The Visionary World of Maritime New Lights

By David Bell

Some years ago a Vermont family kindly allowed access to the Maritime portions of the journal of their ancestor, Ziba Pope. Pope (1779-1852) was a Massachusetts-born trader and entrepreneur. By ca 1807 he was living in the Passamaquoddy Bay region, first at Eastport (Me) and then St George parish (NB). Not long after the US declaration war in 1812, he was in course of driving contraband cattle from Maine towards Fredericton when he paused at a fording place on the Oromocto River, attended a New Light meeting and experienced religious conversion. Soon, Pope the convert was Pope the preacher, and he began recording his gospel travels in northern New England and the Maritimes in a journal. Soon also, he was identifying himself with the New Light tradition associated with the charismatic but long-dead Henry Alline (“there never lived a more Godly man”).

Pope’s journal implies that for a time during the conversion drama, and again in days afterward, he was in a state of trance (“I was lost to any thing here below”). Remarkably Ann Phillips, one of those assisting him to conversion, had already written an account of “discoveries” made while she herself was in trance. This coincidence prompted me to look for other glimpses of the visionary world of turn-of-the-century Maritime converts. At Birchtown there were Calvinist Methodists who fell “apparently dead” for hours. At Sackville a servant in a Wesleyan household lay three days entranced. But it’s an elusive subject. I would be grateful to hear from researchers with further leads on contemporary Protestant visions, trances, immediate revelations and episodes of photism.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

George Elliott Clarke and Donald Wright interviewed about the Acadiensis bibliography of Black history in Atlantic Canada

Information Morning, Fredericton’s morning show, interviewed George Elliott Clarke and Donald Wright about the Acadiensis bibliography of Black history in Atlantic Canada. Prepared by Suzanne Morton and Donald Wright, copyedited by Stephen Dutcher, and published in the spring issue, the 54-page bibliography demonstrates an amazing record of research, writing, and scholarship. For his part, George Elliott Clarke talked about the importance of history to his own personal and intellectual journey. As he wrote in the introduction to the bibliography, “I began to see myself, not only as a subject in history, subjected to historical processes, but also as a subject worthy of history, who had a history credible for magic realist mythologizing.” On that note, check out Clarke’s new memoir, Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir (Knopf, 2021).

Click here to listen to the interview.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Call for Papers: Atlantic Canada Studies Conference 2022 / appel de soumissions : La Conférence d’études sur le Canada atlantique 2022

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

History, Memory, People, and Place: The Spring 2021 Issue of Acadiensis

For half a century, Acadiensis has supported a scholarly conversation between past and present, expanding the definition of history, memory, people, and place in the process and making it an impressive run of intellectual life both in the region and in the country.

The Spring 2021 issue continues that run. It opens with an article by Miriam Wright on Chinese immigration to Newfoundland from 1918 to the mid-1940s. Specifically, Wright examines Chinese restaurants as sites of economic opportunity and mobility as well as sites of racial tension and gender trouble. By 1946, Chinese immigrants owned 18 of 27 restaurants in St. John’s. Indeed, the King Café, the Dominion Café, and the European Café, among others, remind us that St. John’s was a “diverse and complex urban environment.”

Also writing on Newfoundland – in this case, on the thorny question of religion and schooling – Rebecca Ralph introduces readers to an 1890 essay contest, Brother John Slatterly, and his winning essay on, his words, “how the present denominational system may be retained.” His essay led to the creation of the Council for Higher Education a few years later, entrenching church control over schooling for more than a century. But schools were not, Ralph writes, a “sectarian mess.” In fact, education was characterized by denominational co-operation in advancing Newfoundland through public education, “not undermining it.”

Broadening the definition of historical source, Hilary Doda uses sewing scissors found in four archaeological digs to offer new insights into Acadian social hierarchy and womanhood before 1755. In her words, “Fine sewing and its associated toolkit played a crucial role in the definition of early modern elite European womanhood, and the presence of embroidery scissors in pre-deportation Acadia sheds new light on some of the Acadian value systems and means of navigating complex social structures in the colonial environment.” The images alone, especially in the PDF version, are worth the price of admission. At once illustrative and evocative, they encourage us to think about the many possibilities of material history.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Davies’ Fort Frederick

By Leanna Thomas

Thomas Davies served under British Colonel Robert Monckton in the Atlantic Canada region from 1757-1759 as a soldier and an artist.  During this period of the Seven Years’ War, Davies provided the military with topographical drawings intended to accurately represent the geographical landscape.  One of Davies’ drawings featured Fort Frederick, built by Colonel Monckton’s forces in 1758 as the British began military operations against the French and the Wəlastəkokewiyik along the Wəlastəkw River valley.

