Acadia - Missing Links of a Lost Chapter in American History
Chapter III


Treaty of Utrecht—Cession of Acadia—Clauses of the treaty and letter ot Queen Anne—Lieutenant-Governor Vetch opposes the departure of the Acadians—Arrival of Governor Nicholson—MM', de la Ronde and Pinsens at Port Royal to remove obstacles to their departure—Referred to the Queen—Subterfuges—Character of Nicholson and of Vetch—Compilation ot the archives of Nova Scotia—Artifices of the Compiler, his partiality, etc., etc.

The war between France and England was at last terminated, and, April 18, 1713, at Utrecht, was signed the treaty of peace which definitively ceded Acadia to England. Nothing in this treaty defined the extent and limits of the country which France ceded, but these were to be determined, later on, by a commission to be appointed by the two Crowns. Pending this decision, France, by the terms of the treaty, ceded: “All of Nova Scotia or Acadia comprised in its ancient limits, as also the city of Port Royal.” It was, as may be seen, difficult to make such a badly worded declaration the basis of a mutual understanding. What Acadia was, what Nova Scotia had been or then was, had never been defined with precision; but the question, already so knotty, was still more stupidly complicated by this additional clause, “also the city of Port Royal,” as if Acadia or Nova Scotia composed only one part of the peninsula to which the treaty, by extension, added on Port Royal. This could not be the intention of the parties, since Port Royal was essentially a part of Acadia, since it had been its cradle and the seat of government for a whole century. It was a gross error, so gross that it could not be invoiced or maintained as far as Port Royal was concerned; but the insertion of this additional clause still left in the mind the vague idea that Acadia or Nova Scotia could at most be understood only of the peninsula. These difficulties were to he resolved fifty years later by force of arms.

Article XIV. of the treaty of Utrecht, which defined the situation of the Acadians is couched in these terms:

“It is expressly provided that In all the said places and colonies to be yielded and restored by the Most Christian King in pursuance of this treaty, the subjects of the said King may have liberty to remove themselves within a year to any other place, as they shall think fit, with all their movable effects. But those who are willing to remain here, and to be subjects 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.”

The better to define this situation, but still more to please the king of France, in ret am for some of the latter's acts of kindness to his Protestant subjects, Queen Anne agreed to relieve the Acadians from the rigor of the terms of the treaty. The new terms are contained in her letter to Governor Nicholson, dated June 23, 1713 :

“To our trusty and well-beloved Francis Nicholson, Governor of our Province of Nova Scotia or Acadia, etc., etc.

“Whereas our good brother, the Most Christian King, hath, atour desire, released from imprisonment on board his galleys, such of his subjects as were detained there on account of their professing the Protestant religion; We, being willing to show by some mark of our favor towards his subjects, how kind we take his compliance therein, have therefore thought lit hereby to signify our w ill and pleasure to you, that you permit such of them as have any lands or tenements in the places under our Government, in Acadia and Newfoundland, that have been or are to be yielded to us by virtue of the late treaty of peace, and are willing to continue our subjects, to retain and enjoy their mid hinds and tenements without any molestation, as fully and freely as other our subjects do or may possess their lands or estates, or to sell the same, if they shall rather choose to remove elsewhere. And for so doing, this shall be your warrant.

“By Her Majesty’s command,

“Dartmouth.”

The situation of the Acadians was thus established by Art. XIY. of the treaty and by this letter. In its essential points this situation was very clear. They had, besides the free exercise of their religion, the choice either to remain in the country, keeping the ownership of all they possessed, or to leave the country, bringing away with them all their movable goods and also the proceeds of the sale of their immovable property. This letter did not specify any time for their departure. This omission, if it were one, might throw some doubt on this point. The treaty, which was three months previous, fixed the delay to a year. Was it then to be understood that the time fixed by this treaty continued to be what the treaty had made it, or did it become unlimited? The remark that the compiler of the archives of Nova Scotia adds at the foot of the document might make us believe that he adopts the second interpretation. Such, however, could not be his intention, for, when we have belter understood the motives which always animated this compiler, we shall understand better that he could not accept an interpretation which would have been so favorable to the Acadians. I am inclined to believe and I deem it my duty to say so, that, strictly speaking, the delay fixed by the treaty was not modified by the letter of Queen Anne.

