Sunday, January 09, 2011

A History of Acadia - Part II

 In 1654, a force from Boston under the command of Major Sedgewick, took Port Royal and Fort La Tour while the boundary between Acadia and New England was being disputed. La Tour immediately shifted his allegiance to England. Acadia was restored to France in 1667 but it was 1670 before the representative of France took possession. This country now became a part of New France, a province of the mother country - governed directly from Paris. After all the sacrifices of time and money, the population of Acadia had now risen to about 400. Most of these inhabitants lived in Port Royal.

In 1675, it was from Port Royal that the first few Acadians left to settle land in Minas to what was the foundation and beginning history of Grand-Pré. In a mere few decades, this area of Acadia would become the breadbasket of the country.

Under the leadership of Grandfontaine, the population of the country doubled in sixteen years and during that time great agricultural innovations were made.

In 1689, France and England went to war again hardly missing a beat until 1713. Acadia was captured once more when the fort at Port Royal (now Annapolis) was unable to withstand the attack. Acadia was retaken in 1690. In 1710, a garrison of less than 300 men at Port Royal capitulated to a New England force and Acadia passed out of the hands of the French for the last time. Port Royal was renamed Annapolis Royal in honor of the British queen.


The Acadians are descendants of approximately 100 French families who settled along the shores of the Bay of Fundy, during the 17th century. Original settlements extended from Cape Sable Island to the Petitcodiac River Basin. A distinct Acadian culture gradually evolved. The Acadians fished and farmed valuable farmlands that they claimed from the bay by building dykes. A sense of community life and independence grew as they worked together to survive. By 1750, the population in Acadia exceeded 10,000.

An Acadian Farm
The artist of the above painting is unknown to me. The painting hangs in the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is of an Acadian Home at Belle-Isle. The Belle-Isle marsh was settled by 1679, and there may have been as many as 30 houses by 1750. the settlement was abandoned and destroyed in 1755 at the time of the Expulsion.

(A post card of this painting was purchased by me on my trip to Nova Scotia in 1998 - I purchased it at Fort Beauséjour. Produced by the Department of Education of the Nova Scotia Museum, it has been posted for educational purposes. Nothing is posted for profit.)

In 1755, fearing that the Acadians would support the French; the British government demanded that they sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to the Crown. Most refused, wishing to remain neutral. (In the future and throughout their exile to the Colonies, they would now be referred to as the French Neutrals.) The Deportation or Great Diaspora of the Acadians eventually resulted, as the governor of Acadia, Charles Lawrence used this as an excuse to rid the country of a people he believed to be a threat to England. He attempted to annihilate the world of all Acadians.

From 1755 to 1762, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 Acadians were deported to the New England Colonies, and to England where they would be imprisoned for years before being expatriated to France by the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The Acadians were finally allowed to return to Nova Scotia in 1764. However, the fertile lands that once were theirs were now occupied by other settlers. Since the British would not allow the Acadians to form large settlements, they gradually settled along the various remote coastal regions of the province such as Baie Ste-Marie.
Acadians signing the Oath by Nelson Surette
Permission was granted for use by the Acadian Ancestral Home


Of the several documents exchanged down the years between France and England concerning Acadia, the Treaty of Utrecht, signed July 11, 1713, is the most critical in its consequences. England is given full jurisdiction over what is now Nova Scotia, except for Isle-Royale (Cape Breton Island) and Isle-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island).
In June 1713, a letter from Queen Anne reassured the Acadians assuring them that they had nothing to fear under their new status. However, first they were asked to leave the territory but then they were allowed to remain and keep their property on condition that they sign an Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown. In essence, the oath was supposed to recognize their right of worship and neutrality in the event of war. During four decades they were sucessful in obtaining that these basic rights be met.
In 1714, Governor Vetch assigned Major Paul Mascarene, a Huguenot who became Lieutenant-Governor of the colony, arranges for the first election of four representatives among the Acadians. An imposing quantity of letters, requests, and petitions demonstrate a remarkable argumentative talent.
From 1720 on, British pressure increases. When George II is crowned king of England, the Acadian concerns and worries grows. They know the king's aversion to Catholics and they again echo their right to freedom of worship and political neutrality according to the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. The messengers are thrown in jail, and a revolt of the outraged population is avoided only when official assent to these conditions is brought forward. Robert Wroth, a young officer, is authorized to negotiate the signing of the Oath of Allegiance by the Acadians. Two years later, Governor Philipps is also said to have assured that the following conditions would be respected if the Oath were signed:
  • 1. Exemption from bearing arms as long as the Acadians remain subjects of the King of England.
  • 2. The right to leave the British territory at their own convenience and thereby be freed of their oath.

  • 3. Entire freedom of worship and the right to the ministration of Catholic priests.
  • The English version of the Oath, differs from the French version given to the Acadians to sign. Nowhere in the English version is it clearly stated that Acadians are assured protection of these rights.

    Tomorrow:  Part III - THE OATH

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


    Teena in Toronto said...

    I'm originally from Nova Scotia and it was interesting to read this post! Thanks!

    Happy blogoversary :)

    Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

    Thank you Teena. Your comment is greatly appreciated.