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Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada


The British Return

Painting of a ship
© Parks Canada/D. Kadlec

Port-Royal’s period as the French capital of Acadia ended in the fall of 1710, when a large expedition led by Francis Nicholson, a British officer, took control of the fort after a week-long siege. Nicholson’s fleet of 35 ships and 2000 British and New England troops vastly outnumbered the French forces. On October 16, Governor Daniel D’Auger de Subercase surrendered the fort and an area of five kilometres around the village. The British renamed Port-Royal, Annapolis Royal, and once again, Acadia became Nova Scotia.

The Treaty of Utrecht confirmed British sovereignty over Acadia in 1713, and Annapolis Royal became the capital of Nova Scotia. Still, territorial boundaries of Acadia remained ambiguous. France had ceded Acadia with “its ancient limits” to the British, yet those limits were never defined. Great Britain may have had gained control over Acadia, but the war was not over. Under the agreement, France retained its colonies of Canada (an area along the St. Lawrence River), Ile Royale (Cape Breton Island) and Ile Saint Jean (Prince Edward Island). The French also retained their ambitions of one day regaining control of Annapolis Royal and re-establishing Acadia.

For the Acadians, the next 30 years was a time of remarkable population growth with settlements expanding up the Bay of Fundy. At the same time, there was much uncertainty. Since 1713, the region had changed administrations between the French and British numerous times, leading the Acadians to think the French might once again gain control. Subsequently, the Acadians were not eager to commit to one imperial regime or another. They instead preferred to remain neutral. To communicate with the Acadians in the various villages dispersed around the region, the British administration in Annapolis Royal, headquartered in what today is known as Fort Anne, initiated a partially representative government. Under this scheme, each of the major Acadian communities elected deputies, who acted on behalf of their villages with the British officials. From time to time the British pressured the deputies to commit completely to the British side, something the Acadians continued to resist.

In 1729-30 a compromise was found at the local level when Governor Richard Philipps and the Acadians agreed to a modified oath that was accompanied by a verbal promise stating that the Acadians would not be obligated to bear arms against the French or the Mi’kmaq. British officials in London and later in Halifax, after it was founded in 1749, would not accept any such modification. Thus the loyalty issue was an ongoing worry for both sides.

Image from, “The Micmac and How Their Ancestors Lived Five Hundred Years Ago” Image from, “The Micmac and How Their Ancestors Lived Five Hundred Years Ago”
© Parks Canada/K. Kaulbach

The Mi’kmaq, who just over a century earlier had solely occupied the entire region, were not happy with the increased British presence in Nova Scotia. On the other hand, they were generally friendly with the French, with some of whom they shared a common religious faith and family ties. Outright violence between the Mi’kmaq and the British broke out in the 1720s. The Mi’kmaq captured numerous trading and fishing vessels from New England. There was even a battle near Annapolis. The conflict ended in 1726, when Mi’kmaq and other First Nations chiefs in the northeast came to the fort in Annapolis to ratify a peace treaty signed the year before in Boston.