DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

CAULFEILD, THOMAS, soldier, lieutenant-governor at Annapolis Royal 1711–17; baptized on 26 March 1685 in England; d. 2 March 1716/17 (O.S.).

A member of an Oxfordshire family which settled in Ireland at the beginning of the 17th century, Thomas Caulfeild was a son of William, 2d Viscount Charlemont, and Anne, daughter of Dr James Margetson, archbishop of Armagh.

Caulfeild saw military service in Spain in 1702 and 1705, and in 1710 took part in the successful expedition against Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) led by Francis Nicholson. The following year he participated in the disastrous expedition against Quebec under Sir Hovenden Walker. While returning from Quebec, Brigadier-General John Hill appointed Caulfeild, “a gentleman that has served very well, to be deputy governour [at Annapolis Royal], which was absolutely necessary for keeping good order and discipline in the garrison.” Caulfeild was confirmed in this post on 16 Oct. 1712, when he was commissioned lieutenant-governor of the garrison, replacing Sir Charles Hobby. He was also made captain of an independent company of foot.

Caulfeild was in command in Nova Scotia from October 1711 to June 1712, during the absence of Governor Samuel Vetch. Although the inhabitants of the district of Annapolis had taken the oath of allegiance early in 1711, many of the Acadians outside that area were hostile, and the Indians had not come to terms. Caulfeild did his best to make his fort more defensible and to keep discipline in a garrison whose mutinous tendencies were aggravated by a shortage of clothing and bedding and by an impending lack of provisions. Governor Vetch returned to Annapolis Royal in June 1712, and remained there until the end of the summer of 1713. In October of that year Francis Nicholson who, unknown to Vetch, had been commissioned governor of Nova Scotia in October 1712, directed Caulfeild to take over the government from Vetch. Nicholson did not come to Nova Scotia until the summer of 1714, and then remained only a few months.

Meantime, on 5 Nov. 1713, Caulfeild summoned all the inhabitants of Annapolis and made known to them Queen Anne’s declaration concerning the continued occupancy of Acadia and Newfoundland by French subjects [see Nicholson]. He reported that the chief inhabitants seemed to be satisfied and willing to continue on their lands, which he thought would be of great service to the garrison. At first the French authorities endeavoured to induce the Acadians to migrate to Île Royale, where Louisbourg had been founded. With the permission of the local British officials, the French sent Captains Louis Denys* de La Ronde and Jacques d’Espiet de Pensens to Nova Scotia in August 1714 to visit the Acadian settlements and tell the Acadians what inducements they were prepared to offer them to move. A few Acadians did go to Île Royale and nearly all of them in the emotion of the moment signified their willingness to go to French territory. It was soon seen, however, that the Acadians were in general reluctant to leave their homes. Nicholson wrote from Boston on 20 Nov. 1714 to advise Caulfeild to do what he could to prevent French agents from coming into Nova Scotia and to keep a close watch on all proceedings, especially those in which the French missionaries were involved.

Learning of the accession of George I, Caulfeild proclaimed the new monarch at Annapolis Royal late in 1714. The oaths of allegiance were taken by the garrison and the English inhabitants. The French refused, but did sign a paper recognizing George I as the legitimate sovereign and certifying that they would never do anything contrary to his service while they remained there. As soon as the season permitted, Caulfeild sent French-speaking officers to the other Acadian settlements to proclaim George I. This was done early in 1715 by Thomas Button and Peter Capon, who found the Acadians unwilling to take the oath. The Indians on the Saint John River also refused, and declared that they no longer sold their furs at Annapolis Royal because of the exorbitant prices of merchandise there.

Caulfeild was rather critical of Nicholson. He thought that the governor had tried to stop the soldiers’ pay in England and ruin their credit in Boston, and that he was too rash in telling the soldiers and English inhabitants to have no contact with the French and in shutting the gates of the garrison against them, whereas their produce was required for subsistence. Nicholson was removed from his post in January 1714/15. Vetch succeeded to the governorship but never returned to Nova Scotia.

Caulfeild realized the importance of retaining the French inhabitants in Nova Scotia. He stated in a letter to the Board of Trade dated 1 Nov. 1715, that if the French remained they would be of great benefit to the colony, but that if they left they would strengthen the enemy. He also stressed the advantage to be derived from having some English inhabitants sent to Nova Scotia, especially industrious labourers, pitch and tar makers, carpenters, and smiths. To promote trade with the Indians and to encourage them to come to Annapolis Royal to sell furs and feathers, he recommended that a king’s magazine be established there.

During his term in office, Caulfeild faced the problem of settling disputes among the inhabitants. He did not think that he had authority to establish courts of judicature, so he sought instructions in the matter. He felt that he would be blameworthy if he took no notice of injustice, and was desirous of cultivating as good an understanding among the people as possible. Thus, pending instructions from London, he continued or revived the practice begun in the winter of 1710–11 of referring disputes among the Acadians to a court composed of officers and Acadians. Like Vetch, however, Caulfeild found himself hampered by a lack of direction from the British government. In addition, he went deeply into debt to procure needed provisions for the garrison, and bore this burden until his death.

Charles Bruce Fergusson

PRO, C.O. 217/1, ff.60–63, 83–84, 86–87, 135–36, 206, 291, 301, 315–19, 345, 359–60, 362, 368, 370, 384–85, 388, 390; 217/3, ff.31, 49–54, 60–61, 69, 84–85, 103. Coll. doc. inédits, Canada et Amérique (CF), I (1888), 110–13,155–71. N.S. Archives, II. N.S.Hist. Soc., Coll., I (1878), IV (1884). PRO, CSP, Col., 1711–12, 1712–14, 1714–15, 1716–17. J. B. and A. P. Burke, A genealogical and heraldic history of the peerage and baronetage, the Privy Council, knightage and companionage, ed. A. W. Thorpe (80th ed., London, 1921). Dalton, English army lists, IV, 261–62; V, 288–90; VI, 184, 190. Brebner, New Englands outpost. Dalton, George the Firsts army I, 222–40, 248, 313. Waller, Samuel Vetch. F.-J. Audet, “Governors, lieutenant-governors, and administrators of Nova Scotia, 1604–1932” (bound typescript in PANS, n.d.).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Charles Bruce Fergusson, “CAULFEILD, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 19, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/caulfeild_thomas_2E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/caulfeild_thomas_2E.html
Author of Article:   Charles Bruce Fergusson
Title of Article:   CAULFEILD, THOMAS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   May 19, 2024