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A refugee in the service of Empire: The life and lessons of Paul Mascarene

Un réfugié au service de l’Empire : la vie et l’expérience de Paul Mascarene
Owen Stanwood
p. 31-45

Résumés

La vie de Paul Mascarene démontre l’importance des diasporas religieuses dans la construction de l’État impérial britannique. Réfugié huguenot, Mascarene devint officier militaire en Nova Scotia et tenta de faire de l’empire une force au service du protestantisme international, allant jusqu’à essayer d’installer certains huguenots dans la colonie. Lorsque son plan échoua, il devint un ambassadeur de l’empire auprès des catholiques d’Acadie, s’appuyant sur son expérience française pour construire un empire protestant qui tolèrerait la diversité à un certain degré. Il ne parvint pas à sauver les Acadiens de l’expulsion, mais ouvrit la voie à de futurs dirigeants de l’empire.

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  • 1 The letters are in Houghton Library, Harvard University, Paul Mascarene Papers, MS Am 813.

1The correspondence between Paul Mascarene and Claude Vernade de Saint-Poncy is a strange artifact of the age of empire. Mascarene was an officer in the British Army serving on the imperial frontier of Nova Scotia. Saint-Poncy was a French priest ministering to Acadian Catholics in that same colony. For much of the 1730s the two men engaged in a heated but polite discussion of religion. It began when Saint-Poncy shared a book with Mascarene; a polemical takedown of Protestantism by the seventeenth-century cleric Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. Mascarene responded, somewhat surprisingly for a “simple soldier”, with a theological dissertation of his own. In more than seventy manuscript pages over the next half-decade he defended his own church, the Church of England, and the Reformation in general1.

2This unusual encounter between a priest and a soldier revealed much about the relationship between empire, nation, and diaspora in the eighteenth-century British world. Mascarene was a military man but perceived the empire at least in part as a religious entity, as an institution to defend the Protestant interest. At the same time, the very fact that he wrote to Saint-Poncy showed that he understood the empire was not only Protestant. He lived amidst the priest’s parishioners, Acadian Catholics, who still dominated Nova Scotia, and Mascarene knew that he needed to come to terms with Britain’s growing number of Catholic subjects. Thus, Mascarene embodied an empire that was Protestant in orientation and self-definition, but also increasingly diverse, including subjects from a number of national origins. These contending facts about the empire would cause numerous headaches over the course of the eighteenth century, as officials struggled to decide how much ethnic and religious diversity, they were willing to accept in their far-flung imperial possessions.

  • 2 I draw on the concept of a Huguenot nation in Susanne Lachenicht, « Huguenot immigrants and the for (...)
  • 3 There has been extensive scholarship on Huguenots in North America, but most of it has focused on c (...)

3The story becomes even more complicated when one realizes that Mascarene himself was not even British but French. Born in the same year that the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes made Protestantism illegal in France, he migrated to England as a teenager, and ended up, like many of his fellow Huguenot refugees, in the British Army. By 1710 he had moved to New England, where he participated in the conquest of French Acadia and then stayed in that colony, soon renamed Nova Scotia, for the next three decades. As an ethnic Frenchman in a British colony inhabited by other French people, Mascarene demonstrated the polyglot nature of that strange colony. Like all empires, the British incorporated people from a variety of nations – English people rubbed shoulders with Scots, Germans, Africans, and indigenous people. Moreover, members of the “Huguenot nation” or diaspora played a small but important role in this developing political world2. They formed communities around the British empire, but more to the point, they rose to positions of leadership in their adopted polity. Scholars have often noted the Huguenots’ ability to blend in and assimilate, and that was part of the secret to their success. Nonetheless, Mascarene’s story shows that Huguenots never stopped being Huguenots, and that their distinct status – members of the French nation and the French Protestant diaspora within a British empire – allowed some Huguenots to carve out particular positions for themselves in British American politics3.

  • 4 On the Protestant orientation of the empire after the Glorious Revolution see Owen Stanwood, The Em (...)

4Mascarene’s particular perspectives and talents helped shape the polity over the first decades of the eighteenth century. He and other Huguenots lived on the front lines of state formation, helping to define the character of the empire, especially on its peripheries. Their first critical role was as ambassadors for international Protestantism. Especially after the Glorious Revolution, British leaders were eager to promote themselves as global leaders of the Protestant interest, and indeed it was this self-conception that inspired them to open doors to Huguenot refugees in the first place, since Huguenots had gained a particular status as Protestant heroes. In return, Huguenots like Mascarene became key theorists of a Protestant, anti-popish vision of empire, in which Britain served as the secular power behind an expansion of the Reformation. We clearly see such motives in Mascarene’s mission in Nova Scotia, which was itself a former French colony dominated by Catholics4.

  • 5 On the cosmopolitan empire see Alison Games, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of (...)

5At the same time, however, Huguenots reinforced and furthered a more cosmopolitan orientation to the empire, even promoting, it seemed, the integration of non-Protestants. In this practice, Mascarene drew from long-standing French and British precedents. In spite of his militant Protestantism, he understood that on a practical level states and empires had to learn to live with diversity. The alternative, after all, was the kind of persecution favored by Louis XIV, which many Huguenots and Catholics alike understood to be morally wrong and economically destructive. Thus, Mascarene helped to build a British empire that was defined by a paradox. It served to promote the Protestant interest even as it increasingly came to accommodate Catholics. Members of diasporas, of course, were some of the most cosmopolitan characters in the early modern world; they maintained global networks and learned by necessity to work in a number of cultural contexts. Even when integrated into the political apparatus, Huguenots like Mascarene retained much of their cosmopolitan orientation, acting as agents for diversity and inclusion even in times and distrust and war. Such cosmopolitanism was never perfect or uncontested, but it did open new possibilities for minorities of all types5.

  • 6 Paul Mascarene « To my dear children » n.d., Massachusetts Historical Society, Mascarene Family Pap (...)

