The Expulsion of Acadians
Le Grand Derangement
To know what it means to be Acadian or of Acadian descent you must first known Acadie. Acadie was the land first settled by French in the Canadian maritime provinces. These early French settlers called themselves Acadians after the land they had settled which they called Acadie or Acadia. Acadia was the Canadian maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the territory that lead all the way to the Kennebec River in Maine.
Acadians (also spelled Acadiens) are the first descendants of the French settlers in the maritime provinces of Canada who settled dating to the early seventeenth century. Acadia was the territory known today as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the land that leads all the way to the Kennebec River in Maine. These early French settlers made their living by farming, fishing, and by trade with the native Americans, in particular, the Miq’maq tribe.
The first territory of Acadia was Port Royal, settled in 1605. But the settlement, didn’t last long and was destroyed by the British military (in 1613) Why? Well, the British gave several reasons: the primary reason offered was that the Acadians refused to pledge an oath of allegiance to the British monarchy, which was true: the Acadians, being Catholic, did not wish to pledge to a Protestant kingdom. They insisted on neutrality.
For a time, the British accepted this, but as time passed, the “oath” became more a pressing issue. That said, it became clear that the conflict had little to do with religion/ faith and more to do with territory, trading, access of ports all of which really broke down to economic interest and power. There were many bloody battles between the English and the Acadians. Many Acadian battles were lead by Priests (such as Father Le Loutre’s Battle).
After the British had gained control over Acadia, several important things changed: mostly, the Acadians were put in the most difficult position of having to choose sides – something they never wished to do. It was put to them, Either pledge allegiance or oath to the British Crown or leave. Again, the Acadians pleaded neutrality, but as the British grew more restless, The French-Indian War was at work now. This time, the Acadians would be outed from their own lands, homes, their own settlements.
The British wanted access to ports over which the Acadians had control because these ports brought in good revenue. Initially, Acadia’s people were forced into a believing they had a choice. Ultimately, history bears out that they did not. It was (in brief), like this: the British (on numerous occasions) demanded that the Acadians pledge an oath to the British Crown. For the Acadians this presented several problems; First, they wanted to remain neutral – to continue to live their life, fish, trade, settle their lands, trade with the Indians (they had established a good accord with the Mi’qmaq tribe in particular). More, they did not wish to pledge an oath to a crown that was clearly Protestant when they were fiercely Roman Catholic. For this and other reasons, hundreds of Acadians felt compelled to leave the land they had settled – a sort of unwilling yet self imposed exile that was grossly unfair.
During Father Le Loutre’s War (1749-1755) (Father Le Loutre was an Acadian Priest), Beaubassin was destroyed as part of the Acadian Exodus from mainland Nova Scotia. Its residents resettled to the west side of the Missaquash River and headed for the protection of Fort Beauséjour which quickly prove to be no safe haven.
Fort Beauséjour was the site for the Battle of Fort Beauséjour – the final act in the long fight between Britain and France for control of Acadia. On June 4th, 1755, the British conquest of all of France’s North American territory began when a force of British regulars and New England militia attacked Fort Beauséjour from Fort Lawrence under command of Lt. Col. Robert Monckton. Acadian Father Le Loutre and Broussard mounted an unsuccessful defense but, by June 16, 1755, the British had control of the fort and had changed its name to Fort Cumberland. Father Le Loutre’s final act of defiance was to burn down the cathedral so that it would not fall into the hands of the British.