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EFFORTS OF FRANCE. – APATHY OF NEWCASTLE. — DILEMMA OF
ACADIANS: THEIR CHARACTER. — DANGER OF THE PROVINCE. - PLANS OF SHIRLEY. — ACADIAN PRIESTS. — POLITICAL AGITATORS. - NOBLE'S EXPEDITION. - RAMESAY AT BEAUBASSIN. — NOBLE AT GRAND PRÉ. — A WINTER MARCH. - DEFEAT AND DEATH OF NOBLE. — GRAND PRÉ REOCCUPIED BY THE ENGLISH. — THREATS OF RAMESAY AGAINST THE ACADIANS. – THE BRITISH MINISTRY WILL NOT PROTECT THEM.
SINCE the capture of Louisbourg, France had held constantly in view, as an object of prime importance, the recovery of her lost colony of Acadia. This was one of the chief aims of D'Anville's expedition, and of that of La Jonquière in the next year. And to make assurance still more sure, a large body of Canadians, under M. de Ramesay, had been sent to Acadia to co-operate with D’Anville's force; but the greater part of them had been recalled to aid in defending Quebec against the expected attack of the English. They returned when the news came that D'Anville was at Chibucto, and Ramesay, with a part of his command, advanced upon Port Royal, or Annapolis. in order to support the fleet in its promised attack on
that place. He encamped at a little distance from the English fort, till he heard of the disasters that had ruined the fleet,” and then fell back to Chignecto, on the neck of the Acadian peninsula, where he made his quarters, with a force which, including Micmac, Malicite, and Penobscot Indians, amounted, at one time, to about sixteen hundred men. If France was bent on recovering Acadia, Shirley was no less resolved to keep it, if he could. In his belief, it was the key of the British American colonies, and again and again he urged the Duke of Newcastle to protect it. But Newcastle seems scarcely to have known where Acadia was, being ignorant of most things except the art of managing the House of Commons, and careless of all things that could not help his party and himself. Hence Shirley's hyperboles, though never without a basis of truth, were lost upon him. Once, it is true, he sent three hundred men to Annapolis; but one hundred and eighty of them died on the voyage, or lay helpless in Boston hospitals, and the rest could better have been spared, some being recruits from English jails, and others Irish Catholics, several of whom deserted to the French, with information of the state of the garrison. The defence of Acadia was left to Shirley and his Assembly, who in time of need sent companies of militia and rangers to Annapolis, and thus on several occasions saved it from returning to France. Shirley was the most watchful and strenuous defender of 1 Journal de Beaujeu, in Le Canada Français, Documents, 53.
British interests on the continent; and in the present crisis British and colonial interests were one. He held that if Acadia were lost, the peace and safety of all the other colonies would be in peril; and in spite of the immense efforts made by the French court to recover it, he felt that the chief danger of the province was not from without, but from within. “If a thousand French troops should land in Nova Scotia," he writes to Newcastle, “all the people would rise to join them, besides all the Indians.” 1 So, too, thought the French officials in America. The governor and intendant of Canada wrote to the colonial minister: “The inhabitants, with few exceptions, wish to return under the French dominion, and will not hesitate to take up arms as soon as they see themselves free to do so; that is, as soon as we become masters of Port Royal, or they have powder and other munitions of war, and are backed by troops for their protection against the resentment of the English.”2 Up to this time, however, though they had aided Duvivier in his attack on Annapolis so far as was possible without seeming to do so, they had not openly taken arms, and their refusal to fight for the besiegers is one among several causes to which Mascarene ascribes the success of his defence. While the greater part remained attached to France, some leaned to the English, who bought their produce and paid them in ready coin. Money was rare with the Acadians, who loved it, and were so addicted to hoarding it that the French authorities were led to speculate as to what might be the object of these careful savings.
1 Shirley to Newcastle, 29 October, 1745. · Beauharnois et Hocquart au Ministre, 12 Septembre, 1745.
Though the Acadians loved France, they were not always ready to sacrifice their interests to her. They would not supply Ramesay's force with provisions in exchange for his promissory notes, but demanded hard cash. This he had not to give, and was near being compelled to abandon his position in consequence. At the same time, in consideration of specie payment, the inhabitants brought in fuel for the English garrison at Louisbourg, and worked at repairing the rotten chevaux de frise of Annapolis.3
Mascarene, commandant at that place, being of French descent, was disposed at first to sympathize with the Acadians and treat them with a lenity that to the members of his council seemed neither fitting nor prudent. He wrote to Shirley: “The French inhabitants are certainly in a very perilous situation, those who pretend to be their friends and old masters having let loose a parcel of banditti to plunder them; whilst, on the other hand, they see themselves threatened with ruin if they fail in their allegiance to the British Government.” 4
This unhappy people were in fact between two 1 Beauharnois et Hocquart au Ministre, 12 Septembre, 1745. 3 Ibid.
& Admiral Knowles à — 1746. Mascarene in Le Canada Fran çais, Documents, 82.
• Mascarene, in Le Canada Français, Documents, 81.
fires. France claimed them on one side, and England on the other, and each demanded their adhesion, without regard to their feelings or their welfare. The banditti of whom Mascarene speaks were the Micmac Indians, who were completely under the control of their missionary, Le Loutre, and were used by him to terrify the inhabitants into renouncing their English allegiance and actively supporting the French cause. By the Treaty of Utrecht France had transferred Acadia to Great Britain, and the inhabitants had afterwards taken an oath of fidelity to King George. Thus they were British subjects; but as their oath had been accompanied by a promise, or at least a clear understanding, that they should not be required to take arms against Frenchmen or Indians, they had become known as the “Neutral French.” This name tended to perplex them, and in their ignorance and simplicity they hardly knew to which side they owed allegiance. Their illiteracy was extreme. Few of them could sign their names, and a contemporary well acquainted with them declares that he knew but a single Acadian who could read and write. This was probably the notary, - Le Blanc, whose compositions are crude and illiterate. Ignorant of books and isolated in a wild and remote corner of the world, the Acadians knew nothing of affairs, and were totally incompetent to meet the crisis that was soon to come upon them. In activity and enterprise they were far behind the
1 Moïse des Derniers, in Le Canada Français, i. 118.