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- The Acadian Exiles - 4/21 -


in readiness to advance on Canada to co-operate with the fleet. But the fleet never got within striking distance. Not far above the island of Anticosti some of the ships ran aground and were wrecked with a loss of nearly a thousand men; and the commander gave up the undertaking and bore away for England. When news of this mishap reached Nicholson he retreated and disbanded his men. But, though the ambitious enterprise ended ingloriously, it was not wholly fruitless, for it kept the French of Quebec on guard at home; while but for this menace they would probably have sent a war-party in force to drive the English out of Acadia.

The situation of the English at Annapolis was indeed critical. Their numbers had been greatly reduced by disease and raids and the men were in a sorry plight for lack of provisions and clothing. Vetch could obtain neither men nor money from England or the colonies. Help, however, of a sort did come in the summer of 1712. This was in the form of a band of Six Nation Indians, allies of the English, from the colony of New York. [Footnote: Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, vol. iv, p. 41.] These savages pitched their habitations not far from the fort, and thereafter the garrison suffered less from the Micmac and Abnaki allies of the French.

The Acadians were in revolt; and as long as they cherished the belief that their countrymen would recover Acadia, all attempts to secure their allegiance to Queen Anne proved unavailing. At length, in April 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht set at rest the question of the ownership of the country. Cape Breton, Ile St Jean (Prince Edward Island), and other islands in the Gulf were left in the hands of the French. But Newfoundland and 'all Nova Scotia or Acadia, with its ancient boundaries, as also the city of Port Royal, now called Annapolis Royal,' passed to the British crown.

CHAPTER III

THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE

We have now to follow a sequence of events leading up to the calamity to be narrated in a later chapter. By the Treaty of Utrecht the old king, Louis XIV, had obtained certain guarantees for his subjects in Acadia. It was provided that 'they may have liberty to remove themselves within a year to any other place with all their movable effects'; and that 'those who are willing to remain therein and to be subject to the kingdom of Britain are to enjoy the free exercise of their religion.' And these terms were confirmed by a warrant of Queen Anne addressed to Nicholson, under date of June 23, 1713. [Footnote: 'Trusty and Well-beloved, We greet you Well! Whereas Our Good Brother the Most Christian King hath at Our 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 Favour towards His subjects how kindly we take His compliance therein, have therefore thought fit hereby to Signifie Our Will and Pleasure to you that you permit and allow such of them as have any lands or Tenements in the Places under your Government in Acadie and Newfoundland, that have been or are to be yielded to Us by Vertue of the late Treaty of Peace, and are Willing to Continue our Subjects to retain and Enjoy their said Lands and Tenements without any Lett or Molestation as fully and freely as other our Subjects do or may possess their Lands and Estates or to sell the same if they shall rather Chuse to remove elsewhere--And for so doing this shall be your Warrant, And so we bid you fare well. Given at our Court at Kensington the 23rd day of June 1713 in the Twelfth Year of our Reign.'--Public Archives, Canada. Nova Scotia A, vol. iv, p. 97.] The status of the Acadians under the treaty, reinforced by this warrant, seems to be sufficiently clear. If they wished to become British subjects, which of course implied taking the oath of allegiance, they were to enjoy all the privileges of citizenship, not accorded at that time to Catholics in Great Britain, as well as the free exercise of their religion. But if they preferred to remove to another country within a year, they were to have that liberty.

The French authorities were not slow to take advantage of this part of the treaty. In order to hold her position in the New World and assert her authority, France had transferred the garrison which she had formerly maintained at Placentia, Newfoundland, to Cape Breton. This island she had renamed Ile Royale, and here she was shortly to rear the great fortress of Louisbourg. It was to her interest to induce the Acadians to remove to this new centre of French influence. In March 1713, therefore, the French king intimated his wish that the Acadians should emigrate to Ile Royale; every inducement, indeed, must be offered them to settle there; though he cautioned his officers that if any of the Acadians had already taken the oath of allegiance to Great Britain, great care must be exercised to avoid scandal.

Many Acadians, then, on receiving attractive offers of land in Ile Royale, applied to the English authorities for permission to depart. The permission was not granted. It was first refused by Governor Vetch on the ground that he was retiring from office and was acting only in the absence of Colonel Nicholson, who had been recently appointed governor. The truth is that the English regarded with alarm the removal of practically the entire population from Nova Scotia. The governor of Ile Royale intervened, and sent agents to Annapolis Royal to make a formal demand on behalf of the Acadians, presenting in support of his demand the warrant of Queen Anne. The inhabitants, it was said, wished to leave Nova Scotia and settle in Ile Royale, and 'they expect ships to convey themselves and effects accordingly.' Nicholson, who had now arrived as governor, took the position that he must refer the question to England for the consideration of Her Majesty.

When the demand of the governor of Ile Royale reached England, Vetch was in London; and Vetch had financial interests in Nova Scotia. He at once appealed to the Lords of Trade, who in due course protested to the sovereign 'that this would strip Nova Scotia and greatly strengthen Cape Breton.' Time passed, however, and the government made no pronouncement on the question. Meanwhile Queen Anne had died. Matters drifted. The Acadians wished to leave, but were not allowed to employ British vessels. In despair they began to construct small boats on their own account, to carry their families and effects to Ile Royale. These boats, however, were seized by order of Nicholson, and the Acadians were explicitly forbidden to remove or to dispose of their possessions until a decision with regard to the question should arrive from England.

In January 1715 the accession of George I was proclaimed throughout Acadia. But when the Acadians were required to swear allegiance to the new monarch, they proved obdurate. They agreed not to do anything against His Britannic Majesty as long as they remained in Acadia; but they refused to take the oath on the plea that they had already pledged their word to migrate to Ile Royale. John Doucette, who arrived in the colony in October 1717 as lieutenant-governor, was informed by the Acadians that 'the French inhabitants had never own'd His Majesty as Possessor of this His Continent of Nova Scotia and L'Acadie.' When Doucette presented a paper for them to sign, promising them the same protection and liberty as the rest of His Majesty's subjects in Acadia, they brought forward a document of their own, which evidently bore the marks of honest toil, since Doucette 'would have been glad to have sent' it to the secretary of state 'in a cleaner manner.' In it they declared, 'We shall be ready to carry into effect the demand proposed to us, as soon as His Majesty shall have done us the favour of providing some means of sheltering us from the savage tribes, who are always ready to do all kinds of mischief... In case other means cannot be found, we are ready to take an oath, that we will take up arms neither against His Britannic Majesty, nor against France, nor against any of their subjects or allies.' [Footnote: Public Archives, Canada. Nova Scotia A, vol. viii, p. 181 et seq.]

The attitude of both France and England towards the unfortunate Acadians was thoroughly selfish. The French at Louisbourg, after their first attempt to bring the Acadians to Ile Royale, relapsed into inaction. They still hoped doubtless that Acadia would be restored to France, and while they would have been glad to welcome the Acadians, they perceived the advantage of keeping them under French influence in British territory. In order to do this they had at their hand convenient means. The guarantee to the Acadians of the freedom of their religion had entailed the presence in Acadia of French priests not British subjects, who were paid by the French government and were under the direction of the bishop of Quebec. These priests were, of course, loyal to France and inimical to Great Britain. Another source of influence possessed by the French lay in their alliance with the Indian tribes, an alliance which the missionary priests helped to hold firm. The fear of an Indian attack was destined on more than one occasion to keep the Acadians loyal to France. On the other hand, the British, while loth to let the Acadians depart, did little to improve their lot. It was a period of great economy in English colonial administration. Walpole, in his desire to reduce taxation, devoted very little money to colonial development; and funds were doled out to the authorities at Annapolis in the most parsimonious manner. 'It is a pity,' wrote Newton, the collector of the customs at Annapolis and Canso, in 1719, that 'so fine a province as Nova Scotia should lie so long neglected. As for furs, feathers, and a fishery, we may challenge any province in America to produce the like, and beside that here is a good grainery; masting and naval stores might be provided hence. And was here a good establishment fixt our returns would be very advantageous to the Crown and Great Britain.' As it was, the British ministers were content to send out


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