Local Histories

Siege of Malpeque

From the Summerside Journal-Pioneer

This is one of several historical articles published in the 12 October 1965 issue of the Summerside Journal-Pioneer. The issue celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Journal. I have reproduced this article maintaining the spelling and grammar of the original.

The Siege of Malpeque

Extracts from official papers regarding Siege of Malpeque, read by Major T. E. MacNutt on Sunday 6th September 1964, in Cabot Park, in connection with unveiling monument commemmorating families who arrived on ship Annabella, wrecked at Malpeque in 1770.

On 3rd July 1780 the first Militia Act was passed by the Island Legislature, which compelled all male inhabitants 16 to 60 to muster and train for home defence, which after all is one of the fundamental duties of citizenship.

After a few years the inhabitants chafed under this system and began to refuse to muster. Others said they would only muster if given free lands as was done in Nova Scotia.

The residents of Malpeque appear to have been the greatest offenders, and Major General Fanning, the Lieut. Governor, decided that the Militia law must be obeyed, and his first effort in this respect was against the people of Malpeque.

Before taking action he received the following report from Colonel Joseph Robinson, who commanded the Prince County Regiment, dated 25th August, 1797 from Prince Town.

"I formed the line of the General Muster, by placing George Blood at the east end, and Alexander Boyce at the west. I explained the nature of such a Muster to the body of men present. I then ordered them to fall into line by Companies, the oldest to the right facing northward. But they then retired from me about 200 yards, and there consulted with themselves except the officers and the men undernamed who fell into line.

  1. John Ramsay (called the Yankey)
  2. Edward Ramsay
  3. Archibald Campbell
  4. .....Linklighter
  5. .....Linklighter
  6. Donald Ramsay
  7. Malcolm Ramsay, Jr.
  8. Malcolm Ramsay, Sr.
  9. Donald Forbes
  10. George Blood (who formed the line being armed)
  11. Alex. Boyce
  12. John O'Neil
  13. James Stewart, Sr.

All the Officers took their stations.

The men at that distance as stated above, sent three men as commissioners, viz; Hugh Ross of Cascumpec, Alexander McArthur, and Propser Currie, A French man, who reported to me, if I would give them the same conditions with respect to lands, as the people in Nova Scotia, and keep them clear of taxes, they would obey the Militia Law; but not otherwise.

Previous to sending the above report Colonel Robinson had received the following information from his officers stationed at Prince Town. Woodside Sen'r said among the people, that as for him, he was too old to be under the Militia Law, but if he was a young man, he would be damned if he would come under any such law.

John Muflen, told Capt. McNutt that if they sent against them any force to oblige them to comply, they would "Belfast" them, and he would fix his Scythe on a Pole, etc.

The following is a very short quotation from a dispatch sent by Governor Fanning on the 30th of September 1797 to His Grace the Duke of Portland, London, concerning the incident.

"I immediately resolved on going to Prince Town in person, taking with me McAplin the Attorney - General, Mr. MacGowan the Deputy Secretary, the Sheriff of the Island and some other Civil and Peace Officers of Government, with intention that the three Commissioners or Delegates should be apprehended, and the rest made to pay their fines, as the most regular and eligible mode of enforcing obedience. I also reflected that if Military aid should become necessary, as was generally thought by the manner and tone of resistance, would be the case, to support the Civil authority, in taking up and securing the Delegates, and levying the fines incurred by the rest for disobedience of Orders when assembled, it might have the best effect on the Public opinion, and be the most prudent method to try the Loyalty and Principles of Independent Volunteer Militia Companies on this occasion. A Detachment of about 30 from some Independent Troops of Militia Light Horse immediately turned out as Volunteers on that service, with which and a Subaltern Command taken from His Majesty's Corps of Island St. John's Volunteers, I left Charlotte Town on the morning of the 5th instant accompanied by the Civil Officers of Government aforementioned and a number of the principal Gentlemen in and about Charlottte Town, and arrived at Prince Town, about forty miles, at six o'clock in the afternoon, without ever being heard of by the Inhabitants, and by the vigilance, and activity of the Party and measures pursued, the Delegates were apprehended and brought to Examination before the Magistrates, and two or three of the refractory Companies assembled and mustered the next day, who being astonished at the appearance of the unexpected force assembled in support of the Laws of the Island, declared that they had been led into error and been deceived in the meaning of the Law, and gave the strongest assurances not only of their sincere contrition for their past misconduct, but also of their ready and willing obedience in future to the Militia Laws. These early examples were followed by all the rest of the Companies of the Regiment as they came in and were mustered; and it apearing to myself and the Civil and Military Officers who attended me on this service, to whose Loyalty, activity and good conduct, as well as to the detachment of the Island St. John's Corps and Militia Volunteers, too much praise cannot be given, that these people had been misled by some secret Emissaries and unprincipled Advocates of mischief, and that their disobedience did not arise from any settled Principle of Disloyalty to the King or Disaffection to His Majesty's Government. I was induced after saying to them what I thought was proper on the occasion, to release the Prisoners and remit the Fines to the Delinquent Militia men, and I have scarcely ever been witness to such shouts of Loyalty and Gratitude as resounded from the whole body of the people present, and they have since acted and behaved with the utmost regularity and dutiful submission to the Laws.'

Mr. Alex Stewart of Lot 18 giving evidence before the Land Commissioners Court in 1860 said he was related to all the Land Proprietors of his name. In giving evidence against the Proprietors he stated that he could "state facts which would atonish you"."Among other things the siege of Malpeque was remarkable". Commissioner Joseph Howe replied "I have heard about the siege of Derry, etc., will you tell us about the siege of Malpeque"? Mr Stewart, then continued:- "Governor Fanning issued orders for a muster of Militia about the year 1802, which order was disregarded by the inhabitants of Malpeque. The Governor being indignant at their disobedience forthwith ordered a detachment of soldiers and others to accompany him to Malpeque. On his arrival there, not a man was to be found; all had fled to the woods. After remaining some days, and threatening what he would do, if he could not take them, the people not making their appearance, he had at last to pledge himself to do them no injury providing they would muster. They having been made acquainted with these promises, immediately came and mustered. The Governor, on being asked if they might dismiss, replied, that they might go to hell. When he returned to Charlottetown, he drew up a dispatch representing the whole Island as in a state of rebellion, and that he had besieged Malpeque, the principal stronghold of the rebels, and completely subdued them. He at the same time gave a list of the killed and wounded, accompanying it with a draft for no inconsiderable amount to defray the expenses of the siege. One of the officers, who was represented as being wounded, but merely got his trousers torn on his way thither, applied for, and received a pension."

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