New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Acadians: A Timeline up to the Start of the Expulsion in 1755

leave a comment »

From the blog at

The following is condensed and edited from Charles W. Collins’ The Acadians of Madawaska, Maine, Boston, 1902; although these particular events occurred well before the Madawaska story.

Many things are clear from this timeline, and one is that managing relationships between the Acadians and the French and the English and the Mi’kmaq and the Priests from Canada was difficult to the point of being unimaginable. Falling out of favour with any one of these powers could prove fatal for Acadians. That they were able to manage it as well as they did is astounding.

Building an Aboiteaux

From the West Hants Historical Society

The Acadians: A Timeline up to the Start of the Expulsion in 1755

Poutrincourt established himself at Port Royal in the early 1600’s, but this colony failed. Still, Acadia was the first French colony in North America, and was founded by Razilly and Charnisay who brought over sixty people from La Rochelle, Saintonge and Poitou between 1632 and 1638. From these, most modern Acadians derive their lineage and their names. Razilly’s colonists found the marshes reminiscent of the region of La Rochelle, and began that system of dykes which made the land famous for its fertility. Immigration from France dropped off and finally ceased entirely. Acadia was practically left to its own devices, and the isolated colony spread along the coast of the peninsula and shores of the Bay of Fundy and became a distinct people. The Acadians took as little part as possible in the conflicts between France and England. Living on the coast, they were exposed to attack and could hardly afford to invite hostility, even if so inclined. For all that, hardship and war wreaked havoc on their little settlements, and Grandfontaine’s census of 1671 gives hardly more than 400 inhabitants for all of Acadia. These, however, constituted the survival of the fittest, a solid and permanent group of people, well suited to become the parent stock of future generations. The Acadians differed in origin from the Canadians, and this difference was increased by the infrequent relation between the two. Canada was New France, but Acadia was a new land altogether. The original Acadians were a medley of fishermen, soldiers and adventurers of every sort, and it is not the least interesting thing about them that from this group evolved a strong, and eminently moral people. Their strength and enterprise may be gathered from the fact that they soon became self-supporting, while Canada ever leant on the mother country. The census of 1679 shows but 515 persons, but these were a nation. The census of 1686 shows 885, excluding servants and soldiers at Port Royal. The total was about 1,000. Between 1704 and 1707, three expeditions from Boston were fitted out to take Port Royal, but all failed, though the attacking parties were very numerous and the Acadians counting every soul had but 1,484 people. In 1710, the English came again with 3,400 men, and the garrison of 156 defenders capitulated after some days’ fighting. Then came the Treaty of Utrecht, definitely ceding Acadia to England. In the preceding attacks, Port Royal had been the objective, and the outlying settlements escaped invasion.

The population of the entire region amounted to less than 1,500 at the time of the Treaty of Utrecht. In 1737 the official census gives 7,598 in Mines, Beaubassin and Port Royal; the sparse settlements across the Bay not counted. This means that they had quadrupled in 30 years without immigration. The census of an English traveller who visited Acadia in 1748 or 1749, estimates them at 12,500, but emigration became so marked soon after this on account of the English occupancy that in 1754, notwithstanding the large birth rate, there were but 9,215 in the peninsula.

When Acadia was ceded to England, the treaty of Utrecht stipulated that: “the subjects of the said [French] King may have liberty to remove themselves within a year to any other place, as they shall think fit, with all their movable effects. But those who are willing to remain here, and to be subjects to the kingdom of Great Britain, are to enjoy the free exercise of their religion according to the usage of the Church of Rome as far as the laws of Great Britain do allow the same.” Queen Anne broadened these terms by also writing that the Acadians should “retain and enjoy their said lands and tenements without any molestation, as fully and freely as other our subjects do or may possess their lands or estates, or to sell the same, if they shall rather choose to remove elsewhere.” The treaty and Queen Anne’s letter were clear. The Acadians were to have the option of staying or going. If they chose to stay, they were to enjoy the freedom of religion. The time limit for decision was a year and, in any case, the Acadian lands were their own.

The Acadians did not depart during this year and in about July of 1713, they sent delegates to determine on what terms they could emigrate to French territory. The land that they might have got in French-controlled Cape Breton was poor, and therefore unacceptable. They still wanted to leave, however, if staying would require them to take an oath of allegiance. Land at Prince Edward Island was then considered and they prepared to go, but the lieutenant-governor, Vetch, disallowed this until the return of Nicholson who had captured Acadia in 1710. The bearers of the Queen’s letter arrived at about the same time as Nicholson, and he promised a one-year extension, but put off the actual moving date until he could refer it to the Queen — who died, in August, 1714.

The Acadians, expecting an emigration decision, did not sow their lands in the spring of 1715. In the meantime, they were refused permission to leave in English ships, while French ships were not allowed to enter the harbors. Some people built vessels of their own and wished to send to Louisbourg or Boston for rigging, but this was also refused by the Governor.

