Acadian Controversy

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Acadian Controversy
Harry Piers
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ACADIAN CONTROVERSY. Harry Piers the Well Known Historian Ably Defends Himself. (Free Press Dec. 23, 1898 ) Editor Free Press. SIR,—I beg to thank Mr. V. A. Landry for his reply-to my letter. In accordance with my request he specifies the statements in my article on d’Anville’s expedition, which he would be “sorry to see in any history purporting to be a true, unvarnished representation of facts.” These amount to just two sentences, and upon this somewhat scanty material he has founded a critique of more than half a column, in which occur expressions and insinuations which, to say the least, were rather uncalled for. The two objectionable sentences were as follows : “Ramesay with a force of nearly seven hundred men had been sent-from Canada under orders to co-operate with d’Anville, and his presence in the country tended to embolden the Acadians whose animosity to the English had been stimulated to the utmost by Le Loutre and his emissaries ;” and, “Finally, in sheer desperation, the crew demanded of M. Destrahoudal, the captain, that five British prisoners should be butchered and their flesh given to the starving seamen.” In regard to the first sentence, I would call attention to its wording— the presence of the French force "tended to embolden the Acadians. That it did at least so tend is evident from the facts, as I shall endeavor to show later on. Mr. Landry seems to consider that the Acadians neither made demonstrations of partisan feeling on that occasion, nor otherwise broke their oath of neutrality. Let us see. Was it a laudable desire to advance English interests that made the Acadians carefully conceal from Mascarene the arrival of a very large force of hostile men in the French settlements, so that it was no less than six weeks or two months before he heard of it ? Was it not treason able intercourse with an armed enemy, when the Acadians supplied fresh provision to d’Anville’s fleet at Chebucto while the whole of British America was trembling at the presence of that armament ? Was it not a most traitorous and hostile feeling to the English that induced a large body of Acadians from Minas to act as pilots for the French fleet when Annapolis was to be attacked ? Was it to defend people of strict neutrality that an order was sent from Canada directing that M. de Ramesay might leave in Acadie 200 or 300 Frenchmen and the Micmac Indians for the protection of the Acadians? It was an Acadian that brought news to La Jonquière that Annapolis had been reinforced ; it was four Acadian pilots that broke their plighted faith with Mascarene : and it was three or four Acadian inhabitants of Annapolis that went to the enemy at Minas in 1746- Commodore Knowles (Nov., 1764) is authority for a statement that La Jonquière on retiring from Chebucto gave some small armed vessels to the inhabitants of Acadia to be used as privateers, and Knowles adds he hopes the King will put the French out of the province after the violation of their neutrality. As to the Acadians having been previously incited against the English, I may say that their animosity had at any rate been so stimulated as to warrant the French governor of Canada making the statement in a letter dated September, 1745, that “The inhabitants, with few exceptions, wish to remain under French dominion—Sieur Marin and the missionaries have assured us of this— and will not hesitate to take up arms as soon as they see themselves free to do so, that is, as soon as we have become masters of Port Royal, or they have powder and other munitions of war, and are backed by troops for their protection against the resentment of the English.’’ If, further, I may be allowed to quote Mr. Parkman, that historian says that ‘From the first outbreak of war it was evident...the French spared no efforts to excite a rising against English rule ;” and he again says, when Noble reached Grand Pré in 1747, some of the Inhabitants who had openly favoured Ramesay and his followers fled to the woods, in fear of the consequences. That Acadians rendered assistance to Coulon de Villiers in 1747, is well known. From these few extracts, from our archives and other sources, it seems evident that my statement was in accordance with fact. The extracts, however, further prove that not only did Ramesay’s presence tend to embolden the Acadians, but that some of the latter actually broke their oath of neutrality. The paragraph relating to the demand of the French crew to be allowed to eat some English prisoners. Mr. Landry guilessly states is news to him ; but surely because it merely happened to be “news” to Mr. Landry does not necessary prove it false and unworthy of appearing in “any history purporting to be a true, unvarnished representation of fact.” The archives at Halifax, Otttawa, and elsewhere, probably contain much that is “news" to Mr. Landry, and it is such “news” that will one day end forever the attack of some of the French apologists. The story of La Palme’a awful homeward voyage and the cannibalistic desire of her French crew, is told in full in the journal of one of d’Anville’s officers, who bad the story from no less an authority than the captain of La Palme himself. If Mr. Landry wishes to characterize as false such unimpeachable authority, I fail to see the necessity of the slightest endeavor on my part to change his conviction. As I had little or no room for comment in my original article, I may now be permitted to add to my account of this La Palme incident by stating that it was one of the most abominable occurrences ever known in the annals of a civilized nation. My article was not founded on second hand material, as Mr. Landry’s editorial would seem to insinuate, but was the result of a careful comparison of the sworn depositions of English prisoners who had been confined on d'Anville’s ships during the time they were at Chebucto (vide unpublished N. S. Archives of Nova Scotia), with a very full diary in French kept by a French officer who was attached to the expedition. What better authority could be had, or what more liable to be correct in details ! All the official contemporary correspondence relative to the subject contained in the provincial records was also consulted, as well as the abstracts of the archives preserved at Ottawa. Of course all available printed accounts were likewise examined, but my real authorities were the original documents, etc. The French officers’ account was given great credence, for I considered him for the most part, the one best able to give an intelligent account of the affair. Having now defended my statements to some extent, and given the authorities consulted in the preparation of my article, your readers are in a position to form an opinion of Mr. Landry’s over-long criticism, in which occur such unusual expressions as “tissues of lies,” and in which hints are made regarding the repetition of the errors of other historians. If I may be pardoned the use of the adjectives, it is just such verbose and unsupported statements that have kept the Acadian question in the unsettled State it is today. Yours truly, HARRY PIERS. Legislative Library, Halifax, N. S., December 20th, 1898.