Paul Mascarene, (born Jean-Paul), military officer, administrator of Nova Scotia; born 1684 or 1685 in the province of Languedoc, France, probably at Castres, son of Jean Mascarene and Margaret de Salavy; married Elizabeth Perry of Boston, Massachusetts (died c.1729) by whom he had four children; died at Boston 22 January 1760.
Paul Mascarene's Huguenot father was banished from France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685, and Paul was cared for by relatives who in 1696 smuggled him to Geneva. He was educated there, and after moving to England about 1706 received an ensigncy in the Regiment of French Foot, raised among the Huguenot immigrants. He was commissioned a lieutenant in April 1706 and was at Portsmouth in 1708 when he received orders to join a force being assembled in New England for an expedition against Canada. The British contribution to this force, along with Samuel Vetch and Francis Nicholson, arrived in Boston in April 1709. The expedition being abandoned for that year, Mascarene spent the winter drilling the colonial troops in artillery exercises. Word came in the spring of 1710 that the Canada scheme was being replaced by an attempt against Port Royal (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). Mascarene was promoted captain and put in charge of a grenadier company; and when Daniel d'Auger de Subercase surrendered Port-Royal to Nicholson in October, the young captain "had the honour to take possession of it in mounting the first guard."
Mascarene's first years in the new province of Nova Scotia involved a thorough initiation into the challenges and frustrations he was to face in the future, and illustrate his knack for making himself useful in matters requiring diplomacy, attention to detail, and a capacity for analysis. In November Governor Vetch, partly to show the inhabitants that they were under a new and masterful authority, and partly because he thought it only his due, decided to exact "a verry good present" from the Acadians. He sent Mascarene, "having the advantage of the French language," to Minas (Grand Pré region) with a detachment of troops, charging him to be courteous but to collect a tribute worth 6,000 livres. Mascarene could assemble only a small portion, the Acadians pleading poverty, but his week at Minas afforded his first experience in dealing with the Acadians. Vetch later appointed him and three other officers, together with two Acadians, to hear and settle disputes between the inhabitants. By his own account, much of his time was occupied in translating Vetch's letters and proclamations into French.
Mascarene went to Boston with Vetch in October 1711, and remained there until early 1714. In August of that year he and Captain Joseph Bennett were sent to Minas to discuss with Louis Denys de La Ronde and Jacques d'Espiet de Pensens the terms under which the Acadians would be allowed to move to Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). During the next five years Mascarene divided his time between Boston, where he seems to have married and set up house, and Placentia, Newfoundland, where he was in charge of an infantry company. In August 1717 he was commissioned a captain in the newly formed 40th regiment. Whether by formal education or breadth of interests, he was considered an engineer as well as a regular officer and artilleryman, and a visit to England during this period resulted in his appointment as engineer to the Board of Ordnance. By 1719 he was back in Boston preparing to embark for Annapolis with orders to report on the state of the fortifications there.
The sudden interest of the Board of Ordnance in Nova Scotia was a small reflection of the British government's new resolve to improve its housekeeping in the neglected province. Colonel Richard Philipps was sent out as governor in 1719 and spent his first winter in Boston, where he presumably gained his favourable opinion of Mascarene. Both arrived at Annapolis Royal in April 1720, and when Philipps chose his council from among the officers and local merchants, he nominated Mascarene third on the list as "Chief Engineer, and a Person of great prudence and Capacity." Mascarene was subsequently employed at various engineering tasks, including a survey of the coast in 1721, improving the jerrybuilt defences at Canso, and trying to salvage the crumbling fort at Annapolis while not seeming to disobey the unrealistic but positive orders of the Board of Ordnance to avoid expense. Mascarene's life was so consistently riddled with the problems of divided command and conflicting orders from home that his frequent visits to Boston must have been a great relief. His orders as engineer came from the niggardly and jealous Board of Ordnance; as an army officer he was responsible to his regimental superiors, Philipps and John Doucett. The Board of Trade and Plantations thought that the pleas of the Annapolis officers for support made sense, but could make little impression on the Ordnance office.
During this period Mascarene's participation in civil affairs was confined to his attendance at council, where he observed the failure of Philipps' attempt in 1720 to exact an unqualified oath of allegiance from the Acadians. Philipps' undermanned regiment, confined at Annapolis Royal in a dilapidated fort, clearly could not convince a scattered population of Acadians that British authority or protection should be taken seriously. Though Mascarene cannot be credited with any particular prescience in his recognition of the weakness of the British position in Nova Scotia, he was one of the first to give this fact clear and cogent analysis. His "Description of Nova Scotia," written for the Board of Trade in 1720 at Philipps' behest, is an informative essay on the state of the province and its French-speaking inhabitants. He recommended a stronger military force, to be divided among the major settlements, and the administration, once this force was sent, of an unqualified oath, with those who still demurred being moved to French territory. English-speaking Protestant settlers should be introduced in any event. He noted that the French authorities were themselves not anxious to receive the Acadians, since it was to their advantage to have a self-sufficient population on the mainland, accessible to influence from Île Royale through their priests. Though little in the paper is original, it is a good summary of the problems faced by the Annapolis government, and for several years seems to have been passed around in London whenever officials there considered the continuing question of Nova Scotia.
In 1725 Mascarene was sent to New England to represent Nova Scotia in peace negotiations with the Indians of the New England seaboard. By the time he returned in 1729, the first problem-ridden residence of Lawrence Armstrong as lieutenant governor was over, and the Acadians were more determined than ever not to take an unqualified oath. Petty feuds between the officers and councillors were making a mockery of the government and interfering with garrison discipline. Philipps, who had left Annapolis in 1722, returned in November determined to set things in order again, but added fuel to the conflicts among his councillors when he appointed his own brother-in-law, Major Alexander Cosby, as president of the council, despite Cosby's lack of seniority. Mascarene objected strenuously, to Philipps' surprise and annoyance.
Philipps was recalled to England in 1731 and Armstrong returned to Annapolis. After wintering in Boston, Mascarene resumed his duties at Annapolis in the spring of 1732, but returned to Boston in the fall with orders from Armstrong to encourage New Englanders to move to Nova Scotia. He was to seek the support of Governor Jonathan Belcher, who seems to have been a personal friend, "taking Especial Care not to transact anything that may seem to make this province... Subordinate to, or Dependent on that of New England..." Mascarene had no success, the New Englanders having a low opinion of both the government and the safety of Nova Scotia. Except for a year at Annapolis in 1735-36, and possibly 1738 as well, he remained in Boston until 1740, building his "Great Brick house" and looking after his now motherless family of four, to whom he was intensely devoted.
He hurried back when word came that Armstrong had committed suicide in December 1739. Armstrong had earlier sought a ruling from home at Mascarene's request on the question of precedence among the councillors, and the ruling confirmed that the senior councillor must become president of the council and head of the government in the absence of the governor and his deputy. When Mascarene arrived late in March 1739/40, the elderly John Adams unsuccessfully contested his right to sit as president, claiming that Mascarene's long absence invalidated his claim. It is a measure of the state into which the neglected capital had fallen that Adams in his subsequent appeals to Westminster hinted darkly that Nova Scotia was in peril so long as a French born officer was in charge. About the time of Mascarene's return Alexander Cosby was made lieutenant-colonel in the 40th regiment, becoming Mascarene's superior officer. The conflict between them was finally resolved with Cosby's death in 1742, after which Mascarene became lieutenant-colonel.
Even if his experience and abilities fitted him for it, the situation facing Mascarene in 1740 was a murky one. The Acadians were equipped with the firm memory of Philipps' promise ten years before of exemption from military service if they took the oath, and Mascarene, who was nothing if not a pragmatist, saw that there was now no hope of administering a new and proper oath. The garrison was as poorly maintained as ever, the fort at Annapolis had never been properly repaired, and the isolated detachment stationed at Canso to protect the vital fishery there had scarcely a roof over its head. With the current war between Great Britain and Spain making an Anglo-French conflict almost certain, he decided that his province's security depended largely on the continued neutrality, if not the loyalty, of the Acadians. He set out, therefore, to "make these french Inhabitants sensible of the difference there is between the Brittish and french Governments by administering impartial justice ... and treating them with lenity and humanity, without yielding anything..." In the early months of 1740 he notified the Acadian deputies of his position and goodwill, then reminded them of their rent-gathering duties and their obligation to keep in touch with the government. They were warned that if war came they should not give reason to be suspected of disloyalty. Great Britain had been lax in asserting her sovereignty, but common sense dictated that this would not always be so. The day of reckoning would come, and affairs might not allow time for distinguishing between the guilty and the innocent.