6Jean-Paul Mascarene came of age during an era of persecution. He was born in Castres, Upper Languedoc in late-1685, at the height of the drama that surrounded the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In a remarkable letter to his children that he wrote later in life, Mascarene described the fraught circumstances of his earliest years. His father Jean Mascarene had trained to be a minister before embarking on a career as a lawyer. He was one of those Protestants singled out by authorities for his obstinacy. Jean fled the dragonnades while Paul was still in the womb, leaving his wife Marguerite de Salavy alone with the occupying army. Later Jean spent several years in prison before Louis XIV allowed him to leave the country, first to Geneva and eventually to Utrecht, where he joined several family members and friends in the Refuge. Paul’s mother Marguerite, at least according to her son’s retrospective account, had a weaker will and abjured her faith. It is no mystery why she did so. She was only nineteen and a new mother, whose husband had fled the country. By officially embracing Catholicism she and her son could claim her departed husband’s considerable estate and live in comfortable circumstances6.

  • 7 Mascarene « To my dear children », MHS, Mascarene Family Papers. For a thorough analysis of the sim (...)

7These complicated origins meant that Paul Mascarene came of age in a family that was at least officially mixed between Protestants and Catholics. This familiarity with both sides of Europe’s great confessional divide would serve him well in his later career. His nominal Catholic mother proved uninterested in religion; she spent most of her time with the “Dancing [and] Plays” that occupied the attention of French provincial gentry. On the other hand, Paul’s account makes clear that new converts kept their old faith alive. Private Protestant prayers took place in the room farthest away from the street so as to avoid detection. Paul’s paternal grandmother, meanwhile, was Paul’s most dedicated teacher in religion, who also instilled “agreeable images” of the father he had never met and encouraged the boy to want to see him. Paul even rode his “hobby horse” on imaginary voyages to Utrecht to visit Jean and other family members in the Refuge7.

  • 8 Henry Mascarene to John Mascarene, 15 November 1763, MHS, Mascarene Family Papers.

8Within a few years Paul really did leave his comfortable home in Languedoc for the uncertainty of exile. Unfortunately, his biographical sketch did not include details of his departure, so it must be partly reconstructed from conjecture. He seems to have joined the migration that occurred in 1696-7 in the final months of the War of the League of Augsburg. French Protestants had lobbied hard to make the relaxation of persecution a condition of peace, but they had failed in that aim, as the eventual Treaty of Ryswick failed to mention their plight. As a result, some Huguenots within France finally gave up on their homeland, including the eleven-year-old Paul Mascarene, who was mostly under the guardianship of his grandmother and a paternal uncle. They arranged for Paul to live with their neighbors and friends the Rapin family in Geneva, who eventually sent him to Utrecht, where he arrived, tragically, just after his father’s death. He remained under the wing of the Rapins in the Netherlands, growing especially close with the famous historian Paul de Rapin Thoyras, who used his connections in England to secure his young friend a military commission. By sometime in the early-1700s Paul crossed the Channel to England and began what would be a half-century career in the military8.

  • 9 On Ligonier’s career see Rex Whitworth, Field Marshal Lord Ligonier: A Story of the British Army, 1 (...)

9As particular as Mascarene’s story seems, it was not an atypical one for young Huguenot men from the upper classes of society. In fact, his story was nearly replicated by one of his neighbors from Castres, Jean-Louis Ligonier, who became perhaps the most famous of the many Huguenots in the British military. Ligonier was 6 years old at the time of the Revocation, and as minor nobility the family was able to continue to practice their faith in private. Like Mascarene, Ligonier went into exile in 1697 and also obtained an English military commission. Moreover, the two men both found themselves in imperial borderlands where they had to work with Catholic subjects, members of foreign nations who now had to be integrated into an expansive empire. Ligonier served in Minorca, a recently conquered Mediterranean island where English officials had to deal with a population of recalcitrant Catalans. Mascarene, meanwhile, ended up in Nova Scotia, another territory that came into the empire during the War of the Spanish Succession. It is impossible to know if the two men’s superiors sent them to these marginal colonies on purpose, but in any case their upbringing in a Catholic country gave them particular aptitudes in dealing with the empire’s new subjects9.

  • 10 Monsegur’s proposal was spelled out in several documents; see Monsegur to Sunderland, n.d., British (...)

10Indeed, some Huguenots did try to promote themselves as particular agents for imperial expansion. One of the most fascinating examples comes from another man who was stationed in the northeastern borderlands, Michel de Monsegur. In 1707, just before the conquest of Nova Scotia, Monsegur proposed another bold plan, the capture of the French post of Plaisance in Newfoundland. Monsegur’s proposal was one that one he and his fellow Huguenot refugees could accomplish. He proposed outfitting a fleet of fluent French-speakers who would enter Plaisance under a French flag but present their English commission to the governor, Daniel de Subercase. Monsegur believed Subercase would join the cause, as he knew the governor came from a Huguenot family and was deeply distressed by Louis XIV’s religious policies. The taking of Newfoundland would so damage the French economy, Monsegur claimed, that it would pave the way for an invasion of France itself – where the English would be welcomed as liberators by the thousands of former Protestants in the Southwest and Southeast. Authorities in the Board of Trade chose not to endorse Monsegur’s plan, but it demonstrated two important arguments that circulated often in the early-1700s: first, that Huguenots had a particular strategic value; and second, that actions on the edges of the empire could influence geopolitics in Europe itself10.

  • 11 George Chalmers, A Collection of Treaties Between Great Britain and Other Powers, London, John Stoc (...)

11Paul Mascarene’s career in Nova Scotia involved some of the same spiritual geopolitics that appeared in Monsegur’s proposal. Nova Scotia was a peculiar kind of imperial borderland, one that must have had particular resonances for a Huguenot like Mascarene. The British obtained what had been known as French Acadia in 1710, in an expedition that Paul himself had joined. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht permanently gave most of the colony to Britain, but also provided particular conditions on the conquest. The Treaty guaranteed the rights of the colony’s previous French Catholic inhabitants, the Acadians, who could stay in the colony and enjoy all the privileges of English subjecthood, including “the free exercise of their religion, according to the usage of the Church of Rome, as far as the laws of Great Britain do allow the same11”.

