Chronicles of America 

The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle

Victory inspires to further victory. The British, exultant after Louisbourg, were resolved to make an end of French power in America. "Delenda est Canada!" cried Governor Shirley to the General Court of Massachusetts, and the response of the members was the voting of men and money on a scale that involved the bankruptcy of the Commonwealth. Other colonies, too, were eager for a cause which had won a success so dazzling, and some eight thousand men were promised for an attack on Canada, proud and valiant Massachusetts contributing nearly one-half of the total number. The old plan was to be followed. New York was to lead in an attack by way of Lake Champlain. New England was to collect its forces at Louisbourg. Here a British fleet should come, carrying eight battalions of British regulars, and, with Warren in command, the whole armada should proceed to Quebec. Nothing came of this elaborate scheme. Neither the promised troops nor the fleet arrived from England. British ministers broke faith with the colonists in the adventure with quite too light a heart.

Stories went abroad of disorder and dissension in Louisbourg under the English and of the weakness of the place. Disease broke out. Hundreds of New England soldiers died and their bones now lie in graves, unmarked and forgotten, on the seashore by the deserted fortress; at almost any time still their bones, washed down by the waves, may be picked up on the beach. There were sullen mutterings of discontent at Louisbourg. Soldiers grumbled over grievances which were sometimes fantastic. Rumor had been persistent in creating a legend that vast wealth, the accumulated plunder brought in by French privateers, was stored in the town. From this source a rich reward in booty was expected by the soldiers. In fact, when Louisbourg was taken, all looting was forbidden and the soldiers were put on guard over houses which they had hoped to rob. For the soldiers there were no prizes. Louisbourg was poor. The sailors, on the other hand, were fortunate. As a decoy Warren kept the French flag flying over the harbor, and French ships sailed in, one of them with a vast treasure of gold and silver coin and ingots from Peru valued at 600,000 pounds. One other prize was valued at 200,000 pounds and a third at 140,000 pounds. Warren's own share of prize money amounted to 60,000 pounds, while Pepperrell, the unrewarded leader of the sister service, piled up a personal debt of 10,000 pounds. Quarrels occurred between soldiers and sailors, and in these the New Englanders soon proved by no means the cowards which complacent superiority in England considered them; rather, as an enlightened Briton said, "If they had pickaxe and spade they would dig a way to Hell itself and storm that stronghold."

Behind all difficulties was the question whether, having taken Louisbourg, the British could continue to hold it. France answered with a resolute "No." To retake it she fitted out a great fleet. Nearly half her navy gathered under the Duc d'Anville and put to sea on June 20, 1746. If in the previous summer God had helped the English with good weather, by a similar proof His face now appeared turned a second time against the French. In the great array there were more than sixty ships, which were to gather at Chebucto, now Halifax, harbor, and to be joined there by four great ships of war from the West Indies. Everything went wrong. On the voyage across the Atlantic there was a prolonged calm, followed by a heavy squall. Several ships were struck by lightning. A magazine on the Mars blew up, killing ten and wounding twenty-one men. Pestilence broke out. As a crowning misfortune, the fleet was scattered by a terrific storm. After great delay d'Anville's ship reached Chebucto, then a wild and lonely spot. The expected fleet from the West Indies had indeed come, but had gone, since the ships from France, long overdue, had not arrived. D'Anville died suddenly--some said of apoplexy, others of poison self-administered. More ships arrived full of sick men and short of provisions. D'Estournel, who succeeded d'Anville in chief command, in despair at the outlook killed himself with his own sword after the experience of only a day or two in his post. La Jonquiere, a competent officer, afterwards Governor of Canada, then led the expedition. The pestilence still raged, and from two to three thousand men died. One day a Boston sloop boldly entered Chebucto harbor to find out what was going on. It is a wonder that the British did not descend upon the stricken French and destroy them. In October, La Jonquiere, having pulled his force together, planned to win the small success of taking Annapolis, but again storms scattered his ships. At the end of October he finally decided to return to France. But there were more heavy storms; and one French crew was so near starvation that only a chance meeting with a Portuguese ship kept them from killing and eating five English prisoners. Only a battered remnant of the fleet eventually reached home ports.

The disaster did not crush France. In May of the next spring, 1747, a new fleet under La Jonquiere set out to retake Louisbourg. Near the coast of Europe, however, Admirals Anson and Warren met and completely destroyed it, taking prisoner La Jonquiere himself. This disaster effected what was really the most important result of the war: it made the British fleet definitely superior to the French. During the struggle England had produced a new Drake, who attacked Spain in the spirit of the sea-dogs of Elizabeth. Anson had gone in 1740 into the Pacific, where he seized and plundered Spanish ships as Drake had done nearly two centuries earlier; and in 1744, when he had been given up for lost, he completed the great exploit of sailing round the world and bringing home rich booty. Such feats went far to give Britain that command of the sea on which her colonial Empire was to depend.

The issue of the war hung more on events that occurred in Europe than in America, and France had made gains as well as suffered losses. It was on the sea that she had sustained her chief defeats. In India she had gained by taking the English factory at Madras; and in the Low Countries she was still aggressive. Indeed, during the war England had been more hostile to Spain than to France. She had not taken very seriously her support of the colonies in their attack on Louisbourg and she had failed them utterly in their designs on Canada. It is true that in Europe England had grave problems to solve. Austria, with which she was allied, desired her to fight until Frederick of Prussia should give up the province of Silesia seized by him in 1740. In this quarrel England had no vital interest. France had occupied the Austrian Netherlands and had refused to hand back to Austria this territory unless she received Cape Breton in return. Britain might have kept Cape Breton if she would have allowed France to keep Belgium. This, in loyalty to Austria, she would not do. Accordingly peace was made at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 on the agreement that each side should restore to the other its conquests, not merely in Europe but also in America and Asia. Thus it happened that the British flag went up again at Madras while it came down at Louisbourg.

Boston was of course angry at the terms of the treaty. What sacrifices had Massachusetts not made! The least of them was the great burden of debt which she had piled up. Her sons had borne what Pepperrell called "almost incredible hardships." They had landed cannon on a lee shore when the great waves pounded to pieces their boats and when men wading breast high were crushed by the weight of iron. Harnessed two and three hundred to a gun, they had dragged the pieces one after the other over rocks and through bog and slime, and had then served them in the open under the fire of the enemy. New Englanders had died like "rotten sheep" in Louisbourg. The graves of nearly a thousand of them lay on the bleak point outside the wall. What they had gained by this sacrifice must now be abandoned. A spirit of discontent with the mother country went abroad and, after this sacrifice of colonial interests, never wholly died out. It is not without interest to note in passing that Gridley, the engineer who drew the plan of the defenses of Louisbourg, thirty years later drew those of Bunker Hill to protect men of the English race who fought against England.

Every one knew that the peace of 1748 was only a truce and Britain began promptly new defenses. Into the spacious harbor of Chebucto, which three years earlier had been the scene of the sorrows of d'Anville's fleet, there sailed in June, 1749, a considerable British squadron bent on a momentous errand. It carried some thousands of settlers, Edward Cornwallis, a governor clothed with adequate authority, and a force sufficient for the defense of the new foundation. Cornwallis was delighted with the prospect. "All the officers agree the harbour is the finest they have ever seen"--this, of Halifax harbor with the great Bedford Basin, opening beyond it, spacious enough to contain the fleets of the world. "The Country is one continuous Wood, no clear spot to be seen or heard of. D'Anville's fleet...cleared no ground; they encamped their men on the beach." The garrison was withdrawn from Louisbourg and soon arrived at Halifax, with a vast quantity of stores. A town was marked out; lots were drawn for sites; and every one knew where he might build his house. There were prodigious digging, chopping, hammering. "I shall be able to get them all Houses before winter," wrote Cornwallis cheerily. Firm military discipline, indeed, did wonders. Before winter came, a town had been created, and with the town a fortress which from that time has remained the chief naval and military stronghold of Great Britain in North America. At Louisbourg some two hundred miles farther east on the coast, France could reestablish her military strength, but now Louisbourg had a rival and each was resolved to yield nothing to the other. The founding of Halifax was in truth the symbol of the renewal of the struggle for a continent.

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