. He was in reality no officer, but one of Le Loutre's Indians in disguise, Etienne Le Bâtard, or, as others say, the great chief, Jean-Baptiste Cope. Howe, carrying a white flag, and accompanied by a few officers and men, went towards the river to hear what he had to say. As they drew near, his looks and language excited their suspicion. But it was too late; for a number of Indians, who had hidden behind the dike during the night, fired upon Howe across the stream, and mortally wounded him. They continued their fire on his companions, but could not prevent them from carrying the dying man to the fort. The French officers, indignant at this villany, did not hesitate to charge it upon Le Loutre; "for," says one of them, "what is not a wicked priest capable of doing?" But Le Loutre's brother missionary, Maillard, declares that it was purely an effect of religious zeal on the part of the Micmacs, who, according to him, bore a deadly grudge against Howe because, fourteen years before, he had spoken words disrespectful to the Holy Virgin.[114] Maillard adds that the Indians were much pleased with what they had done. Finding, however, that they could effect little against the English troops, they changed their field of action, repaired to the outskirts of Halifax, murdered about thirty settlers, and carried off eight or ten prisoners.

[Footnote 114: Maillard, _Les Missions Micmaques_. On the murder of Howe, _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 194, 195, 210; _Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760_, where it is said that Le Loutre was present at the deed; La Vallière, _Journal_, who says that some Acadians took part in it; _Dépêches de la Jonquière_, who says "les sauvages de l'Abbé le Loutre l'ont tué par trahison;" and _Prévost au Ministre, 27 Oct. 1750_.]

Strong reinforcements came from Canada. The French began a fort on the hill of Beauséjour, and the Acadians were required to work at it with no compensation but rations. They were thinly clad, some had neither shoes nor stockings, and winter was begun. They became so dejected that it was found absolutely necessary to give them wages enough to supply their most pressing needs. In the following season Fort Beauséjour was in a state to receive a garrison. It stood on the crown of the hill, and a vast panorama stretched below and around it. In front lay the Bay of Chignecto, winding along the fertile shores of Chipody and Memeramcook. Far on the right spread the great Tantemar marsh; on the left lay the marsh of the Missaguash; and on a knoll beyond it, not three miles distant, the red flag of England waved over the palisades of Fort Lawrence, while hills wrapped in dark forests bounded the horizon.

How the homeless Acadians from Beaubassin lived through the winter is not very clear. They probably found shelter at Chipody and its neighborhood, where there were thriving settlements of their countrymen. Le Loutre, fearing that they would return to their lands and submit to the English, sent some of them to Isle St. Jean. "They refused to go," says a French writer; "but he compelled them at last, by threatening to make the Indians pillage them, carry off their wives and children, and even kill them before their eyes. Nevertheless he kept about him such as were most submissive to his will."[115] In the spring after the English occupied Beaubassin, La Jonquière issued a strange proclamation. It commanded all Acadians to take forthwith an oath of fidelity to the King of France, and to enroll themselves in the French militia, on pain of being treated as rebels.[116] Three years after, Lawrence, who then governed the province, proclaimed in his turn that all Acadians who had at any time sworn fidelity to the King of England, and who should be found in arms against him, would be treated as criminals.[117] Thus were these unfortunates ground between the upper and nether millstones. Le Loutre replied to this proclamation of Lawrence by a letter in which he outdid himself. He declared that any of the inhabitants who had crossed to the French side of the line, and who should presume to return to the English, would be treated as enemies by his Micmacs; and in the name of these, his Indian adherents, he demanded that the entire eastern half of the Acadian peninsula, including the ground on which Fort Lawrence stood, should be at once made over to their sole use and sovereign ownership,[118]--"which being read and considered," says the record of the Halifax Council, "the contents appeared too insolent and absurd to be answered."

[Footnote 115: _Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760_.]

[Footnote 116: _Ordonnance du 12 Avril, 1751_.]

