Signing the Oath
by Nelson Surrette
|| But, the oath they took continued, " ... that
the inhabitants, when they have sworn hereto, will not be obliged to take
up arms against France or against the Savages, and the said Inhabitants
have further promised that they will not take up arms against the King
of England or against its government." [Naomi Griffiths, The
Acadians: Creation of a People, p. 26] This second part, a verbal promise, was notarized ... but was not on the
copy that Philipps sent to England. [Daigle, p. 38]
The people drew up a certificate,
attested to by the priest (Charles de la Goudalie) and a notary (Alexander
Bourg, called Bellehumeur). It was too late in the year to visit the other
areas, but in April the Minas population had become British subjects. [Herbin,
| From 1730 on, the Acadians were known as French
Neutrals. It was the first step towards to full allegiance, but this
path was messed up by future actions. The Acadians began to realize
that they were stuck with England, though England didn’t send many troops
to the place. The Acadians were pretty much left to themselves for 15 years,
though England was still waiting for an unconditional oath. For the Acadians,
1713 to 1744 was the most peaceful period of their existence. The population
grew faster in this period that in any other. [Daigle, p.
England had banned the Acadians from developing
new land. But the rapidly increasing population forced them to do
so. At Beaubassin, for example, they spread out to the Memramcook,
Petitcodiac, and Chipoudie rivers areas. In the 1730s, England bought
out the rights from the LaTour family and assumed the seigniorial system
was over. England wanted to settle the new lands with their own settlers.
England did try to collect taxes, but again the Acadians came up with a
variety of excuses. Only 30 pounds were collected in 1732, and only
15 pounds in 1745. Generally, if the Acadians had a problems they settled
it amongst themselves (priests, patriarchs) without going to the English
authorities. [Daigle, p. 40]
Even though the Treaty of Utrecht allowed
the practice of Catholicism "insofar as the laws of Great Britain allowed,"
those laws of Great Britain were stacked against Catholicism. But the Acadians'
religion was not infringed upon by the English. The English allowed
them their priests, but were concerned about their influence. They
sometimes accused priests of creating an anti-English feeling ... of using
the sword more than the cross. [Micheline Dumont-Johnson, Apotres
ou agitateurs: la France missionnaire en Acadie Trois Rivieres,
Boreal Express, 1970]
The missionaries had some degree of influence
on the Indians. But the Indians didn't give them (or even their own
chiefs) complete authority. The French officers at Louisbourg and
Beausejour were jealous of their influence, and the English officers at
Port Royal were wary of it.
The Acadians were about as literate as any
isolated section of New England. They were hard-working, skilled at their
tasks, traded well, and had high moral standards. They just wanted
to be left alone. For about 20 years, things were peaceful. The Acadians
had put dykes in so that all of the land was available for farming. Farms
were divided, since new land was reserved for Protestants.
Armstrong, who succeeded Philips, was governor
till he committed suicide in 1739. In 1732, he tried to contract
with Rene LeBlanc to build a 26x60’ building (granary/magazine) to serve
as a barracks for troops; but Indians objected and the plan was dropped.
Armstrong visited Minas in 1735 to administer the oath to those who hadn’t
taken it, and to renew the treaty with the
Indians. One event that occurred during his tenure was that he
tried to force a priest (not in good standing) on them and they refused
to go to church; so he refused them any priest. [Herbin,
When war broke out in the 1740s (War of Austrian
Succession), Louisbourg thought the Acadians would fight on their side,
and England thought they might revolt also. The Acadians were still
holding fast to their 1730 oath. Some may have gone one way or the
other, but most stayed neutral.
Louisbourg first heard of the news that war
had begun (on March 15, 1744) and attacked a fishing port at the Canso
straight. Another force from Louisbourg attacked Annapolis Royal
(Port Royal) in August, but failed. In mid-winter of 1745, New France
sent Sieur de La Malgue (with 100 militiamen and 400 Indians) to Nova Scotia.
They tried to recruit help in the Acadian settlements. They arrived
at Annapolis Royal in May. [Daigle, p. 41]
France wanted Acadia back. Mascarene (the governor's
representative who was a French Huegenot) knew that the Acadians wouldn’t
give France aid, though French Canada thought they would. France
invaded Acadia 4 times and supplied arms and ammunition ... but they didn’t
want to fight. They were living under a “mild and tranquil government”
and didn’t want to stir the up trouble. They even objected when the
French wanted the soldiers to spend the winter at Minas. [Herbin, 63]
France lost Louisbourg during this period of
conflict. A large fleet was sent to recapture it and Acadia.in 1747.
There were only 220 soldiers at Port Royal, but New England wasn’t far
away. Troops under Chevalier de Ramesay were sent from Quebec to
Chebucto (Halifax) in early spring 1747. But the fleet hadn’t arrived
so he went to Port Royal. With still no signs of
the fleet, he returned home. Finally, some of the fleet arrived
at Chebucto. Ramesay returned to Port Royal, but the fleet still
didn’t show up and he again returned to Quebec.
Storms and plagues had destroyed the largest
fleet France had ever sent across the Atlantic. Mascarene sent an
appeal from Port Royal to Massachusetts governor Shirley for help, and
500 volunteers (commanded by Col. Arthur Noble) were sent. They got
to Port Royal in fall 1747. Some were sent by ship to Minas, but
returned due to bad weather. In November, about 100 marched over
frozen ground to Minas and stayed with the inhabitants. The rest
tried to make it by sea, but had to land (at French Cross, or Morden) and
walk the last 40 miles.
It took them 8 days to reach Minas.
The landing place in the mouth of the Gaspareau was one mile from Grand
Pre. The ships arrived safely with the supplies, which were left
at the landing place for the winter. The soldiers stayed in 24 houses
along the highway. To the horror of the Acadians, a British flag
was hoisted on the church steeple.
Ramesay had built a fort on the isthmus and
controlled the area. Noble wanted to march on it and drive off the
French. Near the center of Grand Pre was a stone building, where
Noble put the cannon. Upon hearing that Noble wanted to attack him (and
troop size), Ramesay planned a night attack on Grand Pre. Since
Ramesay had hurt his knee on the 2nd march to Port Royal, Capt. Coulon
de Villiers was in charge. After 4 days of preparation, he left on Jan.
21 and led 240 Canadians and 20 Indians through 3 feet of snow. They
reached Piziquid, 15 miles from Grand Pre, on the 9th. They divided into
10 groups as they approached the Melanson village, on the banks of the
Gaspereau. They took shelter and warmth in the Acadian homes, and
even found a wedding feast going on. The prospective bloodshed brought
a somber tone to the evening. They learned that Noble’s men were
in 24 houses on a 1 1/2 mile section of the main road in Grand Pre.
FRENCH SUCCESS AT MINAS
There were now 346 French, who divided into
10 groups. It was 2 in the morning and had been snowing for 30 hours
straight. You couldn’t walk without snowshoes. They arrived at about
3. Noble was killed. The English surrendered a day later.
Of the 350 member French force, there were
7 killed and 15 wounded. The English force of 525 had 100 killed,
15 wounded, and 50 captured. Eleven of the 12 houses attacked were
taken. The Acadians at Minas had warned Noble that the French
would attack, but he ignored them. Coulon left on Feb. 12, after
burying the dead.[Herbin, 62-72]
Ramesay claimed that Minas owed submission
to France. The Acadians wrote Mascarene (at Port Royal) asking what
to do. Gov. Shirley sent a brig, 2 schooners, and 300 men to Minas
who stayed there 4 days. Minas had its boats taken, so if they wanted
basic goods (ie. salt), they had to make the trip 60 mile trip to Port Royal.