"THE ACADIAN TRAGEDY."
Dr. Parkham’s Recent Article Severely Criticized.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY.
(Correspondence of the Boston Pilot.)
Mr. PHILIP H. SMITH, author of the most important end exhaustive, work ever written on the history of Acadia, contributes to The Pilot the following just and able review of a misleading magazine article from the pen of another historian:—
In Harper's Magazine for November is an article by Dr. Francis Parkman, entitled "The Acadian Tragedy," purporting to be a "true history of the removal of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, dispelling the political romance which has been the basis of so much un-deserved sympathy for this misguided, unhappy, and obstinate people." Now, we protest against this paper being called a “true history" for the following reasons:— He has suppressed facts and circumstances that are as well-known and as relevant to the subject as these he gives, thus conveying a false impression.
He has endeavored to meet by bold assertions well authenticated historical data that was unfavorable to his views.
He manifests a disposition not to let facts stand by themselves, but tries to prejudice the reader against those he cannot disprove, yet dares not leave unnoticed.
In his account of the details of the embarkation at Grand Pre, he says, "it was provided that the members of the same family should remain together." Surely, in the face of all the particulars that have come down to us of this event, Parkham would not have us infer that this provision was carried out. Yet, such would be the impression received by the reader, whose only source of information is this "true history" aforesaid.
Parkman gives a reason why the French Inhabitants were undeserving of English clemency the circumstance that at the taking of Fort Beausejonr "in it was found, along with the regular garrison, 300 French Acadians, self-styled Neutrals, fighting against the power of whom most of them were the legal subjects." Now, the learned Doctor cannot be ignorant of the fact, admitted by all historians, that these three hundred were there under threatening orders; and, further, that Monckton, the English officer to whom the place capitulated, and who must have known the attendant circumstances, saw nothing in their case to deter him from granting them a full and free pardon. Is, then, the bare statement offered by Parkham to be accepted as the whole truth, and as calculated not to mislead?
Our essayist lays stress on the following report from Captain Murray that at one time “they behaved with the greatest insolence, thought just before they had been unusually submissive. He thought that this change of demeanor was due to a report which had lately got among them of a French fleet in the Bay of Fundy; for it has been observed that any rumor of an approaching French force always had a similar effect."
Paul Mascarene, while Governor of the province, wrote to the Duke of Newcastle: "The frequent rumors we have had of war being declared against France, have not as yet made any alteration In the temper of the inhabitants of this province who appear in a good disposition of keeping to their oath of fidelity."
These two conflicting opinions are recorded in the same volume of Nova Scotia Archives. The historian is supposed to be familiar with all credible sources of information; and besides we hold to the opinion that the word of the Governor of a province is as good as the word of the captain of a log-fort. Will Dr. Parkham inform us why he gives place only to the one that meets his views? It may be proper to state that this Captain Murray is the same who is recorded as saying to the French people: "If you do not furnish my men with fuel, I will demolish your houses, and make firewood of them!"
Says Dr. Parkman: "New England humanitarianism, melting into sentimentality at a tale of woe, has been unjust to its own. Whatever judgment may be passed on the cruel measure of wholesale expatriation, It was not put into execution till every source of patience and persuasion had been tried and failed. The agents or the French court, civil, military, and ecclesiastical had made some act of force a necessity. The Government of Louis XV began with making the Acadians its tools, and ended with making them its victims." We submit if the following does not contain the jubilance of its quotation:—
No wrong was perpetrated against the Neutrals in that unhappy affair.
The wrong that the English perpetrated against the Neutrals in that unhappy affair was put into execution only as a last resort.
The wrong that was perpetrated against the Neutrals is that unhappy affair, Louis XV. Of France, and his agents, are alone responsible for.
Again, says Parkman: "It was a part of the scheme of operation, audacious as it was comprehensive, by which the British and Colonial authorities resolved this year to anticipate a declaration of war, and force back the French along the whole line of their alleged encroachments."
The Acadian expulsion was instigated, therefore, in a time of peace. Besides, it possesses none of the extenuating circumstances of a measure of war performed during actual hostilities against an armed enemy; for the Acadians did not profess allegiance to France at all, but during more than forty years had constituted an English colony; in fact, most of them had been born under the English flag. We fully agree with the Doctor that the scheme was an audacious one.
