The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #81329   Message #1489079
Posted By: Rapparee
20-May-05 - 08:59 AM
Thread Name: BS: Independent Quebec
Subject: RE: BS: Independent Quebec
I think that the antipathy of those Canadians descended from the French predates the American Revolution.

The first European colony in Acadia was in 1604 by the French at a place they called Port Royal which, today, is Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. In 1621, James the First of England gave a grant to Sir William Alexander, of that great territory of Acadia. Between 1621 and 1713 Acadia changed hands several times between France and England. From 1713 on, Nova Scotia was claimed by England whereas Cape Breton Island (formerly Ile Royale) became part of Nova Scotia only in 1763 after it had been conquered by the British.

Nova Scotia and many towns in other parts of Acadia was the home of thousands of French ever since the first 1604 settlement. This was now their homeland, a land they had occupied for over 150 years and nearly 6 full generations by the 1750's. They were primarily fishermen and farmers. By the early 1700's, France was no longer interested in Canada. In 1713, King Louis XIV, who had ruined France through his interminable wars, placed one of his grandsons on the Spanish Throne (Philippe V) and, not to be hampered by the British in this task, he made concessions to them. One concession was ratified through the Treaty of Utrecht on April 16 of that year in which he ceded to England the French Colonies now known as New Foundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The thousands of French who lived there were essentially abandoned by their native country. The French Proviso in that treaty states that French vessels will be made available to all those who wish to be repatriated to France or to the French Colony of Quebec and may take all their money, goods, and other valuables with them and must do this between April 1713 and January 1715. The British Proviso states that those French Colonials who wish to remain on their lands must swear allegiance to the British Crown and become British citizens. They will remain free to practice their Roman Catholic Religion. If they refuse to swear allegiance to the King of England, they will be liable to have all their properties confiscated and be deported to other British Colonies on English vessels.

This Treaty hit the Acadians (Frenchmen all) like a bolt of lightning. They had no intentions of becoming British subjects; neither had any of them been consulted. They decided to stay put, holding on to their lands and properties, refusing to be repatriated or deported to Quebec. Thus, the Acadians became de facto rebels to both France and England.

From 1713 to 1755, intermittent wars were carried on in Europe between France and England. Officially, France had nothing to do with its former colony of Acadia, but secretly (and profitably) made effective use of the good offices of the Acadians for military services. The British learned about this and openly accused the Acadians, now British Subjects, of playing the odious role of informers and traitors.

In 1746, the Acadians were told to arm themselves because Louis XV of France was going to try to recapture Acadia from the British. France was on the verge of freeing them from the hated British oppressors, but was in vain due to the strength of British forces in the nearby Colonies (US). A final effort was made by France through the Governor General of Quebec to evacuate the Acadians to the Quebec areas before the British carry out their threat of deporting them to British-controlled areas. The Acadians did not think the danger so real or imminent, and they refused to budge. The Acadians sealed their own fate.


From 1713 to 1755, the Acadians lived under the despised rule of the British. The British did not understand the character of these Acadians and were led to believe that they could not be trusted since they were resistent to swearing an unqualified oath of allegiance to the British crown. Due to the centuries of conflict between France and England, the British believed their loyalties were to the French crown and, in case of conflict, would rally under the French flag and cause them problems. Although there were a few cases where this happened, the vast majority of the Acadians simply wanted to be left alone to raise their families, practice their faith, fish, hunt, and cultivate and improve their land. They had no desire to get involved in the politics and conflicts of the period. The Acadians, in a very true sense, became scapegoats who suffered much for actions committed by their arch-enemy in North America and other parts of the world in their centuries-old conflict for supremacy. The Acadians thus became easy victims of hardened and conscienceless statesmen. The British accused the entire Acadian people of inciting trouble with the Indians as far as Boston - an accusation with no substance nor proof. History would prove their suspicions of the Acadian people to be totally unfounded. But, it did not deter them from taking out their vengeance upon this innocent group of people....

The British "Final Solution" for the Acadians was deportation. It all started at 3 PM on September 5, 1755 at the Catholic Church in Grand Pre. Following the orders and plan of the Lieutenant General, Governor Lawrence, following the decree of the King of England, the British Council at Halifax unanimously decided to begin deporting the Acadians immediately to various British Colonies outside of Canada. The vessels needed for this were to be commandeered in the King's name. By this time, the Acadians numbered some 13,000 on the Acadian peninsula alone. More and more British troops had been arriving and the Acadians were accutely aware that big trouble was brewing.

A proclamation was issued accordingly to "all the inhabitants of the district of Grand Pre, Minas, River Canard, etc. ..... to attend the Church at Grand Pre on Friday the fifth instant, at three of the clock in the afternoon, that we may impart to them what we are ordered to communicate to them; declaring that no excuse will be admitted, on any pretense whatever, on pain of forfeiting goods and chattels, in default of real estate. - Given at Grand Pre 2d September, 1755."

That Friday, 418 of the residents presented themselves at the Church as ordered. Colonel John Winslow, having tricked them into this assembly, announced to them that they were to be immediately deported outside of the Province and that all their properties and goods with the exception of their cash monies and personal belongings were hereby confiscated by and to the benefit of the British Crown. Soldiers surrounded the church to prevent any escapes.

The news of this spread quickly and those who could escaped to the woods, but in vain. Their country was laid to waste. Deported from Grand Pre alone were 2,242 Acadians. The Acadians were lined up and driven to the tranport ships. Women and children were loaded on boats as fast as could be provided. As if to deprive the exiles of even the hope of return, the British burned to the ground 255 of their homes, 276 barns, 11 mills, and one church while the transport vessels were still in sight. Despite the promises of Colonel Winslow to keep families together, most families were seperated immediately - parents from their children, wives from their husbands, children from their siblings - many to never see each other again. The Acadians were placed under arrest and were loaded on the ships with no choice in the manner. They took only what they were wearing and what little monies they had on their person at the time. Some of the ships used as transports were not seaworthy. Consequently, two of the ships, the Violet and the Duke William, with two groups of 650 Acadians went to a watery grave in the icy mid-Atlantic on December 10 of that year. Only one lifeboat with 27 survivors lived to tell what happened. "I do not know," observes 19th century American historian George Bancroft, " if the annals of the human race keep the record of sorrows so wantonly inflicted, so bitter and so lasting as fell upon the French inhabitants of Acadia."

Certainly not one of Britain's proudest moments....