This distinction is after all of little importance, because, from that time forth the Acadians had decided to leave the province, and even then they were actively preparing to do so. This departure would have been accomplished in the autumn of 1718, had it not been for the obstacles opposed thereto by Governor Vetch, and repeated under different forms by Nicholson, Cauldfield, Doucette, Phillips, Armstrong, and later still by Cornwallis. During seventeen years (1713-1730) all the events of Acadia are connected with the artifices used to prevent this departure and rivet the Acadians to the soil by an oath of allegiance. To suppress these facts Is to render the history of this period unintelligible and altogether false. For some reason or other, whether it be for not having had access to the documents which we possess or for other less avowable reasons, these facts have not come to light or even been touched either by historians or by the compiler of the archives of Nova Scotia.

As to this gentleman, I have declared in my preface, without hesitation and without reticence, that the volume which lie compiled has been put together with great partiality and with the intention of prejudicing the public against the Acadians. This grave accusation I have uttered deliberately after mature reflection and without laying aside for a single moment the benevolence and charity that animates me; but to judge it well, it will be necessary to peruse this work, since my reasons are based upon the facts and developed from them as they present themselves in the course of the narrative. To explain the circumstances of this publication let me say at the outset that the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia on April 30, 1857, on motion of Honorable Joseph Howe, adopted the following resolution :

“That His Excellency the Governor be respectfully requested to cause the ancient records and documents illustrative of the history and progress of society in this Province, to he examined, preserved and arranged, either for reference or publication, as the Legislature may hereafter determine.”

What precedes, as also what follows, is extracted from the very preface of the volume of the Archives, compiled by Thomas 15. Akins in virtue of this resolution and of those which followed.

‘In the following year the Lieut.-Governor was authorized by the Assembly to procure from the State Paper Office, in England, copies of any dispatches or documents that may he found necessary to complete, our files.

“In 1839, by another vote of the House, he was empowered to procure from the Government of Canada, copies of such papers in the Archives of Quebec as related to the early history of Acadia.”

The compiler afterwards adds his personal reflections in the following manner:

“The expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia is an important event in the history of British America, and has lately derived peculiar interest from the frequent reference made to it by modem writers. Although much has been written on the subject, yet, until lately, it has undergone little actual investigation, and, in consequence, the necessity for their removal has not been clearly perceived and the motives which led to its enforcement have been often misunderstood. I have, therefore, carefully selected all documents in possession of the Government of this Province, that could in any way throw light on the history and conduct of the Acadians."

In this preface two distinct parts are to be, kept in view, (1) that which relates to the end the Legislature bad in view, namely: to unite in one volume the most important documents that might serve for the general history of the Province, and to procure in London and Quebec those which should be judged useful to till up the deficiencies of the Archives of Nova Scotia; and (2) that which relates to the compiler’s own private ends. Even without reading between the lines, it is easy to see that the end of Mr. Akins was not exactly the same as that of the Legislature.

The special purpose he had in view was to comprise in this volume all the documents that could throw some light on the causes that furnished motives for the expulsion of the Acadians. In substance he says, up to the present time these motives have not been understood. Precisely so; during a century historians had been astray, and he, Mr. Akins, was going to set all future historians once more on the right path; he was going to group together all that might be injurious to the Acadians, and to make his volume a convenient and easy arsenal where writers might come to seek weapons against those poor Acadians, to whom all this would be a mystery, and who would suffer in silence whatever insults these writers would be pleased to heap upon them.

In matters of history, any plausible opinion, whether it be or not the result of the aberrations of the mind or of the heart, is to be respected, and Mr. Akins could very well entertain the opinions which he expresses in his preface; but I am surely justified in finding him presumptuous when he ventures to condemn the writers of a whole century, including those who were contemporaries of these events; and in branding as unbecoming and injudicious his inserting in a preface his own opinions on events which were narrated in the compilation he was charged to make. This compilation had to be impartial, or it would deviate from the end which the Legislature had in view ; and, if the fitness of things did not move Mr. Akins, his shrewdness should have made him hold his tongue lest his work should seem biassed. And to show how great indeed was his want of tact, I may say that his preface itself made me believe that he must be partial and prejudiced, and, starting therefrom, I studied him closely, compared, meditated, and finally arrived at this clear and plain conclusion, that his partiality was outdone only by his bad faith.

For the moment, let it be sufficient to say that this volume is in reality not, as the Legislature wished it to be. a collection of the most important documents relating to the general history of the province, but a collection of all that could appear to justify the deportation of the Acadians; that it omits all or nearly all the explanations that might be favorable to them, and systematically excludes all that was unfavorable to the governors. And, let not the reader imagine that I have purposely hunted up the omissions I charge him with in order to introduce them into this work; the very importance of those which I point out by the way, shows that I have not stopped at the trifles which abound, but that, on the contrary, I have kept silence on many grave facts in order not to encumber my work.

The first documents, introduced into the volume of the archives, are dated November, 1714. It seems to me clear that the intention of the legislature must have been to comprise therein all the documents since the taking of Port Royal in 1710, or at least since April, 1713, the date of the treaty of peace. The documents between this date and November, 1714, were particularly important, in order to determine in a precise manner what had been done both by the governors and by the Acadians in respect of those clauses of the treaty that referred to the departure. The Acadians had the space of a year to withdraw with their effects, their cattle and the outcome of the sale of their immovable goods: we know by the sequel that very few of them left their country at that time; but did they wish to leave? were they prevented from doing so ? that is what we might expect to see in the volume of the archives. To find light on this obscure point, I had to search elsewhere, and, as will be seen, the result of my researches is of great importance and diametrically opposed to the pretensions of the Compiler.

By leaving out all the documents between 1710 arid the end of 1714 he has led into error nearly all the writers that have written the history of Nova Scotia. They begin where the Compiler begins; they finish where he finishes ; they omit wliat he has omitted, they skip what he has skipped. I suppose all this is done in very good faith, and if I mention this, it is rather to show that the Compiler has attained his end, that he will continue to do so just so long as his motives are not understood, so long as it is not known that there is beyond his volume a vast unexplored field, which explains what he did not wish to disclose, which makes us take the proper measure of the man and his work. In the part which claims our attention at present, unless we search elsewhere for the means to fill up this serious void, he obliges us to enter on the scene in the second act of the drama; which may leave many things unexplained and inexplicable.*

*To be brief and to avoid all confusion, I will hereafter use the term 'The Compiler’ to designate Thomas 13. Akins, compiler of the archives of Nova Scotia.

At tlie taking of Port Royal, Colonel Vetch, as I have said, had. been appointed lieutenant-governor of the place. The following y ear he went to rejoin Nicholson in his projected expedition against Montreal, leaving in his place, as administrator, Sir Charles Hobby; when this undertaking was abandoned, he returned to his post, where he reassumed his office and exercised it till the summer of 1714. October 20, 1712, Nicholson had been appointed governor, but, during his absence, Vetch fulfilled his functions with the title of lieutenant-governor of the garrison, in which office he was replaced in 1714 by Major Caulfield and later by Captain Doucette, while Nicholson remained titular governor until 1717.

I have said that since the signing of the treaty the Acadians had almost decided to leave the country, but that they were prevented by all imaginable means and artifices. In fact in August, or perhaps even in July 1713, they sent delegates to Louisburg to come to an understanding with the French governor on the conditions to be held out to them if they were transported over to the French territory. These delegates sent in their report, and the answer of the Acadian people dated September 23,1713, implies a refusal. They do not wish to accept an establishment at lie Royale (Cape Breton) without effectual assistance, since the soil there, is of an inferior quality, woody, and without natural meadowland to pasture their cattle. If, however, they are obliged to take the oath, they will depart anyhow:—

“Besides,” says their report, “we do not know yet in what manner the English will use us. If they burthen us in respect to our religion, or cut up our settlement to divide the lands with people of our nation we will abandon them absolutely.

The governor of Louisburg, M. de Costabelle, was sorely vexed at this reply, and still more so at a letter from Father Gaulin, whom lie had hoped to enlist as an ally in his dealings with the Acadians. The latter had replied11 that he could not lend himself to his manoeuvres, as he did not see any sufficient guarantees for the assistance which he, M. de Costabelle, promised, and that it did not become him to employ missionaries in an affair, the purpose of which appeared to be to warp his judgment in order to deceive others; that, if he could not offer any better guarantees for his good intentions, he preferred to see the Acadians remain on their lands with the English, who are doing all in their power to prevent them from departing. ”

The more the French government desired, as will be explained further on, that the Acadians should take advantage of the treaty to go over into French territory, the more were the authorities of Port Royal opposed thereto. Negotiations were resumed between the Acadians and the governor of Louisburg; lands were offered on Prince Edward Island, and divers advantages which were considered acceptable by the Acadians. They wished to leave; Colonel Vetch opposed this under the pretext that he was only lieutenant-governor, and that they had to wait for the arrival of Governor Nicholson. lie arrived only the following summer, when the year stipulated by the treaty had just expired. The following letters, both from Major Mermite who replaced de Costabelle at Louisburg, refer to these event. The first is dated July 11,1714, and is addressed to Nicholson himself :—

“Having learnt, sir, from several inhabitants of Port Royal, of Mines and Beaubassin, that he who commands in your absence at Port Royal (Col. Vetch), has forbidden them to leave, and even refused the permission to those, who asked him for it, which event makes most of the Acadians now established on the lands of the King of England unable to withdraw this year.....

“That is what has determined me, according to the order given me by the King, to send thither M. de la Ronde Denys, into whose hands I have remitted the orders of Queen Anne; he will confer with you about the reasons why they are detained. I hope, sir, you will render all due justice, and that you will have no other view than to obey the behests of the Queen."

The other letter is from the same to the Minister and dated August 20, 1714: “one who commands Port Royal has forbidden the Acadians to leave the country before the arrival of Hr. Nicholson, so that all those who have come here had escaped. They represented to me that it was necessary to send an officer there in order to uphold their rights, the English having forbidden the missionaries to meddle with the affairs of the Acadians.”—(Archives dela Marineet des Colonies.)

This is clear enough. The year had just expired, and the prohibitions of Governor Vetch were of sufficiently distant date to have given the Governor of Louisburg time to be informed of them, to communicate this information to the King of France ; and the latter had had time to obtain an order from the Queen of England, to transmit all documents to the Governor of Louisburg, to appoint M. de la Ronde and to write to Nicholson under date of July 11, 1714.

And what were these orders of Queen Anne to Nicholson? Evidently, to let the Acadians depart, since they were within the limits of the year when the complaints were made, and since Major Mermite summoned Nicholson to execute the behests of the Queen. We shall see how lie respected them, or rather what measures he took to elude them.

Messrs. de la Ronde and Pinsens, bearers of the orders of Queen Anne, arrived at Port Royal about July 20, at the same time as Nicholson himself. He gave them a superb reception, look cognizance of the orders which they bore, and promised to let the Acadians depart within the lapse of another year, should they decide to do so. He permitted them to hold assemblies in order to make sure of the intentions of the Acadians. All reiterated the determination to abandon the country.2 Nicholson seemed to agree to everything; but, under the pretext of referring the matter to the Queen, he finished by refusing everything. It required a more than ordinary dose of bad faith to refuse to obey the formal orders of his sovereign: that is, however, what he did, and we have the proof of it in the following official document, which is an account of the negotiations of Messrs. de la Ronde and Pinsens with Nicholson:

"In 1714 Messrs. de la Ronde and Pinsens, captains, were sent to Acadia to obtain from Mr. Nicholson freedom for the Acadians to withdraw with their cattle and grain to lie Royale.”

Mr. Nicholson permitted these officers to assemble the inhabitants in order to know their intentions. They all declared that they wanted to return to their lawful sovereign.

"Mr. Nicholson was asked to allow these inhabitants, conformably to Art. XIV. of the treaty of peace, the space of a year to remain on their land unmolested;

“That they might be allowed, during this time, to transport their grain and cattle, to construct ships for the transportation of their goods, and to receive from France the rigging and complete outfit for those which would be built at Port Royal or elsewhere.

“These two articles were xent back for the derision of the Queen.

“They asked also that they, might be allowed to sell tlieir property or to leave therefor letters of attorney.

“This article was answered: ‘Remitted to the Queen,' moreover referred to her letter which is to be a sure guarantee therefor.

“Mr. Nicholson promised, besides, a prompt dispatch of all these articles, but since that time there has been no reply about this matter.”—(Conseil de Marine, March 28th, 1716.)

This official document is confirmed by several others; but I will give only the following, because it contains other important facts. It is addressed by the commander of Louisburg to the minister, and dated August 29,1714, that is, immediately after the return of Messrs. de la Ronde and Pinsens:

“June  I had Mr. de la Ronde leave for Port Royal. I send your Highness the copy of the letter that I wrote to Mr. NiclioKon and of the instructions that i gave to Mr. de la lionde. I confided to him the orders of the Queen in English and French.

“Your Highness tells me that you are procuring for them his rigging that I had requested; but it will come late: before they receive it, the season will be already advanced. The Acadians had written to Jioston to have some; Mr, Nicholson forbade it, and etenseized the ships and boats that they had built.

"They appeared decided not to leave their country before haring received Mr. Nicholson's decision, it is known he will do all in his power to retain them; they have been already twice held a council with the view of lenrimj Port Itneal."

Nicholson, who had just arrived, had probably not had time to realize; the dreadful consequences resulting to the country from the departure of the Acadians. That is why, at first, when he took cognizance of the orders of the Queen, he promised to obey them and not to oppose the departure of the Acadians; but, when lie was informed by his officers of the disastrous consequences of this departure, he bethought himself, iu order to gain time, to refer the question to the Queen, to refer to her what 8lie ordered him to do, to remit to her decision the clear and formal clauses of a treaty. The subterfuge was a gross one, but he had no others at command just then.

