Acadian settlement began in present day Nova Scotia in 1605, with the establishment of Port Royal in the Annapolis Valley. By 1613, the colony was prospering. It was also at this time that the British first attacked Acadia. They razed and captured the village. Acadia was now in British possession.
In 1632, the British returned possession of Acadia to the French with the signing of the Treaty of St. Germain-en-laye. From then on there was a steady stream of French immigration to Acadia. But the North American continent, and the possession of Acadia, became part of the various treaties in Europe during the wars for European supremacy. As such possession of Acadia migrated between the French and English.
In 1713, with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, Acadia became a British possession and Acadians became British subjects. However, the French-English conflict in the region remained.
The British wanted the Acadians to swear allegiance to the Crown of England. Many Acadians refused and wanted to exclude themselves from any part in the French-English conflict. They did not want to take up arms against their native France and preferred to live peacefully on their farms. They were neutral. The British feared this neutrality.
The Justification Given for the Expulsion
Circular Letter from Govr. Lawrence to the Governors of the Other Colonies.
Hallifax in Nova Scotia, 11th of August, 1755
These Inhabitants were Permitted to Remain in Quiet Possession of their Lands, Upon Condition they Should take the Oath of Allegiance to the King within one year after the Treaty of Utrecht by which this Province was Ceded to Great Britain ; With this condition they have Ever Refused to Comply without having at the Same time from the Governor an Assurance in Writing that they Should not Be Called Upon to Bear Arms in the Defence of the Province And with this General Phillips Did Comply of which Step His Majetsy has Disapproved, And the Inhabitants Pretending Therefrom to be in a State of Neutrality between His Majesty and His enemies have Continnally Furnished the French and Indians with Intelligence, Quarters, Provisions and Assistance In Annoying the Governmente, and While one Part have Abetted the French Incroachments By their Treachery, the Other have Countananced them by Open Rebellion. And Three Hundred of them were Actually found in Armes in the French forte at Beausejour When it Surrendered.
Notwithstanding all their former Bad Behaviour as His Majesty was Pleased to Allow me to Extend Still further His Royall Grace to Such as would Return to their Duty, I Offered Such of them as had Not Ben Openly in Arms Againste us a Continuance of the Possession of their Lands If they would take the Oath of Allegiance Unqualified with Any Reservations whatso Ever, But this they have Most Audaciously as Well as Unanimously Refused, And if they would Presume to Do this when there is a Large Fleet of Ships of War in the Harbour And a Considerable Land Force in the Province, What Might Not wee Expecte from them When the Approaching Winter Deprives us of the Former, And When the Troops Which are only Hirede from New England Occasionally and for a Small Time Have Returned Home?
As by this Behaviour the Inhabitants Have forfeited all title to their Lands and any further favour from the Goverment ; I Called together His Mahjesty’s Council att which the Honourable Vice Admiral Boscaven & Rear Admiral Mostyn Asssisted to Consider By what Means We Could with the Greatest Security and effect rid Ourselves of a Set of People who would forever have Ben an Obstruction to the Intentions of Settling this Colony and that it was now from their Refussal of the Oath Absolutely incumbent Upon Us to Remove.
As to their Numbers Amount to Near Seven Thousand Persons. the Driveing them oft With Leave to Go Whither they Pleased, would have Doubtless Strengthened Canada, With so Considerable a Number of Inhabitants, and as they have no Cleared Land to Give them at Present, Such as Are Able to Bear Armes, Must have ben Immediately employed In Annoying this ande the Neighboring Colonies, to Prevent Such an Inconveniency, it was Judged a Necessary, and the Only Practible Measure to Divide them among the Colonies, where they May be of Some Use as Most of them Are Healthy Strong People, And as they Cannot easily collecte themselves together Again it will Be out of their Power to Do any Mischief, And they May Become Proffitable and it is Possible in time Faithful Subjects.
As this Step was Indispensibly Necessary To the Security of this Colony Upon whose Preservation from French Incrochments the Prosperity of North America its esteemed in a Great Measure Dependant. I have not the Least Reason to Doubt of your Excellency’s Concurrence And that will Receive the Inhabitants I now Send and Dispose of them in Such Manner as May Best Answer Our Designs in Preventing their Reunion.
