Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Acadian Diaspora of 1755

Painted by Claude Picard this painting depicts the men and boys who had been read the Deportation Order in English ~ a language they did not understand ~ and in which they had also been told they were prisoners. They were imprisoned in the Church of Grand-Pré for one month until the ships arrived to deport them. While imprisoned, British soldiers wrote down the names of the prisoners. Of this group 50 of the deported were LeBlanc family members. This painting hangs in the Church at Grand Pré.


"To the inhabitants of the district of Grand Pré, Minas, River Canard and places adjacent, as well ancients as young men and lads.
Whereas His Excellency the Governor has instructed us of his late resolution respecting the matter proposed to the inhabitants, and has ordered us to communicate the same in person, His Excellency being desirous that each of the should be satisfied of His Majesty's intentions, which he has also ordered us to communicate to you, as these presents, all of the inhabitants as well as of the above-named districts as of all the other districts, both old and young men, as well as the lads of ten years of age, to attend the church at Grand Pre, on Friday, the 5th. instant, at three in the afternoon, that we may impart to them what we are ordered to communicate to them, declaring that no excuse will be admitted on any pretense whatsoever, on pain of forfeiting goods and chattles, in default of real estate."

Given at Grand-Pre, 2nd September, 1755 John Winslow

With less than twenty-four hours notice the Acadians appeared at Grand Pré from all the villages of Minas. Four hundred and eighteen men entered the church to hear His Majesty's final resolution to the Acadians:

"Gentlemen, - I have received from his Excellency, Governor Lawrence, the King's Commission which I have in my hand, and by whose orders you are conveyed together, to Manifest to you His Majesty's final resolution to the French inhabitants of this his Province of Nova Scotia, who for almost half a century have had more Indulgence Granted them than any of his Subjects in any part of his Dominions. Whatuse you have made of them you yourself Best Know. The Part of Duty I am now upon is what though Necessary is Very Disagreeable to my natural make and temper, as I Know it Must be Grievous to you who are of the Same Species. But it is not my business to annimadvert, but to obey Such orders as I receive, and therefore without Hesitation Shall Deliver you his Majesty's orders and Instructions, Vist:-
"That your Land & Tennements, Cattle of all Kinds and Livestocks of all Sorts are forfeited to the Crown with all other your effects Savings your money and Household Goods, and you yourselves to be removed from
this Province.
"Thus it is Preremtorily his Majesty's orders That the whole French Inhabitants of these Districts be removed, and I am Through his Majesty's Goodness Directed to allow you Liberty to Carry of your money and Household Goods as Many as you Can without Discommoding the Vessels you Go in. I shall do Every thing in my Power that all those Goods be Secured to you and that you are not Molested in Carrying of them off, and also that whole Families Shall go in the Same Vessel, and make this remove, which I am Sensable must give you a great Deal of Trouble, as Easy as his Majesty's Sevice will admit, and hope that in what Ever part of the world you may Fall you may be Faithful Subjects, a reasonable & happy People.
"I Must also Inform you That it is His Majesty's Pleasure that you remain in Security under the Inspection & Direction of the Troops that I have the Honr. to Command."

They were then declared to be prisoners of the King.This was just the beginning of great suffering for the Acadians. The British would pursue and deport any and all Acadians they could find for the next 11 years. This was not a one time happening. Many of our ancestors died on the ships at sea and suffered great hardships in the lands to which they were exiled.

What Preceded the Deportation

For forty years, that is from 1700 to -1740, the Acadians pretty much ignored changes taking place in North America while the tensions were increasing between the French and the English as they battled for control of the continent. Even after the British conquest of Nova Scotia in 1710, the Acadians who had managed to remain neutral, pretty much went on with life as usual and with narry an interruption from the life they knew.
Between 1719 through 1730, the Acadians had taken oaths of loyalty to the British throne which had given them a verbal assurance of neutrality and included the promise not to have to bear arms against the French - their countrymen - and the Micmaw. Though likely supported and intervened by the French priests, the neutrality the Acadians adhered to was likely of their own doing. The British referred to the Acadians as the "Neutral French" or as "the Neutrals" and they were spoken of or referred to in this manner even in the American colonies. In 1755,this position of total neutrality in the face of great British adversaries who disliked them, and who would do anything to win the English view in this matter, would lead to the demise of the Acadians.
Within the next few years there was a significant change in the position of the Acadians. Because of their neutrality, neither the English nor the French now trusted the Acadians. The time came when the Acadians were faced with having to choose one side or the other.
During the 18th century, England legally excluded Roman Catholics from public office. The religion of the King of England was the religion that all English must follow and this religion was Anglican. According to Naomi Griffiths in The Contexts of Acadian History 1688-1784:
. . . the absorption of Nova Scotia with its Acadian population into the British empire posed, at first sight, no great or novel problems. London had already coped with people living at the end of long lines of communications and inclined to riot for their vision of political liberty, the other British North American colonies. However, the particular combination of the specific language and religious beliefs of the Acadians with the political geography of the colony was about to demand flexibility of mind and vision from its new administrators, for the Acadians were on the British imperial territory and linked to another power in that area by language and religion.
The British population grew between 1749 through 1755. This created quite a bit of tension for the Acadians. In fact, tensions ran so high on both sides that the English built one fort after another so as to counteract the French presence in Nova Scotia. It was an outward attempt to flex their muscles as the dominant and only landlord of this land! The English worked hard to outdo the French.
Because of its location, the English wanted Nova Scotia to be theirs. From here, the Acadians could easily connect with their French counterparts in Québec and the rich fishing banks were easily accessible. The Governor of Massachusetts, William Shirley, knew that this area was the only direct link to Québec by sea and it would also be the link to take the English ships from Massachusetts to the Louisbourg Fortress on Ile Royale/Cape Breton Island.

The Acadian exile would not end before 1763 when the Treaty of Paris was signed between England and France.

The above map was created based on research done by Geography Professor Robert LeBlanc who taught at the University of New Hampshire.  It shows the migration patterns of the Acadians  beginning with their exile and after.  Robert's death was a great loss to the Acadian community when he died on September 11th while traveling to a conference in California.  He was on a plane that crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

 © Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
1998 - Present


Heather Rojo said...

Wow, we visited Grand Pre when we were in Nova Scotia and I wish I had known about this painting. I have ancestors who were resettled in that area in the Planter's movement following the diaspora of the Acadians. The little story about Robert LeBlanc was interesting, too. We had a dear friend who also died on Flight 11 on Sept. 11th. This post really made me feel emotional on several different different levels, Lucie.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi Heather,

Actually that is one of five painting that hang on the walls of the Memorial Church at Grnad-Pré.

9/11 is a terrible time for many. Our very good neighbor died on the first plane. His wife used to leave a candle lit on their front porch in hopes he would still be alive. I cried every time I saw that. She still has a difficult time dealing with it.

You will have to go back to Nova Scotia some time! The place of embarkation for the Acadians is where the monument marking the Planters is situated.