[Footnote 117: _Écrit donné aux Habitants réfugiés à  Beauséjour, 10 Août, 1754_.]

[Footnote 118: _Copie de la Lettre de M. l'Abbé Le Loutre, Prêtre Missionnaire des Sauvages de l'Accadie, à  M. Lawrence à  Halifax, 26 Août, 1754_. There is a translation in _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_.]

The number of Acadians who had crossed the line and were collected about Beauséjour was now large. Their countrymen of Chipody began to find them a burden, and they lived chiefly on Government rations. Le Loutre had obtained fifty thousand livres from the Court in order to dike in, for their use, the fertile marshes of Memeramcook; but the relief was distant, and the misery pressing. They complained that they had been lured over the line by false assurances, and they applied secretly to the English authorities to learn if they would be allowed to return to their homes. The answer was that they might do so with full enjoyment of religion and property, if they would take a simple oath of fidelity and loyalty to the King of Great Britain, qualified by an oral intimation that they would not be required for the present to bear arms.[119] When Le Loutre heard this, he mounted the pulpit, broke into fierce invectives, threatened the terrified people with excommunication, and preached himself into a state of exhaustion.[120] The military commandant at Beauséjour used gentler means of prevention; and the Acadians, unused for generations to think or act for themselves, remained restless, but indecisive, waiting till fate should settle for them the question, under which king?

[Footnote 119: _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 205, 209.]

[Footnote 120: Compare _Mémoires, 1749-1760_, and _Public Documents of Nova Scotia_, 229, 230.]

Meanwhile, for the past three years, the commissioners appointed under the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle to settle the question of boundaries between France and England in America had been in session at Paris, waging interminable war on paper; La Galissonière and Silhouette for France, Shirley and Mildmay for England. By the treaty of Utrecht, Acadia belonged to England; but what was Acadia? According to the English commissioners, it comprised not only the peninsula now called Nova Scotia, but all the immense tract of land between the River St. Lawrence on the north, the Gulf of the same name on the east, the Atlantic on the south, and New England on the west.[121] The French commissioners, on their part, maintained that the name Acadia belonged of right only to about a twentieth part of this territory, and that it did not even cover the whole of the Acadian peninsula, but only its southern coast, with an adjoining belt of barren wilderness. When the French owned Acadia, they gave it boundaries as comprehensive as those claimed for it by the English commissioners; now that it belonged to a rival, they cut it down to a paring of its former self. The denial that Acadia included the whole peninsula was dictated by the need of a winter communication between Quebec and Cape Breton, which was possible only with the eastern portions in French hands. So new was this denial that even La Galissonière himself, the foremost in making it, had declared without reservation two years before that Acadia was the entire peninsula.[122] "If," says a writer on the question, "we had to do with a nation more tractable, less grasping, and more conciliatory, it would be well to insist also that Halifax should be given up to us." He thinks that, on the whole, it would be well to make the demand in any case, in order to gain some other point by yielding this one.[123] It is curious that while denying that the country was Acadia, the French invariably called the inhabitants Acadians. Innumerable public documents, commissions, grants, treaties, edicts, signed by French kings and ministers, had recognized Acadia as extending over New Brunswick and a part of Maine. Four censuses of Acadia while it belonged to the French had recognized the mainland as included in it; and so do also the early French maps. Its prodigious shrinkage was simply the consequence of its possession by an alien.

[Footnote 121: The commission of De Monts, in 1603, defines Acadia as extending from the fortieth to the forty-sixth degrees of latitude,--that is, from central New Brunswick to southern Pennsylvania. Neither party cared to produce the document.]

[Footnote 122: "L'Acadie suivant ses anciennes limites est la presquisle bornée par son isthme." _La Galissonière au Ministre, 25 Juillet, 1749_. The English commissioners were, of course, ignorant of this admission.]

[Footnote 123: _Mémoire de l'Abbée de l'Isle-Dieu, 1753_ (1754?).]