What particularly worried Mascarene, and at the same time gave him hope, were the priests, whom he had described in 1720 as having sufficient influence over the Acadians to "guide and direct them as they please in temporal as well as spiritual affairs." His practical approach to the problem was characteristic. He began a regular correspondence with several of the priests, including Charles de La Goudalie, Claude de La Vernède de Saint-Poncy, Jean-Baptiste de Gay Desenclaves, and the Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre, meeting them personally and cultivating a reserved friendship when he could. He assured them he was "of that temper as not to wish ill to any person whose Persuasion differs" from his own, and exhorted each not to do anything to the "prejudice of himself and of the inhabitants." His subsequent relations with the priests were cordial on the whole.
Mascarene received no reply to his dispatches to England during his first two years as administrator; if he wanted support, he would have to find it elsewhere. In 1741 he wrote to Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts, pleading New England's interest in the safety of Nova Scotia and expressing the hope that in the event of war with France the governor would send help to defend the province. Shirley's sympathetic replies could be used to impress the Acadians, but Mascarene feared that in an actual war "assistance... may not be too much relied on..."
Shirley's control over the Massachusetts assemblymen was, however, better than that. News of war with France reached Mascarene and his 150 officers and men at Annapolis in May 1744, along with the intelligence that Canso had fallen. The troops and Ordnance men set to work repairing the worst breaches in the Annapolis fort. Mascarene reminded the Acadian deputies that their people would be watched closely for disaffection and committed the women and children of the garrison to Shirley's care in Boston. The first attack came on 1 July when a force of about 300 Indians led by Le Loutre, with whom Mascarene had thought himself on good terms, advanced against the patched-up fort. Mascarene's cannon and a couple of vigorous sorties held the enemy at a distance until 5 July when 70 soldiers arrived from Boston, with the news that more soldiers were coming, and the attackers retreated. François Du Pont Duvivier made a much more determined attempt in August with a mixed body of Indians and French soldiers, but the arrival in September of Colonel John Gorham with 60 Indian rangers led Duvivier to abandon his goal.
That August Mascarene had been appointed lieutenant governor of the town and fort of Annapolis Royal. During the winter New England prepared for an attack on Louisbourg, Île Royale. Mascarene, expecting more assaults against his little fort in 1745, could only look on wistfully at the events that were passing him by in Boston and at Louisbourg, which was captured in June. The reinforcements remained at Annapolis at Mascarene's request, so that Paul Marin de La Malgue found the fort too strongly garrisoned when he came from Quebec to attack it with a small force the following May. By October 1746, when Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezayinvested the fort, the garrison was more seasoned, and Ramezay's hopes that part of the armada of the Duc d'Anville [La Rochefoucauld] would join with his land force were dashed when the hapless fleet was dispersed by a storm. On 3 November the arrival of yet another reinforcement from Boston discouraged him completely, and he withdrew to Minas and Beaubassin (near Amherst, Nova Scotia).
Mascarene gave full credit to Shirley for help during the crises of 1744-46, but his own role had been significant. Until late 1744 he still had less than 300 men, of whom nearly half had come without weapons. New England individualists and the jaded veterans of Philipps' regiment did not make a harmonious command for an officer who had been so long without routine orders from home that his authority to carry out sentences of courts martial was in doubt. Discipline was not apparently Mascarene's strong point as an officer, and fresh recruits from England, "the Refuse & Dregs of the Jayls," who arrived in the spring of 1746, taxed him to the limit by their numerous desertions and particularly their drunkenness, in which they were abetted by bootlegging subalterns. Yet it was Mascarene, pressed by dispirited officers to accept Duvivier's preliminary terms of surrender in 1744, who had convinced them that Duvivier had "no other intention ... than sowing division" in the beleaguered garrison. To the aggressive military mind Mascarene's preference for defence may be exasperating, but coolheadedness was the quality best suited to the situation. Gorham's rangers were adept at sorties, but the New England troops were no more skilled in bush fighting than Mascarene's raw recruits, and when they straggled outside the fort they fell prey to ambushes just as easily.
