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England forces were under the command-in-chief of Colonel Monckton, they were to be employed in carrying this resolution into effect.
Whether this scheme was anticipated by the Massachusetts colonists does not distinctly appear. There are some circumstances which seem to indicate that a portion of it was kept back, through some apprehension lest Colonel Winslow would refuse to become the instrument of its execution. He had expected to command the New England forces as an independent body ; and it required considerable management on the part of Governor Shirley to reconcile him to the subordinate station which he finally accepted, and which made him subject to the orders of the government of Nova Scotia. In a letter to a London correspondent, dated Beau Séjour, he
“Governor Lawrence, being alarmed at their the French] progress in his Majesty's province of Nova Scotia, had projected a plan for putting an end not only to future encroachments, but for removing them from those already made ;
which I was acquainted with by Governor Shirley, and promised the command in the execution, and engaged in the undertaking, and to raise two thousand men in New England, in the pay and at the expense of the government of Nova Scotia ; but the scheme being afterwards altered, as we joined the regulars, I waived the command."
All this looks as if the plan of dispersing the whole Acadian population had at least been contemplated as possible, and this arrangement was made to enable the government of Nova Scotia to employ the New England men, should they finally decide in favor of the measure. This, we have already seen, was actually done by Governor Lawrence, with the approbation of the two highest officers in the English fleet.
The month of July was spent in an indolent manner, ” as Winslow expressed it in a letter to Governor Lawrence, whom he had proposed to visit in Halifax. Early in August, a portion of the forces left Beau Séjour, and then Monckton communicated to Winslow the determination to remove all the French inhabitants out of the province. The adult males were to be assembled at different points, without being apprised of the object for which they had been called together, and then, after the governor's orders had been read to them, they were all to be detained as prisoners.
Colonel Winslow, with part of the troops, under the instructions of Governor Lawrence, proceeded to Grand-Pré, on the Basin of Minas, where he arrived about the middle of August. He quartered his men in the village “masshouse, or church, and established a line of pickets from the church to the church-yard to guard against surprise, having first “sent for the elders to remove all sacred things, to prevent their being defiled by the heretics.” He appropriated the priest's house to his own accommodation. He writes to Governor Shirley, under date of August 22 :— “As to the inhabitants commonly called the Neutrals at Chignecto, the point seems to be settled, and they are to be removed.
The inhabitants throughout the province, it is supposed, will suffer the same treatment, although not equally guilty of open violence as those of Chignecto and Bay of Verte. ... It is likely we shall have our hands full of disagreeable business, to remove people from their ancient habitations."
As the harvest had not yet been gathered in, the execution of the scheme was postponed for a short time. When it was ascertained that this had been done, a proclamation was issued to the inhabitants, dated September 2, commanding “ both old men and young, as well as all the lads of ten years of age, to attend at the church at Grand-Pré, on Friday, the fifth instant, at three of the clock in the afternoon, that we may impart to them what we are ordered to communicate to them ; declaring that no excuse will be admitted on any pretence whatever, on pain of forfeiting goods and chattels, in default of real estate."
Four hundred and eighteen men assembled in the church, on the appointed day. They were immediately surrounded by the soldiers, and Colonel Winslow, in a speech, which is preserved in his manuscripts and printed by Haliburton, explained to them “his Majesty's final resolution." He declared that the part of duty he was now upon, though necessary, was very disagreeable to his natural inake and temper, but that he should proceed to deliver without hesitation his Majesty's orders and instructions, to the effect that the lands, tenements, cattle, and live stock of all kinds belonging to them were forfeited to the crown, and the inhabitants were to be removed from the province ; and ended with declaring all the persons collected at Grand-Pré the king's prisoners.
A fleet of transports had been hired to convey these unhappy people from their native land into perpetual exile. Governor Lawrence's instructions to Colonel Winslow were not merely severe, but shocking to every sentiment of humanity. “If you find that fair means will not do with them, you must proceed by the most rigorous measures possible, not only in compelling them to embark, but in depriving those who shall escape of all means of shelter and support, by burning their houses, and destroying every thing that may afford them the means of subsistence in the country.”
