Friday, January 27, 2012

Key Figures In The Fall of Acadia - Part I


Louis XV was born February 15, 1710 and died May 10, 1774. He was king of France from 1715-74. He was born at the Palace of Versailles. Until the royal legal age of maturity at fourteen, his uncle, Philippe d'Orléans, acted as Regent. Cardinal Fleury, until his death in 1743, acted as the Chief Minister of France. 

The son of Louis, Duke of Burgundy and Marie-Adélaide of Savoy, and great-grandson of King Louis XIV, Louis was part of the Bourbon Dynasty. At age two, his father, mother and brother all died within one week, leaving him heir to the French throne. He was crowned King of France at the age of five in the Cathedral at Reims. 

His great-grandfather, Louis XIV, had left France in a financial mess, and in general decline. Louis XV worked hard but unsuccessfully to overcome the fiscal problems. At Versailles, the King and the nobility surrounding him showed signs of boredom that symbolized a monarchy in steady decline. 

At first he was known popularly as Louis XV, Le Bien-aimé (the well-beloved) after a near-death illness in Metz in 1744 when the entire country prayed for his recovery. However, his weak and ineffective rule was a contributing factor to the general decline which led to the French Revolution. Popular faith in the monarchy was shaken by the scandals of Louis' private life, and by the end of his life he had become the well-hated. In 1757 a would-be assassin entered Versailles and stabbed him in the side with a penknife.

In 1743, France entered the War of the Austrian Succession. During Louis' reign, Corsica and Lorraine were won, but a few years later, King Louis XV lost the huge colonial empire as a result of the Seven Years' War with Great Britain. The 1763 Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years' War was one of the most humiliating episodes of the French monarchy. France abandoned India, Canada, and the left bank of the Mississippi River. Although France still held New Orleans and lands to the west of the Mississippi, as well as Guadeloupe, it was this defeat and signing of the treaty that represented the first stage of a total abandonment of the New World. French prestige sank, its foreign policies a dismal failure.

King Louis XV died of smallpox at the Palace of Versailles. Because Louis XV's son the dauphin had died nine years earlier, Louis's grandson ascended to the throne as King Louis XVI. 

(he signed LeLoutre), priest, Spiritan, and missionary; b. 26 Sept. 1709 in the parish of Saint-Matthieu in Morlaix, France, son of Jean-Maurice Le Loutre Després and Catherine Huet; d. 30 Sept. 1772 in the parish of Saint-Léonard in Nantes, France. 

As soon as he had been ordained, he sailed for Acadia and in the autumn of that year appeared at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). Le Loutre was supposed to replace Abbé Claude de La Vernède de Saint-Poncy, the parish priest at Annapolis Royal (N.S.), whose relations with the British governor, Lawrence Armstrong*, had become strained [see Claude-Jean-Baptiste Chauvreulx*]. By the time he set foot on the American continent, however, the difficulties between Saint-Poncy and Armstrong had been ironed out and the governor had agreed that the parish priest should retain his post. Taking advantage of this situation, Pierre Maillard*, a missionary on Île Royale, wrote to the home authorities requesting that Le Loutre be allowed to replace Abbé de Saint-Vincent, a missionary to the Mi'kmacs, and make his residence at Shubenacadie, on the river of the same name, 12 leagues from Cobequid (near Truro, N.S.). 

On 22 Sept. 1738 Le Loutre left Île Royale for the Shubenacadie mission, an immense territory stretching from Cape Sable to Chedabucto Bay in the north and present-day Cumberland Strait in the west. Le Loutre was to minister to the Indians as well as to the French posts at Cobequid and Tatamagouche, where Abbé Jacques Girard would replace him in 1742, and he concerned himself indirectly with the Acadians on the east coast of Nova Scotia. He remained on cordial terms with the British authorities until 1744.
The Acadians had always been very obedient to the Catholic Church represented by these priests who ministered to them or the communities around them. They had always bent to the brimstone and fire preached to them. This attitude would be no different with LeLoutre who had a passion for what he did but who also lacked principals in his demands on both the Indian and Acadian communities. 

When the Acadians showed no inclination to be subjected to his demands, he would threaten them with Indian warfare telling them that he would send the Indians to bring peril to them and to their families even telling them they would watch their wives and children die at the hand of the Mi'kmaq right before their eyes as well as their lands wasted. At one point, there was even remonstrance toward LeLoutre from the then Bishop of Quebec. Unfortunately, Leloutre's passion to get his way knew no bounds. 

 He had no mercy for the Acadians of Beaubassin and Chignecto, when in 1755 he set fire to the church and demanded that the Acadians do the same to their homes, barns and properties - he enlisted the help of the Indians to make sure this would happen. With their properties burning behind them, the Acadians of Beaubassin crossed to the French site across the Missaguash and became refugees of the French fort of Beauséjour. They would know poverty and hunger. LeLoutre told the Acadians who were on the outside of the fort walls that they had to fight the British soldiers when they attacked - instead, they ran away as they had no inclination to go to war.

The British routed the incapable French officers and soldiers of the garrison. Thomas Pichon, commisary of stores, had been a traitor and ally of the British in helping to take down the fort. He had been carrying on secret correspondence with the commandant of Fort Lawrence, and informing him of all that was going on within the French fort. It as in part form this source that the designs of the French against the British were becoming known in Halifax and more expecially, the goings-ons of "Moses", the name by which Pichon referred to LeLoutre because he always carried on as if he had led the Acadians out of bondage as had Moses of the Bible.

Meanwhile, the Acadians yearned to return to their lands, take the oath and live in peace with the English. LeLoutre was so resolved that this should not happen that he told them "If you go, you will have neither priests nor sacraments, but will die like miserable wretches." Of course, the assertion was false. Priests and sacraments had never been denied them but he manipulated them with such threats.
Well once the British attacked the fort, where was LeLoutre? He had escaped and was well on his way to Quebec knowing full well that if caught the British might execute him.

Once in Quebec, he hoped to make his way to France but was captured by the British Le Loutre was taken prisoner, and despite the minister of Marine’s efforts he was not released until eight years later, on 30 Aug. 1763, after the signing of the treaty of Paris. He then went on to France and when the Acadians arrived there following repatriation, he did what he could to help them and did obtain for each a special gratuity of 600 livres. 

Historians are unanimous in recognizing the importance of Le Loutre’s activity in Acadia but differ in their assessment of the significance of his role as a missionary. Several, particularly those writing in English, have criticized him for having acted more as an agent of French policy than as a missionary, and they hold him largely responsible for the deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755, because in threatening them with reprisals if they signed the oath of loyalty, he condemned them to a forced exile. Before a judgement is made on Le Loutre’s career in Acadia, however, three important points must be considered: in the 18th century France claimed to be the defender of the Catholic faith; Acadia was populated with French Catholics governed by the Protestant British; missionaries were the only representatives of the French government among the Acadians tolerated by Great Britain. According to Le Loutre almost any means could be used to remove the Acadians, who were in danger spiritually, from British domination. He used the means at his disposal: arguments of a religious nature and the Indians. His method was debatable, but it was in keeping with the logic of his age, when in France as in England religion was at the service of the state.

He was probably excessively zealous, and his conduct was often questionable, but his sincere devotion to the cause of French Acadia cannot be doubted. He cannot be held responsible for the deportation of the Acadians. 

© Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
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Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography

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