As the Vessells employed in This Service are Upon Monthly Hire I beg the Favour of you to Expedite as Much as Possible their Discharge And that they May Be Furnished with a Certificate of the Time thereof Agreable to the Form Enclosed.
I am, Sir, Your Most Obedient and Most Humble Servant Chas. Lawrence
The Deporation Orders
On September 2, 1755, Acadians in Grand Pré were presented with the following order: These words were translated into French by Mr. Beauchamp (Isaac Deschamps) , a Swiss merchant.
To the Inhabitants of the district of Grand Pré, Mines, River Cannard, &c., as well ancient as young Men and Lades.
“Whereas His Excellency the Governour has Instructed us of his Last resolution Respecting the maters Proposd Lately to the Inhabitants, and as ordered us to Communicate the same to the Inhabitants in General in Person His Excellency be desierous that each of them Should be fully Satisfyed of His Majesty’s Intentions which he has also ordered us to Communicate to you Such as they have been given Him.
I therefore order and Strictly Injoyne, by these Pressence to all of the Inhabitant as well of the above named District as of all the other Districts. both old men & young men, as well as all the Lads of ten years of age to attend at the Church of Grand Pré on Fryday the 5th 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 Pretence whatsoever, on Pain of Forfitting Goods and Chattels on Default.
“Given at Grand Pré, Second of September in the 29th year of His Majesty’s reign A.D. 1755.
At the Church 418 men were read the following words delivered in French by an interpreter.
“Gentlemen, - I have received from His Excellency Governor Lawrance. The King’s Commission, which I have in my hand and by whose orders you are Convened together to Manifest to you His Majesty’s Final Resolution to the French Inhabitants of this his Province of Nova Scotia. who for almost half a Centry have had more Indulgence Granted them, then any of his Subjects in any part of his Dominions. what use you have made of them you your Self Best Know.
The Part of Duty I am now upon is what thoh Necessary is Very Disagreable to my natural make & Temper as I Know it Must be Grevous to you who are of the Same Specia.
But it is not my Business to annimedvert, but to obey Such orders as I receive and therefore, without Hesistation Shall Deliver you His Majesty’s orders and Instructions vizt.
That your Lands & Tenements, Cattle of all Kinds, and Live Stock of all Sortes, are Forfitted to the Crown with all other your Effects Saving your money and Household Goods and you your Selves to be removed from this his Province.
Thus it is Preremptorily His Majesty’s orders That the whole French Inhabitants of these Districts, be removed, and I am Throh his Majesty’s Goodness Directed to allow you Liberty to Carry of your money and Household Goods as Many as you Can, without Discomemoading the Vessels you Go in. I Shall do Every thing in my Power that all Those Goods be Secured to you and that you are Not Molested in Carrying of them of and also that whole Familys Shall go in the Same Vessel. and make this remove, which I am Sensable must give you a great Deal of Trouble as Easey as His Majesty’s Service will admit and hope that in what Ever part of the world you may Fall you may be Faithful Subjects, a Peasable & happy People.
I Must also Inform you That it is His Majesty’s Pleasure that you remain in Security, under the Inspection & Direction of the Troops that I have the Honr. to Command.”
At this point Winslow declared the Acadians the King’s prisoners. He also ordered the following:
All officers and Soldiers and Sea Men Employed in his Majesty’s Service as well as all his Subjects of what Denomination Soever, are herby Notifyed That all Cattle vizt Horsses, Horne Cattle, Sheep, goats, Hoggs, and Poultrey of Every Kinde. that was this Day Soposed to be Vested in the French Inhabitants of this Province are become Forfitted to his Majesty whose Property they now are and Every Person of what Denomination Soever is to take Care not to Hurt Kill or Distroy anything of any Kinde nor to Rob Orchards or Gardens or to make waste of anything Dead or alive in these Districts without Special order.
Longfellow’s poem, Évangéline tells the story of the Acadian expulsion and its consequences to a young Acadian woman, who lived in Grand Pré at the time of the deportation orders.
Note: All letters and orders are transcribed exactly as they appear in the Journal of John Winslow.