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poured into the strife the venom of the fiercest passion that rages in the breast of man. The Puritanism of New England and the Catholicism of the French on our northern borders wrought upon each other a succession of indescribable enormities.
As we look back upon those times, we can hardly believe that the scenes which present themselves to us were really enacted, within the memory of our fathers
that our own ancestors, and of no distant generation, were sufferers and actors in them. We feel that the details of blood and conflagration, of midnight assault and desperate resistance, of a struggle to the death among Christian men, are more like the inventions of the fabulist than the sober narrations of history. The combatants, armed to the teeth, and burning with every ferocious passion that Christianity condemns, dared to appeal to the God of battles, and invoke the succour of his red right arm. The party victorious by superiority of brute force, or of machines ingeniously efficient in killing, or by greater skill in the studied evolutions and arrangements of murder, dared to return reeking from the field of death to profane by their thanksgivings the temples consecrated to the service of a religion of love, and to insult the Almighty by attributing to his sanction of their cause the triumph they had gained over their enemies by a more consummate mastery of the art of slaughter.
The poem whose title we have placed at the head of this article has reawakened an interest in some of these terrible passages of our colonial history. The particular event on which the poem is founded attracts but little the notice of historians. The transaction was but one in a mighty series of events which were convulsing Europe and America. It took place in a remote corner of the earth, and affected the fates and fortunes of an humble people, who were but slightly connected with the great destinies of the world.
And yet it combines more of cruelty and suffering, more of perfidy and foul wrong, more of deliberate, premeditated atrocity, than any single act which we can call to mind. Treachery, kidnapping, pillage, arson, and murder, — the sending of innocent men, tender women, and helpless children, to suffer, starve, and die among strangers who hated them as enemies and abhorred them as idolaters, these are the crimes which blend in this transaction, and form together the darkest page of guilt in our American history.
The name of Acadie is derived from the Indian appellation of a river in what is now called Nova Scotia. The country itself is designated in some of the early grants as Lacadie and La Cadie, but the name as written above finally became the established appellation for an indefinite extent of territory, reaching from the peninsula westward and southwestward, and sometimes asserted to extend as far as the Penobscot river. In the numerous disputes between the French and the English previous to 1763, this territory changed masters ten or a dozen times, and the boundaries were widened or narrowed according to the respective views of the opposing parties.
The English founded a claim to the country in question upon the discoveries of John Cabot, who was supposed to have seen a part of Nova Scotia, in June, 1497, shortly before he arrived on the coast of the mainland. The French also claimed to be the first discoverers of the peninsula, and if the voyage of Cabot is set aside, their assertions seem to be well supported by facts. It is stated that an old French navigator, Scavalet, had made many voyages to the harbour of Canseau, an excellent fishing-station on the east side of Nova Scotia, previous to 1609.* In 1598, the Marquis de la Roche sailed from France with a number of convicts from the prisons, and attempted to make a settlement on the Isle of Sable. Some of the party remained there, in a condition of great misery, more than seven years, when the only twelve survivors of the forty persons who constituted the original setilement were carried back to France by the command of the king. In 1603, De Monts was commissioned by Henry IV. as governor of the country from the 40th to the 46th degree of north latitude, with a grant of the monopoly of the fur-trade through this whole region, which was called New France. He arrived in Acadie in March, 1604, and explored the coast to a considerable extent, and in the autumn returned to France, leaving his lieutenant, Pontgrave, to explore the interior. In 1606, De Monts, accompanied by Poitrincourt, sailed from Honfleur, and, after a long and tempestuous voyage, arrived at Canseau ; but in the August following, he and Pontgrave returned to France, while Poitrincourt explored the coast as far south as Cape Malabar.
* Haliburton's History, Vol. I.
The latter returned in November to Port Royal, which he had previously founded, and where the little colony passed the winter.
The settlement was finally broken up by an expedition sent by Sir Thomas Dale, the governor of Virginia, under the command of Captain Argall, eight years after its first establisbment.
“ The only pretext,” says Haliburton, “for 2 this hostile expedition, in a time of profound peace, was the
encroachment of the French on the rights of the English, founded on the discovery of Cabot.” Under the patronage of Charles I., an attempt was made by Sir William Alexander to establish an English colony ; but by the treaty of St. Germain, Charles resigned to Louis XIII. all his rights to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Canada, and vigorous measures were taken by the government of France to extend and strengthen their settlements in North America. These settlements soon came into collision with the Puritans of Massachusetts, which led to a sort of treaty of peace between Governor Endicott and M. Daubre, the governor of Acadie, in 1644. Ten years later, a force was despatched by Oliver Cromwell for the recovery of Nova Scotia, and Port Royal easily fell into the hands of the invaders ; but no furiher measures were taken for the permanent occupation of the country, and the French inhabitants continued their usual occupations and the traffic with the natives. The treaty of Breda, in 1667, surrendered the peninsula again to France, and from this time, for a period of twenty years, the colony remained undisturbed, and the population received some slight increase, though it still amounted only to about nine hundred.
