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Part II. Nathaniel Hawthorne

VIII. The Old French War And The Acadian Exiles

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The French were afraid that, unless their colonies should be better defended than heretofore, another war might deprive them of the whole. Almost as soon as peace was declared, therefore, they began to build strong fortifications in the interior of North America. It was strange to behold these warlike castles on the banks of solitary lakes and far in the midst of woods. The Indian, paddling his birch canoe on Lake Champlain, looked up at the high ramparts of Ticonderoga, stone piled on stone, bristling with cannon, and the white flag of France floating above. There were similar fortifications on Lake Ontario, and near the great Falls of Niagara, and at the sources of the Ohio River. And all around these forts and castles lay the eternal forest, and the roll of the drum died away in those deep solitudes.

The truth was, that the French intended to build forts all the way from Canada to Louisiana. They would then have had a wall of military strength at the back of the English settlements so as completely to hem them in. The King of England considered the building of these forts as a sufficient cause of war, which was accordingly commenced in 1754.

"Governor Shirley," said Grandfather, "had returned to Boston in 1753. While in Paris he had married a second wife, a young French girl, and now brought her to the Province House. But when war was breaking out it was impossible for such a bustling man to stay quietly at home, sitting in our old chair, with his wife and children, round about him. He therefore obtained a command in the English forces."

"And what did Sir William Pepperell do?" asked Charley.

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"He stayed at home," said Grandfather, "and was general of the militia. The veteran regiments of the English army which were now sent across the Atlantic would have scorned to fight under the orders of an old American merchant. And now began what aged people call the old French War. It would be going too far astray from the history of our chair to tell you one half of the battles that were fought. I cannot even allow myself to describe the bloody defeat of General Braddock, near the sources of the Ohio River, in 1755. But I must not omit to mention that, when the English general was mortally wounded and his army routed, the remains of it were preserved by the skill and valor of George Washington."

At the mention of this illustrious name the children started as if a sudden sunlight had gleamed upon the history of their country, now that the great deliverer had arisen above the horizon.

Among all the events of the old French War, Grandfather thought that there was none more interesting than the removal of the inhabitants of Acadia. From the first settlement of this ancient province of the French, in 1604, until the present time, its people could scarcely ever know what kingdom held dominion over them. They were a peaceful race, taking no delight in warfare, and caring nothing for military renown. And yet, in every war, their region was infested with iron-hearted soldiers, both French and English, who fought one another for the privilege of ill-treating these poor, harmless Acadians. Sometimes the treaty of peace made them subjects of one king, sometimes of another.

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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