  • 12 On the conquest see Maurice Basque et al., The Conquest of Acadia, 1710: Imperial, Colonial, and Ab (...)

12This curious and troubling clause became the central problem in Nova Scotia’s politics for the next half-century. For many ordinary people whether in England or British America, defeating Catholicism had been the primary objective of the two previous wars. The long-desired conquest of Acadia was a strike for true religion. Moreover, allowing the presence of Catholics in the heart of the British empire seemed to be a questionable strategic decision. From almost the time that military administrators entered the colony they began to suspect the Acadians of being a possible fifth column in the case of a new war between the crowns. After all, they retained close links with officials, priests, and fellow settlers in the still-French colonies of Canada and Cape Breton, and they also enjoyed close relations with the Mi’kmaq Indians, who proved less than enthusiastic about the English regime. Dealing with the “French Neutrals” in a way that preserved the peace and yet still honored the treaty became a key political problem12.

  • 13 Memorial To his Excy Francis Nicholson Esqr General & Commer in chief of her Majty’s Forces in Nova (...)

13Paul Mascarene became one of the most skilled interpreters of this problem. His viewpoint, moreover, reflected his Huguenot background in important respects. After the conquest Mascarene had wanted to settle in Boston. He married a prominent Bostonian and began to raise a family there, hoping eventually to find an imperial posting in the Massachusetts capital. Instead, he was forced to spend most of his time in Newfoundland and eventually Annapolis Royal, the tiny Acadian capital where he lived in a small garrison town surrounded by French-speaking farmers. One early report suggests why: as a highly ranked person of French nationality and British subjecthood, he was almost uniquely suited to navigating the thicket of Nova Scotian politics. In 1713, before the ink on the Treaty of Utrecht was dry, officials in the new colony picked the officer to go out and communicate to the Acadians, “as being the eldest Captain & the first on Command & besides having the advantage of the French Language”. He spoke their language, but such proximity to his erstwhile countrymen and women did not much appeal to Mascarene. In 1720 he issued a report on the Acadians and the question of allegiance that laid bare the problems of admitting Catholic subjects to an empire that was supposed to be Protestant13.

  • 14 Paul Mascarene, « Description of Nova Scotia », in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Publi (...)

14The report did not represent Nova Scotia’s French inhabitants positively. He described the Acadians as being “in general of the Romish persuasion” and “entirely wedded” to what he called “the French Interest”. He was particularly concerned with the role of “turbulent priests” sent by the Bishop of Quebec to minister to the Acadians, who “have that ascendance over that ignorant people, as to render themselves masters of all their actions, and to guide and direct them as they please in temporal as in spiritual affairs”. In this atmosphere there was little the British could do but counteract the deleterious influence of the Acadians by balancing them with other settlers. Some had already begun to suggest a radical solution: the transportation of all the Acadians beyond the colony, replacing them with good British migrants or at the very least other Protestants. Mascarene did not go quite that far, but he made clear that it would be far better if they were gone. He suggested requiring all Acadians to take an oath of allegiance. Those who refused would have to leave the colony, hopefully to be replaced by someone more faithful14.

  • 15 This was not a new approach but went back to the seventeenth century; see for example the treatment (...)

15It is difficult to separate Mascarene’s invective against the Acadians from dozens of other reports about French people in North America. In some ways he was reflecting the dominant ethos in an empire that was marked by extreme statements of antipopery. Nonetheless, his status as a refugee gave additional weight to his fairly boilerplate arguments about Catholic perfidy. His proposed solution to the problem indicated even more clearly his Huguenot orientation. If most everyone wanted to promote the settlement of industrious Protestants in Nova Scotia, Mascarene was one of the first to suggest that perhaps English settlers were not the most logical target. Instead, French Protestants could replace French Catholics in Nova Scotia and fully integrate the territory into the British empire15.

  • 16 Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, « Un refuge atlantique : les réfugiés huguenots et l’Atlantique anglo-améric (...)

16The idea was not a new one. During the 1680s, when Paul’s own father fled to Utrecht, some Huguenots and their patrons made plans for refugee settlements around the English and Dutch empires. These planned communities were partially acts of charity, but mostly done out of interest. The Huguenots needed land, and their imperial sponsors could give it to them in places that served a strategic purpose – whether it was a thinly settled colony like South Carolina or a strategic outpost like the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Moreover, these plans depended on the belief, promoted by Huguenots and non-Huguenots alike, that the refugees had particular talents and aptitudes that made them especially good subjects. They were Protestants, of course, and grateful subjects of the states that granted them protection. But they also retained talents that were peculiar to French people, and could be helpful on an imperial frontier. They could make things like silk, wine, olive oil, and salt; and they could communicate with French neighbors and native Americans who understood their language. This imperial purpose animated Huguenot settlements around the world in the late-1600s, when thousands of refugees scattered into what one scholar has called an “Atlantic Refuge16”.

  • 17 On LeMercier see Paula Wheeler Carlo, « Huguenot identity and Protestant unity in colonial Massachu (...)

17Mascarene attempted to bring back this vision of Huguenots as the chosen people of empire. His target seems to have been not his brethren back in France but refugees in Boston and New England. During the 1680s a substantial number of Huguenot refugees, perhaps as many as a thousand in number, settled in New England. After short-lived attempts to found communities in Rhode Island and Central Massachusetts, most ended up in Boston, where they maintained their own French Calvinist church. Mascarene seems not to have attended the church regularly – when in Boston he favored the Anglican King’s Chapel – but he did strike up an acquaintance with the French church’s minister Andrew LeMercier. Among other things, LeMercier was enthusiastic about settlement projects, and he began working with Mascarene to find Huguenots who might move to Nova Scotia and provide a counter to the Catholic Acadians17.

  • 18 Proposals for settling a colony of French Protestants in the Province of Nova Scotia, 28 September (...)

