The National Era Newspaper
August 31, 1854
THE NATIONAL ERA
Washington, D.C., Vol. VIII No. 400 P. 137
For the National Era.
THE NEUTRAL FRENCH IN MASSACHUSETTS.
No tale of fiction was ever composed, that breathes of more of the spirit of romance than the history of the people of Acadie; and it is somewhat singular that more has not been written on this subject, when it presents so attractive a field to repay the labor of those whose tastes lead them to engage in historical research. The publication of Mr. Longfellow's Evangeline, indeed, drew the attention of many to Acadian history; and to such, it is hoped, a comparatively brief account of the condition, after their removal, of those of the Neutral French who were transported to Massachusetts, may prove not uninteresting.
Little can be said to excuse the cruelty of our ancestors in expelling the Acadians from their country; but there is much to palliate the apparently harsh treatment which they received after their dispersion among the Colonies; and when the reader of this article is excited to a just indignation, as he hears of peaceable people being forbidden to travel from place to place, without a written permission from the selectmen of the towns in which they resided, under penalty of the jail and the whipping-post, as was the case with the Neutral French in Massachusetts, or as he hears of a deliberate proposition, made by a Province of King George, to sell fellow Christians, with their own consent, as was the case with the Neutral French in Pennsylvania, let him remember that those things took place a hundred years ago, and that they were no worse cruelties than we now practice daily in our Southern States.
A full biography of William Shirley, for so many years Governor of Massachusetts Bay, would have been a valuable addition to the records of our Provincial History. In every great event in America, for all the fifteen years from 1740 to 1756, he had some share. The siege of Louisburg, the Baron Diekau's defeat, Braddock's expedition to Fort du Quesne, the extradition of the Acadians, are but few of the many important incidents of the time while he was seated in the gubernatorial chair. His life was one long drum-beat, ever brisk and stirring. Now at the Province House, planning with Wm. Pepperell the attack on Louisburg; now a thousand miles away, consulting with Gen. Braddock for the expulsion of the French from the continent; now in the council chamber, with his map spread before him, pointing out the Acadian settlements to Col. Winslow - commander-in-chief of all King George's forces in America, Governor of the most powerful Province of the Crown, Commissioner under the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle - ever active, ever earnest, ever anxious to promote the welfare and sustain the power of England and its Colonies.
In October, 1747, Shirley published a proclamation to the Acadians, from which this is an extract:
"I do hereby declare, in his Majesty's name, that there is not the least foundation for any apprehension of his Majesty's intending to remove them, the said inhabitants of Nova Scotia, from their settlements and habitations within the said Province; but that, on the contrary, it is his Majesty's resolution to protect and maintain all such of them as have adhered to and shall continue in their duty and allegiance to him, in the quiet and peaceable possession of their respective habitations and settlements, and in the enjoyment of their rights and privileges as his subjects."
In less than eight years from the date of this proclamation, the Neutral French were expelled from their country, under the orders of the representatives of King George, by an army raised by Governor Shirley.
By the treaty of Utrecht, negotiated between England and France in 1713, Acadia was ceded to England, and ever after there was a constant dispute between the two Powers as to what territory was embraced under that name, until further agitation of the question was rendered unnecessary by the conquest by England of all the Northern French Provinces in America, and the subsequent confirmation of her possession by treaty.
Beyond question, the peninsula of Nova Scotia was included in Acadia; but the English claimed all the territory down to the Penobscot, and even to the Kennobeck; while the French wished to confine their cession within narrower boundaries, and to limit it at least by the river of St. John. The people known as the Neutral French mostly inhabited that portion of Nova Scotia which is washed by the Bay of Fundy, and their principal settlements were at Grand pre, and other places around the borders of the Basin of Minas. Upon their subjection to Queen Anne, they had taken an oath of submission to England, accompanied by a declaration from the English Governor, the effect of which was to enable them to maintain a state of neutrality during the contests between that country and France. Still, all their sympathies were with the French. They professed the Roman Catholic, religion, they spoke the French language, they had relatives and friends across the ocean, in France, from whence their ancestors came, and they renounced with reluctance their allegiance to the French King, and lived on in hopes that the chances of war, or some trick of diplomacy, would throw them again under his protection.
The French settlements in Acadia had always been objects of jealousy and dread to the New Englanders, and particularly to the people of Massachusetts. Even after that acquisition by England, the same feeling continued. It was feared, and with good reason, that the Acadians would seize the first favorable opportunity to resume again their former French connections. The old national animosities had found their way across the Atlantic, and were as strong and bitter here as in the Old World. The Puritanical sternness of the New England character was far from being softened, and a law still kept its place on the statute-book of Massachusetts, forbidding a Roman Catholic priest to enter the Province, under penalty of death.
At no time during the eighteenth century was this hatred of the French more intense than between 1750 and 1760. As an illustration of the popular disposition, we extract the following sentence from a Boston paper of May, 1755:
"Perhaps the oldest man in Great Britain has not known so general an aversion to the French nation as at this time. To curb their pride and mortify their ambition, is what high and low, rich and poor, among us, seem to make a point of view."
With this angry feeling fully excited, the English colonists were little disposed to look favorably upon the Acadians, although they were nominally subjects of King George; and occasion was eagerly sought for, and readily found, for destroying their settlements.
Near the close of the year 1754, Governor Shirley received letters from England, instructing him, in concert with Lieutenant Governor Charles Lawrence, of Nova Scotia, to take measures for capturing and removing the garrisons of the French forts in that Province; and shortly after, Col. Robert Moncton came with proposals from Lawrence for raising two thousand men, to be employed in the expedition. The Legislature acquiesced in the enlistment, and a regiment was accordingly raised, of which Shirley was nominally the colonel, but the actual command was given to Moncton, and to John Winslow, a direct descendant of old Edward Winslow, of the Plymouth Colony - each of them commanding one of the two battalions into which the regiment was divided. Shirley also planned an expedition against Crown Point.
Early in the year 1755, General Braddock arrived in Virginia, from England, and a conference took place at Alexandria, at which Shirley was present. A general plan of operations for the campaign was projected, and four attacks on the French was agreed upon - one, the well-known march of Braddock against Fort du Quesne; another, Gen. Johnson's expedition to Crown Point, which resulted in the Baron Dieskau's defeat; a third, the attack upon the French Nova Scotian forts, by the regiment then raising in Massachusetts; the fourth and last, an attempt to dislodge the French from their fort at Niagara, by an armed force commanded by Shirley himself. Thus the expedition which resulted in the removal of the Neutral French is not to be looked on without considering its connection with the other military movements of the campaign. It was only one link of a great chain of operations, the object of them all being the reduction of the line of French posts on the frontier.
On the 20th of May, 1755, Moncton and Winslow's regiment sailed from Boston, and entered the basin of Annapolis Royal five days after. On the 1st of June, they sailed from this basin - their fleet numbering forty-one small vessels - and on the 4th commenced their operations against the fort of Beau Sejour. This fort, and also that at Bay Verte, and the French stations at the mouth of the river St. John, were soon captured, and many Acadians were taken in arms among the garrisons. By this time, the summer was far advanced. The news of Braddock's defeat, on July 9th, reached Boston on the 23d, and was immediately transmitted to Halifax. Its effect on the people there was very disheartening. They despair of the accomplishment of any important object of the campaign, and their anxiety as to their own safety was aroused, when they reflected on the effect which this great disaster to the English arms might produce upon their neighbors, the Neutral French. The English Nova Scotian settlements were too recent to have yet acquired power for self-defence; their only security, in case of attack, was in the British fleet, which lay at anchor in the harbor of Halifax, and in the powerful body of troops which Moncton and Winslow commanded. The Neutral French were nearly 18,000 in number, and, although disarmed and to all appearance pacific still might be stirred up to insurrection, should any vigorous attack be made upon the English by the French from Louisburg.
