The Expulsion of the Acadians

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The Great Acadian Upheaval

Also known as the Great Upheaval, the Acadian Expulsion was the forced relocation of the French population living along Canada’s east coast in the mid 18th Century.

The Acadian Expulsion occurred as the result of heightened tensions that had existed between English and French colonists since France had formally surrendered Acadia to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The expulsion of the Acadians also occurred as a result of increased tensions between the English and the French in the 1750s, just prior to the start of the French and Indian War. Nervous and distrustful of Acadian loyalties in the new British colony of Nova Scotia, the British colonial authorities demanded that the Acadians take a loyalty oath. Not willing to break one of the key tenets of their Catholic faith, loyalty to the Pope, the Acadians offered to take an oath of neutrality in response. In 1730, the Acadians became the Neutral French.

Before the Acadian Expulsion

In 1749, Governor Cornwallis again asked the Acadians to take a loyalty oath. The Acadians refused and Cornwallis took no action. His successor, Governor Hopson continued Cornwallis’s conciliatory policy towards the Acadians.

The Acadian Expulsion

When Charles Lawrence became Governor of Acadia, he chose to take a much stronger stance. After fighting broke out along the Ohio River, between the English and the French following the beginning of the French and Indian War, Lawrence asked the Acadians to accept a loyalty oath on British terms. When 300 Acadians were found at Fort Beausejour by the British in 1755, Lawrence offered them one last chance to swear their allegiance to England. When they refused, Lawrence had them rounded up and deported to various locations in the Thirteen Colonies, British North America, France and Britain.

The First Nations and the Acadian Expulsion

A number of Acadians escaped the deportations by hiding among the Mi’kmaq tribes that lived in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Mi’kmaqs would go on to have their own difficulties with the British colonial authorities. Aside from a small number of Mi’kmaqs of mixed descent, the Mi’kmaqs were not deported during the Acadian Expulsion. However, successive colonial governors delivered a series of proclamations issuing bounties to settlers and colonial rangers for the killing and scalping of Indians. The Mi’kmaqs who managed to evade the British provided critical assistance to Acadians seeking to escape the deportations. The British also passed laws forbidding the two groups to speak to each other or intermarry, but were rarely successful in keeping the two groups apart. By the time the Mi’kmaqs reached a lasting peace with the British in 1761, much of their land had been taken by the British.

During the Acadian Expulsion in 1755, roughly 7,000 Acadians were deported by the British. The Acadians were first held aboard prison ships for several weeks before being sent to their final destinations. Approximately 2,700 Acadians died during this time. Additionally, 1,000 Acadians are believed to have died as a result of displacement during the winter of 1755-56. British colonial records indicate that of the 23,000 Acadians living in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before the Acadian Expulsion, only 10,000 actually survived the deportation.

Not all of the Acadians were deported by the British, however. Many fled overland to settle in New France. Somes stayed on the east coast and attempted to establish an Acadian insurgency, which was led by Joseph Broussard. Others settled around what is now Fredericton, New Brunswick. These Acadians were displaced again in the 1770s by the American Revolution and eventually re-established themselves near what is now Edmunston, in 1785.

Many of the deported Acadians died of disease after their removal from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When a convoy of British ships carrying a group of Acadians to Philadelphia, arrived in Delaware, smallpox was found among the deportees. Many of the Acadians died, despite the efforts of local Quakers to care for them. A number of Acadians also died of smallpox following their arrival in New France. Several hundred Acadians also died in 1758 when the ship returning them to France sank in a storm.

The Legacy of the Acadian Expulsion

Following the deportations, the British burned a number of Acadian farms around the Bay of Fundy and gave others to English-speaking colonists. The most significant group of immigrants to arrive in Nova Scotia came from the Scottish Highlands, following the Highland clearances in the late 18th Century. Over time some Acadians began to return to eastern Canada, resulting the in the establishment of a few French towns such as Cheticamp, Nova Scotia.

Over the next several decades, the Acadians and their descendants established communities in New England, the Carolinas and Louisiana.

Today, Grand Pre Park in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, is a national memorial dedicated to the Acadian Deportation. In 2003, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson acknowledged the Acadian Expulsion on behalf of the British crown. In doing so, she also closed the longest court case in British history, begun in 1760 when a group of Acadians sued the British government over lost property and livestock.

Sources

Faragher, John Mack.A Greeat and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland, New York: W.W. Norton

Jobb, Dean (2005). The Acadians: A people’s story of exile and triumph, Mississauga (Ont.): John Wiley & Sons Canada,

Moody, Barry(1981). The Acadians, Toronto: Grolier.

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