18They planned a new settlement in Nova Scotia that would be named New Caen after LeMercier’s Norman hometown. LeMercier authored a set of proposals to the Board of Trade in 1729, calling on the king’s resolve “to promote… the good of the Protestant religion”. They asked for the usual perks, including seven years exempt from taxation and transportation for those who wanted to come from London, but from the beginning LeMercier and Mascarene aimed especially at those Huguenots who lived in Boston itself, even advertising the colony in Boston newspapers. The design met approbation from Nova Scotia’s military governor as well as authorities in London, who sought foreign Protestants, whether French or German, as dependable migrants for a new colony that seemed to have great promise, especially in the naval stores industry, but had trouble attracting settlers. In this case the design seemed not to go anywhere. Presumably most Boston Huguenots had little desire to leave the relative comfort of that settled town for the uncertainty of a colonial frontier. Nonetheless, the fact that Mascarene promoted such a design indicated the ways in which he and other French Protestants used their connections within the diaspora to advance the settlement of the empire. The officer understood both that Huguenots could help the British empire and that the empire could help the refugees, giving them a permanent home where they could enjoy freedom of conscience and economic security. Mascarene’s connections to Huguenot diasporic networks, meanwhile, could provide a key to finally solve Nova Scotia’s population difficulties18.

  • 19 Board of Trade to the Duke of Bedford, 8 March 1750, TNA CO 218/3, p. 204.
  • 20 Antoine Court to Jacques Serces, 29-30 September 1752, in Frédéric Gardy (dir.), Correspondance de (...)

19Despite the failure of New Caen similar proposals for Huguenot colonies in Nova Scotia surfaced every few years. One representative scheme appeared in early 1750, when a group of Huguenots fled France and found refuge in the Channel Islands. Local officials wrote to the Board of Trade, asking for a suitable retreat for the refugees “most consistence with Oeconomy”. The Board responded by suggesting they settle in Nova Scotia, since “their Knowledge of the Language and other Circumstances, which will facilitate their Intercourse with His Majesty’s French Roman Catholick Subjects, will make them more useful Settlers than they would be in any other Province19”. The Board imagined the Huguenots as ambassadors to the Acadians, whose Frenchness would facilitate relations between the two groups while their Protestantism demonstrated their loyalty. In the end, it did not matter, because the refugees had no desire to move to Nova Scotia anyway. “The very name [of Nova Scotia] makes them tremble”, noted the Lausanne minister Antoine Court several years later. While a few Huguenots did end up in Halifax and Lunenberg, they never formed the settler class that Mascarene and others envisioned20.

  • 21 The Mediterranean origins of the empire are highlighted in Alison Games, The Web of Empire…, op. ci (...)

20Mascarene dreamed of a Protestant empire. He imagined the British Army as a shock force to advance true religion, whether in Europe or a periphery like Nova Scotia. And he saw his own people, the Huguenots, as important characters in that larger geopolitical and religious drama, chosen people of God who would work to expand the bounds of the state that protected them. In doing so, Mascarene placed himself in a storied Huguenot tradition that stretched back at least to the previous century, when refugee leaders had presented numerous petitions that lauded themselves as godly and productive migrants. But as the failure of New Caen demonstrated, that vision would not be easy to implement. As Mascarene continued in military service in the 1730s, Protestants settlers remained rare in Nova Scotia, and it became obvious that the Acadians were not going anywhere. As a result, the militant Protestant began to adjust his perception of both the imperial project and his Catholic neighbors. Alongside a desire to advance the Protestant interest appeared a gradual move toward pluralism and recognition of difference, a cognizance of the fact that an empire had to learn to live with difference. This was not a new position in the British empire; it extended back to its origins in Mediterranean and far eastern trading posts. But Huguenots like Mascarene were perfect adherents to this kind of empire, as they had experience as religious minorities. They had thought deeply about the relationship between faith and nation21.

  • 22 Mascarene to Desenclaves, 20 July 1741, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Public Docume (...)

21Over his career Mascarene’s position on the Acadians evolved. He largely abandoned the vitriol of the 1710s and 20s in favor of some kind of accommodation. He came to see that eliminating Catholicism in the colony was not practical, legal, or just – the Treaty of Utrecht guaranteed freedom of worship, after all, and the Catholic villagers were the only producers in the colony. Without them it would be an empty stretch of cold, rocky land, of even less value to the empire. At the same time, Mascarene wanted to make sure that Catholic priests and bishops did not overstretch their authority. He wanted to help create a Catholicism that was compatible with empire, one that ensured the Catholic church would not become an “imperium in imperio” that undermined British authority in the province22.

  • 23 Mascarene to St. Poncy, 20 February 1733/1734, Houghton Library, Mascarene Papers, f. 13.

22In pursuit of this end Mascarene developed relationships with priests, Acadian leaders, and even the distant bishop of Quebec. He aimed to secure these men as allies or at least partners while ensuring that none of them threatened his own authority. His correspondence with Saint-Poncy, which began as early as 1734, showed Mascarene practicing his rhetoric. When the priest began sending arguments against Protestantism, Mascarene felt compelled to answer. He was not a cleric, he averred, but being the only person in the colony whose language skills allowed him to communicate with the priest, he would do his best to defend Anglican Protestantism, point by doctrinal point. Near the end of their first letter he got to what was for many Anglicans the heart of the matter. In politics, Mascarene noted, the king had ultimate authority in matters both secular and ecclesiastical, “and he cannot and must not be subject to any foreign jurisdiction”. In terms of authority, the king was sovereign in all the places “that belong to him23”.

  • 24 Mascarene to St. Poncy, 22 April 1739, Houghton Library, Mascarene Papers, f. 35. Mascarene drew fr (...)

