Ruin of Acadia
By the treaty of Utrecht, made in 1713, the province of Acadia, or Nova Scotia, was ceded by France to England. During the following fifty years the colony remained under the dominion of Great Britain, and was ruled by English officers. but the great majority of the people were French and the English government amounted only to a military occupation of the peninsula. The British colors, floating over Louisburg and Annapolis, and the presence of British garrisons here and there, were the only tokens that this, the oldest French colony in America, had passed under the control of foreigners.
At the time of the cession the population amounted to about three thousand; by the out break of the French and Indian War the number had increased to more than sixteen thousand. Lawrence, the deputy-governor of the province, pretended to fear an insurrection. There was ever a spirit of hostility amongst the people and obedience to English laws was grudgingly given. When Braddock and the colonial governors convened at Alexandria, it was urged that something must be done to overawe the French and strengthen the English authority in Acadia. The enterprise of reducing the French peasants to complete humiliation was intrusted to Lawrence, who was to be assisted by a British fleet under Colonel Monckton. On the 20th of May, 1755, the squadron, with three thousand troops, sailed from Boston for the Bay of Fundy.
The French had no intimation of approaching danger till the English fleet sailed fearlessly into the bay and anchored before the walls of Beau-Sejour. there was no preparation for defense. On the 3d of June the English forces landed. A vigorous siege of four days followed. Fear and confusion reigned among the garrison; no successful resistance could be offered. On the 16th of the month Beau-Sejour capitulated, received an English garrison, and took the name of Fort Cumberland. The feeble post at Gaspereau was taken a few days afterward and named Fort Monckton. Captain Rous was dispatched with four vessels to capture the fort at the mouth of the St. John's; but before the fleet could reach its destination, the French reduced the town to ashes and escaped into the interior. In a campaign of less than a month, and with a loss of only twenty men, the English had made themselves masters of the whole country east of the St. Croix.
The war in Acadia was at an end; but what should be done with the people? The French inhabitants still outnumbered the English nearly three to one. Governor Lawrence and Admiral Boscawen, in conference with the chief justice of the province, settled upon the atrocious measure of driving the people into banishment. The first movement was to demand an oath of allegiance which was so framed that the French could not take it. The priests advised the peasants to declare their loyalty, but refuse the oath. The next step on the part of the English was to accuse the French of treason, and to demand the surrender of all their firearms and boats. To this measure the broken-hearted people also submitted. They even offered to take the oath, but Lawrence declared that, having once refused, they must now take the consequences. The British vessels were made ready, and the work of forcible embarkation began.
The country about the isthmus was covered with peaceful hamlets. These were now laid waste, and the people driven into the larger towns on the coast. Others were induced by artifice and treachery to put themselves into the power of the English. Wherever a sufficient number of the French could be gotten together they were driven on shipboard. They were allowed to take their wives and childten and as much property as would not be inconvenient on the vessels. The estates of the province were confiscated; and what could not be appropriated was given to the flames. The wails of thousands of bleeding hearts were wafted to heaven with the smoke of burning homes. At the villge of Grand Pre four hundred and eighteen unarmed men were called together and shut up in a church. Then came the wives and childten, the old men and the mothers, the sick and the infirm, to share the common fate. The whole company numbered more than nineteen hundred souls. The poor creatures were driven down to the shore, forced into the boats at the point of the bayonet, and carried to the vessels in the bay. As the moaning fugitives cast a last look at their pleasant town, a column of black smoke floating seaward told the story of desolation. More than three thousand of the hapless Acadians were carried away by the British squadron and scatered, helpless, half-starved, and dying, among the English colonies. The history of civilized nations furnishes no parallel to this wanton and wicked destruction of an inoffensive colony.
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