At this state of affairs, Governor Lawrence and his Council consulted with Admirals Boscawen and Maystyn, who commanded the fleet, as to the proper course to be pursued towards the Acadians; and it was determined to expel them all from their country, and scatter them among the other British Colonies. Notice was accordingly given to the Governors of the different Provinces to prepare for their reception.
The manner in which the removal was accomplished is well known. The execution of the work was intrusted to Winslow and the Massachusetts regiment. By a proclamation, issued on September 2d, 1755, all the men of the Acadian districts on the basis of Minas were ordered to attend at the church at Grand Pre, on the afternoon of Friday, the 5th inst., the purpose of the assemblage being concealed under ambiguous language. Winslow commanded in person at Grand Pre. Annapolis (the French Port Royal) and Fort Cumberland were also fixed upon as the principal points for the assemblage of the inhabitants of other districts. At Grand Pre, more than four hundred men gathered, coming mostly from the districts of Minas and Canard. After their entrance, the doors of the church were closed and guarded. Winslow, surrounded by a portion of his troops, who had been previously stationed within the church, addressed them, declaring "his Majesty's final resolution to the French inhabitants of his Province of Nova Scotia."
We quote a portion of his address:
"The part of duty I am now upon, though necessary, is very disagreeable to my natural make and temper, as I know it must be grievous to you who are of the same species; but it is not my business to animadvert, but to obey such orders as I receive, and therefore, without hesitation, shall deliver you his Majesty's orders and instructions, namely - that your lands and tenements, cattle of all kinds, and live stock of all sorts, are forfeited to the Crown; with all other your effects, saving your money and your household goods; and you yourselves to be removed from this, his Province. Thus it is peremptorily his Majesty's orders, that the whole French inhabitants of these districts be removed; and I am, through his Majesty's goodness, directed to allow you liberty to carry off your money and household goods, as many as you can, without discommoding the vessels you go in. I shall do everything in my power that all these goods be secured to you, and that you are not molested in carrying them off; also, that whole families shall go in the same vessel, and make this remove, which I am sensible must give you a great deal of trouble, as easy as his Majesty's service will admit; and hope that in whatever part of the world you may fall, you may be faithful subjects, a peaceful and happy people."
The prisoners, upon consultation, drew up a petition, and presented it to Colonel Winslow, entreating him to detain part of them as hostages for the return of the remainder, whom they besought him to allow to proceed to their families, and prepare for their removal. This proposition was not agreed to; but on each day, till the 10th of September, the time fixed for their embarcation, twenty were allowed leave of absence for the day only. In the mean time, detachments of the troops were employed in ravaging the country.
On the morning of the 10th the prisoners left the church, and were formed into divisions according to their age, the old men being placed last. The five transports which were to receive them were anchored at the mouth of the Gaspereaux. The road from the church to the sea shore, a mile in length, was lined with women and children, who, stationing themselves by the few household goods which they had collected and transported thither, in hopes of being permitted to take away, waited for the procession to pass, that they might see again the father, or brother, or lover, or friend, who had left them so brief a time before, little thinking that when they were to meet again, it would be in the midst of such distress. The young men were then ordered forward to the ships, the intention being to cause them to embark before the others. They resolutely refused to proceed, reminding Winslow of the promise he had made, that families should not be separated, and expressing their entire willingness to obey, provided that this promise should be fulfilled. Force was then resorted to, and the troops were ordered to advance, and drive them to the landing. Finding remonstrance of no avail, and knowing that resistance would be worse than useless, for they were unarmed, they submitted, and began their march, the older men following; and it is recorded that they passed, “weeping, praying, and singing hymns,” over the long road to the sea shore,” crowded with women and children, who, on their knees greeted them with their tears and their blessings.”
An interesting account of this scene is to be found in Judge Haliburton's History of Nova Scotia. Colonel Winslow himself, in his journal, which has been preserved, and is in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, has recorded many incidents connected with it.
One of the most affecting occurrences in French history was the passage of the Girondists to the scaffold, chanting the Marsellaise as the tumbril rumbled through the streets of Paris to the Place de la Revolution, and still maintaining the song as one by one submitted to the executioner, Vergniaud the last.
But this scene of the exile of the Acadians appears no less sublime; and old Rene Leblance, the patriarch of Grand pre, the gray-haired notary of Evangeline,
"Bent like a laboring oar, that toils in the surf of
Bent, but not broke, by age,"
tottering to the shore, surrounded by his scores of children and grandchildren "weeping, praying, and singing hymns, affords no less affecting a spectacle than Vergniaud, chanting the Marsellaise on the steps of the scaffold".
The men were all embarked in the five transports, and shortly after, other vessels arriving, the women and children were put on board of them, and the whole fleet set sail.
At Cumberland (the French Beau Sejour) and Annapolis, the English were not so successful. Very many of the Neutrals fled into the woods, and but few obeyed the proclamations, and gathered to the places of assemblage. Many of the fugitives were ultimately driven by famine and cold to surrender themselves. Some took refuge with Indian tribes and others, with incredible suffering, forced their way through the woods until they arrived at French outposts.
The whole country was ravaged by the English soldiery. The harvest had just been gathered in, and the barns and granaries, filled with the products of the field, were all destroyed, for it was impossible to remove but a small portion of the grain and fruits to the English settlements. Nearly, if not above, fifteen hundred buildings were burned; six hundred and ninety-eight in the District of Minas alone. We gather from the correspondence between the officers engaged in the work, that one object of this reckless destruction was to deprive those Acadians who had escaped to the woods of all means of subsistence, and so to compel their surrender.
The Acadian settlements, however, were so thinly scattered over so great an extent of territory, that but few more than seven thousand of the Neutrals were seized at this time. Many of those who were captured afterwards, were removed to Halifax. In all, at different times, probably near ten thousand were taken.
Let us now follow the exiles to the other Colonies.
September 7, 1854
THE NATIONAL ERA
Washington, D.C., Vol. VIII No. 401 P. 141
For the National Era.
THE NEUTRAL FRENCH IN MASSACHUSETTS.
By Braddock's death, Shirley had become commander in chief of the King's forces in America. He was at that time away from Massachusetts, engaged in making preparations for his expedition against the French fort at Niagara; and the various duties which devolved upon him prevented his return until the close of January, in the following year.
The Lieutenant Governor, Spencer Phips, in the mean time was at the head of affairs. The Assembly, after a short session, held from the 5th to the 9th of September, occasioned by the necessity of raising a reinforcement for Gen. Johnson's army, stood prorogued to the 10th of October.
Of the exiled Acadians, a thousand were destined to Massachusetts; and about a fortnight after the commencement of the October session, a portion of them arrived at Boston harbor. Although the ratio of passengers to the tonnage of the vessels was originally intended not to extend two to a ton, still they were loaded much beyond this proportion. On nearly every vessel, many had been obliged to sleep on deck during the entire passage. The allowance of provisions and water was scanty. Owing to the crowded state of the vessels; there had been little opportunity for any to carry with them even a small share of their household goods, so that most were in a state utter destitution.
The notifications from Governor Lawrence, of Nova Scotia, to the Governors of the other Provinces, requesting them to prepare for the reception of the Acadians, were sent during the second week in August; and that directed to Massachusetts was received by Phips, for Shirley had left the Province on the 28th of June. The administration of a Lieutenant Governor is generally cautious; and when the vessels arrived, much time was spent in deliberation as to the proper course for the Government to pursue. There was no positive obligation upon the Province to receive the Neutrals; and considerable debate arose in the Assembly, concerning the expediency of allowing such a burden to be imposed upon them, and also concerning the proper mode of disposing of them, in case they should be permitted to land.
