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The city of Moncton 'honours' Col. Robert Monckton, British ethnic cleanser


Because of his fear of a possible French counteroffensive and because the Acadians refused to take an unqualified oath of allegiance, Lawrence and his Council in Halifax had unanimously agreed on July 28 [1755] to deport all the Acadian inhabitants and “to send them to be distributed amongst the several Colonies.” This was a military decision made by an inflexible and insecure military man. [...] On receiving his orders from Lawrence, Monckton commanded the New England troops to begin the nasty business of burning the Acadian settlements, slaughtering their livestock, and herding the Acadians like cattle to various ports along the Bay of Fundy. Some of the volunteers found the command “surprising” and “Very Disagreeable” to their “Natural make and Temper,” but they nevertheless obeyed. It has been estimated that between 6,000 and 7,000 Acadian men, women, and children, out of a total Acadian population on peninsular Nova Scotia of no more than 9,000 were deported during the last four months of 1755.

George A. Rawlyk (1973), p. 211. 

In 1992 the United Nations Security Council created a Commission of Experts to explore the violent situation in the Balkans—specifically surrounding the Milosevic Regime and the crimes of the Balkan wars. The resulting report defined a new term, “ethnic cleansing”, which the Commission defined “is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” Moreover, the Commission added: “To a large extent, it is carried out in the name of misguided nationalism, historic grievances, and a powerful driving sense of revenge. This purpose appears to be the occupation of territory to the exclusion of the purged group or groups” (1).

As scholars such as John Mack Faragher (2005) as well as Amy Sturgis (2012) have already remarked, when “ethnic cleansing” is applied retroactively to the Acadian example, the term undoubtedly fits. In his work, Faragher details how the British expulsion of the Acadians was an operation that had meticulously been planned years in advance and authorized by the highest leadership, and finally conducted with ruthless military efficiency as spouses and families were separated and scattered across the continent from Acadia (the present-day canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince-Edward-Island) to present-day Louisiana—dispersed all along the Atlantic shore board. Echoing many others, Faragher calls the Acadian Expulsion “the first episode of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in North America” (2). There were evidently various motives that fueled Lawrence’s deportation policy. And, in trying to relate the eighteenth-century Acadian situation, contemporary writers often like to invoke comparisons with similar situations that have played out in more recent times, such as in Poland and Vietnam in the course of the twentieth-century. But, as complex as history can be, to put it very simply, Acadians were caught somewhere “in the middle of the French-Anglo-American struggle for their homelands, a struggle in which they had nothing to gain and everything to lose”, as John Grenier has aptly observed (3).