Unfortunately for the Acadians the Queen died a few days after August 1st, 1714; else it is probable that, in spite of the consequences, she would have made it a point of honor to have her decisions respected. Numerous communications were successively addressed to the Lords of Trade to represent to them in sombre colors the many inconveniences resulting from the departure of the Acadians, if it were not prevented; and that is why the questions referred to the Queen by Nicholson were never settled in either sense; that is why for a long time the Acadians were kept under the impression that the questions submitted were still being considered by the authorities, when, in reality, these latter were perfectly determined to put all possible obstacles in the way of their departure. In their ciiild-like belief that justice gave rights, that treaties were sacred, that honor was the basis and support of governments, the Acadians waited long for this reply, which they were always told was Under consideration; but they waited in vain. They felt so certain that justice would be shown them, and that their departure could be effected in the course of the following summer (1715), that many did not even sow their lands in the spring.

M. de Costabelle. in a letter to the minister, dated Sept. 9th, 1715, informs him, “ that the Acadians of Mines had not sown their lands that year, that they had grain to live upon for two years, and had kept themselves ready to abandon the country.”

It is clearly apparent by the documents which I have produced, all of an official nature, and by some others also which I have seen, that, in the autumn of 1713, only a few months after the signing of the treaty of peace, the Acadians announced to Lieutenant-Governor Vetch their intention to leave the country; that from that moment they prepared for their departure, but were prevented by Vetch under the pretext that they had to await the arrival of Governor Nicholson; that the latter, without regard for the conditions of the treaty and the formal orders of the Queen transmitted to him by M. de la Ronde, and without any other motive but to gain time and deprive the Acadians of the rights granted to them by the treaty, referred their request to the Queen : that, subsequently, after having refused to transport the Acadians in English vessels, he also refused to French vessels entry into the ports of Acadia; that their determination to leave the country was such that they built vessels themselves; that, wishing to procure at Louisburg rigging to equip them, they were rememoir, from which it appears that the Acadians were determined to abandon aU in order to leave the country ; that most of them did not wish to sow their lands in hopes of retiring in the spring. That several had built ships for the transport of their families and their effects.” ( Conseil de la Murine, 2H mars, 1718).

“The English are doing all they can to retain the Acadians, not only by avoiding useless unpleasantness, but also by refusing them the things necessary fitr their passage, but by making them understand that they will not permit them to dispose of their immovable goods nor of their cattle, that nothing hut a few provisions would be left to them." (Letter of Intendant Begon. Quebec, Sept. 25, 1715.

“In his letter of Nov. 6th- 1715, he (M. de Costabelle) says that ho spoke to Hr. Capon, sent by the governor of Port Royal, of the hard and unjust way in which Mr. Nicholson had treated the Acadians, altogether contrary to the orders of Queen Anne and to the word he had given to Messrs. de la Ronde and Pinsens.

“Mr. Capon agreed that Nicholson’s conduct had not been approved by an officer of his nation, but that Vetch, the lieutenant-governor, could change nothing withoutnew orders from the king of England: ami thus all further movements for the free departure of the Acadians are suspended until more ample decision be given thereon by the two crowns.” fused permission; that, having applied to Boston for the same object, they again met with a refusal, and moreover their vessels were seized.

Nothing of what precedes is found in the volume of the archives; it is possible the Compiler was unacquainted with some of these facts, and that, in spite of their importance, he may thus escape censure. His mission, as imposed upon him by the legislature, wit; restricted to the duty of collecting materials in Halifax and London and those of the Archives de la Marine that were likely to be found in Quebec. But, among the documents I have cited are: (1) a letter of Costabelle to Nicholson, (2) the orders of Queen Anne, of which Mr. de la Ronde was bearer, transmitted to Nicholson, (3) the account of their proceedings, all of which must have been in the archives of Halifax ; and, nevertheless, in spite of their extreme importance, they are not in the volume of the archives. However, the number of important documents omitted, all having the same general drift, is so considerable that I am perhaps wrong in directing attention to such a comparative trifle as the non-appearance of three documents. He was not, however, ignorant of this question of the obstacles put to the departure of the Acadians: for, as it will be seen, there are many other documents of the same kind with which he was acquainted. The question seems to have made him somewhat uneasy; for on page 2(>5 of his volume, when the events he was then considering referred to the transportation of 1755, be has the following note, relying on a declaration of Governor Mascarene:

"Governor Nicholson came to Annapolis in 1714, and then proposed to the Acadians the terms agreed on for them, which were, to keep their lands on their becoming subjects of the British Crown, or to dispose of their property and withdraw from the country, if they chose, within one year. They all chose the latter, and prepared to leave the country; but the vessels promised them from Cape Breton for the purpose of their removal not being sent, they were compelled to remain

In the foregoing very little is exact, but the Compiler offers us a new proof of an outrage which the documents already cited point out. Thus the Acadians, according to the Compiler, if we understand him rightly, would not have had the privilege that the treaty clearly gave them; namely: to transport their goods, their cattle, etc., etc.; but only to dispose of them before their departure. Now, as they were the only inhabitants of the country, the reducing of their right to transport their cattle and effects to a mere permission to dispose of them would have been illusory and a new imposture. But, says he, they were not able to depart, because the vessels promised from the island of Cape Breton did not come.