23Mascarene’s correspondence looks on its face like a classic Anglican retort to a Catholic argument. After all, his theology was solidly in the Church of England, in whose communion he hoped “to live and die”. In other parts of their correspondence, however, the soldier”s Huguenot roots appeared more clearly. Responding to an argument that Protestants were naturally less moral than Catholics, Mascarene raised the example of his own coreligionists, the “Protestants of France” who “were forced to leave their goods and their country, and to find refuge in foreign countries to avoid the persecution that would come to those who practiced their faith”. They did all of this despite the fact that laws protected their freedom of worship, but Louis XIV undid those laws and unleashed his dragoons on the people. Those who could not escape, Mascarene reminded the priest, “were thrown in prisons or convents, many among them were condemned to the galleys, to the gallows or the wheel, or tormented in a thousand other ways, all for the crime of not abjuring their faith”. With this passage Mascarene abruptly switched his tone from that of a stolid Anglican defender of the rights of the king to a Huguenot revealing the sufferings of his people. His larger point was to defend the morality of Protestants, many of whom held on to their principles in the face of great suffering24.

  • 25 Gédéon Flournois, Entretiens des voyageurs sur la mer, Cologne [Rotterdam], 1683. Carolyn Chappell (...)

24Mascarene’s religious argument with Saint-Poncy lasted over five years and filled nearly a hundred manuscript pages. On one hand it represented an effort by the soldier to demonstrate the truth of his own faith, and in that it looked like Huguenot arguments from the previous century, before the Revocation. The exchange resembled nothing so much as the fictional conversations in Gédéon Flournois’s Entretiens des voyageurs sur la mer, a work of Protestant propaganda from 1683 in which a diverse group of Europeans discussed religion on a ship from the Netherlands to Hamburg. The story predictably ended with the Reformed faith looking quite good and the Jesuits slinking off in disappointment, but it also spoke to the ability of people of different faiths to debate without violence. Indeed, seventeenth-century Huguenots had become experts in such disputation, since they spent most the century in such a weak position and had to constantly demonstrate their loyalty. The tables were now turned in Nova Scotia. The Huguenot-turned-Anglican held power and the priest was the tolerated one, but the structure of the exchange was very similar25. Nonetheless, it was the political argument that dominated Mascarene’s polemics. He was, after all, the defender of royal authority, and he essentially sought to do in Nova Scotia what he thought Louis XIV should have done in France. He would defend freedom of conscience since Protestants, he felt, were not natural persecutors. But he would do so in a way that preserved the king’s authority.

  • 26 Mascarene to Jean-Baptiste Desenclaves, 29 June 1741, and 20 July 1741, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), S (...)

25This balancing act came out in Mascarene’s correspondence with several other Acadian Catholics. While his long correspondence with Saint-Poncy is the most detailed example of what might be labeled interfaith dialogue, Mascarene had several other Catholic interlocutors. One of the most important was Jean-Baptiste Desenclaves, the parish priest in the capital of Annapolis Royal and thus Mascarene’s neighbor for many years. Their surviving correspondence contained none of the theological debates that characterized Mascarene’s letters with Saint-Poncy. Instead, it was all about politics. Early in 1741 Desenclaves wrote to Mascarene claiming that spiritual and temporal power could not be fully separated. It was a position that neither a Catholic nor an Anglican could fully dispute, but Mascarene did so, claiming that Nova Scotia’s priests used this pretense “to make themselves the Sovereign judges & arbitrators of all causes amongst the People”. In short, the priests were claiming to be political leaders in Acadian communities, and this could not stand. Mascarene made clear that he did not oppose the priests’ presence in the colony. He wished to avoid all controversy with them as long as they focused on their spiritual functions. “I am of that temper as not to wish ill to any person whose Persuasion differs with mine”, Mascarene concluded, “provided that Persuasion is not contrary to the rules of Society & Government26”.

  • 27 Mascarene to Bishop of Quebec, 2 December 1742, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Publi (...)

26Aside from Desenclaves, who seemed to adapt to Mascarene’s position, the soldier also took his argument directly to the bishop of Quebec. This was tricky, as the bishop was the one who appointed the “missionary priests” that Mascarene considered so dangerous. Under the normal administration of the Roman Catholic Church, there could be no priests without a bishop, but somehow Mascarene hoped to add another layer of power into the relationship, essentially giving the British king, represented by royal authorities in Nova Scotia, a veto over priestly appointments. He presented his case in a legalistic fashion, drawing from the critical clause in the Treaty of Utrecht, the one that granted freedom of worship “So far as the laws of Great Britain permit”. That meant that priests would be limited to normal spiritual functions – weekly masses, conducting marriages, and the like – but remain entirely separate from the political sphere. This was the only formula, in Mascarene’s view, under which Catholics could exist in a Protestant empire27.

  • 28 Mascarene to St. Poncy, 22 September 1740; Mascarene to Abraham Bourg, 4 July 1740; and Mascarene t (...)

27The culmination of the drama occurred just after Mascarene unexpectedly ascended to the highest leadership position in the colony in 1740 after the suicide of Lieutenant Governor Lawrence Armstrong. In order to give weight to his authority, Mascarene expelled two “missionary priests” who according to the government had exceeded their stations by exercising ecclesiastical authority and meddling in politics. One of the violators was none other than Father St. Poncy, who Mascarene instructed to leave the colony after he moved to a new parish without approval from the government, showing “an Intent of bringing trouble & Commotion in this Province”. The acting governor explained himself in several letters to Acadian leaders. His actions were not meant to infringe on the people’s religious liberties, he underscored, but only to preserve the king’s prerogatives. The trick, he wrote, was to keep the priests in “due decorum28”.

  • 29 Mascarene to Secretary of State, 1 December 1743, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Pub (...)

28Of course, the whole reason to discipline or remove priests was to preserve the allegiance of the Acadian people. This was the very task that Mascarene had considered almost hopeless in 1720, and he worried that the same situation had changed little in twenty years. “These Inhabitants cannot be depended upon for assistance in case of a Rupture with France”, he noted to the Secretary of State, after troublesome clerics had done so much to instill rebellious principles in the people. Nonetheless, Mascarene tried to convince the Acadians to be loyal by making an argument about subjecthood that essentially separated politics and religion. Catholic villagers could be British and Catholic simultaneously, the commander claimed, and indeed it was in their best interests to retain allegiance to a British monarch who guaranteed their privileges. “I have used the best means I could since I have had the administration of the affairs of this province especially by making them sensible of the advantage and ease they enjoy under the British Government, whereby to wean them from their old masters”, Mascarene noted. This strategy seemed to include a variety of compromises on both religious and political questions. The villagers would be free to practice their faith as long as it did not affect their loyalty, and their towns would continue to run most local affairs. Mascarene envisioned an empire that tolerated difference in the name of maintaining sovereignty29.