Mascarene was always convinced, however, that his Acadian policy was as important as Shirley's help. If his statements that the province owed its safety to a general Acadian refusal to assist the invaders sound a bit defensive, it is because his belief in their basic neutrality and desire to be left alone was severely challenged by his officers and council. There had certainly been some voluntary connivance with the enemy at Minas and even Annapolis. Mascarene had no illusions about the inhabitants, and had been more hopeful than trusting. He knew that there was a faction at Minas sympathetic to the French, and he questioned the deputies and suspected offenders rigorously. Nevertheless his view was that general neutrality was the best he could have expected, and this was what he got. Pressed by the majority on the council, however, he signed and forwarded home in December 1745 their representation on the history of Acadian allegiance, recounting incidents of suspected collaboration and raising the question of a general expulsion. At the same time he enclosed his own summary, admitting that the substitution of a Protestant population had clear advantages, but explaining his more measured policy for leading the Acadians "by time and good care... first to become Subjects and after that good Subjects..." Shirley noted the split opinion at Annapolis, and worried that there was "danger of too much tenderness ...on [Mascarene's] part and perhaps vigour on theirs..." Yet Shirley too saw the need to handle the Acadians gingerly, and at Mascarene's urging assured them by proclamation in 1746 not to credit the rumours that Bostonians were coming to seize their estates.
The rest of the 1740s were easier years for Annapolis, which was not attacked again. Ordnance supplies began to come frequently, so that by 1750 the fort was more defensible than it had been since 1710. In 1748 Île Royale was returned to France, arousing Great Britain's interest in overseas empire and a determination to take a firm hold on Nova Scotia. In July 1749 Mascarene received an order from the new governor, Edward Cornwallis, to join him at Halifax for the swearing in of a new council. The first meeting was on 14 July and the first item of discussion was the oath of allegiance. Mascarene reviewed the history of the question, including Philipps' exemption. The ensuing council resolution that an unqualified oath be administered, the subsequent refusal of the Acadians to take it, their threat to leave the province, and Cornwallis' vain imposition of a deadline for compliance must have seemed terribly familiar to Mascarene the ageing pragmatist. He returned to Annapolis in August while these events were unfolding, doubtless feeling very much an anachronism. In 1750 he disposed of his lieutenant-colonelcy in the 40th regiment and received a brevet colonel's rank. Cornwallis sent Mascarene to New England in 1751 to renew the 1726 treaty with the eastern Indians (Norridgewocks, Penobscots, Malecites), and although he corresponded with his Annapolis friends for several years, he did not return to Nova Scotia. He was content to settle in Boston – reading, playing chess, and cutting the modest figure of a comfortably retired officer, who had at last arrived "thanks to Almighty God in my own house amongst my Children and...grandchildren."
Mascarene was in some ways an odd fish in the imperial backwater of Annapolis Royal. Like those who preceded him, he was caught up in the tedious and unrewarding business of guarding an imperial possession before the crown had decided to take its imperial role seriously. Even if one credits him with the preservation of Acadian neutrality and the retention of the province in 1744, events on the larger scale were as much outside his control as they were for Philipps or Armstrong. But though he may have worn himself out, as Thomas Caulfeild and Armstrong did, and petitioned in vain for the official post of lieutenant governor of the province, his life was hardly tragic or pathetic as theirs were. The reasons for his survival lay in his temperament and background. He was educated in the classics and was a devotee of them. In fact, Mascarene was somewhat of a patrician in his attitudes, and it may not be too much to suggest that his actions as a servant of the state were classical in inspiration. Early historians were quick to perceive this, crediting him with a respect for moderation, justice, learning, public service, and family. The reasonable assumption that he was guided by these ideals, together with the personality that emerges from his official and family letters, in contrast to his less documented contemporaries, help to explain why he became a minor hero of Canadian history in the mid-19th century. These classical qualities were ones which Victorians admired, and such writers as Beamish Murdoch, Duncan Campbell, and James Hannay turned with discernible relief from the recitation of the tangled Nova Scotia chronicle before 1739 to the approbation of one in whom they detected a capitoline serenity. The image is not, perhaps, a satisfactory reflection of an 18th-century British career officer who was educated in Geneva and founded a thoroughly New England family, but probably he would have been immensely flattered.
— Maxwell Sutherland, Assistant chief (history), Research Division
National Historical Sites Service,
Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, Ontario
Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online Paul Mascarene (the original article)
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