French colonial territory in the New World including New England and Canada's Maritime Provinces
Acadia.—The precise location and extent of Acadia was a subject of constant dispute and consequent warfare between the French and English colonists of America for more than one hundred and fifty years. When Henry IV of France granted to the Sieur de Monts the territory of “La Cadie”, as it was called, it was “to cultivate, to cause to be peopled, and to search for gold and silver mines from the 46th to the 40th degree N. lat.” The Marquise de Guercheville, who purchased the claim from de Monts, fancied she owned from Florida to the St. Lawrence. Subsequently it was considered to be the present peninsula of Nova Scotia, and now is usually regarded as the small district on the south shore of the Bay of Fundy from Annapolis to the Basin of Minas. De Monts received his concession November 8, 1603. Claims had previously been laid to the territory by Cartier’s nephews; and de la Roche, Chauvin, and de Chastes had made attempts to found a colony there; but it had all resulted in nothing. De Monts was a Calvinist, but Henry enjoined on him to teach Catholicity to the tribe of Micmacs who inhabited those regions. With de Monts, on his journey out, were Champlain, who was averse to the settlement, as being too near the English; and also Pontgrave, the Baron of Poutrincourt. After wandering about the coast of Maine, and attempting a settlement on an island which they called Sainte Croix, they entered the harbor to which Champlain gave the name of Port Royal, now Annapolis. De Monts’ charter was revoked the following year, and, on withdrawing to France, he made over Port Royal and surroundings to Poutrincourt. The colony had great difficulty to maintain itself. Mme. de Guercheville attempted the work, but, disgusted with her ill-success, ordered La Saussaye, whom she sent over, to go somewhere else. Touching at Port Royal, he found its number of colonists very inconsiderable, and, taking the two Jesuit priests Biard and Masse, who “were there, he with some new settlers established the colony of St. Sauveur at what is now Bar Harbor in Maine. Hardly was the work begun when the notorious pirate Argal of Virginia descended upon it and carried off the priests and some others, intending to hang them in Virginia, bidding the rest to withdraw, as they were in what he declared to be English territory. Returning with three vessels he utterly destroyed the colony, and then sailing across to Port Royal destroyed it also. This was in 1613. Haliburton attributes this raid to the “indigestible malice” of Father Biard, but the testimony of Champlain to the contrary refutes this accusation. Poutrincourt returned to France and died in battle. His son, commonly known as Biencourt, remained with some associates, among whom was Charles de la Tour, subsequently famous in Acadian history, and lived with the Indians as coureurs de bois, waiting for better times.
As it was now considered by the English to be their territory beyond dispute, a grant of it was made in 1627 to Sir William Alexander, who, though he never established a colony there, gave the country the name, which it still retains, of Nova Scotia. Sir William also received other grants of the most extravagant extent elsewhere. Meantime, de la Tour’s father, Claude, who had left Acadia and turned traitor to his country, came over in a vessel furnished by England, having promised the government to induce his son to yield up the entire territory. This, however, the son refused to do. Both the de la Tours were Huguenots, though the younger is said to have later on become a Catholic. In virtue of the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, Acadia became French territory again in 1632, and Isaac de Razilly was sent over as Governor. Associated with him were his kinsman Charnisay, young de la Tour, and Denys, each controlling certain assigned portions of the country. On the death of Razilly in 1636, these three lieutenants began a fierce war for possession of the land, and later on a fourth claimant, in the person of Le Borgne, appeared, with the pretense that the territory of Charnisay had been mortgaged to him. The struggle was fought chiefly between de la Tour and Charnisay, both of whom treacherously appealed to the Puritans of Boston for assistance. This shameful strife ended in the English again entering into possession. Oliver Cromwell then ruled England, and de la Tour crossed the ocean and obtained a commission from the Protector to govern the colony, one of the stipulations being that no Catholics should be allowed to settle there. With him were associated two Englishmen, Crowne and Temple. In 1667 it was again restored to France by the treaty of Breda, and Grandfontaine, the new Governor, reported that there were only 400 souls in Acadia, more than three-fourths of whom lived in and around Port Royal; but it is probable that many had married Indians and were