Correspondence revealed fears among the English that the departure of the Acadians would strengthen French Cape Breton and make it a well-stocked colony. Also, the garrison was wholly dependent on the French for provisions, and if the Acadians went away the handful of soldiers would be massacred by the Mi’kmaq. Governor Caulfield took office in 1715 and sent out agents to administer the oath of allegiance, but the Acadians refused, saying that they were awaiting the Nicholson decision.

Caulfield was replaced by Doucette in 1717, and he too urged the people to take the oath. The Acadians, despairing of a Nicholson decision, sent a statement that they wanted protection from the Mi’kmaq if required to take the oath, and that the only oath they were prepared to accept was to not take up arms against the King of France, England or their allies. This is the first appearance of the famous contention of neutrality. Doucette continued his efforts to exact the oath, but in vain. The Priests wouldn’t help, and the French Governor at Louisbourg reminded Doucette that he had created his own problems by not allowing the Acadians to build their own boats.

In 1720, Governor Phillips arrived and again ordered the Acadians to take the oath or leave the province within four months, without their effects. They accepted the terms, asking only an extension of time to gather the harvest. They wrote to the French Governor of Louisbourg asking for help, and he wrote to Phillips asking him to allow the Acadians to depart. The Acadians set to work to make an egress road from Annapolis to Mines, and Phillips became alarmed. He ordered the road building to stop and told them not to leave without permission, blaming the situation on the Priests.

On December 20, 1720, the Lords of Trade wrote to Phillips that the Acadians ought to be removed, but in the meantime to allow them freedom of religion. This is the first intimation of a deportation. A private letter written at this time by Craggs, Secretary of State to Phillips, tells the Governor “not to bother about justice or other baubles any more than Nicholson or Vetch did: these things will not advance our interests… Their departure (the Acadians) will doubtless increase the power of France: this must not be; they must eventually be transferred to some place where mingling with our subjects they will soon forget their language, their religion and remembrance of the past, and become true Englishmen. For the moment, we are too weak to undertake this deportation—encourage them with any hopes you choose—provided you obtain the desired end, which is to prevent their departure.” No further action was taken against the Acadians until the arrival of a new Governor, Armstrong, in 1725. Armstrong was a disagreeable man who began to act as if the country were in a state of war. The Acadians dreaded his coming, and some went away to Prince Edward Island and, fearing this, Armstrong proposed the oath as an alternative. The Acadians asked for the insertion of a clause about not bearing arms against the King of France; and Armstrong told the Lords of Trade that he inserted this in the margin of the French version; the English version being the official copy. He also told them that there was no danger of having to bear arms, for this was a privilege allowed only to Protestants. All that the Acadians had to do was to be obedient subjects.

Another of Armstrong’s envoys did the same thing and, in this fashion, the oath was given to one fourth of the people. Armstrong decided that the oath was not valid as far as the Government was concerned, but that, nevertheless, the Acadians were bound by the French version. The Lords of Trade were unhappy with his manoeuvering, and sent Phillips back to Acadia; and he, Phillips, succeeded in getting a lot more signatures on the basis of an oral promise not to call upon the Acadians to bear arms against the French.

Phillips retired to England in 1731, and the oath question fell into desuetude until the foundation of Halifax in 1749. This was a peaceful period, with the Acadians governing their own affairs and being left alone. The only cause of unhappiness was the Acadian land, which had been sub-divided as families increased and was overly crowded, while the Government refused new concessions. One reason for this was that the adjacent lands had been granted to proprietors in England.

Armstrong returned for a while, but was replaced by Mascarene in 1739. A lot of Mascarene’s efforts were in trying to keep the French Priests out of Acadian political affairs, while the land question went unaddressed. Then, war broke out between England and France, and Acadia was invaded four times by the French, who occupied Port Royal for a while.

Finally the French retired, and the fort at Annapolis was repaired, mostly by the Acadians who were very willing to do so. Mascerine wrote that the Acadians had not joined the enemy. Again, he wrote that to “the succor received from the Governor of Massachusetts and our French inhabitants refusing to take up arms against us, we owe our preservation.” Yet again he said that “the enemy brought near 2,000 men in arms … and used all means of cajoling them [the Acadians] and threatening them to take up arms … [but] they could not prevail upon above 20 to join them.” There were some very disaffected Acadians at Beaubassin, but they were in the minority. The number 20 tallies with the French reports; twelve of these were arrested when denounced by the Acadians for advising and assisting the French or not informing the English.

Shirley, the Governor of Massachusetts, devised a plan to plant Protestant colonists among the Acadians, taking away the lands and giving bribes to those who wouldn’t cooperate. This alarmed the Acadians as a scheme for their expulsion, and they consulted Mascarene. In August of 1746, Shirley had another plan to remove the Priests and to introduce Protestant English schools and French Protestant ministers. Shirley informed the Duke of Newcastle that the Acadians were alarmed, and that Admiral Knowles thought “that it will be necessary to drive all the Acadians out of Acadia.” After consideration, he stated that driving out the Acadians was would strengthen the enemy and was therefore a bad idea. Mascarene did not welcome Shirley’s interference.