  • 30 Mascarene to the Deputies of Mines, Piziquid, and River Canard, 13 October 1744, in ibid., p. 137. (...)

29This vision received a profound test in 1743 when war returned to Nova Scotia. As Mascarene had repeatedly complained, the British garrisons were not large enough to resist a French invasion, and indeed French troops did occupy parts of the colony, including the Acadian heartland of Grand Pré. Some Acadians did rally to the French side as Mascarene had feared, but far more of them decided to stay neutral. Apparently the acting governor’s arguments had not fallen on deaf ears. When a French commander asked the Acadians for grain to support his soldiers, for instance, they demurred. “We live under a mild and tranquil government”, they wrote, “and we have all good reason to be faithful to it. We hope therefore, that you will have the goodness not to separate us from it; and that you will grant us the favour not to plunge us into utter misery.” After the invasion had been repulsed Mascarene lauded the people for their loyalty, noting “that the inhabitants in general have remained true to the allegiance which they owe to the King of Great Britain their legitimate Sovereign, notwithstanding the efforts which have been made to cause them to disregard it”. There were some troublemakers, of course, and the question of loyalty did not disappear after 1744. Still, Mascarene’s gambit proved that it was possible to build a Protestant empire that tolerated Catholic subjects30.

  • 31 Paul Mascarene to John Mascarene, 21 October 1752, MHS, Mascarene Family Papers. On his quest for b (...)

30The intrigues of the 1740s marked the apogee of Mascarene’s career. Soon he had retired to his home in Boston, and spent much of the last decade of his life trying to recover years of lost salaries. In 1752 he even enlisted his son John as an agent in this task on a trip to London. He instructed John to call at the houses of William Shirley and the earl of Halifax, two friends who could help make his case to the king. He also gave the names of fellow refugees who had been his neighbors on Dean Street in Soho, back when that neighborhood was dominated by French newcomers. Finally he recommended that his son visit his old acquaintance from Castres John Ligonier, now one of the most powerful men in the realm. “You must take Coach and wait on Him, in the morning about ten or sooner”, Paul wrote. “You must give Your name and add, Colonel Mascarene’s Son. You will soon find how Sir John is dispos’d. He can do a great deal if he pleases, I have reason to believe he will unless he has been prejudic’d by some malicious person.” Even forty years after they both escaped Languedoc, Mascarene hoped their common origins and membership in a greater Huguenot diaspora would help Mascarene get what he believed was due for years of imperial service. In the end, he received little, and died in 1760, just another minor officer who spent most of his life on an imperial frontier31.

  • 32 Literature on the Acadian migration is vast. See especially Christopher Hodson, The Acadian Diaspor (...)

31Nonetheless, the drama over the role of religious minorities in the empire continued well after Mascarene’s retirement. In 1756 Britain and France went to war again in what would become their decisive conflict in North America, the Seven Years’ War. Back in Nova Scotia, administrators and military officers tired of the conciliatory policies that Mascarene had worked so hard to implement. Instead, they returned to the position that the Acadians were not to be trusted, that they constituted a fifth column that would bring down the colony and deliver it to France. They decided on a dramatic solution, shipping 7,000 Acadians as forced migrants around the British empire, where they often lived in disgrace and destitution. The Grand Dérangement, as the Acadians’ descendants called it, was proof positive that the militant Protestant interpretation of the empire was not yet dead. With the Acadians gone, good New England farmers moved right on to their vacant farms, finally realizing the dream of a Protestant Nova Scotia32.

  • 33 On this later orientation of the empire see Philip Lawson, The Imperial Challenge: Quebec and Brita (...)

32And yet, that was not the whole story. The war ended in 1763 with successes that earlier generations of officers could have only imagined. The British captured all of North America to the Mississippi River, including the vast colony of New France, as well as several formerly French islands in the Caribbean. With all this new land came new subjects, including Native Americans and thousands of French Catholics who posed the same problems for administrators as the Acadians had for Mascarene. In the end, most of them chose toleration over persecution. Governors of the new colony of Quebec decided to work with priests and bishops, eventually issuing the Quebec Act that guaranteed freedom of worship to Canadian Catholics. Similar policies played out in the “neutral islands” of the Caribbean and even as far away as the Mediterranean and India. The empire was getting more diverse and only by managing that diversity could the British hope to rule. This was an insight that came easily to Huguenots, who had been ethnic minorities in the British state and religious ones in the French. They were not the only players in this drama, but as an unusually powerful group in the British empire they helped determine its future character33.

  • 34 Robins to Mr. Guigenon, 21 May 1763; Robins to Louison Petitpas, 10 June 1763; BL, Add. Mss 19071, (...)

33A fitting postscript to this story appears in a set of Paul Mascarene’s papers. Three years after his death, in the complicated postscript to the Seven Years’ War, a Huguenot named Jacques Robins proposed a new colony to the Board of Trade. It would be located in Miramichi, in the northern part of old Acadia now known as New Brunswick. Some of the settlers would be French Protestants, many of whom were considering leaving France in the wake of the Seven Years’ War. They would be joined, however, by the Acadians. Robins believed that since the war was over most of the departed Catholics would want to return to their homes, and he envisioned that these various French people, Protestant and Catholic, would form a harmonious British community on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Religion would not be a problem. Robins would promise the Acadians “the free exercise of their Religion” and even encouraged a former “missionary priest” from Acadia named abbé Manach to live in the community. Robins promised to live alongside Manach “as with my own brother” and to build a community together34.

  • 35 On the rejection of the proposal see Journals of the Board of Trade and Plantations, London, XII, 1 (...)

