The expulsion of the Acadians

During the French and Indian war, an event of great importance occurred, and one which has aroused more feeling than any other circumstance of the war. This was the removal of the French settlers from Acadia, and their dispersion through the English settlements. This event has been treated mainly from the stand-point of sentiment, the cruelty of the deportation strongly dwelt on, and the action of the English regarded as indefensible.

It was preceded by certain military events which need to be outlined. About the last of May, 1755, Colonel Monckton sailed from Boston, with three thousand troops, with the design of reducing the French settlements on the Bay of Fundy, which were considered as encroachments on the English province of Nova Scotia. This province, the Acadia of a former period, had been taken by the English in 1710, and was ceded to the English government by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The French, however, had steadily encroached upon the peninsula, and had strengthened themselves by forts on its New Brunswick border, from which a hostile influence disseminated itself through the French population of the peninsula. Monckton's expedition was successful in reducing these forts. A block-house on Chignecto Bay was first carried by assault, and then Fort Beausejour, a strong post on the neck of the peninsula, was invested, and taken after a four days' siege. Fort Gaspereau, on Green Bay, was next captured, after which the French abandoned their post on the St. John's River. As the hostility of the Acadians to British rule continued unabated, and as their presence endangered the security of the province, it was resolved to remove them and endeavor to replace them by settlers loyal to the British government.

The total number removed from Acadia in 1755 was some-what in excess of three thousand souls. Some of them were taken to Massachusetts, some to Pennsylvania, some to Virginia, some to Maryland, some to North and South Carolina, and some even to the British West Indies, Wherever they were taken they became for the time a public charge upon the colony, and were the occasion of much correspondence between the governments which were obliged to maintain them and that of Nova Scotia. Many of those who went to Georgia and South Carolina hired small vessels and set out to return to Acadia, and the governors of those colonies were very glad to facilitate their movements northward by giving them passes to voyage along their coasts. Several hundred of those who landed in Virginia were sent by the government of that colony to England, where they remained for seven years, finally taking the oath of allegiance, and many of them returning to Acadia. A number of these people went from Virginia to the French West Indies, where they died in large numbers. The great bulk of the Acadians, however, finally succeeded in returning to the land of their birth. Some got back in the course of a few months, others did not succeed in returning until many years had elapsed, yet they succeeded, nevertheless, and the ultimate loss of population by their enforced emigration in 1755 was much less than would be supposed.

The deportation of a whole people, against their consent, of which there are many cases in history, is necessarily attended with hardship and suffering which only the most extreme need can justify. It cannot fairly be said that this need existed in the case of the Acadians. Though some of them were actively hostile to the English, the bulk of the people were quiet, industrious, and inoffensive, and the extent of their crime was that they refused to take an oath that would oblige them to bear arms against their countrymen. The expulsion was one of those instances in which, it being difficult to distinguish between the sheep and the wolves, they are made to suffer together. The position of the English was an awkward one, and their action, though it occasioned much suffering and proved of no special utility, had much good argument in its favor.

The resistance of the Acadians continued for twelve years longer, and not till 1767 did any considerable number of them consent to take the oath of allegiance required, though the whole country had long been English. Many of them had emigrated to the French West Indies. Of these a considerable number returned, disgusted with the government of those islands, and fully ready to take the oath. Others, who were surrounded by English colonies, did likewise. Each family, on doing so, received a grant of land from the government, and soon there arose an eagerness to take the oath of allegiance to England equal to the former determination to resist it.

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