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A Letter about the Acadians, and the Expulsion

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A Letter about the Acadians, and the Expulsion

Rev. Andrew Brown spent time in Halifax and was interested in compiling a history of that city. His personal experiences in Nova Scotia occupied only an eight year period following the arrival of the Loyalists, however, and he therefore sought information from others. One of the people that he consulted was Brook Watson who was the subject of an earlier posting in this blog. You may recall that Watson was an orphan who went to Boston, and subsequently lost a leg in a shark attach in Cuba. Despite these disadvantages, he became Commissary General of British forces in America, Sheriff and Lord Mayor of London, Member of Parliament for London, and a baronet.

Brook Watson was an extraordinary person, and was well qualified to advise Andrew Brown. Following is his contribution of July 1, 1791. His letter covers a fairly long period, but the most interesting part deals with the expulsion of the Acadians. Watson’s role during the later arrival of the Loyalists is documented to a lesser extent.

This is a British view of events. Many British people distanced themselves from the expulsion, and Watson’s claim that his role was a “painful task” needs to be verified from other sources. His empathy for the Acadians seems genuine enough, however. This letter from Brook Watson to Andrew Brown in from the Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society for the Years 1879-80, Volume 2, Halifax, 1881. Spelling is as found.

Brook Watson 2

A Caricature of Brook Watson, by Robert Dighton, 1803, Wikipedia

  • — — — — — — — — — —

Hon. Brook Watson to Rev. Dr. Brown

London, 1st July, 1791

Rev. Sir,—

I have been favored with your letter bearing date ye 13th November last, wherein you inform me of your having been employed for some years in collecting materials for compilating a History of Nova Scotia, and that conceiving from my knowledge of the country which commenced at an early period of my life, and my connections with it continued up to the present time, I should be able to aid your endeavors; you express a desire to receive from me information respecting the most interesting events which have occurred to my observation. It is true, sir, that I knew the Province in the year 1750, and my connection with it has from that period been uninterruptedly continued up to the present day, but it must be remembered that my whole life has been spent in one continued scene of mercantile business, consequently I am but ill qualified to aid your labors. I will, nevertheless, evince my respect and regard to the recorders of truth for the benefit of mankind by giving you the best account in my power of those occurrences to which your letter seems more immediately to point.

In the sixteenth century Acadie, or Acady, was first settled by people from Normandy, they were placed under the Government of Canada, but so remote their situation from Quebec, little communication could be held with them; they were, therefore, suffered to possess this extensive and fertile country with little or no control; their chief settlements were made on the borders of navigable rivers emptying into the Bay of Fundy, where marsh, or interval, lands abounded, and which, when dyked to keep off the water occasioned by high tides, produced excellent pastures, and without manure abundance of fine grain and pulse; hence the country soon became plentifully stocked with neat cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, and poultry of all sorts; the people left to themselves, without burthens on their property, or restraints on their industry, increased rapidly, possessing the means essential to substantial happiness. Luxuries they did not covet, to ambition they were strangers; bigoted Catholics they were, no doubt, governed by their priests, but these were few in number and moderate in their views, till the year 1750, when one of their order, Monsieur LaLoutre, from Canada, laid the foundation for the miseries they experienced in 1755.