In relation to “ethnic cleansing”, as already mentioned, the United Nations reports that it usually concerns “the occupation of territory to the exclusion of the purged group or groups.” And, in the case of the British policy to deport the Acadians, it appears that it was largely due to the British “lust for Acadian land” (4). This much is evident when reading the letter of an anonymous British colonist published on August 9, 1755, in The Pennsylvania Gazette—announcing the expulsion of the Acadians to New Englanders (5):
...We are now upon a great and noble Scheme of sending the neutral French out of this Province, who have always been secret Enemies, and have encouraged our Savages to cut out Throats. If we effect their Expulsion, it will be one of the greatest Things that ever the English did in America; for by all Accounts, that Part of the Country they possess, is as good Land as any in the World: In case therefore we could get some good English Farmers in their Room, this Province would abound with all Kinds of Provisions.
James Laxer reproduces the above letter and notes: “It is hard to conceive of a more concise exposition of the case for ethnic cleansing than this” (6). Evidently, this is the same letter from which Faragher got the catchy title for his book, A Great and Noble Scheme (2005). In addition to these authors, Amy Sturgis also considers the British treatment of the Acadians beginning in 1755 as an example of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. In discussing Faragher’s work. Sturgis writes (7):
Prior to the development and introduction of industrial weaponry, readers [of Faragher's 'A Great and Noble Scheme'] learn, deliberate mass murder was not a consistent part of the ethnic cleansing formula. This distinction is useful but academic. Whether or not the British intended to commit murder on top of theft, the hardships created by the expulsion campaign led to the death of approximately 55 percent of the Acadian population. Long before Faragher concludes his gripping account, the reader recognizes that the Acadian experience may have been the first of its kind in North America but certainly was not the last.
The 19th century overflowed with incidents of, as Faragher put it in a recent Salon interview, "an organized campaign, at the state level, organized and hierarchically carried out, to remove all the people of a small nation and ship them elsewhere." The Removal Era of the early 19th century, for example, included a series of military operations that relocated and decimated dozens of American Indian nations, spanned decades, and cost tens of thousands of lives. The most visible example became known as the Trail of Tears, which also resulted in a catastrophic death toll (perhaps as much as 30 percent of the population), this time for the Cherokee Nation. Looking backward through the late-20th-century lens of ethnic cleansing brings two conclusions into clear focus. First, it reveals how long the tradition of state-sponsored theft, removal, and cultural obliteration has existed in North America. Indeed, it is part of the very fabric of United States history. Though ethnic cleansing reached its peak when perpetrated by the U.S. government against the indigenous nations, its past is by no means limited to Anglo-Amerindian encounters.
By all accounts, the removal of the Acadians by the British colonial forces, as Sturgis mentions, sadly, is only a prelude to other similar displacements that would occur during the U.S. Removal Era of the early 19th century. These physical displacements readily bring to mind Indian reserves, tracts of land set aside by the Canadian state for the benefit of an Aboriginal band (not to be confused with areas included in land claims). The very real raison-d’être behind the existence of the Indian reserve is the governmental policy of cultural genocide. In relation to government policy vis-à-vis Indigenous peoples, The Canadian Encyclopedia gives a good succinct explanation of the reserve, which was introduced in 1876 as part of the Indian Act (8):
As the non-Aboriginal population increased, Aboriginal peoples — mostly First Nations — ceased to be treated as independent nations and were settled on reserves. There, Aboriginal bands were organized under the supervision of Indian Department superintendents or agents. No longer military diplomats, but local managers of reserve land and band affairs, they encouraged Aboriginal people to farm, become self-supporting by non-traditional means and generally live like the surrounding population. Schools and churches were usually provided. These activities were organized by a civilian Indian Department — the precursor to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) — which replaced the military authority in 1830. The establishment of common property in reserves and band funds, special legislation and treaty rights led to the development of the legal concept of status. Some persons of Aboriginal ancestry — Métis and Non-Status Indians — never qualified for status or lost it in a variety of ways. In April 2016, however, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the legal definition of “Indian” include Métis and Non-Status Indians.The ultimate goal of Aboriginal policy in most of the post-Confederation period was to eliminate all status by assimilation and enfranchisement. This legal process has never been popular with Aboriginal people and has failed in its overall objective.
In addition to the Indian reserve example, it could also be notes that residential schools also served the same purpose. In Canada, the now infamous Indian Residential School system, described by the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as an attempt at cultural genocide of Canada’s First Nations people, also had a similar goal—the removal of Amerindians from their land. When Canada would forcefully send off native children into the residential school system, ultimately, the main goal was to sever family ties, assimilate native children into the mainstream Anglo-Canadian culture, and basically try to force the First Nations people from their land by destroying their culture—under Stephen Harper’s administration, in 2008, the government of Canada apologized to the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children whose lives were ruined by the residential schools.

Again, keep in mind the aforementioned 1992 UN Security Council report that defined “ethnic cleansing”, which the Commission defined “is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” It goes without saying that, inherited from the same British colonial forces who deported the Acadians from their homeland, Canada’s sad history of cultural genocide is now enshrined in federal government policy, and buried in red tape—for First Nations people, the new battleground on which this fight continues usually relates to treaty rights and native status rights.

Thus, Sturgis and Faragher’s conclusion comes to mind here—that the Acadian experience may have been the first of its kind in North America but certainly was not the last (see earlier quote). And, it all started back in 1755, when the British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council ordered the Acadians to be expelled from their land—hence, with the Acadian Expulsion, begins “the first episode of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in North America” (9). Even if it was the British governor Charles Lawrence who wrote the deportation order and was responsible in orchestrating the various military campaigns surrounding the expulsion of the Acadian population from their lands, it was nonetheless Colonel Robert Monckton with “characteristic efficiency but no apparent enthusiasm” who “carried out his orders to lure the inhabitants into custody, to burn their villages, and to supervise the deportation” (10).

Showing calculated ruthlessness, Lawrence had directed Monckton “to collect the inhabitants together, by stratagem or force, to be transported forthwith; with positive commands to pay not the least attention to any remonstrances or memorials from the inhabitants whatever, who may be desirous of staying behind, but embark every person without further application” (quoting a letter from Lawrence to Monckton, dated Aug. 11, 1755 [11]). Thus, in the weeks that followed, Monckton did exactly that. Now, Dean Jobb’s words will serve well to evoke the sheer horror of the British military campaign, one that was nothing less than a sustained pogrom against the Acadian population (12):
In the weeks that followed, patrols scoured the countryside in search of more prisoners and to round up livestock. Families still at large took to the woods as the soldiers approached, as did the wives and children of men locked up in the fort. The soldiers were under orders from Lawrence to burn every house and barn in a campaign to deprive the holdouts of shelter and to force them to surrender. “Destroy all the villages ... and use every other method of distress” to flush out anyone hiding in the woods, he instructed Monckton. Day after day columns of smoke rose over the ridges and marshes, charting  the soldiers’ path of destruction. John Thomas, the surgeon’s mate with the New England troops, recorded in his diary that one patrol returned to camp with several prisoners after having “Burnt Several Fine Viliges.” Another detachment bragged of torching 200 buildings in just three days. The search-and-destroy missions continued well into the fall. Thomas accompanied a large force deep into the river valleys of southern New Brunswick in mid-November. His diary entries are sparse on detail, but still evoke stark images of a war-ravaged countryside dotted with empty, desolate villages and blackened ruins. In the Memramcook area, the troops surrounded a group of houses at daybreak, muskets at the ready. All were vacant except one, where nine women and children were found cowering in the cold, most of them sick. The soldiers set fire to about thirty houses, rounded up as many cattle and horses as they could, “Brought away one woman,” and apparently left the rest of the miserable Acadians to fend for themselves.
When Col. Robert Monckton carried out the British governor Charles Lawrence’s orders to persecute and remove the Acadians from Acadia, he willingly participated in what is now deemed as the most troublesome events in all of Canadian history—the Acadian Expulsion, the first attempt at ethnic genocide in America, a sad legacy that stands as a sort of milestone alongside all of the other historical persecutions endured by the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. The ‘Remove Moncton’ Campaign has already sent a letter to Mayor Dawn Arnold, of Moncton, to politely ask her to submit a proposal in order to change the name of the city that continues to ‘honour’ the genocidal figure of Robert Monckton. A copy of the letter can be found posted in our new Facebook group La Campagne 'Efface Moncton' / The 'Remove Moncton' Campaign). In support of this campaign, please feel free to copy and personalize this letter (only available in French for now) and then simply email it to Mayor Dawn Arnold, or if you prefer, it can also be sent to one of Moncton’s ten elected city councillors.  


Image
From Wikimedia Commons, File:18th Century British Army parade.jpg Author: Tommc73 (uploaded 1 May 2016). File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Notes

(1) UN Commission report (S/25274), see Cigar & Williams (2002), p. 232.
(2) Faragher 2005: 473.
(3) Grenier 2008: 114. 
(4) Fowler 2005: 57.
(5) Laxer 2006: 95.
(6) Laxer 2006: 95.
(7) Sturgis 2005.
(8) “Indigenous Peoples: Government Policy”. By John Leonard Taylor. In The Canadian Encyclopedia, published 02/07/06. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/aboriginal-people-government-policy/
(9) Faragher 2005: 473.
(10) I. K. Steele 1979; in Dictionary of Canadian Biography (see biblio.).
(11) Thorpe 1843: 7.
(11) Jobb 2005.

Sources

CIGAR, Norman, and Paul WILLIAMS. Indictment at the Hague: The Milošović Regime and Crimes of the Balkan War. New York and London: New York University Press, in association with The Pamphleteer’s Press, 2002.
FARAGHER, John Mack. A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005.
FOWLER, William M. Jr. Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763. New York: Bloomsbury, 2005.
GRENIER, John. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.
JOBB, Dean. The Acadians: A People’s Story of Exile and Triumph. John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd., 2005.
LAXER, James. The Acadians: In Search of a Homeland. Doubleday Canada, 2006
RAWLYK, George A. Nova Scotia’s Massachusetts: A Study of Massachussetts-Nova Scotia Relations, 1630 to 1784. McGill – Queen’s University Press, 1973.
STEELE, I. K.  “MONCKTON, ROBERT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 1, 2017 [originally published in 1979], http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/monckton_robert_4E.html.
STURGIS, Amy H. Exile Without End: The First Ethnic Cleansing in American History. Washington & Los Angeles: reason.com: Free Minds and Free Markets. Nov. 1, 2005 Issue. http://reason.com/archives/2005/11/01/exile-without-an-end
STURGIS, Amy H. The Expulsion of the Acadians (video conference). Learn Library: A Project of IHS, May 26, 2012 (release date).
THORPE, Thomas. Manuscripts, Upon Papyrus, Vellum, and Paper, in Various Languages. University of Minnesota, 1843.




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