The walls of
Louisbourg protected the Acadians even though they were miles
away. The fortress provided a strong French military presence, a
place of haven if things began to get too rough in old Acadia.
the fall of Louisbourg, officials such as Governor William
Shirley of Massachusetts began to think again about whether the
Acadians should be allowed to stay in Nova Scotia. And the
Acadians themselves began to wonder whether they wanted to stay.
In 1746, Shirley wrote to officials
in England that "the enemy will soon find a way to wrest Acadia
from us if we do not remove the most dangerous French
inhabitants and replace them with English families." In his
view, "The Province of Nova Scotia will never be out of danger
so long as the French inhabitants are tolerated under the
present mode of submission."
On a visit to England, he proposed
to British authorities that they send 6,000 families to Nova
Scotia over a 10-year period. Two thousand of them would come
from the British Isles, 2,000 from New England, and 2,000 of
them would be soldiers sent to North America who would be given
land if they would retire there. He thought that the Acadians
could be forced out if they were refused the right to acquire
new lands and if English-speaking people loyal to the Crown were
placed next to them.
Some of the Acadians, reading the
handwriting on the wall, began to leave their ancestral lands.
Thousands went to Prince Edward Island, others to southeastern
New Brunswick, places that were still French in name, though
protected hardly any better than the Acadian peninsula.
The War of Austrian Succession ended
in 1748 and, much to the disgust of New England, the Treaty of
Aix- la-Chapelle returned Louisbourg to the French. But it never
became the feared fortress that it once had been. The British
knew that it could be taken, and so did the Acadians.
In 1749, Edward Cornwallis replaced
Richard Phillips as governor of Nova Scotia and, unlike
Phillips, decided to actually move to the place. He arrived in
Halifax that year with 2,500 English settlers, including 1,100
women and children.
He was perhaps more politically
astute than his predecessors had been, or perhaps the political
situation in North America was simply becoming clearer. Until
this time, most of the French - English clashes (in North
America) had come as a result of, or in connection with,
political objectives in Europe. But now the stakes in North
America were getting bigger, and the inevitable fighting would
be over who would control the colonies in North America.
When the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle
was signed, France claimed all of North America from the
Alleghenies to the Rockies, and from Florida and Mexico to the
North Pole. She held the St. Lawrence and Mississippi rivers and
controlled these waterways from Montreal to New Orleans.
The British, meanwhile, were penned
behind the Alleghenies, and France wanted to keep them there. If
they spread west, they would cut New France in two, dividing
Louisiana from Canada. To prevent this, the French and their
Indian allies began to seal off the passes to the west. At the
same time, the British began to push harder to get through them.
The result was constant skirmishing that led eventually to the
French and Indian War.
To protect his British subjects
against Indians and any possible French uprising, Cornwallis
ordered armories built at Grand Pré, Baie Verte,
Whiteland, and La Have, and stationed soldiers at each of them.
At the same time, he told the Acadians that they needed special
permission to ship grain, livestock, or any other product to any
foreign colony - such as New England - and that they would have
to take a new oath of allegiance that had none of their hard-won
conditions attached to it.
These proclamations upset the
Acadians and they sent three delegates from Grand Pré to
talk with the new governor. They were Jean and Philipe Melanson
and Claude LeBlanc. They told the governor that they thought the
question of allegiance had been settled with the oath that they
had taken in 1730.
Cornwallis would not change his
The Acadians sent another
delegation. This time they carried a petition bearing more than
1.000 signatures of people from Annapolis Royal, Grand Pré,
Beaubassin, Pisiquid, Cobequid, and Chopoudy. The petition
declared that the Acadians had signed oaths on the condition
that they could not be forced to bear arms against France and
that, "The inhabitants in general...have resolved not to take
the oath which your Excellency requires of us."
They offered a compromise, "If your
Excellency will grant us our old oath, which was given by
Governor Phillips, with an exemption from taking arms, we will
accept it. If your Excellency is not disposed to grant us what
we take the liberty of asking, we are resolved every one of us
to leave the country."
Cornwallis said Phillips had
exceeded his authority in granting conditions to the oath. He
would not budge on the issue. To emphasize his point, he
continued to build strategic military posts that isolated the
Acadians and blocked their communications with French-speaking
neighbors in Quebec and Louisbourg.
He wrote to the Board of Trade in
London that "the Acadians behave strangely, insisting upon the
reserve of not carrying Arms or not taking Oaths, and leaving
the Country; leaving the Country is bad, as it strengthens the
enemy. But my Lords in my poor opinion, better it should happen
than yield to them....I fear an inveterate enemy preying upon
your Bowels masked, but rotten at bottom, whom no leniency can
please, nor anything but severity or greater power awe and bring
them to their duty and allegiance."
The Board of Trade thought that the
Acadians were still needed on the land. Instructions sent back
to Cornwallis told him "that any forcible measures which might
induce (the Acadians) to leave their settlements ought for the
present at least be waved (sic)."
Cornwallis never got the Acadians to
sign a new oath but he did clear many of them off the land. He
returned to England in August 1752 and was replaced by Captain
Peregrine Hopson, a much more moderate man. By then, one third
of the Acadian population, about 6,000 people, had left Nova
Scotia for New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and other French
Those who stayed now hoped that
Hopson would let them do what they had begged to do ever since
the British took charge: They just wanted to be left alone.
But Hopson stayed only 15 months
before he got sick and had to go back to England. He was
replaced by Charles Lawrence, a man both hated and feared by the