The next important revolution in the state of the province was the expedition against Port Royal by the Massachusetts troops under command of Sir William Phips, in 1688, and the capitulation agreed upon by that officer and M. Menival, the French governor. The terms of the surrender, which had been sanctioned only by the verbal pledge of Sir William, were violated, and the people were required to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary ; but the French, notwithstanding their defenceless state, and the terrible calamities they were exposed to by the attacks of the pirates, remained in possession of the country. The new charter granted to Massachusetts by William and Mary annexed to that colony the conquered territory of Nova Scotia ; but the difficulties experienced in enforcing jurisdiction caused it to be erected
into a separate province, and it continued in the possession of the English until the peace of Ryswick, in 1696, restored it once more to France.
The attempt to establish a boundary-line between the English territories and Acadie was unsuccessful. The French commenced a series of encroachments which the unsettled state of the boundaries gave them opportunity to prosecute, and which created great alarm throughout the English provinces. The difficulties were increased by the contradictory grants of land made by the respective sovereigns, which led to frequent bloody collisions. The renewal of the war between England and France in 1701 was followed by the expedition of Colonel Church in 1704, who cruelly ravaged many of the French villages, and broke down the dikes which sheltered their most fertile lands from the sea ; another but less successful invasion, by a body of one thousand troops raised in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, took place in 1707 ; a third was fitted out in 1710, which compelled the French at Port Royal to capitulate. The province, however, had not been entirely subdued, when hostilities were again ended by the treaty of Utrecht, in April, 1713.
By the 12th article of this treaty, the king of France surrendered to Great Britain - all Nova Scotia or Acadie, with its ancient boundaries, as also the city of Port Royal, now called Annapolis Royal, and all other things in those parts, which depend on the said lands and islands." * Immediately afterwards, the English organized a colonial government, and divided the province into districts. The French inhabitants were required to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown, which they refused to do, except with the reservation that they should never be called upon to bear arms against their ancient sovereign, for whom they cherished an inviolable attachment. Measures were taken to encourage English settlements, but the population increased slowly ; for the Indians were implacably hostile to the English, and always ready to join the French, on the breaking out of hostilities. They refused to acknowledge the English authority, and the French affected to regard them as an independent nation, which could not be held by the pro
* Collection of
reaties, Vol. III. p. 432.
visions of the treaty. The spirit of encroachment continued to animate the French, and the hostilities between the two races were aggravated by the horrors of savage warfare. In March, 1744, war was again declared by France against England, and fresh attempts were made to regain Nova Scotia. The extraordinary enterprise planned in Boston against the strong fortress of Louisburg, which was reduced by a body of New England volunteers after a siege of forty-nine days, is one of the most remarkable achievements in the military history of the New World ; but the conquerors had the mortification of seeing that stronghold restored to the French by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748.
During the whole period between the treaty of Utrecht and the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, but little progress was made by the English in settling the colony, and the French were induced to renew their encroachments to such a degree as seriously to alarm the British ministry. A plan was formed and sanctioned by the king, to tempt the officers and privates who had lately been dismissed from the army and navy to emigrate, the result of which was the founding of a town on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, called Halifax, in honor of the Earl of Halifax, the President of the Board of Trade and Plantations. But the French were at the same time active in seizing and fortifying strongholds to hem the British in on all sides. The boundary controversy was renewed with great ardor, and though commissioners were appointed to settle the disputed claims, no such settlement could be effected. The friendly overtures which the Acadians made to the new English town were disapproved by the court of France, and both the French and Indians began a series of aggressions very injurious to the English. As a measure of security, Governor Cornwallis issued a proclama tion, requiring all the Acadians to take the unqualified oath of allegiance within three months, but to little purpose. A body of French troops built the fort of Beau Séjour, and the English erected Fort Lawrence on the opposite side of the river. These proceedings and other outrages of the French were the subject of a memorial from the Earl of Aberdeen to the court of France, complaining of injuries and demanding redress. But notwithstanding the promises which this proceeding extorted, nothing was done to check the course of aggression pursued by the French commander-in-chief.