Page images

Though war had not been actually declared, a state of active hostility already existed in 1755. Positive instructions were forwarded to the provincial governments, at the beginning of the year, to repel the French encroachments by force of


We have thus traced, but only in rapid outline, the history of Acadie, or Nova Scotia, down to the time in which the scene of Mr. Longfellow's poem is laid. We have, of course, omitted all the details, which could be comprised only in an elaborate work, our object being merely to show the historical relations of the event which has now for the first time been made the subject of an American poem, the removal of the neutral French from Acadie or Nova Scotia, and their dispersion among the English colonies on the Atlantic coast.

In the execution of this measure Massachusetts took a prominent and responsible part, and we shall therefore dwell upon the incidents of the enterprise and its results with some degree of particularity. It is stated by Judge Haliburton, in his History of Nova Scotia, that no record of this transaction has been preserved in the government archives at Halifax ; and the inference is, that all the papers relative to it were destroyed for the purpose of blotting it as far as possible from the memories of men. But very important materials, some of which were used by Haliburton for the illustration of this dark chapter in our colonial history, have been preserved in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The manuscripts, journals, and letters of Colonel Winslow, written at the time, contain a tolerably full account of the whole affair, and the journals of the General Court between the years 1755 and 1763 throw much light upon its consequences.

The project of an expedition against the French of Nova Scotia formed the subject of a correspondence between Mr. Lawrence, at that time the governor of the province, and William Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts, who was instructed to cooperate with him. A military agent, Colonel Monckton, was despatched from Halifax, to expedite by his presence the raising of a body of New England troops, at the expense of the crown. The project was communicated to the General Court by Governor Shirley early in the year,

and received the approbation of that body. John Winslow, of Marshfield, whose military talents made him one of the most conspicuous characters in the provincial affairs of the time, and who held the office of major-general in the militia, offered his services, and was accepted. It was determined to raise a regiment of two thousand men, for one year's service, under the pay of Nova Scotia. Winslow was accordingly commissioned, on the 10th of February, 1755, as "lieutenant-colonel of a regiment now raising in the several provinces and colonies in New England or others, his Majesty's neighbouring provinces and colonies, for his Majesty's service in dislodging the French from the encroachments made by them within his Majesty's province of Nova Scotia." The command-in-chief of the expedition was given to Colonel Monckton; and on the 12th of February, Winslow received from Governor Shirley his instructions and "beating orders."

So great were the influence and energy of Winslow, and the zeal of the leading men in the province, that the whole number of two thousand troops was raised in two months. They were directed to rendezvous at Boston early in April, where a fleet of transports was to be ready for them. Twenty-three ships for this purpose were provided, and the men were placed on board them towards the end of April; but they were detained about a month by delays in furnishing provisions and military stores. Finally, the whole fleet, with six vessels laden with supplies, sailed, under convoy of three men-of-war, on the 22d of May. After a favorable voyage of only three days, they all reached the Basin of Annapolis Royal in safety, and Colonel Monckton immediately assumed the command. His first orders bear the date of May 31. On the 1st of June, the whole fleet, now amounting to fortyone vessels, sailed to Chignecto, and came to anchor about sunset, five miles from Fort Lawrence. The disembarkation of the forces commenced the next day, under the superintendence of Colonel Winslow.

On the 30th of June, a resolution was adopted to lay siege to Fort Beau Séjour. The troops met with some opposition from a body of French, Acadians and Indians, who occupied a blockhouse and a strong breastwork on the river Missiquash; but the garrison were soon driven from their position, and Winslow crossed the river without further molestation. They advanced upon Fort Beau Séjour, and broke ground

before it on the 12th of June. In Colonel Winslow's journal the conflict is minutely described from day to day. After four days' bombardment, the French sent out a flag of truce, and offered to capitulate, expressing at the same time great astonishment that they were thus attacked in a time of profound peace. The terms they proposed were rejected, and a council of war, of which Colonel Monckton and Colonel Winslow were members, drew up two articles, which the French finally accepted. These were,-"1. That the French march out with their small arms, drums beating, match lighted, and the honors of war, and be transported at the cost of the King of Great Britain to Louisburg, and not bear arms for six months from date. 2. That the inhabitants be left in the same situation as they were when we arrived, and not punished for what they had done since our being in the country." The fort was immediately garrisoned with English troops, and its name changed to Fort Cumberland. The reduction of Beau Séjour was speedily followed by the submission of Fort Gaspereau, at the mouth of the Gaspereau river, on the same terms as had been agreed upon at Beau Séjour; and the fort at the mouth of the St. John's river, in New Brunswick, was deserted on the approach of Captain Rous, who was sent thither with a naval force to attack it.

