Monday, January 03, 2011

Acadian Petitions the Great and General Court of Boston

Signing the Oath By Nelson Surette 

The information from the Boston Selectmen's Minutes can be found volumes xxiii and xxiv on the French Neutrals at the Massachusetts State Archives. Whatever towns the Acadians/French Neutrals had been apportioned to, their petitions and memorials to town Councils were recorded along with all other business of the day. It is because of the minutes of all of these meetings that so much information can be found on the comings and going of the Acadians exiled in Massachusetts. The following is some of the information that can be found in the above mentioned volumes. Pierre Belliveau who was a member of the bar in Massachusetts used these two volumes to determine how the Acadians had been treated while in Massachusetts and to see what towns they had been sent to, etc. The following is some information he drew on to write his book French Neutrals in Massachusetts.

Pierre Landry moved from Milton into a dwelling in the West part of the Town of Boston, a house owned by Benjamin Smith; in mid February 1760, Smith himself reported this to the Selectmen.

May 1, 1760, Claude White (LeBlanc), his wife Jule(?) and their children Mary, Charles, Margaret, Modice arrived with bundles carted in by team hired for thepupose by the Concord Selectmen. In August, Antoine Theriault came in frm Hingham with his wife and six children.

Pierre Doucet, on public relief in Boston, belonged in Weymouth; Joseph Breau, on public relief in Weymouth, belonged in Boston. when Weymouth demanded reimbursement from Boston, the Selectmen showed unwillingness to pay for both Breau and Doucet, but willingness to exchange Doucet for Breau.
Jean Thibodeau, his wife Margaret, and their children Paul, Joseph, Marie, Elizabeth and granddaughter Marie Hebert came pursuant to relocation. This family, nine in number on arrival from Acadie, lived in North Parish of Reading in a house rented by Selectmen from Isaac Royal; two sons, Jean and Moise already lived near their employment in Boston. Moving the household furnishings and belongsings a distance of 18 miles by way of Charlestown Ferry cost Reading the hire of a man and team and support on the way part of two days. Because Isaac Royal was good to this family, they fared well and were a notch above the pauper status other exiles experienced.
In May 1760, Olivier Hebert, his wife, five children and Marie Theriault moved in from Newton. Widow Thibodeau and her children Castin, Charles, Alexandre, Daniel, Bruno, Jean, Joseph, Rose, Anne and another moved into Boston from Sherbourne. The Robichauds: Henri, Francis, Honore, Anne, Marie, Modeste Landry, Anne Robichaud, Jacques, Martha, Abigal and Frances came in from Suton by team and a horse-chair to carry the aged woman.

In September, Rene Benoit, his wife Félicité, and their children Geregoire and Marie arrived from Medfield with their household furniture, costing Medfield the hire of a man and team. Laurent Pellerin, his wife, and their son Castin, along with Joseph,Jean, Freeman, Frances Daigle and daughter Frances and son Odo had the benefit of two men with a car and team to bring them into Boston from Milton.
Marie Therese Hebert also known as Susan Theriault, dwelt as a boarder in the home of Pierre Hebert in Newton; for which Newton Selectmen paid Pierre four shillings each week. While visitin, she becam ill and a public charge in Boston. The Overseers provided care and billed Newton for three sillilngs six pence paid in her behalf; probably for medical attendance, or perhaps for her return to Newton.
Joseph Lanoue, taken ill while intransient in Boston, was too sick to be moved; he became a public charge. Since he belonged in Dorchest, Boston Selectmen asked Dorchester to pay for firewood supplied during 8 months. Later moving Lanoue to Dorchester, the Selectmen wrote: "a wife and two children who are desirous of being with their husband and father, we suppose it will not disagreeable for you" and they added that should the three accompanying Lanoue become public charges, Boston Selectmen will permit the three to return to Boston or pay their keep in Dorchester.

Lanoue recovered his health and was assigned to Roxbury; two years later, Selectmen Scolling and Cushing solicited a promise committing Roxbury to reimburse Boston in event Lanoue became a public charge.

