October 03, 2014

Expulsion of the Acadians

Here's an early and little-known example of warfare against Indians. It may have been the first large-scale forced relocation in America, and a harbinger of things to come.

Expulsion of the AcadiansThe Expulsion of the Acadians, also known as the Great Upheaval, the Great Expulsion and Le Grand Dérangement, was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from the present day Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island—an area also known as Acadie. The Expulsion (1755–1764) occurred during the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War) and was part of the British military campaign against New France. The British first deported Acadians to the Thirteen Colonies, and after 1758 transported additional Acadians to Britain and France. In all, approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported.

After the British conquest of Acadia in 1710, the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht allowed the Acadians to keep their lands. Over the next forty-five years, however, the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During the same period, they also participated in various military operations against the British, and maintained supply lines to the French fortresses of Louisbourg and Fort Beauséjour. As a result, the British sought to eliminate any future military threat posed by the Acadians and to permanently cut the supply lines they provided to Louisbourg by removing them from the area.

Without making distinctions between the Acadians who had been neutral and those who had resisted the occupation of Acadia, the British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council ordered them to be expelled. In the first wave of the expulsion, Acadians were deported to other British colonies. During the second wave, they were deported to Britain and France, from where they migrated to Louisiana. Acadians fled initially to Francophone colonies such as Canada, the uncolonized northern part of Acadia, Isle Saint-Jean and Isle Royale. During the second wave of the expulsion, these Acadians were either imprisoned or deported.

Throughout the expulsion, Acadians and the Wabanaki Confederacy continued a guerrilla war against the British in response to British aggression which had been continuous since 1744 (see King Georges War and Father Le Loutre's War).

Along with the British achieving their military goals of defeating Louisbourg and weakening the Mi'kmaq and Acadian militias, the result of the Expulsion was the devastation of both a primarily civilian population and the economy of the region. Thousands of Acadians died in the expulsions, mainly from diseases and drowning when ships were lost.
Attempted genocide of the Acadian and Mi’kmaq Nations

By Daniel N. PaulMany Acadians went into hiding among the Mi’kmaq and remained with them until the British and French ended their hostilities in 1763. A group of several hundred were hidden by the Mi’kmaq in the area known today as Kejimkujik National Park. The Expulsion order was almost universal. Even individuals who had sworn allegiance to the British Crown and been promised the right to live peacefully in their ancestral homes were included. Professor Jeffery Plank, University of Cincinnati, states:Everyone involved understood the conflict to be a race war…. During the 1750s the politics of Nova Scotia centered on issues of national identity. At various times during the decade, the British engaged in combat with several different peoples who inhabited, or passed through, Nova Scotia: The Micmac, the French… and the Acadians… The British governors of Nova Scotia generally believed that they were surrounded by enemies, that the Acadians, the Micmac and the French would soon find a way to cooperate and overthrow British rule. One of the principle (sic) aims of British policy, therefore, was to keep these people separated, to isolate the Micmac, the Acadians, and the French. To achieve this goal of segregation, the colonial authorities adopted two draconian policies. In 1749 the governor began offering bounties for the scalps of Micmac men, women and children. The aim of this program was to eliminate the Micmac population on the peninsula of Nova Scotia, by death or forced emigration. In 1755 the British adopted a different but related strategy: it deported the Acadians, and relocated them in safer colonies to the west. Viewed in the abstract, these two programs, to pay for the deaths of the Micmac and to relocate and absorb the Acadians, represented very simple thinking. The colonial authorities who endorsed these programs placed the inhabitants of Nova Scotia into two categories, Europeans and savages, and treated them accordingly.In retrospect, I don’t believe that the Mi’kmaq and Acadians could have ever escaped their fate. The paranoia and racism harboured by the British would never have permitted it. Today, the Acadians have in hand a half-hearted apology from the Crown for the horrors committed against their ancestors. However, the Crown stubbornly refuses to apologize for the horrors committed against the Mi’kmaq by Governors Edward Cornwallis and Charles Lawrence. Cornwallis, as the record witnesses, attempted Genocide, yet he is still widely honoured. A blot on this society that no decent human being can ever defend.The Acadian Miracle
Acts of unbelievable cruelty to Acadians and Indians by the English CH. XXV

By Dudley LeBlanc
In the "Letters and Memoires on Cape Breton" (Pichon) we read:

"Towards the end of July 1749, when the news of the truce between the two Crowns had not yet reached New France, the Indians had taken some English prisoners on the Island of Newfoundland; but these prisoners, having informed them of the truce signed the previous year at Aix-la-Chapelle they believed them on their mere word, treated them as brothers, released them from bonds; but in spite of so much kind treatment, these perfidious guests massacred, during the night, twenty-five Indians, men and women."

Numerous acts of unbelievable cruelty to the Indians by the English are of record:

"Towards the end of the month of December 1754," says another document, "Mr. Gorham, commanding a detachment of the English troops found in a lonely place, near Annapolis, two huts of Micmac Indians. In these huts were five women and three children, two of the women being pregnant; but despite the feelings of humanity that such persons were likely to excite, the English not only plundered and burned these huts, but also massacred the five pregnant women and three children. It was even found that the pregnant women had been disembowelled."

"A certain Captain Lovewell," says Hannay, a pro-British historian, "emulous of Harmon’s fame as taker of scalps, and with the patriotism fired by the large bounty offered for this kind of article, gathered a band of volunteers and commenced scalp-hunting. They killed one Indian for whose scalp the company received 100 pounds. He started next year with forty men, surprised the Indians whose scalps netted 1000 pounds. In a subsequent fight he lost his own scalp, as did thirty-four of his men."
Comment:  If you ever wondered where Cajuns came from, here's the answer: They were expelled from Acadia.

I'm not sure if the Expulsion counts as genocide. The English were attacking several groups of people, not just one. And they deported their enemies with no evident thought of exterminating them completely.

Still, this incident shows the Europeans' desire to crush, kill, or destroy the opposition. They wanted it all for themselves, even though they had no right to the land and its resources.

Below:  St. John River Campaign: "A View of the Plundering and Burning of the City of Grimross" (1758). Watercolor by Thomas Davies.

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