The French attacked Grand Pré in February, 1747. The Acadians warned the English, but were unheeded. The French occupied Grand Pré and proclaimed that the Acadians there were now French subjects. Another proclamation said that the Acadians were released from their oath to the English by the Bishop of Quebec. The Acadians went to Mascarene with the proclamations and told him all about it. Peace was concluded in October, 1748, and things went back to the status quo.

Halifax was founded in 1749, with Edward Cornwallis as Governor. A few days later the Acadians sent delegates to give their respects to the Governor, who gave them an order to sign an unconditional oath. They asked for the clause about not taking up arms, but were refused. They were also refused permission to leave the country with their goods. Some weeks later the deputies asked that the Phillips’ oath might be renewed, and Cornwallis replied that the Phillips’ oath had no such reservation as they claimed. He told them they could either sign or leave without their effects. Memorials were written one after another, all amounting to nothing.

The years from 1748 to 1756 were difficult. Forces were sent to occupy Beaubassin, and Cornwallis proposed deferring the oath for a while before insisting upon it most strenuously. He was told not to exact the oath, however, but to treat the Acadians kindly and to dissuade them from leaving. He then told the Acadians to await further instructions and, in the meantime, to sow their crops. The Acadians, fearing that they would be expelled and that the crops would only be for English consumption, asked for some assurances, which were not forthcoming. Cornwallis’ insistence on signing the oath of allegiance was used as a pretext for increasing and aggressive actions by the French who set the Mi’kmaq against the Acadians at Beausejour, to burn their houses and to force them to take refuge on the French side of the line. The French Priest, Le Loutre, was scolded by the Bishop of Quebec for this provocation which could have brought English reprisals.

In 1752, a peace treaty was negotiated with the Mi’kmaq, but it was broken by the English. Cornwallis wanted to begin a war of extermination against the Mi’kmaq, but was prevented by the Lords of Trade. Other treaties were made and broken, while the Acadians waited for news about the threatened oath of allegiance. Hopson succeeded Cornwallis in 1752, and told the Lords of Trade that application of the oath would be difficult or impossible, and should be delayed. He said that the Acadians were so useful that it was impossible to replace them, and he ordered commanders to use kind measures with them and to treat them as they would English subjects. Hopson told the Lords of Trade in 1753 that the Acadians would submit unconditionally, were it not for their fear of the French and Mi’kmaq.

Hopson was replaced by Lawrence in 1753, and he reported that the Acadians were quiet but feared that the oath would be forced upon them. The matter of the overcrowded lands was also becoming intolerable. This letter perplexed the Lords of Trade, who warned Lawrence against any action likely to start an Acadian migration. On the other hand, he was told to try and work them into taking the oath of allegiance.

In August of 1754, Lawrence reported that the Acadians and the French were making disturbances at the urgings of the Priests. “…I would be very far from attempting such a step without Your Lordships’ approbation, yet I cannot help being of the opinion that it would be much better, if they refuse the oath, that they were away.” He had all sorts of accusations against the Acadians, including that some 300 of them had gone to Beausejour without permission. The Lords of Trade advised him to delay any action, but he told his commanders to not to bargain with the Acadians, but to simply take whatever they wanted, and to exercise military rule.

It was reported in early 1755 that three French men were making trouble among the Acadians, and Lawrence ordered that any illegal activity be severely punished. A French invasion was then anticipated and 200 New England troops were brought in. Beausejour was overrun and many Acadians were found to be armed. It was thought, however, that the French had forced to Acadians to participate in their trouble-making.

The Acadians at Mines were similarly disarmed in June of 1755, and they sent a petition to Lawrence protesting that they needed their arms for protection against the Mi’kmaq. Lawrence was angry with their imagined impudence, so they sent another more humble petition asking for a meeting. At that meeting, Lawrence insisted that they sign oaths of allegiance, which they refused. They were then sent away to reconsider their position and later recalled and jailed.

The Expulsion loomed. Starting in late June, Lawrence told the Lords of Trade and others that the Acadians would be removed. He was vague as to details, however, and as to where they would be sent. It was hinted that they might go to Canada, or to France. All of this rumor mongering was a cover for the carefully planned Expulsion as it eventually played out, and he hoped to set it into motion before the Lords had time to stop it.

To sum up their eventual fate, there were in Acadia, on the peninsula, the shores of the Bay of Fundy and Prince Edward Island at least 18,000 Acadians. About 6,500 were sent to different ports of the Atlantic colonies; 700 at one time or another took refuge in what is now New Brunswick; 500 or 600 remained in Nova Scotia with the Mi’kmaq; 1,500 were resent from the colonies to England; 4,000 were sent direct to Europe in 1758. Of this number, 600 died in England, 400 went down in shipwrecks, 900 died in passage; 1,500 perished in the colonies, and 4,500 disappeared without leaving much sign, of old age, misery and hardship. It is difficult to make this arithmetic meaningful, but it is a measure of the suffering that was experienced.

Written by johnwood1946

November 25, 2020 at 7:36 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: