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FAINT nebulous spots in the air, little red disks in a halo of fog, acquaint us that there are gaslights this night in the streets of Halifax. Something new, I take it, this illumination? Carbonated hydrogen is a novelty as yet in Chebucto. But in this soft and pleasant atmosphere, I cannot but feel some regret at leaving my old quarters in the Hotel Waverley. If I feel how much there is to welcome me elsewhere, yet I do not forsake this queer old city — these strange, dingy, weather-beaten streets, without reluctance; and chiefly I feel that now I must separate from some old friends, and from some new ones too, whom I can ill spare. And if any of these should ever read this little book, I trust they will not think the less of me because of it. If the salient features of the province have sometimes appeared to me, a stranger, a trifle 259 distorted, it may be that my own stand-point is defective. And so farewell! To-morrow I shall draw nearer homeward, by Windsor and the shores of the Gasperau, by Grand-Pré and the Basin of Minas. Candles, Henry! and books!
The marriage of La Tour to the widow of his deceased rival, for a time enabled that brave young adventurer to remain in quiet possession of the territory. But to the Catholic Court of France, a suspected although not an avowed Protestant, in commission, was an object of distrust. No matter what might have been his former services, indeed, his defence of Cape Sable had saved the French possessions from the encroachments of the Sterling patent, yet he was heretic to the true faith, and therefore defenceless in an important point against the attacks of an enemy. Such a one was La Tour le Borgne, who professed to be a creditor of D’Aulney, and pressing his suit with all the ardor of bigotry and rapacity, easily succeeded in “obtaining a decree by which he was authorized to enter upon the possessions of his deceased debtor!” But the adherents of Charles Etienne did not readily yield to the new adventurer. They had tasted the sweets of religious liberty, and were not disposed to come within the arbitrary yoke without a struggle. Disregarding the “decree,” they stood 260 out manfully against the forces of Le Borgne. Again were Catholic French and Protestant French cannon pointed against each other in unhappy Acadia. But fort after fort fell beneath the new claimant’s superior artillery, until La Tour le Borgne himself was met by a counter-force of bigotry, before which his own was as chaff to the fanning-mill. The man of England, Oliver Cromwell, had his little claim, too, in Acadia. Against his forces both the French commanders made but ineffectual resistance. Acadia for the third time fell into the hands of the English.
Now in the history of the world there is nothing more patent than this: that persecution in the name of religion, is only a ring of calamities, which ends sooner or later where it began. And this portion of its history can be cited as an example. Charles Etienne de la Tour, alienated by the unjust treatment of his countrymen, decided to accept the protection of his national enemy. As the heir of Sir Claude de la Tour, he laid claim to the Sterling grants (which it will be remembered had been ceded to his father by Sir William Alexander after the unsuccessful attack upon Cape Sable,) and in conjunction with two English Puritans obtained a new patent for Acadia from the Protector, under the great seal, with the title of Sir Charles La Tour. 261 Then Sir Thomas Temple (one of the partners in the Cromwell patent) purchased the interest of Charles Etienne in Acadia. Then came the Restoration, and again Acadia was restored to France by Charles II. in 1668. But Sir Thomas having embarked all his fortune in the enterprise, was not disposed to submit to the arbitrary disposal of his property by this treaty; and therefore endeavored to evade its articles by making a distinction between such parts of the province as were supposed to constitute Acadia proper, and the other portions of the territory comprehended under the title of Nova Scotia. “This distinction being deemed frivolous,” Sir Thomas was ordered to obey the letter of the treaty, and accordingly the whole of Nova Scotia was delivered up to the Chevalier de Grande Fontaine. During twenty years succeeding this event, Acadia enjoyed comparative repose, subject only to occasional visits of filibusters. At the expiration of that time, a more serious invasion was meditated. Under the new command of Sir William Phipps, a native of New England, three ships, with transports and soldiers, appeared before Port Royal, and demanded an unconditional surrender. Although the fort was poorly garrisoned, this was refused by Manivel, the French governor, but finally terms of capitulation were agreed upon: these were, that 262 the French troops should be allowed to retain their arms and baggage, and be carried to Quebec; that the inhabitants should be maintained in the peaceable possession of their property, and in the exercise of their religion; and that the honor of the women should be observed. Sir William agreed to the condition, but declined signing the articles, pompously intimating that the “word of a general was a better security than any document whatever.” The French governor, deceived by this specious parade of language, took the New England filibuster at his word, and formally surrendered the keys of the fortress, according to the verbal contract. Again was poor Acadia the victim of her perfidious enemy. Sir William, disregarding the terms of the capitulation, and the “word of a general,” violated the articles he had pledged his honor to maintain, disarmed and imprisoned the soldiers, sacked the churches, and gave the place up to all the ruthless cruelties and violence of a general pillage. Not only this, the too credulous Governor, Manivel, was himself imprisoned, plundered of money and clothes, and carried off on board the conqueror’s frigate, with many of his unfortunate companions, to view the further spoliations of his countrymen. Many a peaceful Acadian village expired in flames during that coasting expedition, and to add to the miseries 263 of the defenceless Acadians, two piratical vessels followed in the wake of the pious Sir William, and set fire to the houses, slaughtered the cattle, hanged the inhabitants, and deliberately burned up one whole family, whom they had shut in a dwelling-house for that purpose.
Soon after this, Sir William was rewarded with the governorship of New England, as Argall had been with that of Virginia, nearly a century before.
Now let it be remembered that in these expeditions, very little, if any, attempt was made by the invaders to colonize or reside on the lands they were so ready to lay waste and destroy. The mind of the species “Puritan,” by rigid discipline hardened against all frivolous amusements, and insensible to the charms of the drama, and the splendors of the mimic spectacle, with its hollow shows of buckram, tinsel, and pasteboard, seems to have been peculiarly fitted to enjoy these more substantial enterprises, which, owing to the defenceless condition of the French province, must have appeared to the rigid Dudleys and Endicotts merely as a series of light and elegant pastimes.
Scarcely had Sir William Phipps returned to Boston, when the Chevalier Villabon came from France with troops and implements of war. On his arrival, he found the British flag flying at Port 264 Royal, unsupported by an English garrison. It was immediately lowered from the flag-staff, the white flag of Louis substituted, and once more Acadia was under the dominion of her parental government.
Villabon, in a series of petty skirmishes, soon recovered the rest of the territory, which was only occupied at a few points by feeble New England garrisons, and, in conjunction with a force of Abenaqui Indians, laid siege to the fort at Pemaquid, on the Penobscot, and captured it. In this affair, as we have seen, the famous Baron Castine was engaged.
The capture of the fort at Pemaquid, led to a train of reprisals, conspicuous in which was an actor in the theatre of events who heretofore had not appeared upon the Acadian stage. This was Col. Church, a celebrated bushwhacker and Indian-fighter, of memorable account in the King Philip war.
In order to estimate truly the condition of the respective parties, we must remember the severe iron and gunpowder nature of the Puritan of New England, his prejudices, his dyspepsia; his high-peaked hat and ruff; his troublesome conscience and catarrh; his natural antipathies to Papists and Indians, from having been scalped by one, and 265 roasted by both; his English insolence; and his religious bias, at once tyrannic and territorial.
Then, on the other, we must call to view the simple Acadian peasant, Papist or Protestant, just as it happened; ignorant of the great events of the world; a mere offshoot of rural Normandy; without a thought of other possessions than those he might reclaim from the sea by his dykes; credulous, pure-minded, patient of injuries; that like the swallow in the spring, thrice built the nest, and when again it was destroyed,
Against such people, the expedition of Col. Church, fresh from the slaughter of Pequod wars, bent its merciless energies. Regardless of the facts that the people were non-resistants; that the expeditions of the French had been only feeble retaliations of great injuries; and always by levies from the mother country, and not from the colonists; that Villabon, at the capture of Pemaquid, had generously saved the lives of the soldiers in the garrison from the fury of the Micmacs, who had just grounds of retribution for the massacres which had marked 266 the former inroads of these ruthless invaders; the wrath of the Pilgrim Fathers fell upon the unfortunate Acadians as though they had been a nation of Sepoys.*
One of the severest cruelties practised upon these inoffensive people, was that of requiring them to betray their friends, the Indians, under the heaviest penalties. In Acadia, the red and the white man were as brothers; no treachery, no broken faith, no 267 over-reaching policy had severed the slightest fibre of good fellowship on either side. But the Abenaqui race was a warlike people. At the first invasion, under Argall, the red man had seen with surprise a mere handful of white men disputing for a territory to which neither could offer a claim; so vast as to make either occupation or control by the adventurers ridiculous; and therefore, with good-natured zeal, he had hastened to put an end to the quarrel, as though the white people had only been fractious but not irreconcilable kinsmen. But as the power of New England advanced more and more in Acadia, the first generous desire of the red man had merged into suspicion, and finally hatred of the peaked hat and ruff of Plymouth. In all his dealings with the Acadians, the Indian had found only unimpeachable faith and honor; but with the colonist of Massachusetts, there had been nothing but over-reaching and treachery: intercourse with the first had not led to a scratch, or a single drop of blood; while on the other hand a bounty of “one hundred pounds was offered for each male of their tribe if over twelve years of age, if scalped; one hundred and five pounds if taken prisoner; fifty pounds for each woman and child scalped, and fifty pounds when brought in alive.”
The Abenaqui tribes therefore, first, to avenge 268 the injuries of their unresisting friends, the Acadians, and after to avenge their own, waged war upon the invaders with all the severities of an aggrieved and barbarous people. And, as I have said before, the severest cruelty inflicted upon the Acadian colonist, was to oblige him to betray his best friend and protector, the painted heathen, with whom he struck hands and plighted faith. To the honor of these colonists, be it said, that although they saw their long years’ labor of dykes broken down, the sea sweeping over their farms, the fire rolling about their homesteads, their cattle and sheep destroyed, their effects plundered, and wanton and nameless out rages committed by the English and Yankee soldiery, yet in no instance did they purchase indemnity from these, by betraying a single Indian.
* One incident will suffice to show the character of these forays. A small island on Passamaquoddy Bay was invaded by the forces under Col. Church, at night. The inhabitants made no resistance. All gave up; “but,” says Church in his dispatch to the governor, “looking over a little run, I saw something look black just by me: stopped and heard talking; stepped over and saw a little hut, or wigwam, with a crowd of people round about it, which was contrary to my former directions. I asked them what they were doing? They replied, ‘there were some of the enemy in a house, and would not come out.’ I asked what house? They said, ‘a bark house.’ I hastily bid them pull it down, and knock them on the head, never asking whether they were French or Indians, they being all enemies alike to me.” Such was the merciless character of these early expeditions to peaceful Acadia.