John G. Leefe DCL
Read Before the Mersey Heritage Society
April 2, 2009
America in mid-18th Century
By the middle of the 18th century, Britain’s North American colonies included almost the entire Atlantic seaboard from Georgia to Newfoundland. Restless and aggressive, Americans sought to move the landward boundaries of their colonies further west, especially the largest frontier colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania. The population of the colonies from Virginia to Massachusetts in particular had experienced significant natural increase and from immigration. Immigrants from Europe came largely from Great Britain, Ireland and Germany with a smattering of French and Dutch immigration associated with the 17th century. The sad spectacle of African immigration was tied to the human misery of slavery, especially in the South and most especially in South Carolina where the black population would soon outpace people of European and British descent. The aboriginal population had suffered a terrible reduction in numbers in coastal areas and was striving in a loosing battle to retain Indian lands on the fringes of the American colonies, particularly in western New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas and on into the Ohio Valley which was hotly contested between Britain and France. Inheritance practices ensured that younger sons would be encouraged to fend for themselves in the search for agricultural land.
The economy was mixed and included agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, forestry and land speculation. Political institutions in most of the British colonies had experienced significant evolution with differences reflecting local experience. The most democratic or indeed most fractious depending on one’s point of view were the New England colonies where elected township local government was well established. With the exception of Maryland, the vast majority of colonists were non-conforming Protestants. In fact in Massachusetts Congregationalism was virtually the established religion.
New France was the antithesis of the British colonies to the south. France was consumed by events in Europe. In New France there had been little immigration since the latter 17th century. In part this was the consequence of determination by Louis XIV’s governments to disallow any other than French and Catholic immigration. In fact any French Protestant found in New France if apprehended, would have been subject to arrest and a life of shackled misery in Mediterranean rowing galleys. By 1760 the population of New France including Acadia was approximately 70,000, contrasted to approximately 2,000,000 in the British colonies to the south. The population was spread ribbon like along the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence from Quebec City to Montreal and upstream on some of its tributaries, most notably the Richelieu, an arrow pointed directly at the heart of the Iroquoian people of northern New York. Beyond Montreal were French trading posts stretching from the Ohio Valley to the Mississippi down to its mouth and the booming port town of New Orleans. West lay the great hinterland of North America explored as far as the Rocky Mountains, the preserve of French trappers, Indians and Métis. To the north where rivers flowed toward the Arctic, were the lands of England’s Hudson Bay Company.
The economy of New France was completely dependent on three pillars, namely the fur trade, agriculture and government both civil and ecclesiastic. Every activity was highly regulated by the government based in Quebec. Agriculture had a distinct feudal flavour in that dues were owed by local farmers to the local seigneur just as tithes were demanded of them in support of the Roman Catholic Church. There was little manufacturing and other than the thrill of adventure, there was no motivation for young people to be restive and feel impelled to quit the family farm or at least the community of birth. Although almost assuredly happier, the people of New France they were as dependent on the whims of the Crown and the Church as those in old France.Royal Government was extant in the colony. Power was shared between the Governor, the Bishop and the Intendant. While they were expected to co-operate in fact they almost always were at odds with one another not infrequently writing letters to officials in France complaining about one or both the other officials. There were not even rudimentary representative institutions either at the colonial or local level. Divine Right was as evident in France’s colonies as it was at home. Innovation, independent intellectual thought, representative institutions, economic diversification were all discouraged in policy and practice.
There could not have been two more diverse peoples than those of the colonial France and Britain in North America.
Settlement of the Foreign Protestants
The capture of Louisbourg in 1745 had both short and long term implications for British America. Immediately it exposed the weakness of the greatest fortress in the Americas, the importance of sea power and of co-ordination between naval and land forces. In the longer term its return to France by the Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle led to the creation of Halifax as a counterbalance and in the longest term it created a sense of awareness in the minds of American colonists and particularly New Englanders, that they themselves could best France – with the Protestant God’s help of course! This would have implications for the last great conflict between France and Britain in America, namely the American War of Independence.