Acadie was ceded by England to France by the Treaty of Breda, in 1661, but afterwards taken by the English. It was acceded to them by the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, under the express stipulation that the inhabitants might remain with their possessions subjects to the crown of Great Britain, with a right to the free exercise of their religion according to the usage of the Church of Rome, and thenceforth they were called Neutrals. Their principal settlement was Annapolis Royal. Here the English built a fort and garrisoned it with English troops, changing the name of the Province from Acadie to Nova Scotia; but they took no measures for settling it with other inhabitants till the year 1749, when Colonel Cornwallis was appointed its first Governor, and carried from England a number of people who he settled at Chebucto, which he named Halifax, after the noble Earl who was then First Lord for Trade and Plantations. France, seeing the steps taken by England in settling the country, and dreading the influence it would give us with the savages in the neighborhood of Canada, took every measure in their power to retard its progress. To this end they sent an officer with some troops from Quebec, in 1750, to encourage and support the Acadians and savages in impeding the English settlers. In this design they succeeded so well that in 1755 they became hardy enough openly to take part with the French in defending their garrison of Beausejour, which had been built in 1751 on a hill at the bottom of the Bay of Fundy, within three miles of Fort Lawrence, fortified by the English the preceding year. The former was taken the end of May or beginning of June, 1755, by four hundred British and two thousand Provincial troops, under the command of Lieut. Colonel Robert Monckton. The French garrison were allowed to go to Louisburg; the Acadians to their respective homes. But Admiral Boscawen, then commanding a considerable fleet at Halifax, with Colonel Lawrence, the Governor of the Province, soon after determined on sending all the Acadians out of the country, and sent orders to Lieut. Colonel Monckton to embark them. He, in consequence, issued a proclamation commanding them all to appear at Beausejour (now Fort Cumberland) on a given day when, not suspecting the purpose, they were surrounded by troops and the men shut up in the fort, the women and children suffered to return home, there to remain till further notice should be given them. In the meantime transports were preparing to carry them out of the country. In September I was directed to proceed with a party of Provincials to the Baie Verte, then a considerable and flourishing settlement, there to wait further orders, which I received on the following day, to collect and send to Beausejour, for embarkation, all the women and children to be found in that district, and, on leaving the town, to fire it; this painful task performed, I was afterwards employed in victualling the transports for their reception; the season was now far advanced before the embarkation took place, which caused much hurry, and I fear some families were divided and sent to different parts of the globe, notwithstanding all possible care was taken to prevent it. These wretched people, given up by France without their consent, were for adhering to those principles which the liberal mind must deem praiseworthy, plucked from their native soil, cast out by the nation who claimed their obedience, and rejected by that from whence they sprang, and to whose religion, customs and laws they had evinced the strongest attachment. Many of the transports having on board were ordered to France, about thirteen hundred perished by shipwreck on the voyage, those who arrived, France would not receive; they were landed at Southampton and other ports where, taking the small-pox, they were carried off in great numbers. Of those who went to the French West India Isles the greater part died for want of food, a famine at that time prevailed in the island, the people could not support them, the Governor-General said that they were not French subjects. Those who survived the calamity were sent to join their remaining brethren who had been sent to the British colonies from New England to Georgia; they were here more fortunate, for notwithstanding the rancor which generally prevailed against all Roman Catholics, their orderly conduct, their integrity, sobriety and frugality secured to them the good-will of the people and gained them comfortable support. But still longing for their native country, all their industry was stimulated, all their hopes supported by that landmark of their former felicity, many of them built boats, and taking their families, coasted the whole American shore, from Georgia to Nova Scotia; others dreading a tempestuous sea went up the Mississippi and, crossing the lakes to Canada, descended the River St. Lawrence and so regained their former settlements. But alas! what did they find! all was desolated for the more effectually to drive them out of the country, all their houses had been burnt, all their cattle killed by order of Government, hence they found no shelter, still they persevered with never-failing fortitude with unremitting industry, and established themselves in different remote parts of the Province, where they had been suffered to remain, but without any legal property, at least I have not heard of any land having been granted to them; their numbers, I am told, have increased about two thousand, and am informed they still continue what I know them to be in their prosperous state, an honest, sober industrious, and virtuous people; seldom did any quarrels happen amongst them. The men were in the summer constantly employed in husbandry, in the winter in cutting timber—fuel and fencing—and in hunting; the women in carding, spinning and weaving wool, flax and hemp, of which this country furnished abundance; these with furs from bears, beaver, foxes, otter, and martin, gave them not only comfortable, but in many instances, handsome clothing, and wherewith to procure other necessaries and conveniences from the English and French who carried on a trade of barter with them; few houses were to be found that had not a hogshead of French wine on tap, they had no dye but black and green, but in order to obtain scarlet—of which they were remarkably fond, they procured the English scarlet duffil which they cut, teized, carded, spun, and wove in stripes to decorate the women’s garments. Their country abounded with provisions, that I have heard people say they bought an ox for fifty shillings, a sheep for five, and wheat for eighteen pence per bushel. Their young people were not encouraged to marry till the maid could weave a web of cloth, the youth make a pair of wheels; their qualifications were deemed essential to their well doing and little more was necessary, for whenever a marriage took place the whole village set about establishing the young couple, they built them a log house, and cleared land sufficient for their immediate support, supplied them with some cattle, hogs, and poultry, and nature, aided by their own industry, soon enabled them to assist others. Infidelity to the marriage bed I never heard of amongst them. The winters long and cold were spent in cheerful hospitality, having fuel in abundance their houses was always comfortable, the rustic song and dance made their principal amusement. Thus did they live, so have they been visited. In 1755 I was a very humble instrument in sending eighteen hundred of those suffering mortals out of the Province. In 1783, as Commissary General to the army serving in North America, it became my duty, under the command of Sir Guy Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, to embark thirty-five thousand loyalists at New York to take shelter in it, and I trust all in my power was done to soften the affliction of the Acadians and alleviate the sufferings of the loyalists who were so severely treated for endeavoring to support the union of the British empire; they have great reason to bless the considerate mind and feeling heart of Lord Dorchester, under whose directions and providential care, ever awake to their wants, I had the pleasing task of liberally providing for them everything necessary to their transportation and settlement with provisions for one year after their arrival, and this allowance was still longer continued to them by the Public to the eternal honor of the nation will be the record of their having considered the particular case of every individual who claims to have suffered by their loyalty, and after a ruinous war which added one hundred and twenty millions to the public debt, granted compensation for their losses and relief for their sufferings to the amount of between three or four millions, besides annuities amounting to sixty thousand pounds a year.

You will perceive I have not noticed the division of the Province, which took place in 1784 or 5, when the line was drawn from Cumberland to the Baie Verte, leaving the former and all to the north of it in the newly erected Province of New Brunswick, on which lands the loyalists had generally settled.

If aught which I have communicated may in any degree prove useful to your work my feelings will be gratified. I give you thanks for having recalled to my mind transactions which were nearly obliterated, but being awakened, may be the means of producing some good to the poor Acadians who still remain in the Provinces, and they may have cause to bless you for recording their sufferings.

I am, sir.

Your most humble servant,


Rev. Mr. Brown,

Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Written by johnwood1946

August 5, 2015 at 8:18 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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