The appearance of this work, more than a year after Mr. Parkman’s death, calls for a few words of explanation. While writing it, I fully expected that my statements would meet his eye, and, possibly, be challenged by him. At the time of his death my manuscript was almost complete. There being then no reason for haste, and my health having suffered from excessive application, I went to spend five months in California. Since my return from Los Angeles, I have been busy making arrangements and providing ways and means for the publication of these volumes, throughout which I have preserved, in referring to Mr. Parkman, the expressions I used when I thought they might be read by him.
Mr. Parkman’s death, depriving me of part of the object I had in view, came upon me with the suddenness of an unexpected shock and the keenness of a great disappointment.
Much praise has been indulged in by his many admirers since his death, and more particularly by the Rev. Julius Ward in McClure’s Magazine of January, 1894. Mr. Parkman had the wise foresight to present to the Massachusetts Historical Society an oaken cabinet containing his manuscript volumes and the documents which he followed. His object, so says Mr. Ward, was to enable critics to estimate the correctness of his writing, and probably, also, to allow his friends to defend him.
Mr. Ward, moreover, informs us that Mr. Parkman was so accurate, so trustworthy, so impartial, so careful in all details, that history as written by him is final. Such an assertion is, to put it mildly, rash. All this praise, some of it well deserved, can have no effect on one who, like myself, has found him out ; it is the obvious result of Parkman’s plausibility and unparalleled astuteness.
Now may have come the opportunity for the oaken cabinet. For my part, I have endeavored to dispense with any such collection, by giving room to my sources of information in the text itself, readily sacrificing the attractiveness of the narrative to the higher purpose of affording, to the earnest inquirer after truth, the best available data for forming au independent and reasonable judgment.
In this connection it my be well to point out how my researches have brought to light a most curious instance of the progressive distortion which history may be made to suffer under the skilful manipulation of unscrupulous men. The Compiler, confronted, on the one hand, with a collection of documents already mutilated by interested persons, and, on the other, by the public opinion of a hundred years condemning the act which it was his business to throw into clearer relief, sets to work to garble and distort the scraps that had escaped destruction. Far from fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by the Legislature, far from furnishing matter for real history, his compilation, by the very fact of its issuing under such high patronage, of its consequent claim to impartiality, and of its facilitating the labor of research, would inevitably constitute, for the average student of history, a barrier to further inquiry, and would thus pave the way for Lawrence’s defenders. Such must have been the Compiler’s purpose. Sooner or later some bold writer would be found to realize it and stamp it with the semblance of finality. That writer is Parkman. Trenchant assertions, positive and precise conclusions and all the other resources of his profound craftiness have been brought to bear upon a fresh mutilation and a further distortion of the Compiler’s distorted and twice garbled collection. After Parkman, as might have been expected, other writers would arise who, with less knowledge of the subject, would improve on his system of suppression or at least of unwarrantable inference. This process of progressive distortion must have pretty nearly reached its utmost limit in the following lines :
« The Maritime Provinces, — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, cover, at least the first two of them cover, the area of the old French Acadie, which, submerged by the tide of conquest, shows itself only in the ruined fortifications of Louisburg, once the Acadian Gibraltar, in remains of the same kind at Annapolis, and in a relic of the French population. The name, with the lying legend of British cruelty connected with it, has been embalmed, not in amber but in barley-sugar, by the writer of « Evangeline ».
« Lieutenant-Governor Adam Archibald, Mr. Parkman, and Dr. Kingston have completely disposed of this fiction, and shown that the deportation of the Acadians was a measure of necessity, to which recourse was had only when forbearance was exhausted. The blame really rests on the vile and murderous intrigues of the priest Le Loutre. The commander of the troops, Winslow, was an American. »
Thus is history fabricated. The Compiler begat Parkman, Parkman begat Archibald, Archibald begat Goldwin Smith. By dint of repeated mutilations, step by step, they have succeeded in giving the lie to the received opinions of a whole century and in proclaming to the world, in telling phrase, that the cruelty of this deportation is merely a nursery fable. There remains but one further step to take : let some still more audacious perverter of history affirm either that the deportation itself is a myth, or that the Acadians, if they were not ungrateful, ought to erect monuments to Lawrence, Belcher and Wilmot, beeause they did not exterminate them on the spot.