With the founding of Halifax came a political determination on the part of Britain to secure Nova Scotia by planting of Protestant colonists. Prior to 1749 the small English population was almost exclusively centered at the capitol of Annapolis Royal. There were largely seasonal settlements associated with the fishery the most notable being Canso. With the founding of Halifax, the British government organized and financed the settlement of 2000 people on the shores of Chebucto Bay. Recognizing that British and Irish settlers preferred the older Atlantic colonies, the government decided to utilize the Hanoverian connection with Germany to encourage the migration of people from various Protestant principalities to Nova Scotia. Being Protestant, it was assumed that these people would be loyal and buttress the still small English population of Nova Scotia as a counter balance to the Acadian population which had grown exponentially beginning in the mid to latter 1600s and which occupied the best farmland in the colony from the Annapolis Valley through the Minas settlements to those on Chignecto Bay to Northumberland Strait. Thus came into existence the new settlements associated with Lunenburg in 1753. Further English settlements arose at Lawrencetown on the Eastern Shore and around Bedford Basin. Still, the relationships between the government at Halifax and their Acadian and Mi’kmaq charges were often difficult and always mistrustful. The agents of France, particularly clergy like the priest Jean LaLoutre, fomented discord wherever and whenever possible.
Seven Years War – Global Conflict, American Theatre
Britain and France were the major powers in Europe. Spain had become a second rate power and Germany was fragmented. In fact the 18th century was one of constant tension between the two juggernauts, tension that resulted in four wars from Queens Anne’s War (War of the Spanish Succession) through King George’s War (War of the Austrian Succession) and the Seven Years War to the American Revolution. All these conflicts impacted North America, all impacted the people from white to black to aboriginal. All led to the two great cataclysms that would eventually make North America north of Mexico essentially English speaking sea hosting islands of other cultures.
The rivalry of these two great nations was not exclusive to North America. In the Caribbean they jousted over the sugar islands of the Leeward and Windward Islands. In Europe they sought to maintain a balance between themselves through series of entangling alliances. In the Mediterranean they each endeavoured to establish themselves as the primary power. In India they came into conflict until in a final showdown, Britain bested France. The culmination of this competition was the Seven Years War which has often been cited by historians as the first word war because it was played out over such a wide global stage.
The war resulted in termination of French influence in North America. Although it was a dodgy business for Britain in the beginning, the end result was total capitulation for France. Louisbourg, Quebec and Montreal went down successively in 1758, 1759 and 1760. The entire Ohio Valley was opened to Britain. The only lands left to France were the tiny islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland to serve the French fishing fleets of the Grand Banks. The outcome in North America, on the continent, in the Mediterranean and India was an absolute disaster for France. It also set in play a series of events that proved an absolute disaster for the Acadians in Nova Scotia.
Overcrowded New England
As previously noted, the population of the British American colonies from Georgia to Massachusetts had continued to grow. America was still largely agrarian. The combination of immigration and inheritance promoted the sense that there was always need to find new wilderness to turn into farmland. This was not a problem for Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York all of which included substantial undeveloped land within and just beyond their borders. New England whose population had grown from 100,000 in 1720 to 400,000 in 1760 was in a very different position for it was blocked to the west by New York and to the north by Quebec. Instead of looking west, New England and particularly its largest colony Massachusetts, had to look east to Maine and Nova Scotia.
The first challenge was to identify lands that would meet the needs of Yankee emigrants. Secondly, New Englanders were not prepared to countenance removing themselves to a place that was unsafe as a consequence of the French and Indian menace. Thirdly, they were only prepared to move to a place that had political institutions mirroring those in New England and in particular, to a place that had an elected legislature and local township government. Nova Scotia was considered by many to be New England’s Outpost so it had at least that in its favour. It also however, had an insecure and undefined border, it had a population that was predominantly French and Roman Catholic which also occupied the best farmland and it had an aboriginal population that had been traditionally hostile to New England. Only the coastal areas were available for fishing settlements and timber production, but the shortcomings far out weighted the attractions. Until these irreparable shortcomings were rectified, Nova Scotia was not a solution for Massachusetts in particular and New England in particular. 1755 changed everything.