Other questions of limits, more important and equally perilous, called loudly for solution. What line should separate Canada and her western dependencies from the British colonies? Various principles of demarcation were suggested, of which the most prominent on the French side was a geographical one. All countries watered by streams falling into the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi were to belong to her. This would have planted her in the heart of New York and along the crests of the Alleghanies, giving her all the interior of the continent, and leaving nothing to England but a strip of sea-coast. Yet in view of what France had achieved; of the patient gallantry of her explorers, the zeal of her missionaries, the adventurous hardihood of her bushrangers, revealing to civilized mankind the existence of this wilderness world, while her rivals plodded at their workshops, their farms, or their fisheries,--in view of all this, her pretensions were moderate and reasonable compared with those of England. The treaty of Utrecht had declared the Iroquois, or Five Nations, to be British subjects; therefore it was insisted that all countries conquered by them belonged to the British Crown. But what was an Iroquois conquest? The Iroquois rarely occupied the countries they overran. Their military expeditions were mere raids, great or small. Sometimes, as in the case of the Hurons, they made a solitude and called it peace; again, as in the case of the Illinois, they drove off the occupants of the soil, who returned after the invaders were gone. But the range of their war-parties was prodigious; and the English laid claim to every mountain, forest, or prairie where an Iroquois had taken a scalp. This would give them not only the country between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, but also that between Lake Huron and the Ottawa, thus reducing Canada to the patch on the American map now represented by the province of Quebec,--or rather, by a part of it, since the extension of Acadia to the St. Lawrence would cut off the present counties of Gaspé, Rimouski, and Bonaventure. Indeed among the advocates of British claims there were those who denied that France had any rights whatever on the south side of the St. Lawrence.[124] Such being the attitude of the two contestants, it was plain that there was no resort but the last argument of kings. Peace must be won with the sword.

[Footnote 124: The extent of British claims is best shown on two maps of the time, Mitchell's _Map of the British and French Dominions in North America_ and Huske's _New and Accurate Map of North America_; both are in the British Museum. Dr. John Mitchell, in his _Contest in America_ (London, 1757) pushes the English claim to its utmost extreme, and denies that the French were rightful owners of anything in North America except the town of Quebec and the trading-post of Tadoussac. Besides the claim founded on the subjection of the Iroquois to the British Crown, the English somewhat inconsistently advanced others founded on titles obtained by treaty from these same tribes, and others still, founded on the original grants of some of the colonies, which ran indefinitely westward across the continent.]

The commissioners at Paris broke up their sessions, leaving as the monument of their toils four quarto volumes of allegations, arguments, and documentary proofs.[125] Out of the discussion rose also a swarm of fugitive publications in French, English, and Spanish; for the question of American boundaries had become European. There was one among them worth notice from its amusing absurdity. It is an elaborate disquisition, under the title of _Roman politique_, by an author faithful to the traditions of European diplomacy, and inspired at the same time by the new philosophy of the school of Rousseau. He insists that the balance of power must be preserved in America as well as in Europe, because "Nature," "the aggrandizement of the human soul," and the "felicity of man" are unanimous in demanding it. The English colonies are more populous and wealthy than the French; therefore the French should have more land, to keep the balance. Nature, the human soul, and the felicity of man require that France should own all the country beyond the Alleghanies and all Acadia but a strip of the south coast, according to the "sublime negotiations" of the French commissioners, of which the writer declares himself a "religious admirer."[126]

[Footnote 125: _Mémoires des Commissaires de Sa Majesté Très Chrétienne et de ceux de Sa Majesté Brittanique_. Paris, 1755. Several editions appeared.]

[Footnote 126: _Roman politique sur l'État présent des Affaires de l'Amérique_ (Amsterdam, 1756). For extracts from French Documents, see Appendix B.]

We know already that France had used means sharper than negotiation to vindicate her claim to the interior of the continent; had marched to the sources of the Ohio to entrench herself there, and hold the passes of the West against all comers. It remains to see how she fared in her bold enterprise.