Francis Nicholson : biography

12 November 1655 - 16 March 1727

In the aftermath of the debacle Nicholson returned to London, taking four Indian chiefs with him, and petitioned Queen Anne for permission to lead a more limited expedition against Port Royal, the capital of French Acadia.Drake, pp. 254–255 The Queen granted the petition, and Nicholson was in charge of the forces that captured Port Royal on 2 October 1710. This battle marked the conquest of Acadia, and began permanent British control over the territory they called Nova Scotia.Drake, pp. 259–261 Nicholson published an account of the expedition in his 1711 Journal of an Expedition for the Reduction of Port Royal.Nicholson The victorious Nicholson returned to England to petition Queen Anne for another expedition to capture the center of New France, Quebec. The resulting naval expedition was led by Admiral Hovenden Walker, and Nicholson led an associated land expedition that retraced the route he had taken in 1709 toward Lake Champlain. Many ships of Walker's fleet foundered on rocks near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, and the whole expedition was cancelled, much to Nicholson's anger; he was reported to tear off his wig and throw it to the ground when he heard the news.Parkman, pp. 170–171

Nova Scotia and South Carolina

Nicholson returned to London after the failed expedition, and began working to acquire for himself the governorship of Nova Scotia. After the 1710 victory, Samuel Vetch had become its governor, but his rule over the colony (where he only really controlled Port Royal itself) was somewhat ineffective.Plank, pp. 57–58 Vetch and the Tory ministry then in power disagreed on how to handle affairs, especially with respect to the resident French Catholic population,Plank, pp. 58–60 and Nicholson capitalized on these complaints. In a dispute marked by bitterness and sometimes extreme accusations (Vetch, for example, accused Nicholson of Jacobite sympathies),Plank, pp. 59–61 Nicholson was awarded the post in October 1712. His commission also included the governorship of Placentia, and authority as auditor of all colonial accounts. He only spent a few weeks in Port Royal in 1714, leaving most of the governance to lieutenant governor Thomas Caulfeild. These few weeks were marked by discord with the Acadians, who sought to capitalize on the change of governor to gain concessions Nicholson was not prepared to give. Nicholson also issued order restricting the interaction between the troops and the town, resulting in the further reduction of already-poor morale in the Port Royal garrison.Plank, pp. 61–62 He also cracked down on open trade between British colonial merchants and the French, requiring the licensing of any British merchant wanting to trade at French ports.Waller, p. 255

Nicholson spent most of his time as Nova Scotia governor in Boston, where he devoted a significant amount of time investigating Vetch's finances. Vetch interpreted Nicholson's hostile and intrusive examination of his affairs as a largely partisan attempt to smear him. He called Nicholson a "malicious madman" who would do anything that "fury, malice, and madness could inspire." Nicholson attempted to prevent Vetch from sailing for England where he might better defend himself, forcing Vetch to flee beyond Nicholson's reach to New London, Connecticut, in order to get a ship for England.Waller, p. 258 With the accession of George I to the throne and the change to a Whig ministry, Vetch succeeded in clearing his name and recovered his post from Nicholson, who was accused by Vetch and others of neglecting the province.

Nicholson next served as the first royal governor of South Carolina from 1721 to 1725. The colonists had rebelled against the rule of the proprietors, and Nicholson was appointed in response to their request for crown governance.Weir, pp. 101–104 The rebellion had been prompted by inadequate response by the proprietors to Indian threats, so Nicholson brought with him some British troops.Webb (1966), p. 547 He established a council composed primarily of supporters of the rebellion, and gave it significant latitude to control colonial affairs.Sirmans, p. 382 As he had in some of his other posts, he used enforcement of the Navigation Acts as a means to crack down on political opposition. He established local governments modeled on those he set up in Maryland and Virginia, including the 1722 incorporation of Charleston.Weir, p. 107 He expended both public money and his own to further both education and the Church of England,Weir, p. 106 and introduced ground-breaking judicial administration into the colony. He negotiated agreements and territorial boundaries with the Cherokee,Power, p. 62 and promoted trade, pursuing policies similar to those he had advocated while in Maryland and Virginia.Crane, p. 112 He introduced a commissioner of Indian affairs into the colonial government, a post that survived until the crown assumed the duties of managing Indian affairs in the 1750s.Crane, p. 200

Like other colonies, South Carolina suffered from chronic shortages of currency, and issued bills of credit to compensate. During Nicholson's administration this was done several times, but the inflationary consequences did not reach crisis proportions until after he left the colony.Weir, pp. 108–109 It did, however, anger merchant interests enough to raise complaints against him with the Board of Trade. Combined with long-running but false accusations by William Rhett and other supporters of the proprietors that Nicholson was improperly engaged in smuggling, he felt the need to return to England to defend himself against these charges. He returned to London in 1725,Weir, pp. 107,109 carrying with him Cherokee baskets that became part of the earliest collections in the British Museum.Hill, p. 58

Living octopus

Living octopus

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