Although the Seven Years War did not officially commence until May 1756, it had been underway in America since the summer campaigning season of 1755. On July 9 of that year General Braddock’s army was disastrously defeated at the Battle of the Monongahela. The three pronged British advances in northern New York met with abject failure. Only in Nova Scotia did British arms meet with success in this pre-war cauldron. In the summer of 1755 a fleet of 31 transports and three warships carrying 270 British regular troops and 2,000 New England militia besieged and captured Fort Beauséjour and Fort Gaspereau thereby eliminating regular French military presence in mainland Nova Scotia. For the purposes of this paper, what was most significant was the large fleet of transports available to government and the political masters in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts knew exactly the strategic use to which they could be put. Throughout the late summer and the autumn some 6000 or more Acadians living on the peninsula of Nova Scotia and on the southeast corner of what is now New Brunswick were routinely rounded up, put on the transports, deported and dispersed among the British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard (A.H. Clark 'Acadia: The Geography of Early Nova Scotia to 1760'). Their livestock was slaughtered, their dykes breached, their agricultural lands flooded, their houses, barns and churches put to the torch. It was fully intended that there would be no return for the dispossessed, a classic case of ethnic cleansing. One major prohibition to New England immigration into Nova Scotia had been resolved.
In the early war, things did not go well for Britain. That however, was resolved when the King reluctantly agreed to name William Pitt as prime minister. Pitt was a polished and entirely competent parliamentarian, a good judge of character and a determined wartime leader. He was very much the Churchill of his day. He properly funded the army and navy, he appointed entirely competent senior officers to both services and he captured the imagination of the nation so essential when the country was at war. In North America the succession of failures began to turn into a succession of victories. For our purposes the most important single victory was the July 1758 reduction of the brooding fortress at Louisbourg removing the greatest single threat to Nova Scotia. The capitulations of Quebec in 1759 and Montreal in 1760 made the package complete. Nova Scotia was looking much more feasible to potential New England immigrants.
The final condition to make Nova Scotia attractive for immigration was the establishment of an elected legislature. Nova Scotia’s Governor Charles Lawrence made arguments to the Board of Trade and Plantations against issuing a general election writ. The Board would hear none of it and ordered that the writ be issued forthwith. Consequently an election proclamation was issued May 20, 1758 and the House of Assembly convened in Halifax on October 2, 1758. As all Nova Scotians were reminded last year, this was the first representative government in what is now Canada. There were 22 members elected from the counties of Lunenburg, Halifax, Annapolis and Cumberland with Robert Sanderson chosen as the first Speaker. The way was now clear for New Englanders to commence their “plantations” in Nova Scotia.
New England Planters
On October 12, 1758 Governor Charles Lawrence launched his campaign to attract New Englanders to his under populated province by issuing a proclamation which described the land as:
One hundred thousand acres of which had produced wheat, rye, barley, oats, hemp, flax, &c. without failure for the last century and another one hundred thousand had been cleared and stocked with English grass, planted with orchards and embellished with gardens, the whole so intermixed that every individual farmer might have a proportionable quantity of ploughed land, grass land and wood land.
A regular Valhalla this Nova Scotia yet there was not great rush of Yankees to take up the land. The only immigrants during this winter consisted of four regiments sent down from Louisbourg to shiver in the insufficient quarters provided for them in Halifax.
Lawrence had two sets of agents employed to attract settlers, Apthorpe and Hancock of Boston and Delancey and Watts of New York. Despite several enquiries, it became apparent that Americans were more than hesitant to emigrate solely on the basis of the description provided in the October Proclamation. Consequently a new proclamation offering further inducements was issued on January 11, 1759. It promised the erection of townships, adequate land grants with a quit rent of 1 s per annum for each 50 acres –collection to commence upon the expiration of 10 years - a form of government comparable to American expectations, courts of justice patterned on those of New England, liberty of conscience _ exclusive of Papists of course – and finally a promise of military security: “Forts are established in the neighbourhood of the lands proposed to be settled”. Published in several continental newspapers, this proclamation began to excite considerable interest, particularly in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Throughout New England prospective emigrants met to appoint agents who would journey to Halifax to enter into negotiations with the government. Connecticut and Rhode Island representatives appeared before the Council on April 18, 1759 and were subsequently treated to a guided tour of the Annapolis Valley to Minas Basin. Through the spring and summer, agents arrived from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. By September grants had been issued for the establishment of townships from Minas to Annapolis Basin and across to the Isthmus of Chignecto. At the same time, four communities were proposed for the South Shore.
From time to time there were sharp reminders that not all Nova Scotia’s old inhabitants were enthusiastic about receiving new settlers. On October 16 it was reported to the Council that John Doggett and Sylvanus Cobb were conducting representatives of the Plymouth Committee on a tour of various bays and inlets along the South Shore. Upon closing in with Cape Sable they were greeted with a shower of musketry from “one hundred neutral French and Indians”. Being men of discretion, they determined on a site farther up the coast, the bay named Rossignol after the unlucky French trader of 1604. The attack was to prove fortuitous indeed for their new town named Liverpool, lay at the mouth of the province’s longest river was to provide great stands of white pine and a seemingly endless harvest of salmon and alewives.
It was not until the spring of 1760 that sizeable groups of settlers began to move across the Gulf of Maine to Novas Scotia. Those who were bent on establishing themselves as farmers occupied the vacated Acadian lands creating the townships of Annapolis, Granville, Cornwallis, Falmouth and Horton in the Annapolis Valley. Within the year a further influx settled Truro and Onslow. Newport was granted the same year. 1762 and 1763 found more New Englanders on the move settling Amherst, Sackville and Cumberland in the vicinity of what had one been the largest Acadian settlement, Beaubassin.
Perhaps the most venturesome were the 50 families who followed Israel Perley up the St. John River to found a community in the heart of Nova Scotia’s hinterland in what a generation later was to become New Brunswick. Almost immediately their land claims came into conflict with imperial policy which had set the area aside for the settlement of disbanded British regiments. The Nova Scotia government working through the powerful Joshua Mauger, secured title for the immigrants who in honour of their benefactor named their new home Maugerville. The only contact these settlers had with the outside world was the Simonds, Hazen and White trading post at Portland Point on Saint John Harbour.
Through 1759 and 1760 New England fishermen snuggled into the nooks and crannies of the Atlantic coast. Here they laid out their townships with their narrow fish lots, each fronting on salt water tenanted with their ubiquitous flakes for curing the catch. Such were the beginnings of New Dublin, Liverpool, Barrington and Yarmouth. These comings and goings were watched with interest by folks back home as witnessed in the November 3, 1760 edition of the Boston Evening Post:
By Capt. Legget, who arrived here last Saturday in 8 days from Annapolis Royal, we are informed that Captains Rogers and Cobb arrived there safe about a fortnight past with a number of inhabitants and effects from these parts; that he has been at most of the settlements in N.S. the summer past, which go on very fast, and the people are extremely well pleased with the land, are quire healthy and in high spirits.
During this period 1759 to 1763 some 4,500 New Englanders rode the crest of a wave of immigration into Nova Scotia. Their coming created 16 townships and provided the colony with a distinctly Yankee air. These few years had witnessed a fairly immediate change as the province was no longer merely a military post and naval station. It was now an American colony in every sense with a legislature, a judiciary and agricultural, fishing and merchant communities. In addition it had been peopled by men and women who were accustomed to the rigours of life in rural America, who knew how to come to terms with the natural environment. Perhaps as important, they were people who knew the value of their political institutions and considered them an indispensible part of their British heritage.
