THE NOVA SCOTIAN BACKGROUND
Nearly two hundred years after De Monts and Champlain caught their initial glimpse of the splendid harbour at the mouth of the Saint John river, first comers among the Loyalists, scanning the same shores with interest and anxiety, beheld a scene almost as wild and uncultivated as that which had greeted the eyes of Champlain. Bushes and cedar trees still covered the rocks and swamps which surrounded the harbour of the Saint John,1
and the river valley, for which many of the Loyalists were bound, “seemed one dense and unending mass of green” .2
A recent writer, describing the area which is now New Brunswick as it was in 1760, has called it “a tangled, uninhabited forest massif” .3
So it had been for centuries, and so closely indeed did it still approximate that description at the time of the arrival of the Loyalists that one of the exiles in the van of the migration could say that nothing but wilderness met the eye.4
Strictly speaking, one can apply the word “uninhabited” to the New Brunswick of 1783 only in a figurative sense, for besides Acadians and Indians there were several settlements of English speaking people. Official and complete statistics for these pre-Loyalist settlements are not available for a later date than 1767,5
which may be evidence of the scant attention paid to the area by the government at Halifax. Estimates of the number of Acadians and English speaking settlers in New Brunswick in 1783 can be found in various studies on Acadian history but from our standpoint there is little gain in attempting to track down the number of pre-Loyalist settlers to the last man. The significant thing is that in an area of nearly 28,000 square miles there were no more than 5,000 inhabitants exclusive of the natives. Thus the Loyalists, being more than double the old inhabitants in number, might well feel possessive about Nova Scotia-north-of-the-bay, and when it became a separate province in 1784 might think of it, with reason, as “par excellence the province of the Loyalists,” 6
Only five thousand people! Yet New Brunswick, to use the present name, had been discovered nearly as early as any part of America, nor did it lack fish and furs, both great attractions in the early years of North American his tory. Geographically, too, it was nearer to Europe than Quebec or any of the thirteen colonies. Moreover, being separated from the St. Lawrence by the Appalachian Highland, as was New England, it formed an extension of the latter area and invited New England enterprise. But the energies of both French
and English were directed to more strategic or more productive areas, and settlement in Acadia, both north and south of the Bay of Fundy, developed in a haphazard fashion without much assistance or attention from Europe. Then too, the fur trade, although inviting, was not of the grand proportions of the St. Lawrence trade. Acadia, unlike Canada, was sprawling and irregular, lacking the great centralizing system of the highway of Canada. Since the St. Lawrence, rather than the Saint John, led to the great fur-bearing area of the interior, and since monopoly could not be successfully enforced in “this maritime world of obstreperous individualism and keen competition” ,7
organized trade in furs moved to the St. Lawrence, and the Acadian fur trade was left to a few adventurers whose individual operations were comparatively modest. Moreover, trade in furs did not necessarily imply colonization. In fact, the very nature of the business tended to discourage a settled existence, as Colbert discovered when pushing plans for the expansion of Louis XIV's empire on the St. Lawrence.8
The same was true of the fisheries. In the promotion of permanent settlement the fishing industry was little more effective than the fur trade, and New Brunswick, being less strategically situated than the peninsular part of Acadia in relation to the great bank fisheries, failed to acquire fishing stations comparable to Canso and Louisburg. Thus, for nearly two hundred years after its discovery, Acadia, particularly the mainland portion which is now New Brunswick, had few inhabitants save the native Indians. People did not come, or, when they did, seldom remained to establish permanent homes or to make a lasting impression on the country.