Why is Dr. Parkman silent in reference to the fact that the French people repeatedly came before the Nova Scotia authorities and requested, but were as often denied, permission to voluntarily and peaceably vacate their lands and possessions? He dare not deny that such was the fact. Why, then, were they forcibly carried away?
And again:—"Another war was plainly at hand, and France meditated the reconquest of Acadia.
With the temper which she had infused into the population, there could be no doubt that at the appearance of a French squadron in the Bay of Fundy the whole country would rise in arms. The presence of this disaffected population in the province was for the French commandant a continual inducement to invasion. Such are the reasons which explain and palliate measures too harsh to be wholly justified."
Thus we are told the unparalleled sufferings of this people were brought about not by what they had done, but by what the English believed they would do, in the war that had not taken place, but which the English believed would take place, with France.
In 1744, France declared war against her centuries-old enemy, England. Du Quesnal, the French Governor of Cape Breton, sent Du Vivier, his captain, to attack the English posts in Acedia. The forts were in a ruinous condition, and feebly garrisoned; there were 4,000 Acadians capable of bearing arms; nothing was easier, could the inhabitants he induced to revolt, than to throw off the English yoke. Du Vivier took up his quarters at Grand Pre, and called upon the French people to flock to his standard. This was precisely the opportunity to draw out those mutinous qualities attributed to them by Parkman and ether British apologists. Du Vivier's campaign proved a failure, and Paul Mascarene, then Governor, thus gives the reasons therefor:—
"To the breaking of the French measures, to the timely succor received from Massachusetts, and our French inhabitants refusing to take up arms against us, we owe our preservation. If the inhabitants had taken up arms, they might have brought three or four thousand men against us."
Governor Lawrence, who was the chief actor in this melancholy drama, and who loudly proclaimed the "treachery, obstinacy and in-gratitude" of this people, is said to have written in condemnation or his own acts: "I believe that a very large part of the inhabitants would submit to any terms rather than take up arms on either side."
In 1762 four French ships of war and a bomb-ketch arrived In Newfoundland, where, after destroying some fish stages and implements, they captured the town of St. John. The English of Nova Scotia, true to their instincts, became panic-stricken lest there should be a general uprising of the few French people then remaining in the province. Hastily collecting them together, end having set a guard over them, the council made a formal address to Jonathan Belcher, then Governor of Nova Scotia, In which they laid down six reasons why the French should be removed out or the province, in effect as follows:—
There was reason to believe the designs of the French were more extensive than was finally carried out.
That such prisoners as could have escaped would undoubtedly have joined the enemy had the latter appeared on the coast.
That these people, seeing the English in possession of the lands formerly occupied by themselves, will take favorable opportunity to regain them.
That their bigoted religion must make them enemies to a British Government however mild and beneficent.
That being connected with the savages by inter-marriage, they may easily prevail on them to break peace with the English.
That as now collected together, these Neutrals are a heavy charge upon the English inhabitants.
“These, sir, and many more cogent reasons which will naturally occur to you," says the Council in their address, "we humbly submit, to you, and we flatter ourselves yon will give the necessary orders that these French prisoners may be removed of the province," Such were the "cogent" reasons for repeating the scene occurring seven years before "at the mouth of the Gaspereau." Five vessels containing this new edition of exiles arrived at Boston in due time. The despatches from the Governor of Nova Scotia were produced, but the Massachusetts authorities would not permit them to land, not being inclined longer to indulge Nova Scotia by quartering before a reply could be received, the this additional number of French Neutrals on her colonists. A report of these proceedings was transmitted to Gen. Amherst, then in New York, but Bostonians had the satisfaction of seeing the vessels, with their prisoners, set sail for Acadian waters, The Lords of Trade, in a resolution touching this affair, conveyed a reproof to Governor Belcher. It reads:—" Their Lordships could not but be of opinion . . . that it was neither necessary nor politic to remove them, as they might, by a proper disposition, promote the interest of the colony, and be made useful members of society, agreeable to what appears to be the sentiments of General Amherst in his letter to the Governor."
Our communication closes with the query:—If the English who were concerned in the Acadian expulsion were conscious of the rectitude of their intentions, and were firm in the belief their course would be justified on a full knowledge of the facts and circumstances, why were the entire French records, coming into their hands, destroyed, and the archives of Nova Scotia rifled of the documents covering the year of the eviction?