In the mean time, several of the aged and some of the most dangerously sick passengers, together with many women, had been tacitly permitted to come on shores, and, through the benevolence of private citizens, had been provided with shelter.
Their condition was truly most distressing. Notwithstanding Winslow's declaration, at Grand Pre, "that whole families should go in the same vessel," many families had been separated, and the different members embarked in different vessels bound to various ports.
At length, a resolved passed the Legislature, and was approved by Phips, permitting them all to land, and, on November 7th, a committee was appointed "to direct in the disposition of such of the inhabitants of Nova Scotia, as are or may be sent hither, and that they dispose of them in such manner as may be least inconvenient to this Government."
This was the first of a long series of committees appointed at intervals, for years, to examine into the condition of the Neutrals, and adopt whatever measures should appear advisable for their support and welfare. The duties of this committee were in the highest degree laborious and difficult. The whole population of the Province at that time hardly amounted to two hundred thousand. The treasury had suffered from the many expenses necessarily incurred by the prosecution of the extensive military operations of the campaign which had just closed. The winter was fast approaching, and there was need of prompt action to prevent extreme suffering among the exiles. It was finally resolved to distribute them among the towns. But here there were many difficulties to be encountered. To-day even, when Massachusetts has five times the population and more than fifty times the wealth it had a hundred years ago, when myriads of Irish emigrants are daily landing at Boston, many of them immediately imposing themselves upon the public charity for their entire support, and when the foreign paupers are numbered by tens of thousands, the arrival of a single vessel crowded with sick, wretched, penniless beings, some incapable and many unwilling to labor, attracts no slight attention. And it will readily be conceived how much greater disturbance was excited by the arrival of a fleet with nearly a thousand exiled Acadians, in 1755.
It was considered inexpedient to distribute many of them throughout that part of the Province which is now embraced within the State of Maine, for the inducements and facilities for escape from the settlement there, to Acadia, would have been too great. So the towns of Massachusetts proper were loaded with almost all the burden.
On December, 16th, it was voted "that his honor the Lieut. Governor be requested to write to his excellancy Gov. Lawrence, to acquaint him that this Government have admitted a number of inhabitants of Nova Scotia, (sent hither to his order,) who arrived when the season was so far advanced that they could do but little for their own support; that the Government here received them in expectation of being indemnified from all charges that might arise on their account, and therefore desire his excellency will give orders for defraying all such charges; and, further, to acquaint him that if any more should be sent hither, he would at the same time give the like orders respecting them." This was the first, though not the only appeal made to the Nova Scotian Government for indemnity for the numberless expenses incurred by Massachusetts in supporting the Neutrals; and it was only after many years, when the charges had amounted to many thousand pounds, that even a small portion of the amount was recovered.
The towns were directed to look to the Provincial treasury for remuneration for the expenses which they incurred; and on December 23d, an act passed, authorizing the town officers, justices of the peace, and the judges of superior courts, "to employ, bind out, or support, said inhabitants of Nova Scotia, in like manner as by law they would have been empowered to do, were they (the Neutrals the inhabitants of this Province;" and exact accounts of their expenses were to be sent to the Secretary of State, "in order to ascertain the sum advanced by this Government for the service and safety of the Province of Nova Scotia."
On the 26th, more of the Neutrals arrived. Some reluctance was exhibited about receiving these; but finally, because "they are without any provision for their support, and in great danger of suffering during this rigorous season," a committee was appointed to take charge of them; but only "until advice any he had from Governor Lawrence, and his orders concerning them, or until there may be an opportunity of applying to his excellency General Shirley, for his directions." They were eventually distributed among the towns, being, like the others, subject to this condition, which was inserted in the order - that their "being so received and entertained in any town shall not be construed or understood to be an admission of them as town inhabitants; the Court (that is, the Legislature,) relying upon it that some other provision will be made for them, without any expense to this Government."
In general, the Neutrals were permitted undisturbed private practice of the rites of their religion, but any public religious exercises of their church would on no account have been tolerated. Notwithstanding the severe against the entrance of any Roman Catholic priest into the Province, it was suspected that some were present in disguise; and although Hutchinson thought any such suspicion unfounded, it is now certain that a few enthusiastic men risked detection, in their desire to keep warm in the hearts of the exiles their devotion to the church of Rome.
Houses were provided for the aged and sick, at the expenses of the Province, and, so far as concerns the Provincial Government, more was done for the support and even for the comfort of the Neutrals, than was to be expected, when such an intense hatred of the French universally prevailed, and when it is considered that they were thrown upon the public charity by no act or request of the Government.
Nowhere did those who were transported to the other Colonies fare so well. The Southern Provinces, having little intercourse or interest in common with the Nova Scotian settlements, and desirous to rid themselves of such an unexpected and ungrateful burden secretly encouraged them in their efforts to return again to Acadia. The Government of Pennsylvania proposed to those who were sent there, that, as slavery would be an improvement upon their wretched condition, they should permit themselves to be sold. But this proposition was indignantly rejected. Two hundred and fifty, of the four hundred and fifteen who formed the Pennsylvanian quota, died within two years, from poverty and disease. Old Rene Leblanc was among them. He had been landed at New York, with his wife, and two only out of his twenty children and hundred and fifty grandchildren. From there he found his way to Philadelphia, and soon died.
Thus the year 1755 closed upon the Neutrals; and, on looking back, how mournful must have been their reflections! Only a year before, in their own land, on their own farms, surrounded by all their simple comforts; the broad meadows, which they had redeemed from the sea, stretching out before them, coated with snow; the great dykes, which they had built, shutting them in, and the ocean beyond their thousands of cattle safely sheltered by the great barns; and within the old farmhouses, by the blazing hearths, all the quiet home pleasures of a Northern winter. It was the holyday time, when Christmas, "the dear Lord's festival," returns, and all their simple chapels were beautified with pines and firs and evergreens, and the bells sounded on the frosty air, and their own priests taught them in the old religious faith - the faith of their fathers, in France, over the sea.
On January 30th, 1756, Shirley returned to Massachusetts, and on the 4th of February a committee was appointed "to prepare a message to his excellency the Governor, respecting the French persons, commonly called French Neutrals, lately inhabitants of Nova Scotia, and sent hither by order of his Majesty's Governor of that Province." Among the members of this committee were Thomas Hutchinson, James Bowdoin, and Josiah Quincy. They reported an address, which was read and accepted, and presented to Shirley on February 7th. It commences with an appeal to give to the subjects of which it treats an earnest consideration, and with an explanation of the reasons which led to its presentation. It contains a recital of the condition of the New England troops who followed Winslow to Nova Scotia, and recommends the immediate recall of those who were sent from Massachusetts. The removal and the disposition made of the Neutral French is then spoken of at length, as follows:
"We beg leave further to represent to your excellency, that about three months ago a vessel arrived at Boston, from Nova Scotia, full freighted with French persons, inhabitants of that Province, whom the Governor and Council there, in concert with the Admirals of his Majesty's squadron, then at Halifax, judged necessary to be removed and distributed through his Majesty's several Colonies upon the continent."
His honor the Lieutenant Governor, soon after the arrival of this vessel, with the advice of the Council, sent to Mr. Greene, one of the Council of Nova Scotia, then at Boston, and also to the agents employed in hiring and paying the charge of the vessels in which the said inhabitants were transported to, to inquire whether any provision was made for their subsistence; but the said Mr. Greene had received no orders for that purpose, and the agents declined to continue the subsistence after the passengers landed; so that, unless provision had been made by this Government, these unhappy people must have perished. And, upon intimation given that several other vessels were designed hither, the Lieutenant Governor acquainted Governor Lawrence, by letter, with the desire of the two Houses that no more of said inhabitants should be sent to this Province; but it does not appear that the said letter arrived seasonably, and the other vessels came in soon after, and about one thousand persons, in the whole, have been landed here.
Application could not be made to your excellency during your absence, and therefore orders were given to distribute the whole number through the several towns, there to be supported until your excellency return to your Government.
"The receiving among us so great a number of persons whose gross bigotry to the Roman Catholic religion is notorious, and whose loyalty to his Majesty is suspected, is a thing very disagreeable to us; but, as there seems to be a necessity for it, we shall be ready to come into any reasonable acts or orders to enable and encourage them to provide for their own maintenance; but we humbly conceive it will never be expected that in the mean time the charge and burden of their support should lie upon this Government."
"We must acquaint your excellency that the live stock, the husbandry tools, and most of the household furniture of these people, were left in the Providence of Nova Scotia, and that very few have brought with them any goods or estate of any kind soever".
"In the Southern Colonies, where the winters are more mild, employment may be found, so as to prevent any great expense to the Government; but here they are a dead weight, for many of our own inhabitants are scarcely able to find employ sufficient to support themselves during the winter season".
"The removal of the French inhabitants from Nova Scotia seems to be as fully connected with the protection and safety of that Providence as the removal of the encroachments made by the subjects of the French King, and we doubt not your excellency thinks this matter comes under your immediate care and direction, in consequence of the commission you have lately received from his Majesty. Our other necessary and unavoidable charges are as much as we can hear. We therefore earnestly pray your excellency to give such directions in this affair as that this Government may be freed from any further charge in relation to it, and reimbursed the sums already advanced."
Shortly after the presentation of this address, several acts were passed, defining more precisely the relative duties of the Neutrals and of the magistrates of the towns in which they were placed.
One great mistake into which many of the Neutrals fell - those in Massachusetts probably less than any others - was an assumption of the position that they were prisoners of war, and a refusal to work, and a demand to be supported by the public, on this ground. The facts in the case were these: In 1714, the year after Acadie was ceded to Great Britain, Mr. Nicholson arrived in America, commissioned by the King as Governor of Nova Scotia. He left it to the option of the Acadians, either to become subjects of the British Crown, or to remove from the Province within a year. Repeated applications were made to them to take the oath of allegiance, but they invariably refused. The threat of removal was never executed. In 1719, Nicholson was succeeded by Mr. Phillips, who issued a proclamation summoning them to take the oath.
After conferences between the Governor and deputations of the inhabitants, obedience to the summons was generally refused, many grievances which they professed to have suffered from the British being alleged by the Acadians in defense. Governor Phillips, having no positive instructions as to what course of action he should adopt under these circumstances, sailed for England to obtain directions from the Home Government. Soon after his departure, the Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Armstrong, contrived to prevail upon many of the Acadians to take the oath, and when Phillips returned, it was again administered to nearly a thousand of the inhabitants, in this form:
"We sincerely promise and swear, by the faith of a Christian, that we shall be entirely faithful, and will truly submit ourselves to his Majesty, King George, whom we acknowledge as Sovereign Lord of New Scotland or Acadie: so God help us."
And, at the same time, they were promised, to quote their own language, "that they should have the true exercise of their religion, and be exempted from bearing arms and from being employed in war, either against the French or Indians." This exemption from military service gave to them the name, which they ever after retained, of "Neutral French."
In 1747, the Acadian deputies were required to renew this oath, in behalf of all their people. No mention of exemption from bearing arms was made at this time. In 1749, Halifax was founded, and Governor Edward Cornwallis, who had come to America with the new British Colonists, summoned the Neutral French to take the oath of allegiance unconditionally. His summons was not obeyed, and the Neutrals expressed their desire, sooner than to obey it, to emigrate to the Isle of St. John, and put themselves under the protection of France. But cornwallis's demand was not insisted upon. Just before the removal of the Acadians, in 1755, nearly a hundred of their principal men were ordered to appear before Governor Lawrence and his Council, at Halifax, and there it was required of them to take the oath, with no exemption as to military service, but they refused. In view of these facts and of the circumstances of their removal, many of the exiles, as we have said, thought that the conduct of Great Britain towards them had been such as to justify them in regarding themselves, under the present circumstances, as prisoners of war. But they soon found that this position was untenable, for most of them had no option but to work or to starve, neither the Provincial nor the Home Governments ever recognising their claim to be treated like captured enemies.
The reluctance to receive any more of the Neutrals, which was expressed in the address of the General Court to Shirley, was universally felt. The trouble and expense created by those already received became every day more and more onerous. Besides, the Province had a serious cause of complaint against the Government of Nova Scotia, in respect to their treatment by Winslow's troops.
Nevertheless, the Legislature was, on several occasions, induced to consent to the admission of more Neutrals, contrary to the wishes of the public, and with considerable reluctance.
In April, 1756, seventy-two Neutrals were brought to the Province by Col. Preble, and were taken in charge by Messrs. Althorp and Hancock, agents for the Nova Scotian Government. They were forbidden to remain in Massachusetts, and Mr. Hancock was ordered to ship them to North Carolina. On May 11th, they addressed a petition the Council, setting forth that they were formerly inhabitants of the country around the Passage of Baccareaux, on Cape Sable, "a place far distant and separate from other settlements in Acadie, where they employed themselves wholly in fishing, and depended upon the seas for their livelihood;" that their situation had been such as to enable them often to afford assistance to ship-wrecked British seamen, and that they had many times saved them from perishing; that they had always been on good terms with the English, had furnished their fishermen with supplies, and never molested them by word or deed. They represented that it was not with them as with most others; that removal to a Southern Colony would not better their condition, as it would that of those Acadians who had supported themselves by agriculture, and not by fishing; for in North Carolina they would be quite excluded from those means of subsistence to which they have always been accustomed, and obliged to seek their living from cultivating lands, and perhaps bringing forward new ones, with which they are wholly unacquainted, so that they must needs find themselves reduced to the greatest misery.
They therefore prayed that they might be allowed to remain in Massachusetts, and support themselves in the fishing towns, by those seafaring employments in which they had always been engaged. But little heed was given to this petition. A vessel was provided for their transportation; but, after embarking, they came on shore by force, and refused to go on board again. Mr. Hancock appeared before the Council, and requested authority to compel their re-embarkation, or else permission for them to remain in the Province. Permission was granted to them to remain for fourteen days; at the end of which time their case was considered by a legislative committee, and they were allowed to remain permanently, and were distributed among the seaport towns, from Plymouth to Gloucester. During the fourteen days, they were ordered to be supported at the charge of Mr. Hancock, and the charge of their transportation to North Carolina was to have been defrayed by him. This Mr. Hancock was Thomas, uncle to John Hancock.
September 14, 1854
THE NATIONAL ERA
Washington, D.C., Vol. VIII No. 402 P. 145
For the National Era.
THE NEUTRAL FRENCH IN MASSACHUSETTS.
In many instances, the Neutrals were treated with great inhumanity by the town magistrates. They were often disposed of solely with a view to obtaining the greatest profit from their labor, with little regard to their comfort, and, in many instances, to even the ordinary dictates of humanity. Their only means of obtaining relief was by petitioning the General Court, and in every instance these petitions appear to have received proper attention, a committee of the Council being usually appointed to inquire into the facts stated. One example will serve as an illustration of their general character. Two Neutrals who had been sent to Marshfield, who were supporting themselves and their family, and giving no trouble to the magistrates, complained that their son was torn away from them by force, by order of the overseers of the poor, and carried on shipboard; that they did not know, and were unable to obtain information to what port the vessel sailed, or on how long a voyage; and they requested that an investigation might be had, and their child restored to them if possible. The only reason assigned for the action of the overseers of the poor, and it probably was a sufficient reason to them, was that they were offered by the sea captain pay for the services of the boy.
One peculiarity which all the Neutrals exhibited, was a desire to return to Acadie. Although they knew that the whole country had been laid waste, that their houses, barns, mills, churches, had all been burned, that they would almost inevitably be discovered by the British troops, and in that case certainly be imprisoned at Halifax, still they wished to return. Many who had been sent to country towns, wandered to towns on the sea shore, in hope of finding opportunity for escape. Others, who had been separated from their families, left those places to which they had been assigned, and sought in other villages to find some relation or friend. In this manner great conclusion was soon produced. Many towns complained that they were obliged to support more than their share in proportion to their population. Others, if any of these wanderers became dependent upon their charity, refused to support them at all. This state of things led to the passage of an order, on June 10, 1756, directing the town officers "to be very careful to keep the French people from idling and wandering about; and none of that people shall be permitted to travel from town to town without leave first obtained from two of the selectmen, or overseers of the poor, where they respectively belong, of which such people shall produce certificate, or otherwise they shall be stopped and turned back by any two English householders, who are hereby empowered to examine, and stop or return them, if they have not excuse in writing, as above." Very soon after, this order was strengthened by an act authorizing magistrates to punish any of these "wandering French people who have not excuse in writing," by the infliction of five days' imprisonment, or ten lashes at the whipping post, or both, at their discretion.
We have already mentioned the reluctance with which those Neutrals who were sent to the Southern Colonies were received. They did not arrive until January or February; and after a few months, an occasion which offered itself was readily seized, for sending them away. They were all affected with that same desire to return to Acadie, whatever might be the dangers or the toil to which they would be exposed on their way, or, if they should ever reach there, after their arrival. Near the close of the spring, a portion of those in Georgia and South Carolina, having provided themselves with a few small boats, set sail, intending to reach Nova Scotia by coasting along the shores. Others were to follow, if this expedition should prove successful. The Southern Colonial Governments, far from checking their undertaking, encouraged them, and even furnished them with passports. Governor Lawrence, however, obtained information of all their movements; and on the 1st of July he addressed a letter concerning them to Shirley, who was then in New York. The letter was directed to Boston, but he did not reach there until August. Lawrence wrote:
"I am well informed that many of the French inhabitants transported last year from this Province, and distributed among the different Colonies upon the continent, have procured small vessels, and embarked on board them in order to return by coasting from Colony to Colony; and that several of them are now actually on their way. As their success in this enterprise would not only frustrate the design of this Government in sending them away at so prodigious an expense, but would also greatly endanger the security of the Province, especially at this juncture, I think it my indispensable duty to entreat your Excellency to use your utmost endeavors to prevent the accomplishment of so pernicious an undertaking, by destroying such vessels as those in your Colony may have prepared for that purpose, and all that may pass through any part of your Government, either by land or water, in their way hither. I would by no means have given your Excellency this trouble, were I not perfectly well assured how fatal the return of these people is likely to prove to his Majesty's interest in this part of the world."
During the month of June, Shirley, being [ ], as we have [ ] in New York, received despatches from England, [ ] him from his Government, and ordering him to leave the command of the army to General Abercrombie until Lord Loudoun should arrive. The receipt of these despatches obliged him to remain in New York until September, on private business, as well as to arrange the financial affairs of the army. In the mean time, towards the close of July, a portion of the little fleet of coasting vessels which had sailed from the South, reached Massachusetts, and put into a harbor on Cape Cod, and Lieut. Governor Phips wrote to Lawrence on July 23d, before the receipt of his letter of July 1st, stating that, a few days before, he had quite unexpectedly received information that seven boats, containing nearly a hundred French Neutrals, had coasted along the shore from Georgia or South Carolina, and had reached a harbor in the southern part of the Province; that he had ordered their persons and boats to be seized, and three or four of their number to be sent to Boston for examination. As soon as Lawrence's letter reached Boston, Phips wrote again, enclosing a copy of his former letter, and stating that he had caused the Neutrals whom he had seized to be detained in Massachusetts; and "what appeared pretty extraordinary, was, that the people had been furnished with a passport from the Governors of Georgia, South Carolina, and New York." He asked that Lawrence should provide immediately for their maintenance, for Massachusetts was sufficiently burdened. Lawrence does not appear to have troubled himself to make any such provision as Phips requested, and, as usual, a committee was appointed "to consider what ought to be done with these people," and, in accordance with its report, they were ordered to be sent to join the others among the towns. They had been brought to Boston by the sheriff or Barnstable county, soon after their seizure, and were confined in the Suffolk jail, to await their distribution. The failure of this expedition appears to have discouraged the others, and no similar attempt to return to Acadie was ever again made.
Henceforward, for a long time, little change took place in the condition of the Neutrals; but, though other things more immediately engaged the public mind, Acadie and the Acadians never passed wholly out of sight. Many gentlemen of distinction, in political and social life, became deeply interested in their fortunes; among them, Thomas Hutchinson, then a member of the Council. Still, the strong prejudices which they encountered on their arrival never wore away. The towns found in them never-failing causes of complaint - towns on the seashore constantly petitioning that those among them might be sent to the country towns, for fear that they might escape; and the country towns complaining that they had received more than their proportion, and praying for a new distribution.
Shirley sailed for England in the fall of 1756, and Phips became acting Governor again. Mr. Phips died on April 4th, 1757, and the Council administered affairs until summer; when Thomas Pownall, formerly Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, came, commissioned by the King as Shirley's successor. Governor Pownall landed at Halifax on July 9th, and almost his first act, after proceeding to Boston, was to take measures for supplying Admiral Holburn's fleet, in which he had come to America, with sailors. The campaign of this year had been signalized by several French successes, and, immediately after the arrival of the news of the loss of Fort William Henry, which surrendered to Montcalm on August 9th, a proclamation was issued, commanding the sheriffs to keep a strict watch upon the Neutral French, for many of them were suspected of being in correspondence with the enemy. The Governor was authorized to impress them, at his discretion, for service on board Holburn's squadron, and a committee reported to the Council in favor of sending the Great Britain all who should not be thus disposed of; but this latter project appears to have soon fallen to the ground. The Neutrals in Massachusetts at this time could not have numbered much less than fifteen hundred; for, in addition to the original thousand, and to those who had been detained on their expedition from the Southern Colonies, many others had found their way into the Province - some seeking for relatives or friends, others coming subsequently from Nova Scotia. Many French prisoners of war must also have been in Massachusetts; for, two months previously, there had been a discussion in the General Court about providing for those of them "who were brought in by private ships of war." The alarm which the presence of the Neutrals excited sometimes appears very ridiculous. The good people of Charlestown, for instance, sent in a long, carefully written petition, representing that there was a powder-house in their town, with no guard about it, and that they were in constant danger of being blown up; and praying, to avert any such disaster, that some thirty or forty Neutrals might be removed from among them into the country. The town officers of Marblehead, the year before, had made a similar request, stating that thirty-seven Neutrals were encamped in tents on Marblehead Neck, and, as war then existed, there was no knowing what damage they might do to the town. But we suspect that the petitions in these cases, as in many others, not being able to get rid of their Neutrals in any other way, were driven to these expedients to do so.
The campaign of 1758, though marked by the defeat of General Abercrombie before Ticonderoga, was, on the whole, not disastrous to the British, who captured Frontenaue, Du Quesne, and Louisburg. The campaign of 1759, after the capture of Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Niagara, resulted in the taking of Quebec and Montreal. During the summer, while the army lay before Quebec, General Wolfe wrote to Governor Pownall, informing him that a correspondence was carried on between the Neutrals in Massachusetts and the French, and that several of them had escaped to Canada. On account of this information, the towns were ordered to send in lists of the Neutrals among them, and to mention particularly all who were suspected of correspondence with the enemy, and also all who had left their towns under any pretext; but this order was never fully obeyed.