34It is unclear how this missive ended up in a collection of Mascarene’s papers. Perhaps Robins thought the old officer would be the perfect one to realize his eccentric dream. He was undoubtedly correct. In fact, Robins’s settlement combined two of Paul Mascarene’s treasured goals. It would provide a settlement for Huguenot refugees as well as loyal Acadian Catholics, two groups that the officer had worked to integrate into the British empire. Unfortunately for Robins, Mascarene had been dead for three years and he never read the proposal. The Board of Trade rejected it outright with little explanation. The two parts of Mascarene’s imperialism – the Protestant and the cosmopolitan – were difficult to combine into a single vision35.

35In the end, Mascarene’s story provides a useful illustration of the fraught relationship between nation, faith, and empire in the eighteenth-century world. Refugees like Mascarene never ceased to be part of the French nation, considered as an ethnic and cultural rather than a political label. They also remained firm Protestants, and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes produced great challenges to anyone hoping to reconcile the “French” and “Protestant” parts of their identity. Empire provided a way out of that conundrum. By its nature, the British empire had to be multinational, and the Huguenots tried to ensure that it remained welcoming of outsiders even as it adopted a Protestant orientation. In this way members of the Huguenot diaspora found a home in the empire. It was never a perfect refuge, to be sure, but men like Mascarene found a degree of comfort and influence that would have been unattainable in France and probably in Britain as well. Living on the edge of empire allowed Mascarene to adopt a complex identity as a French Protestant subject of the British king. In so doing, the Huguenots gestured toward a new kind of empire that remained Protestant while accepting diversity.

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Notes

1 The letters are in Houghton Library, Harvard University, Paul Mascarene Papers, MS Am 813.

2 I draw on the concept of a Huguenot nation in Susanne Lachenicht, « Huguenot immigrants and the formation of national identities, 1548-1787 », Historical Journal, L, 2007, n° 2, p. 309-331.

3 There has been extensive scholarship on Huguenots in North America, but most of it has focused on coherent Huguenot communities in the era just after the Revocation. See for instance Jon Butler, The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1983; Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, From New Babylon to Eden: The Huguenots and their Migration to Colonial South Carolina, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 2006. Mascarene himself was the subject of one dissertation, Barry Morris Moody, « A Just and Disinterested Man »: The Nova Scotia Career of Paul Mascarene, 1710-1752, Ph.D. dissertation, Queen’s University, 1976. See also Mark Peterson, The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630-1865, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2019, ch. 5.

4 On the Protestant orientation of the empire after the Glorious Revolution see Owen Stanwood, The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011; Katherine Carté Engel, « Connecting Protestants in Britain’s Transatlantic Empire », William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., LXXV, 2018, n° 1, p. 37-70; Carla Gardina Pestana, Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

5 On the cosmopolitan empire see Alison Games, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660, New York, Oxford University Press, 2009. On the political reasons states had for accepting refugees, see Susanne Lachenicht, « Refugees and refugee protection in the early modern period », Journal of Refugee Studies, XXX, 2017, n° 2, p. 261-281. On cosmopolitanism more generally see Susanne Lachenicht and Kristin Heinsohn (eds.), Diaspora Identities: Exile, Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in Past and Present, Frankfurt, Campus Verlag, 2009.

6 Paul Mascarene « To my dear children » n.d., Massachusetts Historical Society, Mascarene Family Papers. See also Charles W. Baird, History of the Huguenot Emigration to America, New York, 1885, p. 340-378.

7 Mascarene « To my dear children », MHS, Mascarene Family Papers. For a thorough analysis of the similar family dramas that often followed the Revocation see Carolyn Chappell Lougee, Facing the Revocation: Huguenot Families, Faith, and the King’s Will, New York, Oxford University Press, 2017.

8 Henry Mascarene to John Mascarene, 15 November 1763, MHS, Mascarene Family Papers.

9 On Ligonier’s career see Rex Whitworth, Field Marshal Lord Ligonier: A Story of the British Army, 1702-1770, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1958.

10 Monsegur’s proposal was spelled out in several documents; see Monsegur to Sunderland, n.d., British Library, Add. Mss. 61648, f. 9; « Mémoire de Michel de Monsegur a Sa Grandeur Mylord Sunderland sur l’entreprise du port de Plaisance », 14 February 1707, f. 11. See also Peter Jones, « Antoine de Guiscard, “Abbé de la Bourlie”, “Marquis de Guiscard” », The British Library Journal, VIII, 1982, p. 94-113.

11 George Chalmers, A Collection of Treaties Between Great Britain and Other Powers, London, John Stockdale, 1790, p. 382. On “spiritual geopolitics” see Susanne Lachenicht, Lauric Henneton, and Yann Lignereux, « Spiritual geopolitics in the early modern imperial age: An introduction », Itinerario, XL, 2016, n° 2, p. 181-187.

12 On the conquest see Maurice Basque et al., The Conquest of Acadia, 1710: Imperial, Colonial, and Aboriginal Constructions, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2016; Geoffrey Plank, An Unsettled Conquest: The British Campaign against the Peoples of Acadia, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 40-67.

13 Memorial To his Excy Francis Nicholson Esqr General & Commer in chief of her Majty’s Forces in Nova Scotia & Newfoundland &ca, 6 November 1713, BL, Add. Mss. 19070, f. 2.

14 Paul Mascarene, « Description of Nova Scotia », in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Public Documents of the Province of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Charles Annand, 1869, p. 39-43; Mascarene to [Board of Trade?], 17 February 1719/1720, BL, Add. Mss. 19070, f. 40.

15 This was not a new approach but went back to the seventeenth century; see for example the treatment of Charles de Rochefort in Susanne Lachenicht, « Histoires naturelles, récits, et géopolitique religieuse dans l’Atlantique français, xvie et xviie siècles », Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, LXIX, 2016, n° 4, p. 27-45.

