Jean-Baptiste Cope

( ? -c.1759)

Cope (Cop, Copt, Coptk), Jean-Baptiste, also sometimes called Major Cope, chief of a Micmac tribe of Shubenacadie (Nova Scotia); died between 1758 and 1760, probably at Miramichi (New Brunswick).

          Jean-Baptiste Cope was involved, along with some of his family, in the Anglo-Micmac war of 1749-53.  Following the erroneous statement of the Chevalier de Johnstone, a number of historians have believed that it was Cope who on 15 October 1750 (n.s. Gregorian calendar) murdered Edward How on the Missaguash River, or they have confused him with How's real murderer, Étienne Bâtard, alleging that these two names referred to the same person.  It may, at most, be presumed that Cope, an Indian chief living at Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre's mission, took part in the ambush organized by Bâtard in the autumn of 1750, when all the Micmacs of Acadia were gathered around Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, New Brunswick).

          On 14 September 1752 Cope appeared at Halifax to open peace negotiations with Governor Peregrine Thomas Hopson.  On 22 November a treaty was actually signed between the English and Cope, along with delegates from his tribe, on the principles of the treaty that had been negotiated at Boston in 1725 with Sauguaaram and other Penobscot chiefs.  The news of the agreement with the Micmacs immediately reached Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), and the governor, Jean-Louis de Raymond, wrote to the minister of Marine on 24 November 1752 that Cope was "a drunkard and a bad lot"; the governor reassured himself with the allegation that the other Micmacs had "disowned" Cope.  On 12 May 1753 Raymond returned to the subject, this time calling Cope "a bad Micmac whose conduct has always been uncertain and suspect to both nations."

          Raymond did not know how right he was.  Indeed, at the time he was writing the treaty was already broken.  In February 1753 an attack on a group of Micmacs by two English soldiers, James Grace and John Conner, had incited Cope to undertake an expedition to avenge his people.  On 16 May 1753 he sent his son Joseph to Halifax to ask for a boat and an escort, supposedly to take provisions there.  Captain Bannerman was sent, accompanied by seven men, one of whom was Anthony Casteel, to whom we owe the account of this expedition.  On 19 May the crew was cut to pieces except for Casteel, who, knowing French, passed himself off for a Frenchman.  Cope's expedition then continued in the direction of Cobequid (near Truro, Nova Scotia), Baie-Verte (New Brunswick), and finally Louisbourg, where Casteel was freed on 28 June.

          By examining the multiple incidents of this trip we can discover the real reasons behind the expedition.  Cope wanted to reassert his prestige with his warriors: on 20 May (1753) he made a speech along these lines.  He also wanted to terrorize his prisoner: on 22 May Casteel was freed from a woman who wanted to torture him, but the woman, together with Cope's daughter, "danced until froth, the size of one's fist, came out of their mouths, which caused tears to gush from his eyes."  Cope was, however, above all intent on proving his loyalty to the French: on 23 May he burned the peace treaty which had been signed the previous year, and on 25 May he made a new speech in which he evoked Grace's and Conner's horrible crime and stated "that he was surprised to see that the English were the first to begin" hostilities.  The peace signed by Cope had thus not lasted six months; the following summer the provincial secretary, William Cotterell, did not hesitate to write that it was Cope himself who had broken it.

          According to Johnstone, Cope was in the neighbourhood of Miramichi after the fall of Louisbourg in 1758.  This claim seems probable in view of the fact that many Micmacs, Acadians, missionaries, and soldiers took refuge south of the Baie des Chaleurs after the French defeat in Acadia.  It is likely, therefore, that Cope died in this region before 1760, since his name does not appear on any of the peace treaties signed between the Micmacs and the English after that date.

—  Micheline D. Johnson, Professeur d'histoire
Université de Sherbrooke, Québec

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
Jean-Baptiste Cope (the original article)

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Jean Baptiste Kopit: a true hero
by Daniel Paul

Jean-Baptiste Cope

Jean Baptiste Cope: the architect of peace
Heroes of Hants

Peace and friendship treaty between
His Majesty the King and Jean Baptiste Cope

22 November 1752

“...The Treaty of 1752 continues to be in force and effect...”
The Supreme Court of Canada decision
that upheld Cope's 1752 Treaty

21 November 1985

The following is a different account of the events involving James Grace, John Conner, Captain Bannerman and Anthony Casteel:

        In November 1752, the preliminaries of a treaty of peace between the governor and the Micmac chiefs were arranged at Halifax.  Three years before, a similar peace had been signed with the Indians of the St. John River, and until now this peace had not been broken.  However, this peace was so short that Le Loutre and the French are almost invariably accused of having prevented the treaty from being concluded.  This might be considered probable if we had not manifest evidence of the contrary.

        The act which gave rise to this accusation was the following : In April 1753, two inhabitants of Halifax, John Conner and James Grace, came before the council and presented seven Indian scalps for which they claimed the usual bounty.  They related how that, with John Poor and Michael Hagarthy, they were wrecked on the coast ; that their companions were killed and scalped ; that, after several days of captivity, they took advantage of the absence of the Indians to butcher the woman and the child that had been left with them ; and that, on the return of these Indians, they had fallen upon them, killing and scalping them.

