PORT ROYAL. Port Royal, Nova Scotia, at the site of present-day Annapolis Royal on the southeastern shore of the Annapolis Basin, was variously under the control of France and England throughout the seventeenth century. Pierre du Guast established the earliest settlement of Port Royal in 1605. Though alternately destroyed or taken by the British over the course of the seventeenth century, Port Royal remained the most important French outpost in Acadia, and became the seat of French government there in 1684. The town's strategic location made it desirable as a launch site for French attacks on British colonial soil. After several battles during which the region changed hands, Acadia was ceded to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht, and Port Royal was renamed Annapolis Royal. Once the British designated Halifax as the seat of their government in Acadia in 1749, Annapolis Royal lost both its strategic and governmental importance.
Port Royal enjoyed a renewed prominence in the eighteenth century, as a destination for some of the thousands of Loyalists who fled the United States in the wake of the American Revolution. Among those who settled in Nova Scotia were enslaved Africans who fought in the service of the British on the promise that they would gain their freedom. Thousands of freed slaves who were promised farms by the British journeyed north, only to confront bitter cold and near starvation. On receiving a petition describing the plight of the 102 freed black families in Annapolis Royal and 100 families in New Brunswick, the British Secretary of State ordered that, if the petition proved true, the province must either finally compensate the families or send them to Sierra Leone. In January of 1792, more than one thousand black Loyalists departed Nova Scotia, bound for Sierra Leone.
Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961.