There is not a word anywhere to sustain the Comander’s assertion. Can it be supposed that the French, who had so much interest in this transmigration, would have neglected to send them vessels for that object? Such a supposition is absurd. But, then, why were the Acadians prevented from setting out in their own ships and procuring their equipment at Louisburg and even ut Boston? Clearly, this building of boats to quit the country was but the outcome of a prohibition to leave it in French or English ships.

The absurdity of the Compiler’s pretension would be alone sufficient to justify us in rejecting it with contempt. This strange pretension having never been given out in 1714 or 1715 or even afterwards, one cannot expect to find it contradicted or disputed; however, we have it incidentally contradicted in a very explicit manner in two documents; here is one of them:

“The absolute refusal which the English governors have always made, to permit even the King's vessels to come to Acadia in order to transport those who desired to depart, or to lend rigging for the ships which the Acadians had built and which they were obliged to sell to the English; the prohibition imposed on them of transporting with them any live stock or provisions of grain; the grief of abandoning the hereditary estates of their fathers, their own work and their children’s, without any reimbursement or compensation ; all these infringements are the principal reasons of the inaction in which they have remained.”—(Conseil de la Marine, year 1719, vol. iv. folio 00).

The other document is from Mr. de Brouillan, governor of Louisburg, and is not less explicit.* (Archives de la Marine, vol. III., fol. 180).

Moreover, as we have seen elsewhere, Nicholson had referred the question of the departure of the Acadians to the Queen, and this never-to-be-settled reference is most likely the pretext afterwards used by the Governors to prevent the Acadians from departing in any kind of ships, English or French, or of their own make. This is strengthened by the fact that, on the 7th of November following said reference (1714), Mr. de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine, sent the French Minister at London a copy of the report of Messrs. de la Roode and Pinsens, with instructions to hasten the solution of the questions referred by Nicholson. The only action ever taken upon it was the submitting of the question to the Lords of Trade by the Secretary of State, Lord Townshend.

*The Acadian"- says Huliburtoi,. alleged that they had been detained contrary to their desire, that they had been refused leave to depart in English-built vessels, and that, upon making application to embark oi> board oi French ships, they were informed that such vessels could not, consistently with the navigation laws, be allowed to enter a colonial harbor.”

The Compiler has not a word about this reference to the Queen, but if he can reasonably pretend that it was not possible for him to know most of the documents I have cited, because they were not found in the archives of Halifax, London or Quebec, this cannot be the ease for those which I am here about to offer to the reader :—

Colonel Vetch to the Doake of Trade.

“Mar. 9th, 1715. .

“My Lords:—"1 could not but judge it my duty out of a trew concern for the imblick good: to put Your Lordships in mind of the circumstances of the country, the Acadians being in a manner obliged to leave the country by the treatment they received from Mr. Nicholson while Governor there; as will be made appear to Your Lordships by the avidavits of some persons lately come from thence: to which I humbly pray Your Lordships to be refered: what I am now to intimate to Your Lordships is, that as the season of the year now advances, unless some speedy orders are sent to prevent the Acadians’ removal with their cattle and effects to Cape Brittoun as it will wholly strip and huine to Nona Scotia, so it will attonce make Cape Brittoun a populous and well stocked Colony, which many years and (treat expense could not have done directly from France as I already observed in a, former paper."

It has been seen that, according to the Compiler, Nicholson, at the end of July,. 1714, had given a year to the Acadians to retire. The above letter is dated March 9th, 1715, eight months after this promise. If such were the case, what became of the promise, when Vetch thus begged for prompt orders to prevent then departure—“speedy orders to prevent their removal?” And Vetch only repeated w hat he had already said in a letter of November 24th preceding.

The following letters throw more light on the situation. We reproduce them, like llie foregoing letter, in their original spelling:

Colom.1, Vetch to Board of Trade.

"London, Sept. 2d, 1715.

“M. Nicholson’s discourageing, or rather discharging all Trade there to the Acadians, and causing keep the gates of the Fort slum against them night and day, that they may have no manner of commerce with the Garrison, and having by Proclamation discharged their harbouring or resetting any of the natives, with whom they used to have a considerable Trade for Peltry, hath so discouraged them from staying that they had built abundance of small vessels to carry themselves and effects to Cape Brittoun, which was what the French officers so much sollicited.”