These orders were obeyed to the letter. In the district of Minas, the men, women, and children were forced on board the transports, as soon as the preparations for their embarkation could be made. Some delay took place before the whole number of vessels arrived ; during this time, the people suffered immense hardships, in being suddenly torn from the conveniences and comforts of their homes, and subjected to the rigid surveillance of their captors. Twenty were permitted to be absent for a day at a time, to visit their families and collect provision for the prisoners. The embarkation commenced on the 10th of September ; it being judged expedient to place the young men on board first, one hundred and sixty-one were selected and commanded to proceed to the vessels. They peremptorily refused to be separated from their families, and the soldiers were ordered to advance upon them with bayonets fixed. The prisoners were thus forcibly driven to the shore. They went slowly and reluctantly, weeping, praying, and singing hymns; the road being crowded with women and children, “ who, on their knees, greeted them, as they passed, with their tears and their bless
Then a portion of the elders were embarked, with the same circumstances of woe. Five transports were thus laden with these wretched people. The remainder of the inhabitants of this district of Acadie were kept in confinement, waiting the arrival of other vessels to take them off ; and the whole process of embarkation was not completed in less than eight or nine weeks. In the other districts, the proclamation was not so generally obeyed, and greater cruelties were practised and more distress suffered before the Acadians were secured. From all the districts, some fled to the woods, where they joined the Indians ; a few escaped to Canada ; and many died from fatigue, exposure, and starva
tion. The mixed population of the Madawaska territory are the descendants of Acadian and Indian progenitors.
In the district of Minas, the territory was ravaged, and the houses and buildings of every description were burned to the ground. Winslow sets down in his journal, with the accuracy of an accountant, the items of destruction :: two hundred and fifty houses, two hundred and seventy-six barns, one hundred and fifty-five out-houses, eleven mills, and one “mass-house,” making a sum total of six hundred and ninety-three. The number of persons embarked under the direction of Winslow was fifteen hundred and ten. The Acadians, thus abducted from their pleasant homes, were ordered to be conveyed to the English colonies on the seaboard. They were mostly divided among Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Carolina, and some were sent as far south as Georgia. The instructions were, to load the vessels at the rate of one person for every two tons of tonnage ; but it was found necessary to exceed this proportion.
In the hurry and confusion of this dreadful business, it was impossible to prevent families and connections from being separated and sent in different directions. Many cases occurred of members of the same household being transported to remote points, and spending their whole lives in fruitless efforts to find each other. The amount of misery caused by this circumstance alone was incalculable ; but when we add to this all the other terrible and cruel accompaniments, the picture becomes one of the saddest in the history of human suffering. A peaceful and prosperous people, of simple manners, ardently attached to their religion, living in abundance, if not affluence, suddenly torn by military force from their homes ; their lands confiscated, their houses pillaged and burned, their church desecrated by the occupation of armed men, and then destroyed; crowded on board ill-furnished ships hired for the purpose by the month, with scanty provisions and no comforts for the aged and sick; husbands separated from their wives, parents from children, friends from friends ; in the inclement weather, at the close of a northern autumn and the opening of winter ; borne away as prisoners to a people of another religion and speaking another language, a people who disliked them from national antipathy, who abhorred their worship as superstition and idolatry ; in poverty and exile ; placed at the mercy of VOL. LXVI. - No. 138.
town-officers, and living on the means grudgingly doled out to them as town-paupers ; their motions watched with suspicion ; their liberty restrained by the most vexatious regulations ; all pining with home-sickness, many dying of broken hearts, and finally the wretched survivors of a seven years' captivity bending their weary way painfully back towards their desolated country, that they might at least end their days upon the soil of their birth, where every object filled them with the sorrowful remembrance of happiness which should never more revisit them on this earth.
The captains of the vessels received their directions as to the destination of the prisoners, with letters to the governors of the colonies among which they were to be distributed. It is to the honor of the Massachusetts legislature, that measures were taken to meet the exigency and alleviate to some extent the wretchedness of the captives. In November, the transports began to arrive. Several bound for Southern ports put into Boston harbour, and were permitted to leave a portion of the prisoners, on account of the crowded state of the vessels, and the suffering and sickness which already made it dangerous for them to proceed on their voyage.
Governor Shirley was absent in the military service of the province, and the legislature disposed of the Massachusetts portion of the prisoners as they came in. Many committees were raised upon the subject, but the general plan adopted in regard to the whole body of captives was to distribute them among the towns, in certain proportions, and to place them under the superintendence of the selectmen and overseers of the poor. The legislature were careful to forbid their admission to the rights of citizenship, and to empower the town functionaries to bind out to service or trade the children of the French, as they might any other persons who came under their official control. Resolutions were also passed from time to time, restraining them from travelling about, without special permission from justices of the peace or other responsible citizens.
It does not appear that the statement made by some historians, that the Acadians refused to do any thing for their own support, on the ground that they were prisoners of war, is sustained by facts, at least in the unqualified form in which it is usually made. The neutral French were subjects of the British crown, and could not have been viewed as prisoners