The territory of Nova Scotia was now completely reduced under the power of the English, and the French were driven from their encroachments." The avowed object of the expedition was completely accomplished, and the troops ought to have returned home. The Acadians evidently did not anticipate that any blow would be struck at them. Some of their number, it is true, had violated the neutrality which the great body of them had observed from the time of their transfer to the British crown by the treaty of Utrecht. Three hundred Acadians had been taken in arms at Beau Séjour, and many of the people of Chignecto had been in open rebellion; but the peaceful inhabitants of the other villages, wholly absorbed in their quiet occupations, complied with every demand which was made upon them, except that of taking an unconditional oath of fealty to the English monarch. They surrendered their arms and furnished whatever supplies of provisions and fuel the military commanders exacted. The condition of these innocent people seems to have approached as near as possible to

that of the happy life imagined and described by the pastoral poets. The Abbé Raynal has delineated it in lively colors. He may have drawn upon his fancy for some traits in the charming picture, but his statements doubtless rest upon a basis of substantial truth. As he has been followed, and his very words adopted, by most of the subsequent historians, we translate the passage here.

"No magistrate was appointed to govern them. They knew nothing of the English laws. No tax, tribute, or service was ever required of them. Their new sovereign seemed to have forgotten them; and he was wholly a stranger to them. Hunting and fishing, which had formerly been the delight of the colony, and might still have supported it, no longer suited a simple and amiable people who had no love of blood. Agriculture was their occupation. They had established it in the lowlands by protecting them with dikes against the sea and the rivers which used to inundate these marshes. At first, they gathered from these meadows crops of fifty to one, and afterwards of fifteen or twenty at least. Wheat and oats were the grains that succeeded best there, but rye, barley, and maize also grew. A great abundance of potatoes, the use of which had become common, was found there.

"Immense meadows were covered with numerous herds. They numbered sixty thousand head of horned cattle. Most of the families possessed several horses, although the labor of tillage was done with oxen.

"The houses, almost all of which were built of wood, were very convenient, and furnished with the neatness which is sometimes found among our European laborers in the most easy circumstances. They raised a great quantity of all kinds of poultry. These served to diversify the food of the colonists, which was generally wholesome and abundant. Cider and beer formed their drink; sometimes they added rum. Their hemp and flax, and the fleeces of their sheep, furnished them with their ordinary clothing. From these they manufactured common linens and coarse cloths. If any of them had a little taste for luxury, they procured the means of gratifying it from Annapolis or Louisburg. These towns received in return corn, cattle, and furs.

"The neutral French had nothing else to give their neighbours. The barters they carried on among themselves were still less considerable, because each family was able and accustomed to provide for all its wants. Thus they knew nothing of the use of paper money, so extensively circulated in North America.

The little coin which had, as it were, slipped into the colony did not create the activity which constitutes its true value.

"Their manners were extremely simple. There never was a civil or criminal cause of sufficient importance to be carried into the court of justice established at Annapolis. The little disputes which might arise between the colonists from time to time were always amicably terminated by the elders. Their religious pas. tors drew up all their documents and took charge of all their wills. For these civil functions, and for those of the church, the people voluntarily paid them a twenty-seventh part of the harvests. These were so plentiful as to furnish more means of generosity than there were opportunities for its exercise. Misery was unknown, and beneficence anticipated poverty. Misfortunes were repaired, so to speak, before being felt. Good was done without ostentation on the one side and without humiliation on the other. It was a society of brethren, equally ready to give and to receive what they believed the common right of all mankind.

"As soon as a young man had reached the suitable age for marriage, a house was built for him, the grounds about it were cleared and planted, and the necessaries of life were provided for a year. There he received the partner whom he had chosen, and who brought him flocks for her portion. This new family grew and prospered like the rest. In 1749, the population considered altogether of eighteen thousand souls."

Such was the people whose fate now occupied the anxious consideration of the provincial councils. Their anomalous condition neither foreigners, nor yet complete subjects to the British crown, for they repeatedly refused to take the unconditional oath of allegiance-added to the perplexities of the question, what was to be done with them. The defeat of General Braddock, the news of which had spread alarm through the colonies, and the unsuccessful attempts to repel the French from Crown Point and Niagara, seem to have impressed Governor Lawrence with the absolute necessity of so disposing of the Acadians that they should never again be able, openly or secretly, to annoy the English in Nova Scotia. He held a deliberation with the British admirals, Boscawen and Mostwyn, the result of which was, that the whole Acadian population should be seized and dispersed among the colonies on the seaboard. It was considered unsafe to allow them to join their countrymen in Canada, as this would be adding to the strength of the enemy. It was resolved, therefore, to adopt measures for their abduction, and as the New

« PreviousContinue »