After Canada was subdued, the Neutrals were allowed greater liberty; the strict watch which had been kept upon them was relaxed, and they were permitted, under certain restrictions, to travel about and to change their places of residence from one town to another; the towns to which they were originally assigned being nevertheless obliged to be responsible for the support of any of those, thus removing, who should fail to support themselves. A committee was also appointed, to make new and equitable divisions of them, one member being assigned to each county, to oversee the distribution there. Measures were taken to make them legal inhabitants of the Province - a privilege which they had never received before - and on August 15th, 1760, an act passed that "they be deemed and adjudged legal inhabitants of the towns and districts to which they may have been assigned." During the winter of 1757, an effort had been made to obtain a reimbursement of the expenses which the Neutrals occasioned; but all the satisfaction which was obtained from Governor Lawrence was the expression of his opinion, that, on application to the Government in England, full recompense would be given, and a promise that he would do everything in his power to assist Massachusetts in recovering what was justly due to her. He also requested a full account of the expenses in question, to be laid before his Council at Halifax.
Henceforward, committees were appointed from time to time, for many years, to collect and arrange the accounts of these expenses. Up to the summer of 1759, the total amount was L8,725. Hundreds of the bills send in by the towns to the Provincial treasury are preserved among the State archives. They are very curious, and valuable to the antiquary, as illustrating the price of things in those times.
In the articles of capitulation of Canada, signed by Gen. Amhurst and the Marqula de … provision is made: "Tous les peuples quiont quites l'Acadie et qui feront trouves dans le Canada, includant les frontieres du Canada ou les cotes del'Acadie, auront le meme traitement et jouiront des memes privileges que les Candiens."* This was designed to protect all those who had escaped to Canada five years before, when Winslow ravaged Acadie, as well as those who had escaped after their removal to the other Provinces.
* All the people who have quitted Acadie, and who shall be found in Canada, including the frontiers of Canada or the shores of Acadie, shall have the same treatment and enjoy the same privileges as the Canadians.
September 21, 1854
THE NATIONAL ERA
Washington, D.C., Vol. VIII No. 403 P. 149
For the National Era.
THE NEUTRAL FRENCH IN MASSACHUSETTS.
If ever the Neutrals had been induced to maintain, for one moment, a sincere attachment to the British Government, the treatment which they received from that Government had swept it all away, and left a most unrelenting hostility in its place; and the conquest of Canada, though it made a favorable change in their condition, so far as regarded personal comfort, and secured to them freedom from many annoyances to which they had been subjected from the anti-Catholic and anti-French spirit of the people, was still not without its dark side to them. It destroyed the only reasonable hope of a return to Acadie which they could have entertained; for they had hoped that the French King would be so successful in the war as to be able to dictate, as a condition of peace, their restoration to their country. Their history, from this time forward, is marked with attempts to emigrate to France, or to French Colonies.
During the year 1760, many changes had occurred in the Governments of Massachusetts and of Nova Scotia. Pownall was transferred from the chief magistracy of Massachusetts to that of South Carolina; and Francis Bernard, the Governor of New Jersey, took his place. Gov. Lawrence, of Nova Scotia, had died, and the administration of affairs devolved upon Jonathan Belcher, then Chief Justice of the Province. King George II, also, had died during this year, and his successor was proclaimed at Boston on December 30th. Thomas Hutchinson on December 30th. Thomas Hutchinson, appointed Lieutenant Governor in 1758, continued to hold that office.
We cannot illustrate Gov. Bernard's disposition towards the Neutral French, better than by quoting from one of his messages to the General Court, some years after his accession. He wrote:
"Ever since I have been Governor of this Province, I have had great compassion for this people, as every one must who has considered that it was by the exigencies of war, rather than by any fault of their own, that they were removed from a state of ease and affluence, and brought into poverty and dependence."
During the year 1761, a tide of emigration flowed in upon the old Acadian country, chiefly from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, also many emigrants came. The original intention of the British Government was to have given up the lands of the Neutrals to military settlers; but they were persuaded by Gov. Lawrence to abandon this design, and the greater part of the country had been for many years scantily settled; emigrants being deterred from venturing there, on account of the difficulty of removing during time of war, and by the fear of being compelled to yield possession to the former occupants, when peace should be made.
During the summer of 1762, four French ships of the line appeared off Newfoundland, and, after ravaging the country near the seacoast, and destroying a few small settlements, sailed to attack the town of St. John, which surrendered without resistance. The people of Nova Scotia were immediately overcome with great dread of a similar visitation; and among the measures which they took for defence, besides laying an embargo and declaring the existence of martial law, was a seizure of all the Acadians whom they could find in King's county, formerly the district of Minas. This alarm appears to have been in a great measure unnecessary, for a powerful British fleet lay in the harbor of Halifax. Nevertheless, the Acadians whom they seized, a hundred and thirty in number, together with very many others, who were in confinement at Halifax, were shipped to Massachusetts, and despatches were sent to Gov. Bernard, requesting him to make preparations for their reception. But the Government of Massachusetts had learned a lesson from their past experience, and when the transports arrived, they were ordered by the Governor to anchor under the guns of Castle William. The Nova Scotian despatches were referred to a committee of the Assembly, for the General Court was then in session. This committee, on September 17th, reported unanimously against granting permission to land, and their report was readily accepted. As the General Court was soon after prorogued, nothing was left for the fleet except to sail back to Nova Scotia which it accordingly did.
On February 10th, 1763, the treaty of Paris was signed, and peace restored between Great Britain and France. The expenses of the Neutrals to the Province, up to this time, amounted to L127,750.
But Louis XV was not unmindful of the Acadians, and offered, through the Duke of Nivernoise, his ambassador at London, to provide transports for the conveyance to France of all of them who should wish to leave America, stating that he looked upon them "as some of his most faithful subjects." One thousand and nineteen - nearly the whole number in the Province - expressed their desire to embrace this offer. They drew up a list of their names, which shows that they consisted of one hundred and seventy-nine families, embracing three hundred and twenty heads of families, three hundred and sixty-three sons, and three hundred and thirty-six daughters. An abstract of this list was forwarded by Bernard to the Lords of Trade. But from various causes this expedition was abandoned. Some interesting comments upon it we find in a letter, a copy of which is preserved among the State archives, which was addressed by the Governor and Council to Andrew Oliver, then Secretary of State, afterwards Lieutenant Governor under Hutchinson. They wrote:
"As the French King looks upon them as his subjects, he must look upon them as prisoners of war; and therefore, by agreement between the two Crowns, Great Britain is entitled to a reimbursement of the expense that has accrued by supporting them. This reimbursement you will please apply for pursuant to the agreement aforesaid; and if by any means should fail in that method of application, you will endeavor, in pursuance of the General Court's direction, to obtain it in the way you judge most suitable."
"They seem generally inclined to remove out of the Province. If this should be the case, and we lose the benefit of their service now they might be made useful subjects, after that we have been at the charge of supporting them while they were locked upon as enemies, the Province hath an equitable claim to a reimbursement, at all events. It was much against their inclination that they received them at first; but, out of a dutiful regard to his Majesty's service, they were permitted to come among us, and were supported by us, while some of our neighboring Governments refused those who were sent to them, many of whom afterwards found their way into this Province, and increased our charge."
About this same time, a gentleman named Robin, a French Protestant, who had obtained from the Crown the grant of a tract of land in New Brunswick, lying on the Miramichi river, which empties into the bay of the same name, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, invited the Neutrals to settle there, and many were desirous of accepting his invitation. The Provincial Government never gave permission to them to emigrate, either to New Brunswick or to France, but from time to time many did go to both countries. About the close of the year 1763, many of the Neutrals had gathered in Boston, in hopes of obtaining the permission to emigrate which they desired, and failing in their expectations, as the winter was severe, and what was still worse, as the small-pox was prevalent, were reduced to extreme want and misery. In January, 1764, they addressed a petition to the Governor, praying for relief. This petition Governor Bernard laid before the General Court, sending with it a message to the House of Representatives, in which he speaks thus of the condition of the petitioners:
"The case of these people is truly deplorable. They have none of them had the small-pox, and they depend upon their daily labor for their bread. If they don't go about the town to work, they must starve; if they do go about, they must contract the distemper; and as they are crowded in small apartments, and wanting the necessaries of life, they won't have a common chance to escape perishing. I have in Council advised with the selectmen, and they have consulted the overseers of the poor; and they are of opinion that they have not a power to relieve them. I am therefore obliged to apply to you to help to save these people; if you will furnish them with provisions, I will order them into the barracks of the Castle; and as soon as they have been there long enough to appear to be free from the distemper, they will get admission into some other towns, and find work, which, at present, it is apprehended, would be impracticable."
The General Court compiled with the Governor's recommendation, and passed an order providing for their support for a month, until the rigor of the season should be past, and they should have an opportunity to escape, from danger of contagion of the disease.
Whatever may be said of the money-getting and money-saving disposition of New England people, the kindliest and warmest spirit is shown here, as in many other instances, of the treatment of the Neutrals by the Massachusetts Government. In the glow of fierce political dispute, when the Legislature and the Governor were at swords' point as regarded most exciting questions of the day, both found time to attend to a call of humanity, and to turn aside from the contests of political animosity to perform a deed of pure benevolence.
During this same year, 1764, another proposal for emigration was made to the Neutrals in New England, the following proclamation being issued by the Count d'Estaing, afterwards famous in our Revolutionary history, and, at the time of which we speak, Governor of the French West Indian Islands:
Government des isles sous le vent.
Charles Theodat, Comte d'Estaing, &c., nomme at admis Chevalier des ordres du Roi, Lietuenant Governor de ses armees et des armees navales, Gouverneur General representant la personne de sa Majeste aux iles souls le vent de l'Amerique et mers adjacentes.
“Faisons savoir a tous les Acadiens residens a la Nouvelle Angleterre, que tous ceux d'entre eux, hommes, femmes, et enfans, qui voudront passer a Colonies francaises de St. Domingue, pourvront s'addresser a Sieur Jean Hanson, negotiant a la Nouvelle York, qui leur fournira tous les vivres necessaires et les moyens de passer aux dittes Colonies, ou ils seront bien recus. Il leur sera concede du terrairs, et ils seront entreneur par le Roy pendant les premiers mois de leur sejour, et jusqua'a ce qu'ils puissent gagner de quoi vivre par eux meme.
Au Cap. Francais, Isle St. Domingue, le 26 Juin, 1764. ESTING.
Par ordze: MARTIN. *
But the Government of Massachusetts was averse to giving countenance to any such proposal as this. As was said in the letter to Andrew Oliver, from which we have quoted, many of the Neutrals had now become useful and valuable members of society, and besides, jealousy and dread of the French Colonies, which even the conquest of Canada had not been able wholly to allay, was a strong motive to New England never to consent to aid in strengthening the French power, even in distant Saint Domingo. Although the people were just beginning to cry out against parliamentary oppression, they were far from seeing that within less than quarter of a century they would be firmest friends with their then deadliest foes.
As the year before, so now, many of the Neutrals flocked from the country into the seaport towns, seeking for opportunities to escape to the West Indies. Many actually obtained passage thither, and, as the only effectual means of preventing such emigration, the Governor, on November 28th, issued a proclamation:
"Whereas I have been informed that divers masters or commanders of vessels, trading from here to the West Indies, have, for the sake of certain privileges allowed them in their trade, or for other considerations, agreed to transport numbers of Acadians there," "which practice appears to me to be in its nature criminal, of very ill tendency to the British interest in general, and altogether unjustifiable," therefore people are warned against entering into, or carrying into execution, any such agreement, “as having so great a tendency to prejudice his Majesty's interest, and to strengthen the dominions of a foreign prince.” The penalties of the law are denounced against all persons disregarding this warning, and all ship-masters are ordered to prepare, and deliver to the naval officer a list of any Acadians on board, and no vessel was to receive a clearance before the naval officer had transmitted the list to the Governor to obtain his orders. On December 1st, only a day or two after the issue of this proclamation, Paul Landry and the heads of twenty-five families petitioned the Governor to reconsider his action, and to grant permission to leave the Provinces, to all who should wish to emigrate to St. Domingo. No answer having been given to this petition, a number of Neutrals, on January 1st, 1765, sent in another:
"We Acadians have a great desire to go to the French Colonies. We take the liberty to present a second petition to your Excellency, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Massachusetts, to you and your Council, wishing you a good year and great prosperity, flattering ourselves, sir, that your honorable person will do us perfect justice in respect to what we pray for. You are well acquainted, sir, with the offer which has been made us from the French Colonies. For nine years past we have lived in hopes of joining our countrymen; and it seems to us that you have caused a door, which was open, to be shut upon us. We have always understood, that in time of peace, and in all countries, the prison doors are open to prisoners. It is therefore astonishing to us, sir, to be detained here. We are told that we are allowed the liberty of our religion, which is contrary to what we think to be the case; for it seems to us that, if you detain us here, you take from us the free exercise of our religion. This is very hard upon us.
It is as hard to reflect upon our present situation; to see ourselves, by one sudden blow, rendered incapable of affording ourselves relief. Sir, if you do not take compassion, on us, we believe we shall perish with cold and hunger." * * * "There are some of your people that think we are rich. This has never been the case with us yet, since we have been in this country; but less so at present than ever, for all the riches which remain to us are Poverty and Misery."
This petition, like the other, had no effect; and on February 15th, the large body of Neutrals who had gathered in Boston, nearly four hundred in number, were ordered to be dispersed, and to return in reaching St. Domingo met with a most unfortunate fate. Unused to the climate, they were soon attacked by disease, and most of them perished miserably. Of those who survived, many found their way to France.
Hardly was this affair terminated, when even another opportunity for emigration was offered. The British Government was most desirous of promoting settlements in Canada; and on March 1, 1765, General James Murray, the Governor of that Province, issued a proclamation, offering grants of land to all who would emigrate there. This offer does not appear to have attracted the serious attention of many of the Neutrals until late in the year; but on February 8th, 1766, eighty-nine of their families, numbering four hundred and ninety-one people, petitioned the Governor and Council to transport them to Canada, and grant them the means of maintenance for one year, and also to write to Governor Murray, requesting him to receive them, and give them lands, according to his proclamation.
Governor Bernard looked favorably upon this petition, and a few days after its reception, addressed a message to the House of Representatives, in which he said - "You have now an opportunity, at no great expense, to dispose of these people; so that, instead of being a burden to the Province and to themselves, as they are like to continue whilst they remain here, they may become a fresh accession of wealth and strength to the British Empire in America, as it is certain that their industry only waits for property to exert itself on, without which no one will be industrious. I therefore hope you will improve this occasion; and in so doing, you will unite public spirit with charity."
The House immediately considered this message, and requested the Governor to write to Murray, and acquaint him, with the desire of the petitioners, and ask if he would receive them. They also appropriated L20, to despatch two Neutrals with Bernard's letter, and a petition from the Neutrals to Murray. In May, one of them returned, with Murray's reply. He wrote - "I think it will be for the good of the British empire in general, and of this Province in particular, that these people were settled here upon the same footing with his Majesty's new Canadian subjects, and therefore I shall not hesitate to receive them. But as they formerly refused to take the oath of allegiance and abjuration, and, by their petition to me, it appears they expect to be supported here at the expense of the Government, until they can provide for themselves, I think it necessary to enclose my answer to their petition, which I beg you will be pleased to have communicated to them in such a way that none may plead ignorance. This will prevent future heartburnings and reproached on either side." In the answer which he mentioned, he expressed his readiness to receive them, but his inability to make any provision for supporting them after their arrival. Eight hundred and ninety, nearly all who were left in the Province, expressed their willingness to go upon these conditions, and stated that they were, in general resolved to take the oath of fidelity to Great Britain, at the same time requesting the Legislature of Massachusetts to take some measures to support them for a little while after they should reach Canada. We can find nowhere among the records of the Province, any mention of an official permission to these Neutrals to emigrate, but many vessels, filled with them sailed for Canada during the summer and the autumn. They rejoined there many of those who had fled through the wilderness eleven years before, from the flames of Grand Pre and Cumberland, and the bayonets of the British troops, and at last found peace and friends.
And here we take our leave of them. We quit their history with regret, for in it we have been deeply interested. It is often remarked, that in the contemplation of the sufferings of other ages, we are apt to lose sight of those of our own. But the reverse is also true; and there are some who cannot realize that these have lived who have suffered much and endured bravely in the past.
The whole history of the Acadians illustrates strongly the different traits of character of the French and of the English settlers in America. The English were leavened with the Puritanical leaven. The Indians were to them nothing but "bloody heathen," and the French were "Roman Catholic pages." + They cherished little, affection for the Government at home, and it cherished even less for them. With the French, it was entirely different - they assimilated themselves more to the customs and people of the new country. Where the English had one John Eliot, the Frenchmen had many like Father Marquette and the Baron Castine; and, far from being alienated in affection from the Home Government, they always made its interests and theirs one.
There was one quality which both French and English had in common - an intense religious zeal. But they manifested it differently. The English waged a fierce crusade against everything that savored of superstition. They marched against Louisburg, headed by the banner which George Whitefield had blessed with the motto, "nil desperandum, Christo duce." They came to the Indian with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other. But the French Jesuits waged a peaceful, religious war; their forts were chapels in the wilderness, and their martial music the chapel bells. They did not seek by force, but by kindly treatment, to win the Indians to the faith of the Church. As a natural consequence, they gained the attachment of the savages, and, having gained it, they made use of it in war.
Of the affection which was always warm towards the mother country, the story of the Acadians affords sufficient evidence. In all their varied fortunes, they never lost their love for the religion, the customs, and the people, of France.
* Charles Theodore, Count d'Estaing, denominated and admitted Chevalier of the orders of the King, Lieutenant General of his army and navy, Governor General representing his Majesty's person at the Leeward islands of America and the seas adjacent.
Be it known to all the Acadians residing in New England, that all such of them - men, women, and children - as wish to pass to the French Colonies in St. Domingo, may apply to Mr. John Hanson, merchant, at New York, who will furnish them with all necessary provisions and the means of passage to the aforesaid Colonies, where they shall be kindly received. Grants of land shall be made to them, and they shall be supported by the King during the first months of their abode, and until they shall be able to maintain themselves.
At Cape Francola, Isle St. Domingo, June 26, 1764. ESTAING.
By order: MARTIN.
+ As a curious example of religious, bigotry, the town of Stoneham sent in its bill, one year, for maintaining its proportion of the Neutrals, headed with this title: "Account of keeping the three French Pagan."
February 8, 1849
THE NATIONAL ERA
Washington, D.C., Vol. III No. 110 p. 23
THE "FRENCH NEUTRALS" AND ANTHONY BENEZET.
The interest which Longfellow's beautiful pastoral of "Evangeline" has thrown around the simple settlers of Acadia, and their melancholy expulsion and sufferings, will warrant us in reviving a passage in their history, with which we presume but few of our readers are familiar.
About five hundred (Halliburton in his History of Nova Scotia says 415) of these unhappy people were landed in Philadelphia, in a condition of extreme destitution and suffering. On their disembarkation, the overseers of the poor took charge of them, and placed them in a building which had formerly been occupied by soldiers. They had endured on the voyage all the horrors of the "middle passage;" some were hopelessly diseased; and all were enfeebled by the want of pure air, and of sufficient and wholesome food. Some had become stupidly dejected; others still wildly lamented their separation from near and dear connexions. As they passed through the streets of the strange city, squalid, sick, despairing, none could have recognised, in their mournful procession, the proverbially gay and happy peasantry of Acadia, in whose evening dances old and young joined with equal zest and hilarity, and whose simple enjoyments of home and faith the poet has not exaggerated. They had scarcely reached their lodgings before they were visited by one their countrymen, the excellent Anthony Benezet, who spoke to them in their own tongue, entered into close sympathy with them in their great afflictions, listened to the tale of their wrongs, and made it known to others.
"To the sick and the dying," says Vane, in his Life of Benezet, "he administered relief, so long as human exertion was availing, or could hope for success; and when death terminated the sufferings of any of them, he would perform the last office of respect to their remains. The inconvenient construction of the barracks, as well as want of room in them, being ill suited to their accommodation, he solicited permission of his friend, the pious Samuel Emlen, to occupy part of the square of ground owned by him in the southwestern section of Philadelphia, with buildings for the residence of the neutrals. The grant being promptly made, Benezet proceeded to collect subscriptions, and was soon enabled to purchase materials and erect a sufficient number of small houses, to which they were immediately removed. The supply from the public treasury ceasing on their change of situation, he was obliged to devise modes of employment for them to procure a livelihood; and among various occupations, to which he directed their attention, was the manufacture of wooden shoes and linsey cloth; the material for the composition of the latter article was principally obtained by their gathering rags from the streets of the city, which they washed, and otherwise prepared for the purpose. In addition to the personal service thus rendered, he paid out of his small income annuities to several of the most ancient and helpless. It is related of him, among other proofs of his kindness toward them, that his wife, having made unsuccessful search for a pair of blankets which she had recently purchased for the use of the family, came into the room where her husband was writing, and expressing some surprise as to what could have become of them, his attention was arrested, and when he understood the cause of her uneasiness. 'Oh! (said he,) my dear, I gave them, some evenings since, to one of the poor neutrals,' Thus for several years he devoted himself to the advancement of the interests of those people, who by death, and removal to different places, were ultimately reduced to a very small number. Such was his assiduity and care of them, that it produced a jealousy in the mind of one of the oldest men among them, of a very novel and curious description; which was communicated to a friend of Benezet's, to whom he said: 'It is impossible that all this kindness is disinterested; Mr. Benezet must certainly intend to recompense himself by treacherously selling us.' When their patron and protector was informed of this ungrateful suspicion, it was so far from producing an emotion of anger, or an expression of indignation, that he lifted up his hands, and laughed immoderately."
If any proof were needed to show that the benevolence manifested by Benezet towards the victims of Slavery and the Slave Trade, was not a temporary impulse, but an abiding principle of action, extending to every class of his fellow-creatures, to the sufferings and the wronged of every color and clime, it might be found in his active sympathy with the poor "French Neutrals". It was the natural fruit of the Divine Life of Christianity in his spirit - of Love to God manifested in love to all mankind - the habitual exercise of a heart baptized into a sense of the Infinite Compassion of Him who went about doing good, and at last laid down his life for the salvation of the race.
J. G. W. [A bit of research revealed that J.G.W. was none other than the poet John Greeleaf Whittier who had also been the assistant editor of a Boston newspaper.
July 30, 1857
THE NATIONAL ERA
Washington, D.C., Vol. XI No. 552 P. 123
WHITTIER AND LONGFELLOW. - The N.O. Picayune makes the following critical objection to the works of these two poets:
"The name of the most charming poet of New England is the synonym of Abolitionist, and disfiguring the pages of one of the most beautiful collections of poems in the language. The emanations of his pen are pieces that were in the National Era or Liberator. Even the author of 'Hiawatha' and 'Evangeline' has made his published works a distasteful addition to a Southern library, by mingling with the pure gold the basest alloy."