        The tale was improbable.  It was hard to explain why they had been left alone with a woman and a child, and still more difficult to account for their not having run away instead of waiting for the return of the Indians.  This was, doubtless, the impression produced on the council, which ordered : "that John Conner and James Grace do give security for their appearance at the next general court, in case any complaint should be Brought against them by the Indians."

        "This is the substance of their story," said the surveyor Morris, afterward judge of the province, writing to Cornwallis, who was then in England ; "but, as the Indians complained, a little after the sailing of Conner's schooner, that one exactly answering her description put into Jedore, where these Indians had their stores, and robbed them of forty barrels of provisions given them by the Government, 'tis supposed that these men might afterwards have been apprehended by some of this tribe whom they killed as they describe.

        "If this be the case, 'tis a very unhappy accident at this juncture, and time only can discover what its consequences will be.  The chiefs of every tribe in the Peninsula had sent in messages of friendship, and, I believe, would have signed articles of peace this spring, if this accident does not prevent them."

        The Reverend Andrew Brown, who comments on what Morris called an unhappy accident, adds these remarks : "Thus far Mr. Morris ; but the facts were still blacker than he suspected.  After having robbed the Indian store-houses, Conner and the crew of his unfortunate schooner were obliged to encounter the fury of the deep.  They suffered shipwreck ; the two survivors, Conner and Grace, were found by the Indians drenched with water and destitute of everything, were taken home, cherished, and kindly entertained, yet watched their opportunity, and to procure the price of scalps, murdered their benefactors, and came to Halifax to claim the wages of their atrocious deed.

        "The Indians, as may well be supposed, were exasperated beyond measure at this act of ingratitude and murder... To procure immediate retaliation they sent some of their warriors to Halifax, to complain of the difficulty they found to keep their provisions safe during the fishing season, and to request that the Governor would send a small vessel to bring their families and their stores to Halifax.  In compliance with this desire, the vessel and crew mentioned in the Journal of Anthony Casteel were engaged, tho' several suspected from the first that it was an Indian feint to spill blood.

        The ruse the Indians had adopted for the sake of revenge met with complete success.  A schooner was put at their disposal in order to bring back their families to Halifax.  The crew consisted of Anthony Casteel, messenger of the council, of Captain Bannerman, of a Mr. Cleveland, and of four sailors.  All were butchered and scalped except Casteel.  How he was saved is explained minutely in the journal he kept, which, on his return, was sworn to and transmitted by the Governor to the Secretary of State.  It is a thrilling tale and shows the base treachery of which Conner and Grace, had been guilty against the Indians.

        Casteel, after the massacre of his companions, was dragged from Jedore, not far from Halifax, to Bay Verte.  Near this place they reached a camp of almost five hundred Indians, who made a circle around him.  After deliberating on his fate, an old man, the father-in-law of the chief whose prisoner Casteel was, declared to him that his life would be spared on payment of a ransom of three hundred livres.  "We were on the point of signing a lasting peace," said the old man ; "we had for a long time abstained from any act of hostility against your countrymen ; but now that the English have begun, we will not stop.

        "We had sheltered two shipwrecked men, who, the day before, had stolen most of our provisions ; they were almost lifeless ; we had brought them into our camp, where we fed and took care of them ; we were soon to take them to Halifax when, taking advantage of our absence, they massacred during the night two men, three women and two children, one an infant at the breasl.  In return for such a deed our vengeance would not be satisfied even if we had killed as many English as their victims had hairs on their heads.  We have hitherto always spared women when we could ; henceforth, we will not even spare the infant in its mother's womb."  Then he tore up before Casteel the paper that bore the preliminaries of the treaty.

        These facts, Casteel goes on to say, were confirmed by other persons.  The culprits were Conner and Grace, who, some weeks before, had brought to Halifax seven scalps, for which they claimed the bounty.

        The chief who held Casteel prisoner stopped at the house of an Acadian named Jacques Vigneau dit Maurice.  There he met some Indians and a French officer.  One of them asked him what ransom he wanted for his prisoner.  "Three hundred livres" said Casteel's master.  "I will give them to you," said another Indian, "my father was hanged at Boston."  He rushed at Casteel to stab him ; but the French officer, who had been watching the Indian's movement, gave Casteel a great shove that stretched him on his back and saved him from the blow.  The sons of James Vigneau carried him into a little room, where he swooned away.  When he came to himself, Vigneau's wife offered him a glass of wine and asked him if he was wounded.  He said no.  She then went to a chest, opened it and took from it fifty pieces of six livres forming the three hundred livres of his ransom.  Jacques Vigneau called Casteel's master and counted out the money to him saying : "This man belongs to me ; let none of you come here to molest him, or I will break his bones."  "I then asked Vigneau," says Casteel, "if he would take my note, he answered no ; that he believed I was an honest man, but, if he was never to receive one farthing, that should not hinder him saving the English to the utmost of his power, even to the last shirt on his back.  The next day Vigneau gave me a shirt, a few other articles, a six-livres piece, and we parted."

        I have dwelt at some length upon these two incidents, the Conner and Grace butchery and Casteel's adventures, because all the historians that mention them point to the murder of Casteel's companions as to an infamous crime traceable to French instigation.  Some of them, literally believing the declaration of Conner and Grace, count this as another crime referable to the same source, although the companions of these two miscreants really perished when their vessel was wrecked...

Excerpted from Acadia: Missing Links of a Lost Chapter in American History by Edouard Richard, published 1895

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Jean-Baptiste Cope
(? -c.1759)

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