There is an evolution to Liverpool. The warrant of survey for Liverpool Township was issued by Governor Lawrence in 1759. It was to be:
…a tract situate, lying, and being on the sea coast of Cape Sable shore and is there to be abutted and bounded: To begin four miles west of the western head of the entrance into Port Senior, and to extend from the sea shore back into the country, on a course north west by north, fourteen miles, which is to be the western boundary; and on the easterly side of said tract of land to begin one mile east of the eastern point of the harbour of Port Maltor sic, commonly called Port Metway, and to extend from the sea shore into the country fourteen miles, course north west and by north; and from the said eastern limit, at the end of the said fourteen miles, to extend westerly till it meets the westerly limit of said tract of land, containing in the whole by estimation, one hundred thousand acres, more or less, according to a plan and survey of the same to be herewith registered; which township is to be called the Township of Liverpool, in the said Province; and that I, by virtue of the Power and authority, and by and with the advice and consent aforesaid, do by these presents give, and grant, and confirm unto the several person hereinafter named, one hundred and sixty-four shares or rights of two hundred shares or rights, whereof the said township is to consist, with all and all manner “of mines unopened, excepting nines of gold, silver, precious stones and lapis lazuli in and upon the said shares or rights situate as aforesaid.
It is entirely likely that some settlers did arrive in 1759. The majority of families however, appear to have arrived in 1760 and 1761. In June 1760, 50 families, six fishing schooners and livestock arrived. On July 1, 1760 the first proprietors meeting was held at which Sylvanus Cobb applied for a grant of land for the construction of a store and wharf and a house which he had brought disassembled from his old home in Plymouth. On July 24 a petition was presented to the Government from Peleg Coffin, Joseph Collins, Joseph Headly, Prianas Snow, Daniel Eldridge, Cyrenus Collins, Luther Arnold and John Chatfield proprietors, against the appointment of their committee by the Council. Here was the demand by New Englanders that the committee appointments must as of right and come from themselves, not be dictated by Halifax.
In 1761 Liverpool Township was accorded two representatives in the Provincial Legislature and subsequent to the election of that year, Benjamin Gerrish and Nathan Tupper were elected. In 1762 Queens County was created out of the western lands of Lunenburg County and stretched along the South Shore as far as Yarmouth. This gave Queens the opportunity to send two more representatives to the Legislature. In his 1761 report on the township, Charles Morris noted that it had a population of 97 families, 504 persons subsisting largely on fishing and lumbering, had erected 70 houses and one sawmill, employed 17 schooners in the fishery, made 8,000 quintals (quintal: 112 pounds in Britain, 100 pounds in America) of fish and a considerable quantity of shingles, clapboards and staves.
By 1766 the population of 634 owned 8 horses, 36 oxen and bulls, 62 cows, 60 neat cattle, 103 sheep, 3 goats and 125 swine. There was a grist mill, five sawmills, 23 fishing boats and 15 schooners or sloops that produced 4762 quintals of dry cod, 383 barrels of salmon and mackerel, 34 barrels of oil and 335,000 board feet of sawn lumber. There was however, very little agricultural produce. By this time Simeon Perkins had arrived and had begun his business enterprises and his diary allowing us a rich document from which we can discern the story of our community for the next 46 years.
Such was the context in which our community of Liverpool and shortly thereafter Queens County born. So it is that we can legitimately have a four year celebration in Queens: 1759 for the establishment and initial settlement of the township, 1760 for the arrival of most of the settlers and the first proprietors’ meeting which effectively provided local government, 1761 when the township was given the right to send members to the provincial legislature and 1762 when Queens County was carved out of the western hinterland of Lunenburg County. As John Bartlett Brebner observed, “This was a hard-bitten, substantial community which was henceforth well able to look after itself”. 2009 is indeed a collective anniversary to celebrate with joy, pride of place and reflective thanksgiving.
Addendum: 1759 was dubbed “that Glorious Year” for Britain for in that year the island nation triumphed on land and at sea in India, America and Europe. Triumphs included Goree in India, Guadaloupe in the West Indies, Minden in Germany, Lagos off the coast of Portugal, Quebec in America, the Phillipines and Quiberon Bay off the coast of France. Was it any wonder that the great mid-eighteenth playwright David Garrick penned as the first two lines of a popular tune that was to become the march past of the Royal Navy and indeed our own,
"Come cheer up my lands tis to glory we steer
To add something new to this glorious year
Tis to honor we call, you as free men not slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves.
Heart of oak our ships, jolly tars our men,
We always are ready, steady boys, steady.
We'll fight and we'll conquer again, and again."
Copyright © 2009 John G. LeefeAll rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of content, including by framing or similar means, is prohibited without prior written consent.
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