coureurs de bois. In 1687 the population had grown to 800. The census of 1714 gives 2,100; of 1737, 7,598; of 1747, about 12,500. After eighty years it had grown to 18,000, though there was little or no immigration. From 1671 the inhabitants began to attach themselves to the soil; agriculture was an almost universal occupation, and where the population was remote from Port Royal and unmolested it developed into a peaceful, prosperous, and moral people. But from the time of the treaty of Breda till 1712, Port Royal had been besieged no less than five times. In 1690 it was taken and sacked by Admiral Phips, Governor de Menneval and his garrison being carried off as prisoners to Boston; but as Phips was preoccupied with his projected expedition to Quebec, he took no steps to secure the fort and it soon fell into the hands of the French. This whole period of twenty years was one series of pillage, murder, and devastation. Finally a supreme effort was made to dislodge the French. Four expeditions were sent against Port Royal by the English, under Church, March, Wainwright, and Nicholson. On the French side were Subercase and de Saint-Castin. Nicholson finally entered Port Royal, October 12, 1710, after a siege of nineteen days. Since then it is known as Annapolis. Finally, by the treaty of Utrecht, April 13, 1713, all Acadia was ceded to England, The French inhabitants then determined to leave the country, and their kindred at Cape Breton and Prince Edward’s Island endeavored to have them migrate in their direction. This the English Governor opposed, although Queen Anne had commanded him to let them withdraw; but, as she died shortly afterwards, Nicholson had his way, and the Acadians took the oath of allegiance to King George, with the clause, however, that they should not be bound to take arms against the French or their Indian allies. In 1720, General Philipps, then Governor, ordered them to take the oath without reserve, or to withdraw inside of four months; whereupon they prepared to emigrate with their property, but were again prevented. Now began the plot to deport them. The purpose was not to permit them to go to Canada or elsewhere among the French, but to colonize them among the English, “in order to make them true Englishmen”, and get them to change their faith, as is evident from a letter of Craggs, the Secretary of State, to the Governor. The deportation was already settled for that spring, but it did not take place till long years afterwards. During forty years they refused to be cajoled or threatened into taking the complete oath of allegiance. They admitted only an oath of fealty, and were known as the “French Neutrals”. So loyal were they that, when in 1742 the French under Duvivier invaded Acadia, they gave him no assistance, continuing the same course of action during four successive years, even when the French troops under de Ramesay were at the walls of Annapolis, all of which is proved by State documents. In 1745-46 Governor Shirley did his utmost to make them apostatize, and proposed” to drive all Romish priests out of the Province and introduce English schools and French Protestant ministers”. In 1749 an oath without restriction was exacted by Cornwallis, but refused by the whole population, and in 1750 they asked again to quit the country. Finally, when the French made their last stand at Fort Beausejour, north of the Bay of Fundy, the Acadians gave them no assistance, except 300 who were forced under threat of death. Beausejour surrendered June 16, 1755. After the fall of Beausejour, which was due to the treachery of its French occupants, began the famous deportation of these peaceful peasants, who for forty years had been faithful to the English Government. It is the subject of Longfellow’s “Evangeline”. They were torn from their homes, in what Bancroft calls” the appalling cold of December”, and rudely thrust without money or provisions into the holds of ships; parents separated from their children, husbands from their wives, and cast everywhere along the coast from Massachusetts to Georgia, some wandering over to their compatriots in Louisiana, some to Guianas and the West Indies, and others reaching France. As to the number of victims, some writers put it as low as 8,000, others, who are very reliable, rating it at 18,000. The mortality attending this act of cruelty was very great, particularly among the children. All the farms, cattle, and houses were confiscated and handed over to the English colonists who took their place. After a while many of the Acadians wandered back to their old homes, and finally came in such numbers that on September 10, 1855, they celebrated in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward’s Island the centenary of their dispersion. According to Richard in his “Acadia” (II, 342), there are no fewer than 270,000 descendants of the Acadians living today; 130,000 in the Maritime Provinces, 100,000 in French Canada, and 40,000 in Louisiana.