Essay by 2016 Arcadia Fellow Alexi Garrett

Selected collections relating to Canada

Colonial North America at Harvard Library (CNA) contains a number of collections relating to the British and French imperial powers quest for conquest in what we know today as the country of Canada. This material features a variety of subjects, most notably British would-be colonists’ correspondence with the Crown, and French army officers’ reports of, and later, reflections on, the Seven Years’ War. Researchers may recognize the names of leaders such as Governor of Nova Scotia Richard Philipps, Surveyor of the King’s Woods Colonel David Dunbar, or Major General James Wolfe. Researchers can see the cases made for creating a new colony in Nova Scotia; how British soldiers petitioned for proper pay and clothing during the Seven Years’ War; and how fears of Indian attacks drove the type of infrastructure British colonists sought to build first in the new American colonies.

Selected collections are from the Houghton Library at Harvard, and are primarily concerned with military and government activities. Further exploration of the CNA website, with searches referencing specific locations and events, will surface additional material relating to Canada. Documents are written in English and French.

An annotated list of selected collections featuring Nova Scotia, Canada in general, and Quebec follows.

Nova Scotia

The 1720 petitioners clearly laid out their schemes for Nova Scotia’s colonization to the Crown. These documents reveal the incredible imaginary process of colonization—petitioners visualized detailed plans for proper infrastructure (roads, fences, and forts), which they thought would enable commercial enterprises like fishing and whaling. They figured efficient enterprising was integral to a functioning government and society. They expected all the rights, privileges, and laws that other British colonial subjects enjoyed. Their plans not only revealed their fears that war with French and French-aligned Indians was inevitable and constant, but also that they thought proper infrastructure would help protect them. New Nova Scotia inhabitants were to be religiously tolerant (to a point), and seek their riches in hemp and flax agricultural production.

Petition to “his Majesty in Councill,” written in an unidentified hand, by over seventy “gentlemen” who wish to settle “His Majesties Vast Land and Island Lyeing Between Nova Scotia & the Province of Main in New England in America.” They seek a grant, among gentlemanly investors in Britain, for their goals. The names of persons acting as trustees for the project are written at the beginning of the document, which is signed by Francis Barkstead (possibly a Mercer of London). They state they wish to raise hemp, flax, and other “naval stores” to “supply His Majesties Navy and Kingdom’s.” The petitioners discuss the proposed quit-rent system they would abide by, and how they would pay the Crown with the “weight of Hemp & Annum.”

The petitioners complain that they have been suing the Crown for eight years in trying to receive this grant. They mention that this petition was referred to other Crown bodies on July 21, 1718, and that they obtained a judgment on December 17, 1720. They mention the “Province of the Massatusetts Bay in New England.” The petitioners go into great length about the many Crown bodies to which they have petitioned in the past, and which bodies referred their case to which other bodies. They try to convince their readers that they’ve “lay’d a Plann for Settling the province,” as they have obtained money from “Trustees and Undertakers,” and have prescribed a method to survey and lay out the towns and villages. They claim that these plans will help place the future inhabitants “out of Danger of the Insults of the French and the Frenchifide Indians” in the area. They imagined 50,000 people would travel to and settle in their proposed province (implying many of these people would come from the lower or poverty classes), which would create a domino effect that would benefit the Crown. They mention indentured servitude, how to pay it off with hemp and flax, and how their schemes would make Great Britain the leader in hemp and flax production.

The petitioners continue to lay out a detailed plan to create “The Scheme of Government” in their proposed new province. They claim all settlers would receive the same rights and privileges as any other Crown subjects in the British colonies in America. As a part of these rights and privileges, they mention the right to commercial enterprising via fishing and whaling. They hope His Majesty would be pleased to grant all inhabitants “all Mines, Mineralls Royall & all others together with Fishing both Royall and Common, to wit the Whale and Pearle Fishing in the Rivers, Bays, Coves, Roads, Creeks and Seas adjacent, and the Waters & Seas of the same.” Besides general “Trade and Merchandizes,” the petitioners also mention industrial trades that they hope will flourish, such as erecting copper, brass, or ironwork. They also dictate what kind of religions would be accepted. Only “Persons professing the Christian Religion of what Nation or Nations so ever” would be allowed in the proposed province, excluding, of course, “Roman Catholics or Papishes.” They discuss the organization of government, laws, and legislative power of the proposed province (sequences 20-29).

The petitioners also give a detailed plan on “The Scheme of Settlement.” This part of the collection reveals the petitioners’ great fears about potential attacks from Indian groups once in Nova Scotia. It also reveals how they thought that building protective infrastructure for the province would keep them physically together in order to survive against Indian attack.

They mention which rivers by which they hope to settle (River Kennebeck, Penobscot and St. Croix) in order to “cover the County from the Insults of the French and Indians if there should be a Warr at any time hereafter.” They continue to believe that any and all “Forreign Protestants” will be helpful to the project, especially to help create hemp as a staple crop. They directly tie hemp’s potential production to Britain’s greater glory. They also make it explicit that they will want to colonize more and more land after their initial settlement, and talk of how the French and French-aligned Indians use portages to “direct their Course to the place they intend to Ravage.”