Vetch carefully abstains from mentioning the reason that prevented the Acadians from leaving in the numerous ships that they had built, but one would easily guess it, if one did not know it already through many other channels.

Colonel Vetch to Board of Trade.

“London, February 21st, 1716.

“As to the Acadians by what I can learn, there is not many of them removed notwithstanding the discouragements they mett withal some time ago, and will, no doubt, gladly remain upon their plantations— some of which are considerable—providing they may be protected by the Crown, and, as no country is of value without inhabitants, so,' the ronoval of them and their cattle to Cape Brittoun would be a great addition to that new colony, so it would wholly mine Nova Scotia unless supplyed by a British Colony, which could not be done in several years, so that the Acadians with their stocks of cattle re-maininy there is very much for the advantage of the Crown.'1'

Lieut.-Governor Caulfield to Col.. Vetch.

but too senceable of Colonel Nickolson’s nnpresedented malice, and, had his designs taken their desired effect, I am perswaded there had not been att this time an inhabitant of any kind in the country, nor, indeed, a garrison: when I recollect his declaration to the Acadians and afterwards to the soldiers, wherein he told the latter that the French were all rebells, and would certainly cut their throats if they went into their houses, telling of us that we must have no manner of correspondance with them, and ordered the gates of the garrison to be shut, tho’ att the same time he was senciable that we could not subsist the ensueing w inter, but by their mains, there beeing no other prospects left to us . . . If the whole seine of his administration here was plainly laid downe, itt would be very difficult to find one instance of all his proceedings, whereby the garrison or nolonny could receive the least benefit.”

'Adams to Captain Stkble.

“24th January, 1715.

.... “We were in hopes here upon General Nicholson's arrival, he would settle the place on a good footing, but on the contrary, put us in the greatest confusion, pull’d down the Forts, Drove a way the Acadians, and carried away all the English he cou’d, that the place is now desolate. In short, if his commission hail been to destroy the country, he could not have discharg'd his trust to better purpose than he did, he employed all his time here in pursuing his implacable malice against Governor Vetch, when in truth he did the English interest in this country more damage in the two months he was here than Govr Vetch cou'd have done in all his life, if he had been as bad as he would fain make the world believe he was, he used to curse and damm Gov. Vetch and all his friends. There is not one soul in the place, french or english—save 2—hut hate and abhor his name.”

We have likewise, with the same import, a letter of Captain Armstrong who became later on Lieutenant-Governor of the Province.

In our first chapter we reproduced a letter of the Acadians to Mr. de Vaudreuil, in which they complained of being treated as negroes by Governor Vetch. If such were the case, and it is difficult to doubt it, one must not be astonished at the efforts they made to leave the country, nor at the subterfuges invented to deter them from doing so.

There was, evidently, great animosity between Nicholson and Vetch, and, what is almost as evident, it had its source in covetousness. It seems that Vetch, who was then in London, sought to supplant Nicholson, by alleging the testimonies of the principal officers of Annapolis, testimonies which fie transmitted to the Lords of Trade. At the same time, he- sought to prove to them that he understood better than Nicholson the interests of the country, and that he was the man needed in the circumstances. It would be curious to know the counter-accusations of Nicholson; for he could not tolerate such an attack without a rejoinder most injurious to Vetch’s reputation, and solid reasons were not wanting to him, for Vetch underwent a trial in 1700 before the legislature of Massachusetts, with the result that he was condemned to pay £200 “for having supplied the French with ammunition and stores of war.'” Judging the quarrel by its results, we have reason to think that both succumbed in one common defeat, because for both the career of honors seems to have terminated there ; Vetch obtained nothing, and Nicholson lost his position two years later. As it often happens on these occasions, both succeeded in proving that they were equally unworthy.

We are better acquainted with the accusations laid against Nicholson, and, even should allowance be made for exaggeration, this allowance cannot be considerable, since the accusations rest on the testimony of three persons who we re regularly appointed Leutenant-governors of Nova Scotia, namely: Vetch, Caulfield, Armstrong, and on the testimony of Adams, who, in 1739, was for some time administrator of the province. Without this quarrel, without this rivalry we should know nothing of the character and conduct of Nicholson and Vetch; were we to trust the Compiler, we should think ourselves in the presence of irreproachable men to whose memory posterity should raise statues.

What is to be thought of the Compiler who has omitted these documents? Were they unimportant or too inconveniently important ? Was he, or could he Le ignorant of them? Certainly not, since they are all in the Colonial Records in London (Nova Scotia section), where the Compiler was charged to procure copies of all the documents that interested the province. They are to be found in volumes I. and It, alongside of those very documents which he procured and which we find in his own compilation. What could he more interesting for history than documents such as these, which, apart from their importance arising from the publicity of the facts they contain, offer us a rare opportunity of judging the character, the temperament and the motives of the persons who figure in them so conspicuously? Mr. Akins is not only a compiler, he is at the same time a biographer. He has inserted in his volume numerous notes, in which he gives us his appreciation of the personages who played any part in these events ; but, invariably, when there is question of a governor or any man that had relations with the Acadians, he is suave and eulogistic with regard to them. Yet here was an excellent opportunity to give his judgment on Nicholson, in which the virtues he might have would be judiciously coupled with his faults, so as to show forth the most salient traits of his character. This study was easy, thanks to the well-grounded opinions of four lieutenant-governors ; performed with intelligence and impartiality, it would have powerfully assisted the reader to pass an enlightened judgment on the whole course of events.

The letters quoted above are important from another and not less striking point of view. They explain the deep interest the governors had in preventing the emigration of the Acadians. As Vetch says, this departure would ruin the country; and, though eight months had not yet elapsed since Nicholson had decided in presence of Messrs. de la Ronde and Pinsens to refer this question of the departure to the. Queen, he does not hesitate to ask the Lords of Trade for permission to prevent the "departure:“ Unless some speedy orders are sent to prevent the Acadians’ removal with their cattle and effects to Cape Breton., as will wholly strip and ruin Nova Scotia, so it will at once make Gape Breton a popular and well-stocked colony. And, as he says elsewhere, “They had built abundance of small vessels to carry themselves and effects to Cape Breton.” lie is careful not to say that he had prevented them from leaving in those same vessels; hut the conclusion is self-evident. It is easy to see that fraud and force had much more weight in his mind than justice and right. In a man who a few years before had, through greed of gain, “supplied the French with ammunition and stores of war," and had been condemned for this act, this is not surprising. Besides, it was not otherwise with his successors.

Another not less grave reason against the departure of the Acadians is, that the Indians of Acadia and of all that forms to-day Maine and the maritime provinces were, from time immemorial, sworn enemies of the English. This departure would have left No\ a Scotia without an inhabitant, and in the impossibility of peopling it with colonists, who would have been daily exposed to be massacred by these Indians. Possession of the country would have become useless; and, if the English had persisted in keeping a fort and garrison there, this latter would have been provisioned only at great expense. Such was the perplexing situation of the governors and of the Home Government. All the communications exchanged between these two make us clearly see that the situation was thus understood, and all the obstacles accumulated to hinder the departure of the Acadians have never had any other motives than the various interests which have been brought to light in the preceding documents. Anent this last motive— fear of the Indians—I will cite one letter from Lieutenant-Governor Caulfield to the Lords of Trade, not because it stands alone, but on account of its being more explicit than others:

“I have always observed, since my coming here, the forwardness of the Acadians to serve us when occasion offered.” [This is astonishing, after their harsh treatment and the trickery resorted to by Nicholson and Vetch]. “And if some English inhabitants were sent over, especially industrious laborers, tar and pitch makers, carpenters and smiths, it would be of great advantage to this colony; but in case ye Acadians quit us, we shall never be able to maintain or protect our English family's from ye insults of ye Indians, ye worst enemies, which ye Acadians by their staying will in a great measure ward off for their own sakes. Your Lordships will see by ye stock of cattell they have at this time that in two or three years, with due encouragement, we may be furnished with everything within our selves.”

And elsewhere, in the correspondence of the governors: “As the accession ot such a number of Acadians to Cape Bretton, will make it at once a very populous Colony ; so it is to be considered, one hundred of the Acadians, who were born upon that continent, and are perfectly known in the woods; can mark upon snow-shoes, and understand the use of birch canoes, are of more value and service than five times their number of raw men newly come from Europe. So their skill in the fishery, as well as the cultivating of the soil, must take up at once of Cape Bretton the most powerful Colony the French have in America, and of the greatest danger and damage to all the British Colonies as well as the universal trade of Great Britain.”

With what we know of human nature, with the teachings of history in general, and particularly of this history, no one, taking into account the grave interests that the departure of the Acadians compromised, will doubt the obstacles of every kind opposed to this departure. Even without proofs the presumptions would be of great weight; but, when the fact is sustained, without contradiction, at least without explicit contradiction, by a mass of official documents, it becomes a certainty of the first order, which remains fixed in history as a question withdrawn from debate, in spite of the compiler, in spite of those who, like Parkman, ha ve accepted without further investigation his biassed and ill-matured assertions.


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