Francis Robichaud an inmate of the workhouse caught smallpox and moved to Dr. Gardiner's Hospital on the Common, in February 1761. Another Acadian identified as Ridgeway (probably Bourgeois) and another named Robichaud moved out of the pest-house into recovery quarters.

Jean Benoit, his wife, and sons were first stationed in Brookline. The sons hired on as sailors out of Boston; and this aggrieved Jean because his sons had assisted the family to maintain itself, but when grown to maturity he was deprived of their help. Jean claimed that his sons' seafaring put him and his wife to difficulties and suffering; he wanted them to return to Brookline, or he and his wife moved to Boston. Jean Benoit of Brookline fell sick while visiting in Boston in September 1760; he became a public charge; during six months he recieved from the Boston Overseers who later billed Brookline for fire wood and other necessaties.

Charles Pellerin, his mother, and five sisters were residents in Boston. Fear of smallpox induced them to rent a house in Cambridge and move. Whereupon Boston Selectmen promised to reimburse Cambridge or to receive the Pellerins should they need public aid. Although a number of Acadians belonging to Boston or other towns were in Cambridge, at that particular time, no one disturbed them.
Jeremy Thibodeau and his family were sent to Malden in accordance with reapportionment. In May 1763, he suffered a bad would while transient in Boston. He was cared for and Malden Selectmen were billed for reimbursement.

Margaret Benoit, was sent to Medway and became ill in Boston in April 1763; she was given care and Medway charged.

Jacques Hebert and his family, moved to Boston from Dartmouth in May 1762. He lived in a rented house belonging to Benjamin Fitch. Fitch notified the Selectmen.
A Robichaud and other French families occupied Mr. Gordon's house near the pesthouse in January and on February 22, 1764, the Selectmen received an inventory of the articles found in the house when the Neutrals moved out.

Hannah Robichaud received three pounds four shillings in payment for her services rendered during the smallpox epidemic.

While several Acadians came to Boston for innoculation, three came in sick with the infection in May 1764. They were at Mrs. Walcott's sent in from Cambridge by Briggantine Brattle. Promptly, the three were placed in Mr. Chapman's infirmary in the Southend of Boston.

Some time in 1764 at staggered intervals, with Overseers approbation, (the Treaty of Paris had been signed in 1763), Bostono's quota of 81 Neutrals (or many of them) shipped to Canso; whree they gathered, procured a boat of their own and settled at Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Later, there were stories of more Acadians who went to Boston during the Fall of 1764 and made their petitions for passports to the French West Indies. In late January 1765, having made suitable provision, the Great and General Court required these Neutrals to return to the towns where assigned in 1760. The Minutes read: "There having been a general walk or visitation of the Town (Boston), this da being the 15th (Feb 15, 1765), the gentlemen that attended met and reported the following strangers they found in Town... (Four from Newfoundland, two from Rhode Island, one from the Country) and Leabear (this would be Hebert) and other French people living in Carnes house let to Green a shoemaker at New Boston.

July 3, 1765 "Mr. Samuel Proctor keeper of the Almshouse was directed by two of the Selectmen to receive into said House on the Province charge Paul Bejean (?) a French Neutral who had been placed at Philadelphia but came here from Hispaniola he being sick and not having wherewithal to subsist himself."
Benjamen Doucet, his wife, and child "they being strangers and not inhabitants of any town in the Province and now requiring some relief" wree received into the Alms-house on orders frm Boston Selectmen July 8, 1766. Doucet in some manner worked his way North, arrived in Massachusetts, and fell in need.

John Fabre, a blind Frenchman, and his wife Margaret "They being strangers and no inhabitants of any town in this Province, not having wherewithal to subsist themselves," were received into the Alms-house on an order signed by Selectman John Hancock, Selectman Austin and by Overseer Tyler.
In 1766, with exception of a few families, the remaining Neutrals petitioned for shipment to Canada; and in readiness to go assembled, a few in Salem, the others in Boston. Entried in Boston Selectmen's Minutes show that some Acadians besides Louis Robichaud and his family staid on because of sickness, employment, or unknown reason.

Royal Tyler Esqu., Chairman of the Boston Overseers of the Poor, received from the Selectmen a certificate that Michael Daigle and wife, French Neutrals, were suffering; that the husband had not been assigned to any town. "The bearer Michael Daigle a French man is by means of a lame hand become unable to support himself. He has been legally warned out of this town; and by his account has obtained an inhabitancy at Roxbury. Although he served an apprenticeship to Mr. Bourn of Marblehead, we thought it proper to give you this information that you may act theron as you think best; the man requiring immediate assistance. By order of the Selectmen" Boston Jan. 21, 1767.

Mr. Augustus White, alias Blanc (LeBlanc), and family, French Neutrals, are in suffering circumstances, come from Rutland. Charles Landre (Landry) and family come from Concord is the same." Selectmen of Boston Feb 4, 1767.

"Boston SS" At a meeting of the Selectmen Feb. 5, 1767 to the Selectmen of Concord - this is to acquaint you that one Charles Landre (Landry) and family, French Neutrals who were assigend your town, are no with us and in such circumstances as to require some assistance. The man, we believe is industrious; but his work, which was chiefly sawing wood, hais failed ; whicch occasions their application. We doubt not you will take such care upon this advice as to order what mayb e necessary and so prevent our supplying them, the amoutn whereof must be finally borned by your town. We understand they intend for Canada in the Spring; sot hat a samll advance may be necessary.

May 1, 1767 "Mr. Newell (Boston Selectman) a committee to consul with Royal Tyler Esq relative to the sending of Benjamin Doucet and Joseph Naraen' family to Canada."

December 30, 1766 to the Selectmen of Billerica: "Gentlemen this is to acquaint you that the family of Joseph Landre (Landry) a French Neutral assigned your town is now with us and in such circumstances as to require some assistance - the man we believe is industrious; but his work, which was chiefly sawing has failed; and his wife now lays in with her sixth child. We doubt not you will take such order upon this matter as to prevent their applying to us for any supply of necessaries, the charge of which will eventually follow your town. By order of the Selectmen of Boston."

French Neutrals Petition the Great and General Court

Without special protection and without interventions by a strong arem of government whether in Quebec, England, France or a New England Province, destitute Acadians are subjects for exploitation, neglect and abuse. In the Bay Province, the Great and General Court protects and helps the Acadian prisoners of his Brittanic Majesty, from the day of arrival so to speak.. nonetheless, regardless of the protective legislation, instance of abuse crop up. Thus the injured petition for "relief" and members of both Houses intervene.

The interventions b House of Representatives and Governor's Council, the bills and vouchers for supplies and care, and the petitions written for the Acadians constitute a large quantity of testimony on record ever since 1755-68. If such a quantity and quality of evidence on the treatment and condition of Acadian exiles were found elsewhere, such a find would establisht hat other people besides the sons and daughers of Puritan and Huguenot discover quality in the French Neutrals; that people elsewhere also are sorry for the Acadians, and try to treat them with humanity and kindness (however, this wasn't always so..).

The human element is present and a language barrier and inheritance; and there are prejudices and bigotries to voercome on both sides in everyting concerning the Exiles. Born to give short-shift to foreigners in war times, some Selectmen abuse their office. A shousing shortage adds aggravation. The Acadians are as flint; and their friends carry the sparks to the Great and General Court where ignition is sure fire.

The petitions to the G & G Court showed instances of abuse, neglect, or hostility on the part of Selectmen in twenty of the one hundred forty-seven towns harboring Acadian families during eight years of war scares, and eleven years of detention. Some petitions made out a wrong because the recitation of conditions and treatment made a cumulative wrong to the Massachusetts mind. Some recited matter insufficient to constitute a wrong, but told of hurt or injury to an Acadian by reason of his background, inability to conform, and status of recipient of public aid. Some told of children taken forcibly by the Selectmen; these instances of rawness and suffering, because of the Acadian concern and anxiety for his religion, required Trowbridge's or the Council Secretary's hand as scrivner. Two of the petitions were couched in French.

The number of petitions is small considering the times, circumstance and span of eleven years. In every instance, the content of the petition is interesting and telling. All the petitions are charged with emotion ; all are in good faith; some are one-sided most favorable presentations, others are stark truthful recitations.
Laws Chapter 23 extended to all Acadians consideration and treatment similar to that afforded poor and needed natives.

The following Acadians petitioneds the Great and General Court for abuse:

Joseph Mitchell vs Selectmen of Plymouth, March 1756; Nince aggrieved parents vs Selectmen of Chelmsford, Oxford, Concord, Worcester, Andover, and Waltham, April 1756; Charles and Nicholas Breau vs Selectmen of Hanover, April 1756; Claude Bourgeois vs Selectmen of Amesbury, May 1756;Jean and Pierre Trahan vs Selectmen of Scituate, May 1756; Augutin Hebert vs Selectmen of Waltham, October 1756; Claude Benois vs Selectmen of Oxford, January 1757; Benoni Melancon vs Selectmen of Lancaster, February 1757; Pierre Boudreau vs Selectmen of Scituate, April 1757; and Paul Simard vs Selectmen of Weston, June 1757.

Along with the cases mentioned, the petitions of Claude Bourgeois, Francis Mieus, John Labrador(?), Charles and Nicholas Breau, Pierre Pellerin, Basil Simard, John and Peter Trahan, Peter Trahan, Augustin Hebert, Magloire Hebert, Laurent Mieus or Armand Thibodeau are cited by writers as evidence of mistreatment received by Acadians generally.

Claude Bourgeois daughters, ages 23 and 17, received public aid as indigents. The Amesbury Selectmen found employment and subsistance for them; Claude said they were his children and were to remain in his house at work which he supplied. The Selectmen arrived with witnesses and assistants; although Claude offered resistance, the Selectmen brought the daughters to the prospective home were they were to work (endentured). Claude brought the daughters back to his house. The Selectmen cut down on what they were giving the family, so Claude petitioned. Other families were not so fortunate in that when their children were endentured, sometimes their "owners" would move them to one of their other homes so that their fathers could not find time. We must remember that some families were never reunited again.

Claude secured special protection against the Amesbury Selectmen....

Acadians returned to Boston in 1760 as transients or because of redistribution; at first they came for employment, or as dependants of some gainfully employed, or ostensibly to visit. Later at the time of the smallpox, others came from neighboring towns for innoculation. The coming and going always left Boston with increasing numbers. Four hundred came to town in 1765 seeking passage to Hispaniola; and some eight hundred came in 1766 seeking passage by boat to Quebec or to Acadie.

Oftentimes, there was a redistrubution of the Acadians from one town to another. For instance in September of 1756, the Committee charged with the care of Acadians relocated several families from Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Charlestown, and Marblehead. They were concerned that in those particular areas, it would be easy for the Acadians to attempt an escape back to Nova Scotia. At this particular time, twenty-four Acadians from Gloucester were sent to the interior, sending thirteen to Wenham and elevent to Methuen. The Selectmen of Charlestown and marblehead showed concern and so by petition had exposed conditions ripe for trouble.

There often were memorials from those charged with the care of the Acadians that requested their removal from their particular towns. Ninety-nine Acadians had left Georgia and were stopped in Boston where they were kept. When the British realized that there were Acadians at Pubnico, they were also deported to Boston. The d'Entremonts asked to be kept in Boston - within a few years quite a few of the young Acadian men had escaped.
Sources: Massachusetts State Archives - the Boston Selectmen's Minutes Volumes 23 and 24 on the French Neutrals.

French Neutrals in Massachusetts subtitle: The story of Acadians rounded by soldiers from Massachusetts and their captivity in the Bay Province 1755-1766 by Pierre Belliveau - 1972
The following is a wonderful testimony as to jut who Pierre Belliveau was as an Acadian proud of his heritage.

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Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Blog
and Web Site - 2004

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