Bound in with the petitioners’ manuscript is a map (attributed to Parker), in color, of His Majesty's empire in North America from Carolina to Newfoundland. The unfolded map shows that is dedicated by the King’s dutiful subjects with their petition for settling His Majesty’s “Wast Land” that lies between “Nova Scotia & the Province of Main” in New England.

The instructions for continuing to populate the area with Palatines and Irish in the 1730s illuminate how Great Britain imagined how best to build their colonies in Nova Scotia. The instructions dictated what subjects could settle which areas, and what they saw as proper acreage, rents, and commercial enterprises in these settlements. British colonizers imagined 50,000 people would travel to and settle in their proposed province (implying many of these people would come from the lower or poverty classes), which would create a domino commercial effect that would benefit the Crown. They viewed indentured servitude as a way to entice new settlers, and argued that an indentured servant could easily pay off his tab with profits from hemp and flax. They also argued that their schemes would make Great Britain the leader in hemp and flax production.

Included here are copies of two documents, approved on April 20, 1730. The first document is a copy of instructions to “Our Trusty and Welbeloved”Richard Philipps (Governor of Nova Scotia, 1717-1749) originally made in 1717 (which was the “third year of [George I’s] reign,” and the year that Philipps was appointed Governor). These instructions state that a number of Protestant Irish and Palatine families have been granted land in Nova Scotia. Families were subject to “moderate Quit Rent Services.” The instructions indicated that if any surveyed land was found to be “most Proper for Producing of Masts” and timber for the use of the Royal Navy, then that land should be reserved for the Navy. The instructions also forbade Philipps from granting families any land until he “mark’d out and Set apart” land for the royal government’s use first (which was to be “not amounting to less than Two hundred Thousand Acres”).

This land was to be surveyed by newly appointed lieutenant governor of the province of New Hampshire, Colonel David Dunbar. Dunbar also held the title of Surveyor of the King’s Woods. The instructions illuminate how Great Britain imagined building their colonies on-the-ground in Nova Scotia, as they dictated about what they saw as proper acreage, rents, and commercial enterprises. For example, they dictated how much land should be given to families, how the districts would be divided up, that every district have land allotted to a minister and a “School-Master” and their “successors in Perpetuity.” In particular, the instructions asked Philipps to furnish Dunbar with soldiers to protect the latter in his task of surveying another hundred thousand acres of land for these families and for the King’s service “between the Rivers Penobscot and St. Croix.” Dunbar was to set apart a tract of land one hundred thousand acres-large, or about twelve square miles, for every forty Palatine families who were “willing to become Planters in Nova Scotia.” Dunbar was to make these tracts into parish districts and townships, and name them whatever he wanted. Living in townships or districts would ensure that these families would become successful planters, especially since living in such groups would allow them to “better be able to defend and Assist each other, as well against Savage Indians, as against any other Enemy that may at any time Attack them.” Dunbar was to encourage inhabitants to found a fishery, and to make sure they were provided with “Stages and Cookrooms” and a “Shoar Man” like was “done at Marble Head in New England.”

The second document is additional instructions to the apparently equally “Trusty and Welbeloved” Col. Dunbar to survey and lay out land for the families (sequences 21-34). These almost exactly repeat the instructions given to Philipps (but with more detail near the beginning about the Palantines and Irish). The document notes that the Protestant families from Ireland who desire to move to the British province of Nova Scotia are from the Province of Maine. Part of the Palatines from Germany were to be settled at or near Annapolis Royall, and the other part near Canço.

Note that historians today use the spelling “Philipps,” but it is written as “Philips” in this collection.

Additional selection of material related to Canada

Canada (general)

Bourne family. Bourne family Massachusetts military papers, 1744-1764. Declaration of Peter Curtis concerning pay for Canada Expedition : ADS, Boston, 1752 May 1. MS Am 589 (10), Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. A solider, Peter Curtis, appeals to the Justice of the Peace to receive what he is due for his participation in the Canada Expedition.

Document transcription: Peter Curtis of Lawfull age declareth & saith That he was Inlisted abt. the year 1747 by Capt. Silvanus Cobb to go on the Cannada Expedition and that he was in the Kings Service about Fifteen months months and never rec’ed more than Twenty four pounds old tenor Bills for his pay & wages during that time and that he never directly or indirectly rec’ed from sd Cobb or any one else Any Cloathing or any consideration therefor but the same is now wholly due to him from said Cobb [signature of Peter Curtis] Suffolk S. Boston May 1:st:1752 Peter Curtis appeared and made Oath to the truth of the above declaration by him subscribed Before me John [Hill?]. Jus. Peace

Carrefour de La Pelouze, Pierre-Joseph, 1738-1808. Voyage et campagnes au Canada : manuscript, 1757-1760. MS Can 8. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. [Title translation: Carrefour of La Pelouze, Pierre-Joseph, 1738-1808. Travel and Campaigns in Canada.] Pierre-Joseph Carrefour de La Pelouze (1738-1808) was a French captain in the Seven Years War.