Generally speaking, to official France and England Acadia seemed unimportant in itself, but in time of war it assumed importance because of its relation to French and English interests elsewhere. For external reasons, therefore, the country frequently changed hands but in times of peace both France and England tended to neglect it. One significant feature of the transfer of Acadia to English hands in 1654 lies in the fact that the conquest was effected by Bostonians, who, having been balked in their designs on the Dutch at Manhattan by the termination of the Dutch War, had decided that to spend 'a lytle tyme upon ye coast in lookeinge after ye ffrench might torne to some accompt'.9
This decision was prophetic of a major interest which New England was to develop, an interest fraught with disastrous consequences for the Acadians.10
The other significant feature of this English interlude may be seen in the fact that it did not affect Nicholas Denys, French trader on the north shore of Acadia. In other words, French power continued in Acadia, and “this survival served as a reminder of the fact that Acadia was a divided country which it was difficult to rule, and also difficult to capture in its entirety.” 1l
After Acadia was restored to France in 1670 French efforts were concentrated on the building of a mighty empire at Quebec, and Acadia exper
ienced forty years of neglect. Only a few settlers were sent to the area, and fewer still found their way north of the Bay of Fundy. The true agricultural centre of Acadia was south and east of the Bay, where a small number of new settlers, and the descendants of de Razilly's colonizing venture of 1632 spread remarkably along Minas Basin and Cobequid, and around Chignecto to Shepody. This was the Acadia of a peaceful peasantry. The other Acadia, between the Saint John and the frontier settlements of New England, was the scene of international conflict in which the Indians, incited by Quebec, played a terrible part.12
“It was the country's misfortune to be the eastern outpost and flank for both France and England in America.” It became a fixed pivot on which an international battlefront seesawed back and forth between the French and the English.13
Thus strong forces from without converged upon this sparsely peopled area, conflicted, and created a ferment which made life uneasy for those who were in the country, and discouraged others from coming. Raids, alarms and massacres were features of King William's War (1689-1697) and of Queen Anne's War (1701-1713). The capture of Port Royal in 1710 was motivated less by the fact that France and England were at war elsewhere than by the determination of Massachusetts to scotch the Indian snake in his lair west of the Saint John, to insure for New England freedom from raids, and to remove obstacles to the lucrative fisheries of Acadia and of Newfoundland beyond. The Treaty of Utrecht gave Acadia to England with all its ancient boundaries. “There were, however, elements of future trouble in the refusal of the Acadians to take the oath of allegiance to the English monarch, and in the claim which was first put forward by Vaudreuil, the Governor of Canada, in 1718 that Acadia only comprised the peninsula and did not include the territory now embraced in New Brunswick.” l4
The coming of peace lessened the strategic importance of Nova Scotia, as Acadia was now called, and for another period of forty years the country was more or less consigned to an “official limbo” .15
The English held it, “but it was odd how embarrassed they were by it, how little they could make of it, how apt they were to avoid it or neglect it altogether” .16
As long as the contest between France and England for North America remained an unfinished business, neither English nor New Englanders were tempted to choose as a home an area which, despite its British name, was inhabited by Frenchmen who managed to ignore suggestions, invitations, and orders to take an unqualified oath of allegiance17
and become British subjects.
When the great duel between France and England in North America came to a climax in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years, War the significance of Nova Scotia again emerged. Resisting the impulse to
linger over romantic names and dramatic episodes, we shall merely note that the course of the war brought misery and hardship to hundreds of inoffensive French peasants who were pawns in the international game, and that the outcome of the conflict closed the French regime.
This period furnished but scanty materials for those interested in the history of Education. Primitive pioneer society, of necessity, can be concerned but little with things cultural. Habitant life, as A. R. M. Lower has pointed out, has never been characterized by desire for change, improvement, and progress.18
These factors, plus the disturbance bred by the pull of two rival imperial powers, explain why the efforts of Recollet and other missionaries to educate and christianize the Indians and to instruct the Acadians in the days of French occupancy bore meagre scholastic fruit, although they were instrumental in spreading the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith and in maintaining the French language. “The overburdened priests could probably do little more than teach the habitant children their catechism and alphabet . . . In the primitive pioneer settlements of Nova Scotia, Isle Royale and Isle St. Jean there was no provision for advanced work at all.” 19
During the period from 1760 to 1783 conditions were scarcely more conducive to the growth of learning and culture. In that short period of two decades the Seven Years' War was wound up, the first English settlements outside of Annapolis, Canso, Halifax and its vicinity were established, a constitutional struggle waxed and waned, and the American Revolution made Nova Scotia once again “a divided and disintegrated country, a borderland of uncertain loyalties, a battleground of rival imperial interests.” 20
There was little English settlement previous to 1760 although the founding of Halifax by Cornwallis in 1749 inaugurated a new British policy. His plans, and those of Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, called for the establishment of English settlements here and there in order to combat French pretensions, to drive wedges among the Acadians, and to make Nova Scotia really British.21
This, however, proved difficult to carry out, not only because of the stubborn stand of the Acadians, but also because English-speaking Americans found little attraction in a country which lacked representative institutions, a country whose ultimate fate awaited the outcome of the issue between France and England. Those who came were chiefly merchants interested in the possibilities of money-making at Halifax. For five years after the founding of that city Nova Scotia remained “a political tadpole, a head without much of a body” .22
But when events between 1755 and 1760 indicated the termination of French rule in North America, New Englanders began to find their way to Nova Scotia, seeking the lands which privileged proprietorship denied them in New England. This immigration was part of the northward expansion of New England, a movement encouraged by the imperial authorities. It was
accelerated by the necessity of providing for disbanded soldiers at the close of the Seven Years, War, and by the Proclamation of 1763 prohibiting settlement beyond the Appalachian Highland.23
Among the townships which were established about this time the most remote from Halifax were three in the present New Brunswick, Sackville, Cumberland and Sunbury. Sackville was first settled in 1761 by families from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and the Cumberland area east of Sackville received its first settlers about the same time. Sunbury was the huge district west of Sackville and Cumberland and east of the Saint John, extending from the Bay of Fundy to the southern boundary of Canada. Its principal settlements were at Maugerville and at the mouth of the Saint John river. In 1763 a group of settlers from Massachusetts, mostly ex-soldiers, under the leadership of Israel Perley had established themselves at Maugerville well up the river on its east bank.24
These several groups may have been only “a handful of adventurers to whom the prospects of a new field of endeavor appeared more attractive than the prosaic security of a small New England town” ,25
but they were composed of men of courage and initiative who were well adapted to pioneer life. Like their contemporaries at Annapolis and Minas they had brought with them “the image of established New England communities.” 26
That they retained in large measure their New England interests and attachments were revealed fifteen years later during the American Revolution. It is possible that if that break had come later than it did the Maritime Provinces would today be part of the American Republic's “down east” .
For some years after 1764 a wave of land-grabbing and speculation flourished in Nova Scotia, often with government connivance. Favored individuals, select groups, and high-pressure promoters petitioned for, and often received, immense tracts of land.27
Turning our attention to land concentrations in New Brunswick, we note that 100,000 acres on the Miramichi were granted to two Scotchmen, Davidson and Cort, and other areas, equally large, were granted on the Saint John river and at Hopewell, Hillsboro, and Moncton on the Petitcodiac.28
In some cases a few tenants were settled, particularly in the townships on the Petitcodiac.29
Here and there a number of spirited business enterprises were undertaken. Such was the business in fish and furs carried on at the mouth of the Saint John river by Simonds, Hazen and White, also Davidson and Cort's salmon-curing on the Miramichi, and Beamsley Glasier's timber business on the Nashwaak. One point of significance may be noted in connection with land schemes along the Saint John river, namely, the careful and later exceedingly useful survey work which accompanied the laying out of the townships of Conway, Gage, Burton, Sunbury, and Newtown.30
this land was eventually escheated for non-fulfilment of conditions of settlement and thus became available for Loyalist settlement.
After 1768 there was a lull in American immigration resulting from the opening up of the Ohio Valley, and also a slackening of British immigration due to the opposition of British landlords. The Passamaquoddy area, however, received about thirty families in 1770 and in 1772 a group of Yorkshiremen came to the Sackville township.31
These and the other establishments in New Brunswick, remote from the wrangling of Council, Assembly and Governor at Halifax, developed quietly in their own way without much interference or even attention from the capital. Records of these settlements are tantalizingly meagre. From the fact that the settled lands were good, especially those in the Saint John valley, we may suppose that farming operations were a success. “The stoneless alluvial lands, the rich natural pastures, and the parklike magnificent forests, free of underbrush, made the valley a prize for the pioneer farmer even when he had not the capital to trade largely in its furs or to build a sawmill” .32
That the natural resources of the region could yield a good profit for those who had capital is revealed by the flourishing business of Simonds and White, who exported $ 100,000 worth of furs, staves, fish, and lime in the period from 1764 to 1775.33
The Pre-Loyalist inhabitants of New Brunswick belonged for the most part to the Congregational Church, a circumstance which did not enhance their social and political importance in the eyes of leading Loyalists when the latter arrived. According to Hannay, the settlers on the Saint John river found in religion, and also in rum, solace and excitement for lives of isolation and hard work.34
Doubtless the town meeting, on occasion, furnished interesting episodes also. This New England institution had been promised by implication when Governor Lawrence, to attract settlers, had proclaimed the establishment of “a characteristically American rural township system” .35
Actually, however, Nova Scotia in local government as well as in central followed the practice of the royal colony of Virginia rather than that of Massachusetts, and county members never did get the New England form of local self-government on the statute books.36
But town meetings continued to be held; indeed the authorities attempted to place a check on them in 1770,37
thereby adding to the grievances of the outpost settlements, which not infrequently held illegal gatherings in the years immediately preceding the Revolution. It is hardly likely that the Maugerville meeting of May, 1776, which approved of union with the American cause,38
was the first town meeting held in the community.
As one would expect, public provision for education during this period was slight. The imperial authorities probably felt that they had done all that
was necessary when they blessed the efforts of the S. P. G. and directed that four hundred acres of land in each township should be granted for the use of schools.39
In reality this generous-sounding provision could be only a gesture until the lands became productive of revenue. Legislation relating to schools before 1783 seems to have been confined to “An Act concerning Schools and Schoolmasters” in 1766. In harmony with the idea of the importance of clerical supervision the licensing of teachers was to be subject to the approval of the clergy. If there were no settled minister, the examination of the candidate was to be held by two Justices of the Peace for the county, provided that at least six inhabitants of the area could certify to the good character of the candidate.40
If there were teachers legally licensed at Maugerville previous to 1774, they must have been certified in this way, as the first settled minister in Maugerville, the Rev. Seth Noble, did not arrive until that year.41
In 1766, feeling was still strong against the Acadians, which probably explains why one section of the Act of 1766 stated that “no popish person shall be so presumptive as to set up any school in the province.” 42
Already the battle was on in peninsular Nova Scotia to promote exclusive Anglican schools under the S. P. G.,43
but the history of S. P. G. activities in New Brunswick does not properly begin until after the Loyalist arrival. Such schools as there were in this part of Nova Scotia before 1783 were conducted intermittently by teachers of the itinerant type, were generally held in private houses, and offered a very rudimentary education. Books were scarce, and the masters, paid by the subscription method and often in produce, received a mere pittance.44
Obviously, one of the great problems to confront the Loyalists on their arrival was the lack of opportunity for the education of their children, but the absence of any definite school system did leave them free within the framework of their economic circumstances to build on the old basis of class and church.
Except for a few observations we may dismiss the story of Nova Scotia during the Revolution as having but slight bearing on our theme. For a number of reasons the people of the province in general either adhered to the British cause or failed effectively to support the rebels, even the majority of New Englanders finding charms in the neutrality for which they had roundly abused the Acadians a few decades before. The present New Brunswick was the scene of the only real invasion directed against Nova Scotia during the conflict, minor enterprise though it was, and the country did not entirely escape those features of the struggle which made life miserable for the Fundy folk and the fishermen of the south coast. The people of Maugerville, whether because of their New England affiliations, grievances against the distant government at Halifax, or fear of attack by the Malicete Indians, sent to Massachusetts protestations of attachment, listened to Eddy when he sought aid for his Cumberland venture,
and even endorsed the scheme by joining his expedition in small numbers. The settlements at Sackville and Cumberland had the choice between loyalty and rebellion closely presented to them when Jonathan Eddy arrived in their midst with his daring plan of attack on Fort Cumberland. But Eddy's attack turned into a fiasco and John Allan, Seth Noble, Phineas Nevers, and others who had been most “hearty” in the rebel cause fled to Maine. When a series of circumstances and events had relieved Nova Scotia from the fear of an American invasion, the Revolution, as far as the fourteenth colony was concerned, was over except for the aftermath of Loyalist immigration. The Loyalists, not unnaturally, considered the loyalty of the people of the province to be of a much paler shade than their own, a belief which tended to make them regard the “old inhabitants” as a poor lot.
From this brief review of the early history of Nova Scotia, one is impressed by the insularity of the colony and by its separateness from the rest of North America, a separateness which was intensified by the break with the Thirteen Colonies in the Revolution. This isolation should have given it a national unity, but geographical diversities, the scattered nature of the settlements, and differences in outlook between the government and the New Englanders who peopled the country worked against unity. Although the majority of the population were Americans, business and government tied the country to England, and the province, like Quebec, kept its independence of the United States and refused to become part of a great continental economy.
We have observed that that part of Nova Scotia which became New Brunswick was so negligibly settled previous to the coming of the Loyalists as to be almost empty. The Loyalists, therefore, could be sure of land enough for homes, and of a clear field for whatever institutions they might wish to establish. It is doubtful if they all realized before their arrival how difficult life in this wilderness was to be. From those who were cultured and town-bred pioneer life was to demand a heavy price, taking toll of their energies, cramping their ambitions, blighting their literature, and modifying their incipient institutions. Those early years were to constitute a testing time—and “testing times are distinguished by the surmounting of obstacles rather than the accomplishment of bold designs marked by outstanding initiative.” 45
This brief excursion into Nova Scotian history has shown us that economically and geographically Nova Scotia was part of New England, in spite of ties forged with London by Halifax bureaucrats and financiers. The Revolution meant that the best natural market of the Maritime Provinces would henceforth be, for political reasons, uncertain.46
These provinces had now moved “out of New England's orbit into Great Britain's” . Henceforth Nova Scotia must look eastward to London for direction and help rather than southwestward to Boston as in the past.47
But in a new province—and the Loyalists who came to the Saint John soon found many reasons why there should be a
separate province north and west of the Bay of Fundy- there was bound to be such a lack of necessities that the inhabitants would have to turn to the nearest source of supply, the United States. In other words, the new province was likely to find itself pulled two ways, as had happened to Nova Scotia twice before, with adverse effects on its economy.
In 1783, however, the Loyalists turned away physically and emotionally from the old colonies. To their leading men the new land presented a challenge, despite personal deprivations, and with wonderful courage and optimism they accepted that challenge. “By Heaven we will be the envy of the American States” , wrote Edward Winslow to Ward Chipman in April, 1784,48
as he contemplated the formation of a truly Loyalist province.
In our next chapter we shall study those foundation years in which the New Brunswick school system had its slow beginnings.
^1. Hannay (1), Vol. 1, p. 134.
^2. Creighton, p. 171.
^3. Brebner (1), p. 9.
^4. Brown, p. 137.
^5. Hannay (1), Vol, 1, p. 77.
^6. Gilroy, p. 1 of Introduction.
^7. Creighton, p. 19.
^8. Ibid., p. 63.
^9. Brebner (2), p. 31.
^10. Ibid., p. 31.
^11. Creighton, p. 50.
^12. Brebner (2), p. 45.
^13. Ibid., pp. 15-17.
^14. Hannay (1), Vol. 1, p. 34.
^15. Brebner (2), p. 83.
^16. Creighton, p. 108.
^17. This whole question of the Acadian oath of allegiance is a controversial matter. It is dealt with at length in Brebner J. B., New England's Outpost, and it is also treated by A. G. Doughty in his book The Acadian Exiles.
^18. Lower (1), pp. 5-18.
^19. Creighton, pp. 127, 128.
^20. Ibid., p. 161.
^21. Brebner (2), pp. 166-180.
^22. Kerr, p. 6.
^23. Brebner (1), p. 93.
^24. Hanney (1), Vol. 1, pp. 65, 66.
^25. Gilroy, p. 1.
^26. Brebner (1), p. 57.
^27. Ibid., p. 35-37, 94-98.
^28. Hannay (1), pp. 67-70.
^29. Ibid., p. 69.
^30. Brebner (1), p. 116.
^31. Hannay (1), Vol. 1, pp. 76, 77.
^32. Brebner (1), p. 115.
^33. Ibid., p. 116.
^34. Hannay (1), Vol. 1, pp. 80, 81.
^35. Brebner (1), p. 27.
^36. Creighton, p. 151.
^37. Brebner (1), p. 297.
^38. Kerr, p. 75.
^39. Fitch, p. 2.
^40. MacKay, A. H., pp. 512, 513.
^41. Hannay (1), p. 81.
^42. MacKay, p. 513.
^43. Brebner (1), p. 197.
^44. Fitch, p. 2. Hay, pp. 545, 546. Raymond (2), Vol. VI, No. 7, pp. 131, 132.
^45. Gilroy, p. 82.
^46. Innis & Lower, p. 386.
^47. Brebner (1), p. 353.
^48. Winslow Papers, p. 353.