16 Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, « Un refuge atlantique : les réfugiés huguenots et l’Atlantique anglo-américain », in Guy Martinière, Didier Poton, and François Souty (dir.), D’un rivage à l’autre : villes et protestantisme dans l’aire atlantique (xvie-xviie siècles), Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1999, p. 195-204; Owen Stanwood, « Between Eden and Empire: Huguenot refugees and the promise of new worlds », American Historical Review, CXVIII, 2013, n° 5, p. 1319-1344.

17 On LeMercier see Paula Wheeler Carlo, « Huguenot identity and Protestant unity in colonial Massachusetts: The Reverend André Le Mercier and the “Sociable Spirit” », Historical Journal of Massachusetts, XL, 2012, n° 1-2, p. 123-147. New England’s Huguenots are covered in Jon Butler, The Huguenots in America, op. cit., p. 71-143.

18 Proposals for settling a colony of French Protestants in the Province of Nova Scotia, 28 September 1729, The National Archives, CO 217/38, no. 227.

19 Board of Trade to the Duke of Bedford, 8 March 1750, TNA CO 218/3, p. 204.

20 Antoine Court to Jacques Serces, 29-30 September 1752, in Frédéric Gardy (dir.), Correspondance de Jacques Serces, Frome, Huguenot Society of London, 1952, p. 2-228. On the larger context of these settlements see Winthrop Pickard Bell, The « Foreign Protestants » and the Settlement of Nova Scotia: The History of a Piece of Arrested British Colonial Policy in the Eighteenth Century, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1961, p. 41-42, 212-214.

21 The Mediterranean origins of the empire are highlighted in Alison Games, The Web of Empire…, op. cit.

22 Mascarene to Desenclaves, 20 July 1741, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Public Documents…, op. cit, p. 112. On his change of heart see especially John Mack Faragher, A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland, New York, W.W. Norton, 2005, p. 209-243.

23 Mascarene to St. Poncy, 20 February 1733/1734, Houghton Library, Mascarene Papers, f. 13.

24 Mascarene to St. Poncy, 22 April 1739, Houghton Library, Mascarene Papers, f. 35. Mascarene drew from a long tradition of Huguenot argumentation; see especially Hubert Bost, Ces messieurs de la RPR. Histoire et écritures des huguenots, xviie-xviiie siècles, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2001.

25 Gédéon Flournois, Entretiens des voyageurs sur la mer, Cologne [Rotterdam], 1683. Carolyn Chappell Lougee discusses this Huguenot style of missionizing in the seventeenth century; see Facing the Revocation…, op. cit., p. 54-60.

26 Mascarene to Jean-Baptiste Desenclaves, 29 June 1741, and 20 July 1741, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Public Documents…, op. cit., p. 111-112.

27 Mascarene to Bishop of Quebec, 2 December 1742, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Public Documents…, op. cit., p. 122.

28 Mascarene to St. Poncy, 22 September 1740; Mascarene to Abraham Bourg, 4 July 1740; and Mascarene to Bergeau, 1740, in Archibald M. MacMechan (ed.), A Calendar of Two Letter-Books and one Commission-Book in the Possession of the Government of Nova Scotia, 1713-1741, Halifax, 1900, p. 246, 136 and 140.

29 Mascarene to Secretary of State, 1 December 1743, in Thomas B. Akins (ed.), Selections from the Public Documents…, op. cit., p. 129.

30 Mascarene to the Deputies of Mines, Piziquid, and River Canard, 13 October 1744, in ibid., p. 137. On the larger context of King George’s War see especially Geoffrey Plank, An Unsettled Conquest…, op. cit.

31 Paul Mascarene to John Mascarene, 21 October 1752, MHS, Mascarene Family Papers. On his quest for back salary see Memorial of Paul Mascarene, BL, Add. Mss. 19070, f. 55.

32 Literature on the Acadian migration is vast. See especially Christopher Hodson, The Acadian Diaspora: An Eighteenth-Century History, New York, Oxford University Press, 2012; and John Mack Faragher, A Great and Noble Scheme…, op. cit.

33 On this later orientation of the empire see Philip Lawson, The Imperial Challenge: Quebec and Britain in the Age of the American Revolution, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994; Hannah Weiss Muller, Subjects and Sovereign: Bonds of Belonging in the Eighteenth-Century British Empire, New York, Oxford University Press, 2017; Jessica Harland Jacobs, « Incorporating the King’s new subjects: Accommodation and Anti-Catholicism in the British Empire, 1763-1815 », Journal of Religious History, XXXIX, 2015, n° 2, p. 203-223.

34 Robins to Mr. Guigenon, 21 May 1763; Robins to Louison Petitpas, 10 June 1763; BL, Add. Mss 19071, f. 198-199.

35 On the rejection of the proposal see Journals of the Board of Trade and Plantations, London, XII, 1936, p. 202-204.

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Owen Stanwood, « A refugee in the service of Empire: The life and lessons of Paul Mascarene »Diasporas [En ligne], 34 | 2019, mis en ligne le 29 février 2020, consulté le 23 juin 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/diasporas/4097 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/diasporas.4097

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Owen Stanwood

Owen Stanwood est associate professor d’histoire au Boston College. Il est spécialiste d’histoire coloniale américaine, du monde atlantique et de l’histoire de l’expansion européenne et de l’impérialisme. Son premier livre, The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution, est paru aux University of Pennsylvania Press en 2011. Son deuxième ouvrage, The Global Refuge: Huguenots in an Age of Empire, paraîtra en 2020 aux Oxford University Press. Il a en outre publié de nombreux articles dans des revues de premier plan et a été titulaire de plusieurs bourses et positions prestigieuses, notamment en tant que professeur invité à la British Library (Eccles Visiting Professor of North American Studies) et comme Hans Kohn Member à l’Institute for Advanced Study à Princeton.

Owen Stanwood is an associate professor of history at Boston College, where he specializes in American colonial history, the Atlantic world, and the history of European expansion and imperialism. His first book, The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution, appeared from the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2011. His second, The Global Refuge: Huguenots in an Age of Empire, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2020. In addition to these books he has published articles in a number of prominent journals and held several prestigious fellowships, including serving as the Eccles Visiting Professor of North American Studies at the British Library and Hans Kohn Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

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