Of the writers mentioned above, the Compiler and Parkman are the only ones against whom there is overwhelming evidence of bad faith. The others erred through rashness in that they ventured on ground that was unknown to them except through the descriptions of the garbling pair. For it is hardly necessary to emphasize the fact that Mr. Goldwin Smith, though dabbling in history for fifty years, has probably never gone in for original research, but has preferred to write, in admirable English, brilliant one-sided summaries and glittering, though seldom golden, generalizations. However, there is just one short sentence, in the passage I have quoted from him, which looks very much like bad faith « embalmed in barley-sugar » puerility. « The commander of the troops, Winslow, » says this great word-monger, « was an American ». Now, as these events took place twenty years before the Revolutionary War, there were at that time no Americans as distinguished from Britishers. Besides, Winslow was merely the local commander at Grand Pre ; there were three other such commanders, Hanfield at Annapolis, Murray at Pigiguit, Monckton at Beaubassin, all three having nothing at all to do with the American provinces in what is now the United States. Yet, in the teeth of these well-known facts, Mr. Goldwin Smith tries, by an apparently simple statement, to shift the responsibility for the deportation on shoulders that ought not to bear that crushing weight. His covert insinuation means this : The cruelty of the deportation is a lying legend ; and at any rate, if it is not, British honor is safe, since he who commanded the troops was an American. Before Mr. Smith, no one ever accused Winslow of being the author of the deportation; he merely carried out the orders of his superior, Lawrence. To ignore the Governor who concocted the whole scheme, and to throw the blame on one of the subordinate officers who obeyed his orders, is piece of childish trifling unworthy of an intelligent school-girl. As for Longfellow, he needs no defence. His work is but a poem ; yet the conscientious historian will find more truth in his « barley-sugar » than in all the lofty sneers of Mr. Smith.
The following letter was addressed to me since this work has been put in the publisher’s hands. It is from George S. Brown, Esq., now of Boston, Mass., ex-M. P. P. for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and author of a valuable History of that country :
« I have read in the Montreal « Herald » the Introduction to your forthcoming Book on Acadian History. The subject is of much interest to me, for I have made a special study of it as well as of the Acadians themselves, who are numerous in Yarmouth County, where more than fifty years of my life have been passed.
« I see that you charge Parkman with partiality, if not with dishonesty, in dealing with your subject. You are right ; dishonesty seems to be the proper word, for he has evidently suppressed the truth when treating of the Acadian Expatriation of 1755. He has ignored, I am sorry to say, whatever tended to exhibit the deportation in its true light ; he has garbled historic records to suit his purposes ; he has explored every nook and corner to hunt up something disparaging to the Acadians, and he has taken no account of Haliburton, Andrew Brown, and other trustworthy writers.
« The Home Government not only did not aid or sanction the deportation, but they opposed it, as did also General Amherst, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in North America. I have become conversant with the main facts since my book was published, but I had glimpses of them all along. Casgrain lets in some light, but there is much more to be said in the same direction. For the mere sake of truth and justice, I am glad that you lead the way, and that you expose Parkman’s perversion of the facts of history, etc., etc. »
After reading Mr. Brown’s book (who by the way is a stranger to me), I wrote to him, saying, in substance, that his praise of Acadians seemed to me rather excessive. I here extract the following from his answer :
« In your letter you intimate that I might be held chargeable with undue partiality to the Acadians. I do not, and I stand ready to justify everything I have said of the Acadians of Yarmouth County with whom I have been long and intimately acquainted, and when I say that since the year 1761, when Yarmouth County was first settled by the English, there is not a case on record of an Acadian being charged with a capital crime, — that, though they number about 8,000, nearly one third of the population of the County, the occasions have been of the very rarest when the prison doors have been opened for an Acadian charged with an offence of even the most trivial nature, there is little danger of one’s saying too much in their praise. »
- Goldwin Smith : Canada and the Canadian Question, p. 56.