The Colonial History to the War of the Revolution
those who had not been in arms, to take the oath of allegiance to the British monarchy unconditionally. This being refused, because it was a violation of the treaty, Lawrence expelled the Acadians from Nova Scotia, confiscated their property (excepting their money and household goods), burned their dwellings, and wasted their estates. In this wantonly cruel act husbands and wives, parents and children, were torn apart and transported to different parts of the British American Colonies, while the vessels which carried them were so crowded that many died on the voyage. On Aug. 11, 1755, Governor Lawrence wrote to Governor Morris, of Pennsylvania, that he had shipped one hundred and sixty-eight men, women, and children to the latter province.1 This letter, which was brought by the vessels on which the Acadians came, was received November 19th, and Council immediately commanded that a guard should be placed over the ship to prevent the landing of the exiles, but fresh provisions and necessaries were ordered to be delivered on board, and continued to be sent until Council determined what should be done with these people.2 On the 25th of the same month Governor Morris, by message, informed the Assembly that he had the French Neutrals landed at Providence Island, as the doctor had reported that it would be dangerous to have them remain longer in the crowded vessel.3 Early in December it was officially reported that in the ships "Hannah," "Three Friends," and "Swan" four hundred and fifty-four out of the five hundred French Neutrals assigned to Pennsylvania had been received at Providence Island. Governor Morris, touched at the wrongs these unhappy exiles had suffered, strove earnestly to reunite those families which had been separated in transportation.4 On Feb. 20, 1756, the Assembly passed an act dispersing the Acadians in the several counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, and Lancaster, and making provision for their maintenance.5 By the act three commissioners were appointed in each of the counties named to distribute the Acadians among the people, locating only one family in a township, and to have a supervisory care over them. Nathaniel Pennock, Nathaniel Grubb, and John Hannum were the commissioners named for Chester County. The Governor failing to approve the bill promptly, on March 3d a committee from the Assembly waited on him to know what "he had done" with it, and on the 5th he signed it. When the law was attempted to be enforced, the Neutrals claimed to be prisoners of war, but Governor Morris and Council, after considerable delay, decided, six months subsequent to the promulgation of the act, that under the treaty of Utrecht they were subjects of Great Britain.6 Jan. 14, 1757, an additional act was approved, empowering the binding out and settling of the Acadians under age, and providing for the maintenance of their aged, sick, and maimed at the expense of the province. The unfortunate people, feeling the injustice that had been visited on them, having lost heart and refusing to work, were soon in the utmost want. One week subsequent to the passage of the law just mentioned, William Griffith informed Council that unless something was immediately done many of the French Neutrals would perish. Already death had been busy among them, for shortly after they landed more than one-half of them had died.7 On March 21,1757, Governor Denny, caused the arrest of five of the Neutrals at the request of Lord Lowdoun, two in the city of Philadelphia, one in Frankford, "Paul Bujaud in Chester, and Jean Landy in Darby," because they were "suspicious and evil-minded persons, and have and each of them hath at divers Times uttered menacing speeches against his majesty and his liege subjects, and behaved in a very disorderly manner."8 No wonder; for surely the poor men who were thrown in jail in Philadelphia had every reason to utter menacing speeches against the Hanoverian scoundrel who then sat on the throne of Great Britain. In Chester, before the act authorizing the overseers of the poor in the several townships to bind out the children of the Acadians, the former officials had in many cases refused to receive the exiles or minister to their wants, hence many of the latter had died with smallpox; but after the law of Jan. 14, 1757, became operative the condition of the Neutrals was considerably improved. The burden of their support, however, aroused the taxpayers of that day, and when four years later it was found that seven thousand pounds had been expended in the support of the exiles, a committee of the Assembly was appointed to inquire into the condition of these people, and to ascertain whether the cost of their maintenance could not be lessened. It was, after investigation, reported that the reason their children had not been bound out to service was mainly owing to the religious opinions of their parents, who feared that their offspring might be surrounded with objectional influences in the families of the English settlers or their descendants. The result of the report was finally the repeal of the law providing for the support of these exiles. The glamour of Longfellow's genius has made the wrongs of these Acadians more familiar to the popular mind than any of the many harsh and unjustifiable acts of ministerial minions in American colonial history, but to the student, the story of the banishment of these ignorant French people is a mere incident, the happening of which had little or no influence in shaping the direction of events. Even at that time among the Northern colonies the impression was being made on some thoughtful minds that at no distant day there would be an absolute separation from the mother-country.
1 Colonial Records, vol. vi. p. 711.|
2 Ib., p. 713.
3 Ib., p. 729.
4 Ib., p. 45.
5 Ib., vol. vii. pp. 14, 15.
6 Ib., pp. 239, 240, 241.
7 Gordon's "History of Pennsylvania," p. 500.
8 Colonial Records, vol. vii. p. 446.