Thomas Davies. A North View of Fort Frederick Built by Order of the Honourable Colonel Robert Monckton, 1758. Watercolour, pen and black ink on laid paper, (37.7 x 53.6). NGC no. 6269.

Davies’ purpose with this drawing has been labeled as “diagrammatic,” with the goal of providing a detailed and informative representation of the landscape and its occupants.[1] Davies provides a legend at the bottom of the drawing to explain the geographic qualities of the landscape, including the river’s entrance, the small islands, and the hill that includes “huts” built for military “Rangers” (see Davies’ notes at the bottom of the image).  The regional landscape reflects Davies’ naturalist influence, with the detailed depiction of evergreen forests and local flora.  Davies tried to blend man-made structures into the natural environment, but the evergreens appear dwarfed behind the elevated fort and the large military vessel, thus symbolizing the myth that the British were positioned at the edge of a vast wilderness they were destined to subdue.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michael Boudreau reviews Keith Mercer, Rough Justice: Policing, Crime, and the Origins of the Newfoundland Constabulary, 1729-1871 (St. John’s: Flanker Press Limited, 2021).

Review of Keith Mercer, Rough Justice: Policing, Crime, and the Origins of the Newfoundland Constabulary, 1729-1871 (St. John’s: Flanker Press Limited, 2021).

By Michael Boudreau

The Newfoundland Constabulary, currently known as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (the “Royal” designation was bestowed in 1979), is Canada’s oldest continuous police service.  In this exhaustive and meticulously researched book, Keith Mercer charts the origins of the Newfoundland Constabulary through the daily exploits of the men who policed St. John’s and the rural outports.  These constables played a central role in the administration of the criminal justice system and became “pivotal figures” in their communities.  The Newfoundland Constabulary has been overshadowed in the history of policing and law enforcement in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Canada by the North West Mounted Police, along with police forces in colonial British North America (notably Halifax and Quebec).  In this regard, Rough Justice is an important addition to police historiography in Canada.  A second volume is planned that will chronicle the force’s history from 1871 to 1950.  Both volumes are commissioned by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society.

Keith Mercer, Rough Justice: Policing, Crime, and the Origins of the Newfoundland Constabulary, 1729-1871 (St. John’s: Flanker Press Limited, 2021).

Mercer posits that the evolution of policing in Newfoundland (the book does not delve much into policing in Labrador) was “gradual, with significant continuity from one generation to the next” (13).  This continuity meant that the constables who acted as agents of the British Crown, while “amateurs,” were not pre-modern or the “Police before the Police” (349, 461).  Rather, they were the police, at least in a colonial context. Since most of the officers examined in Rough Justice (such as Thomas Floyd, William Slaughter, and Jeremiah Dunn, who was probably the first officer to be murdered in the line of duty in Newfoundland in 1861), left no written records of their exploits, Mercer has had to tease out their daily activities from court records and newspaper accounts.  Their duties included inspecting taverns, executing court orders, attending court sittings, and detecting “Sabbath-breakers.”  In this sense, these constables, as Mercer asserts, performed functions that were similar to their counter-parts in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

In performing these duties, constables often encountered “rough justice” which was a “badge of honour…for junior officers” (6-7).  They were at times physically assaulted by the individuals who they attempted to detain.  But at the same time, the police administered rough justice, particularly in the form of public floggings, which persisted into the 1860s and 1870s.  And while it is not necessarily surprising that police work was dangerous, Mercer could have done more with the concept of “rough justice” in terms of comparing how rough justice was meted out, and by whom, in Newfoundland with some of the other British North American colonies.  Moreover, while the archival records are spotty, more details about the lives of the people who encountered the police, as the public face of the criminal justice system, would have provided a clearer picture of rough justice in colonial Newfoundland.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Review of Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History

By Mark J. McLaughlin

Perceptions about the comics medium have shifted dramatically over the last few decades. Not so long ago, comics were viewed by many as something to be read by children and the semi-literate. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, scholars began approaching the comics medium as being worthy of serious study, and have produced numerous works analyzing comics from various different angles.[1] Historians, meanwhile, have used comics as an innovative means to tell stories about the past, everything from working-class struggles to the experiences of enslaved Africans.[2]

Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History.
Image source: Conundrum Press

We can add to the mix the delightful book Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History, edited by Laura Ķeniņš. It may not be a large book, at less than 140 pages in length, but the ambitions behind it certainly are. Nova Graphica does not feature a more traditional historical narrative, one perhaps focused on high politics or the “great men” of the past. As historian Sara Spike so aptly notes in the introduction:

Conventional histories of Nova Scotia, like those of North America more broadly, presented an uncomplicated story of colonial conquest and European settler ascendancy. These stories are not timeless. They were shaped in the 19th and 20th centuries by writers embedded in the political culture of their day, written to justify ongoing violence of racism and settler colonialism. In Nova Scotia, this was tinged with an invented tradition of Scottishness, which generalized the heritage of a few into a provincial identity for all (6).