A journall of our expedition agt. Canada ... : manuscript, 1711 and 1722-1723. MS Am 1341. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Diary with entries dated 30 July-13 Oct. 1711 concerning the Quebec expedition (ff. 1r-16r). Notes on books of the Bible (18r-92v).Written in an unidentified hand; with later, unrelated, notes, probably in the hand of Thomas Hubbard; signed by Hubbard, 1722, and Thomas Foxcroft, 1723 (front flyleaf).

France. Ministère de la marine. Extraits des Registres concernans les Affaires de Canada : manuscript, [not before 1708]. MS Can 36. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. [Title translation: France. Ministry of the Navy. Extracts from the Registers Concerning Canadian Affairs.]

Monseignat, Charles de. Relation de ce qui s’est passé de plus considerables en canadas depuis le mois de 9bre 1693 jusqu’au depard des vessaux 1694 : manuscript, 1694. MS Can 35.2. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. [Title translation: Monseignat, Charles de. Relation of what has been most important in Canada since the 9th of 1693 until the departure of the ships in 1694.] Charles de Monseignat was a French civil servant during Louis XIV’s reign who worked on projects related to the New France colonies. Read more about him here. Mentions Louis de Frontenac and the Five Nations. Manuscript transcript in an unidentified hand, likely authored by Charles de Monseignat; dated at Quebec, 25 Oct. 1693.

Monseignat, Charles de. Relation de ce qui s’est passé en Canada depuis le départ des vaissaux de l’année 1694 jusq’au départ des vaisseaux 1695 : manuscript, [not before 1695]. MS Can 35.3. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. [Title translation: Monseignat, Charles de. Relation of what has happened in Canada since the departure of the ships of the year 1694 to the departure of the ships 1695.] Mentions Governor-General Louis de Frontenac, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac, commandant of the Michilimackinac station, and the Iroquois Indian tribe. Manuscript transcript in an unidentified hand, likely authored by Charles de Monseignat

Stirke, Henry. Diary of the campaign for Québec : manuscript, 1758-1760. MS Can 24. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. An account of the military campaigns, including the capture of Québec, under Major-Gen. James Wolfe. With three manuscript plans, showing the line of battle before Louisburg and two plans of encampments. Autograph manuscript, signed; dated from 3 June 1758, on board the Ship Namure in Gaborus Bay (Cape Breton Island) to 8 Sept. 1760, at Montréal.

Wolfe, James, 1727-1759. James Wolfe papers relating to the British conquest of Canada, 1759-1773. MS Can 63Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Major General James Wolfe was an officer in the British Army in the Seven Year’s War. He is famed for capturing Quebec City from the French in 1759.


Avaugour, Pierre du Bois, baron d’, -1664. Memoire sur la colonie de Quebec, Plaisance, Gaspé et Capbreton : manuscript, 1663. MS Can 25 (1). In French. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. [Title translation: Avaugour, Pierre du Bois, baron of, -1664. Memorandum on the colony of Quebec, Plaisance, Gaspé and Capbreton]. Pierre Avaugour was a French soldier who served as Governor of New France from 1661 to 1663. His memorandum concerns conditions in New France and the need for French troops.

Hamilton, Henry, -1796. Reminiscences, 1755-1762 : including the Louisburg and Quebec campaigns,manuscript, 1792. MS Eng 509. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Henry Hamilton (1734-1796) was a British military officer who served as Lieutenant Governor of the Quebec Province from 1775 to about 1782). After the American Revolutionary War, he served as Deputy Governor. He later became Governor of Bermuda (1785-1794) and Governor of Dominica (1794-1796). The manuscript is in Hamilton’s hand, written in Bermuda in 1792 while he was governor of Bermuda. It includes accounts of Hamilton's early experiences as a private in the 15th regiment beginning in 1755, his service at the siege of Louisburg in 1758, and at the capture of Quebec, 1759. The journal continues until his arrival in Martinique in 1762.

Memoire pour servir de reponse a l'ecrit des reflections mal et sans fondement refléchiés par les res p[èr]es Jesuistes (sic) du College de Quebec remis pars le R[everen]d J. Duparc superieur dud[it] college a un Ecclesiastique du Seminaire de Quebec le 8 avril 1728 : manuscript, [17--]. MS Can 39.1. In French. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.[Title translation: Memorandom to serve as an answer to the writing of the ill-founded and ill-considered reflections of the Jesuit Fathers (sic) of the College de Quebec handed over by the Reverend J. Duparc superior of the said College to an Ecclesiastical Seminary of Quebec on April 8, 1728.] Reply to Jean-Baptiste Du Parc's “Reflexions sur la contestation survenus entre messieurs du chapitre de Quebec” concerning church administration in Quebec. Text is small but will be legible to fluent French readers.