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A Lull in the Conflict

The years 1752 and 1753 were, on the whole, years of peace and quiet. This was largely due to changes in the administration on both sides. At the end of 1751 the Count de Raymond had replaced Des Herbiers as governor of Ile Royale; in 1752 Duquesne succeeded La Jonquiere at Quebec as governor of New France; and Peregrine Hopson took the place of Cornwallis in the government of Nova Scotia. Hopson adopted a policy of conciliation. When the crew of a New England schooner in the summer of 1752 killed an Indian lad and two girls whom they had enticed on board, Hopson promptly offered a reward for the capture of the culprits. He treated the Indians with such consistent kindness that he was able in the month of September to form an alliance with the Micmac on the coast. He established friendly relations also with Duquesne and Raymond, and arranged with them a cartel of exchange regarding deserters.

Towards the Acadians Hopson seemed most sympathetic. From the experience of Cornwallis he knew, of course, their aversion to the oath of allegiance. In writing to the Lords of Trade for instructions he pointed out the obstinacy of the people on this question, but made it clear how necessary their presence was to the welfare of the province. Meanwhile he did his best to conciliate them. When complaints were made that Captain Hamilton, a British officer, had carried off some of their cattle, Hamilton was reprimanded and the cattle were paid for. Instructions were then issued to all officers to treat the Acadians as British subjects, and to take nothing from them by force. Should the people refuse to comply with any just demand, the officer must report it to the governor and await his orders. When the Acadians provided wood for the garrison, certificates must be issued which should entitle them to payment.

The political horizon at the opening of the year 1753 seemed bright to Hopson. But in the spring a most painful occurrence threatened for a time to involve him in an Indian war. Two men, Connor and Grace, while cruising off the coast, had landed at Ile Dore, and with the assistance of their ruffian crew had plundered an Indian storehouse. They were overtaken by a storm, their schooner became a total wreck, and Connor and Grace alone survived. They were rescued by the Indians, who cared for them and gave them shelter. But the miserable cowards seized a favorable moment to murder and scalp their benefactors. Well satisfied with their brutal act, they proceeded to Halifax with the ghastly trophies, and boldly demanded payment for the scalps of two men, three women, and two children. Their story seemed so improbable that the Council ordered them to give security to appear in the court at the next general session.1 The prospect of a permanent peace with the Indians vanished. They demanded that the Council should send a schooner to Ile Dore to protect their shores. The Council did send a vessel. But no sooner had it arrived than the Indians seized and massacred the whole crew save one man, who claimed to be of French origin and was later ransomed by the French.

In September the inhabitants of Grand Pre, Canso, and Pisiquid presented a petition to the Council at Halifax, praying that their missionaries be excused from taking the ordinary oath. The Acadians were entitled to the free exercise of their religion, and the bishop of Quebec would not send priests if they were required to become British subjects. The Council deliberated. Fearing to give the Acadians a pretext for leaving the country on the plea that they had been deprived of the services of their priests, the Council decided to grant the petition, providing, however, that the priests should obtain a license from the governor.

The Lords of Trade approved Hopson's policy, which appeared to be bearing good fruit. Later in the autumn came another delegation of Acadians who had formerly resided at Pisiquid but had migrated to French territory, asking to be allowed to return to their old homes. They had left on account of the severe oath proposed by Cornwallis, but were now willing to come back and take a restricted oath. For fear of the Indians, they could not swear to bear arms in aid of the English in time of war. They wished also to be able to move from the province whenever they desired, and to take their effects with them. Evidently they had not found Utopia under the French flag. The Council gave them the permission they desired, promised them the free exercise of their religion, a sufficient number of priests for their needs, and all the privileges conferred by the Treaty of Utrecht.

On the whole, the situation in the autumn of 1753 was most promising. The Acadians, said Hopson, behaved 'tolerably well,' though they still feared the Indians should they attach themselves to the English. Of the French on the frontier there was nothing to complain; and an era of peace seemed assured. But before the end of the year another page in the history of Nova Scotia had been turned. Raymond, the governor of Ile Royale, gave place to D'Ailleboust. Hopson was compelled to return to England on leave of absence through failing eyesight, and Charles Lawrence reigned in his stead.

1 Hopson to Lords of Trade, April 30, 1753, p. 30. Deposition of Connor and Grace, April 16, 1753, p. 30 et seq.--Public Archives, Canada. Nova Scotia A, vol. liii.]

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Chronicles of Canada, The Acadian Exiles, A Chronicle of the Land of Evangeline, 1915


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