As a partial corrective, Nova Graphica includes various stories featuring voices sometimes left out of provincial histories, such as Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians, the LBGTQ community, women, and even the land itself.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Solitudes? Historians, Archivists, and New Brunswick’s Indian Day Schools

By Richard Yeomans

Since the announcement made by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation on May 27, 2021 that the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in an unmarked mass grave, the discovery has been reported as a tragic and gut-wrenching reminder of the realities of Canada’s violent settler colonial past and present. Oral histories about the school had long suggested that numerous children attending the school never made it home; according to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir, “[We] had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths.”[1] The importance of oral histories to the living memories of Indigenous communities across Turtle Island cannot be understated.

But settlers calling the uncovering of the remains of Indigenous children on the grounds of former Residential Schools a ‘discovery’ is not unlike saying Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ North America since it was, after all, news to everyone but the survivors of the Residential School system and the Indigenous communities of which they are a part. This is, I think, an example of where words fail us, but also an important moment where the mechanism used by white settlers to cling to the myths we tell ourselves about Canada is exposed: whether we are conscious of that action is another point entirely. Still, the news out of Kamloops has had a significant impact from British Columbia to Newfoundland and is marked by the growing call to search the grounds of known Residential and Indian Day Schools using ground-penetrating radar. The remains of more children have already been found at other former Residential Schools, and the total has and will continue to rise long past the publication of this post.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Unfortunately, that same technology cannot be used to scour archives across Canada to locate records related to Residential and Indian Day Schools, and many documents on such schools were purposely buried or destroyed by Federal Government and Church institutions alike. Nevertheless, in New Brunswick that task of archival reconnaissance has recently been taken up by historians in the University of New Brunswick’s Department of History, who, in their own words, are trained to locate these documents and have offered their assistance to Indigenous nations, communities, or persons seeking research assistance.[2] The message is an important one, and a similar offer has already been extended by faculty at Nipissing University, with hopefully more to follow from other universities and in other provinces. But as settler scholars across Canada volunteer their expertise, it is important to recognize that in the last few decades archivists across Canada have been assisting Indigenous Peoples with locating and accessing documents held in settler archives. Most recently, the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives has published a draft for public review of its “Reconciliation Framework for Canadian Archives,” and is developing a formal response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #70 – that the federal government provide funding to the Association of Canadian Archivists to commence, in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, a review of archival practices in Canada.[3]

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Les officiers militaires français et les miliciens de la Nouvelle-France, 1755-1760

Lauraly Deschambault et Gregory Kennedy, Université de Moncton[1]


La Bataille des Plaines d’Abraham. Hervey Smyth (1734-1811) — Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence.

Dans le cadre du projet de partenariat, Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique au Canada atlantique, 1700-2000, nous menons une étude sur la contribution des miliciens acadiens et canadiens à la Guerre de Sept ans en Nouvelle-France. L’historiographie portant sur cette guerre continue à mettre l’accent sur le débat stratégique entre le Marquis de Montcalm, lieutenant-général des armées de la Nouvelle-France et le Marquis de Vaudreuil, gouverneur de la Nouvelle-France. Malgré des tentatives à réhabiliter la réputation de Montcalm, il était vraisemblablement peu impressionné par les Canadiens et leur façon de faire la guerre et ses décisions ont joué un rôle important dans la chute de la colonie.[2] Pour sa part, Vaudreuil s’est vanté des capacités des Canadiens, mais lui aussi avait souvent des idées peu réalistes.[3] En Acadie, les spécialistes s’intéressent davantage à l’expérience des miliciens à partir de 1755. Dans ce contexte, le but des habitants était d’éviter la déportation et leur service militaire était le prix de l’appui des officiers français.[4] Chose certaine, l’effondrement graduel des frontières de la Nouvelle-France devant la force numérique supérieure des Britanniques a mené à la conscription des habitants pour la guerre, mais aussi à l’incohérence des institutions militaires. Le présent texte concerne les attitudes des officiers militaires français envers les habitants des milices coloniales. Nous avons choisi François-Gaston de Lévis et François-Charles de Bourlamaque, respectivement commandant en second et en troisième après Montcalm. Il s’agit des opinions possiblement divergentes de celle de Montcalm ; le lieutenant-général estimait que Lévis « manquait d’imagination » et n’avait pas une bonne opinion de Bourlamaque.[5] Pourtant, ces officiers avaient plus d’expérience avec l’intégration des habitants au sein de l’armée française en Nouvelle-France. Leurs correspondances apportent un éclairage différent sur cette question.

La bonne volonté des miliciens

Le chevalier de Lévis admet que « commander à des sauvages et à des Canadiens n’est pas chose aisée »[6]. À plusieurs reprises, Montcalm souligne le mauvais état des miliciens.[7] Pourtant, Lévis était plutôt optimiste, il informe Vaudreuil en 1757 que « tous les miliciens qui nous arrivent sont des maîtres hommes et paraissent remplis de bonne volonté »[8]. Près de trois ans plus tard, et dans le contexte de la capitulation de la colonie, Lévis écrit au secrétaire d’État de la Marine :

Je dois vous exposer que les troupes de terre, de même que celles de la colonie et les Canadiens en général, ont donné des preuves au commencement de cette campagne de leur bonne volonté, en supportant sans la moindre plainte les plus grandes fatigues, le manque de vivres, et ayant combattu avec le plus grand courage ; elles méritent des grâces et je me flatte que vous voudrez bien vous intéresser pour elles[9].

François-Gaston, duc de Lévis, (1984.8), huile sur toile, XIXe siècle, Musée Stewart, Montréal.

Lévis semble comprendre la situation difficile des habitants lors de l’invasion. Il voulait aider également les réfugiés acadiens, « dignes de la pitié et de la bonté du roi ».[10] Pour sa part, Bourlamaque exprime des doutes concernant les habitants. Par exemple, dans sa lettre du 29 septembre 1759, juste après la chute de Québec, Bourlamaque écrit à Lévis : « le peu de Canadiens que j’ai ici ne montrent encore aucune mauvaise volonté ; mais je crains qu’en apprenant le bon traitement que les Anglais font à leurs familles, ils ne décampent pour les aller joindre »[11]. Quelques semaines plus tard, Bourlamaque confirme que sa brigade a subi plusieurs désertions et même les habitants restants « me paraissent de bien mauvaise volonté »[12]. Presqu’un an plus tard, Bourlamaque commente : « il me reste environ sept cents hommes, dont trois cent cinquante miliciens de mauvaise volonté »[13]. Nous sommes aux derniers jours de la Nouvelle-France et les miliciens refusent certains ordres. Par exemple, Bourlamaque raconte le 1er septembre 1760 : « j’ai commandé quarante miliciens, ce matin, pour battre des grains ; ils ont refusé nettement de le faire, et ont menacé de désertez tous »[14]. Bourlamaque semble s’attendre à ce que tous les habitants lui obéissent l’obéissance malgré la situation.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Prince Philip’s Atlantic Canadian Legacy

By Barry MacKenzie

Much has been made in recent weeks about the life and legacy of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It seems that every organization, community and individual has been scrambling to emphasize their own connections to this oldest-living consort in Commonwealth history. Countries and provinces seemed to compete for which occupied the most special of all the special places in the Duke’s heart. Atlantic Canada was no exception. Archives, museums, local media outlets and individuals alike took to social media in particular to highlight the many visits which the Duke of Edinburgh undertook to communities in the region, and the many connections he developed and nurtured here through his military and charitable work.

Interestingly, the Duke of Edinburgh’s connection to the region long predated his first visit (a brief shore leave in Halifax during the Second World War, when he was a midshipman aboard HMS Valiant). His great-great-great grandfather, Prince Edward (later Duke of Kent) spent several years at the end of the 18th century in the Nova Scotia capital, where he was responsible for the construction of much of the city’s defenses. He later returned to England, married, and fathered the princess who in 1837 became Queen Victoria.

Prince Philip’s grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, was also stationed in Halifax for some time with the Royal Navy in the early 1870s. Louis later married Princess Alice of Hesse and by Rhine (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) in 1884. He continued to rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy, eventually being appointed First Sea Lord in 1912. With the outbreak of war in 1914, Louis’s German origins were the subject of much chin-wagging in Britain, and he resigned his post in October of that year. Persistent anti-German sentiment famously inspired King George V to ditch the name of the royal house (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and adopt the quintessentially English “Windsor.” At the same time, the King’s relatives were forced to give up their German titles and honours, and Louis of Battenberg anglicized his surname to Mountbatten and become the Marquess of Milford Haven. Among his children were Princess Alice (Prince Philip’s mother) and the indomitable Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment