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The Scottish Catholics in Prince Edward Island 1772 - 1922
Chapter IV


This backward state of the Colony was due in a great measure to the unsettled conditions in the Countries of Europe. For a long time France and England had been almost continually at war, and as may well be supposed the Colonial possessions of the rival Nations shared in the ups and downs of the Mother Countries. Hence, though the claim is made that Prince Edward Island was discovered by the English as early as the year 1497 no attempt was made to colonize it for many years after that date. It was not till France claimed it as forming part of the discoveries made by Verazzani in 1523 that a real determined effort was put forth to bring immigrants to its shores.

A process of gradual development was then inaugurated and continued without interruption for about thirty-five years, during which time the population gradually increased in number. The French Government stood ever behind the work of colonization, and not for selfish motives either; because the movement seemed always as much religious as it was national. For this reason, the Church :vas ever in the foreground and parochial arrangements kept pace with the work of civil establishment.

In this way Parishes with resident Pastors were established at Fort LaJoie near the entrance to Charlottetown Harbour, at St. Louis near Scotchfort, at St. Peters on the North side of the Island, at Point Prim, and at Malpeque on the shores of Richmond Bay. It is estimated that the population had grown well beyond five thousand, when, in 1756 war was again declared between England and France and the Colonial possessions of the two rival Nations entered upon armed hostilities. The strongest position held by the French in America was Louisburg on Cape Breton Island, and to this the English laid Beige in the Spring of 1758. In less than two months the fortress was reduced and fell into the hands of the invaders. Encouraged by this success the English commander dispatched a portion of his fleet under Lord Rollo to Prince Edward Island, with strict orders to destroy all property belonging to the French, and to drive out the inhabitants.

These orders were carried out to the letter. Lord Rollo with his ships of war appeared at the entrance of the Charlottetown Harbour and summoned Fort LaJoie to surrender. The garrison at the Fort was too weak to offer resistance, and soon the Saint John's Island of the French passed out of their hands to become in after years the Prince Edward Island of the British. Thus the work of development, inaugurated during the French occupation came to <.n end, and for the years that followed, that is till the coming of the Scottish Catholics in 1772, little or nothing was done to improve the conditions of the little Colony. By the Treaty of Fontainbleau in 1763 Prince Edward Island was formally ceded to Great Britain, and was placed for the time under the Government of Nova Scotia. In the following year Captain Holland was appointed to make a survey of the British possessions in North America, and in the month of October, 1764 he arrived in Prince Edward Island and forthwith began operations. Within a year from that date his work on the Island was complete, and he was able to furnish the British authorities with a very accurate and full description of Prince Edward Island. With this information in their possession, the authorities evolved a plan for the settlement of the Colony, which was probably conceived in good faith, and with the very best intentions; but which unfortunately failed in accomplishing its purpose, owing to circumstances that might easily have been foreseen at the time.

The plan adopted was this : According to the survey made by Captain Holland the entire Island was divided into sixty-seven townships containing each about twenty thousand acres and these it was decided to bestow by grant on persons having claims for military service. In adjusting these claims it was found, that the number of applicants was far in excess of the land divisions to be disposed of, and to settle the matter in justice to all, the authorities hit upon the novel plan of setting up the lands by lottery, and the holders of the lucky numbers thus became proprietors of the various townships. Three Lots were excepted, Lot 66 was reserved to the Crown, Lots 40 and 59 were granted directly to persons who had already established Fisheries upon them. The plan of the Lottery is thus described by a writer: "The Board of Trade ordered all petitioners for grants, to appear before them personally or by deputy on the 17th, and 24th of June, and first of July, 1767, in support of their respective claims. During three days after hearing parties, they selected those whose claims seemed preferable, and on the 8th of July the list was completed and finally adopted. The balloting took place on the 23rd of July, 1767, in presence of the Board. The name of each applicant was written on a slip of paper or ticket, and put in the ballot-box, the Lots being granted in running numbers as they were drawn."

In this way the entire Island was disposed of in one day, and it is from this circumstance that it derives the name of "Lots," applied ever afterwards to the divisions or Townships of Prince Edward Island.

As mentioned above, the object in making this allotment was to promote a speedy settlement of the Colony, and with this end in view, the following conditions were attached to the grants. Each proprietor was obliged to settle his Township at the rate of one person to every two hundred acres within ten years from the date of his grant. This latter condition was undoubtedly intended in the best interest of the Colony ; but, unfortunately the proprietors almost to a man neglected to fulfil their obligations in this particular, to the great detriment of the Colony. Having come into possession of the land, they would seem to have reached the goal of their ambition, and utterly failed to carry out the terms with regard to the settlement of the country. On this point a writer observes: "Thus it appears that in the first ten years after the commencement of the settlement only nineteen of the sixty-seven Townships were attempted to be settled, and of these only the proprietors of Lots 18, 21, 28, 31, 34, 36, 52, 57, 58, and 59 ever brought any considerable number of people to the Island."

Of the effects of this neglect on the part of the proprietors the same writer has this to say: "It may easily be conceived that so many of the proprietors neglecting their lands was very injurious to the Island, and extremely discouraging to the few who had commenced the settlement on the faith of the whole taking their just proportion of the burden thereof, and in fact, the active proprietors were all great sufferers, though at this day I believe there is no person acquainted with the Island, but that will readily admit that if the whole of the proprietors had been equally active all must have been great gainers by the Colony, which by this time would have been a populous well settled country This very extensive defalcation on the part of so many of the proprietors in performing the terms of settlement was very distressing and severely felt by most of those who had engaged therein. They had to begin mostly on new lands, and to import a great part of their daily subsistence from other countries, they were scattered in small settlements at a great distance from each other, in a country totally without roads, and many of the first settlers either from their own ignorance, or that of those by whom they were sent to the Island, were landed without provisions or any means of support, and many on that account were obliged to abandon the settlement which brought most unjust odium on the Colony, for, as often happens, men were willing to attribute their failure to anything but their own misconduct or imprudence. Though a good many people were thus lost to the Island, industry and perseverance enabled those who remained gradually to surmount their difficulties, and as they acquired experience of the climate and soil, they became more firmly attached to the country." (Stewart)

In these circumstances it is not surprising that the Colony made slow progress, and the few settlers who had taken up lands here and there were absolutely powerless to remedy conditions over which they had no control. Up till now Prince Edward Island was subject to the Government of Nova Scotia, and being far from the centre of authority with means of communication exceedingly primitive many abuses might arise, many inconveniences exist that could easily be removed, if persons invested with competent authority were at hand. On this account an agitation sprung up in favor of securing a separate Government for Prince Edward Island, and a petition embodying this desire was numerously signed by the inhabitants and forwarded to London. The prayer of this Petition was granted, and in 1769 the Island became an independent Colony separated from Nova Scotia, and in the following year the first Governor, Walter Patterson, Esquire arrived in the Colony with all the officers necessary to establish the machinery of Government in Prince Edward Island.


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