Reading log #4 Megan Mckinlay
The Acadian people were a population of European migrants who settled on the Eastern shores of Canada. They were a collection of farmers, fisherman, and hunters who identified themselves as an indigenous people. After struggling for the first century following their arrival, the Acadian people enjoyed decades of prosperity. Their settlements expanded, and their population grew rapidly. The British pushed for the Acadians to swear an unconditional oath, however the Acadian people wished to remain neutral in any conflict. Tensions rose over time, which resulted in the Acadian people being deported from their homeland.
The Acadian people had many key identity traits. They were mostly French immigrants with strong Catholic roots. The Acadians were a resourceful people; they were not only farmers, but hunters, fisherman, merchants and politicians as well. They prided themselves on their desire to stay neutral in conflicts resulting from European politics. In 1714 the Acadians “sought to obtain the right to swear an oath of allegiance to the English which would contain a provision that ‘they might not be obliged to carry arms.’” (1). The Acadians succeeded in swearing such an oath to the English in 1730, with the conditions of religious freedom, and no obligations to fight in the French-English conflict.
During 1713-1755 the Acadians lived a life of prosperity where they enjoyed luxuries unheard of in the 18th century. These 42 years became known by later generations as the “Golden Age” due to their lack of epidemics or war. The Acadians had lived on the same land for many generations, time which had been full of growth and expansion. The economy flourished, due largely in part to “their agricultural products in particular being sufficiently abundant to be exported both to Boston and to Louisbourg.” (2) Food was as plentiful as it was varied. There was a wide selection of meats and fish, both wild and domestic, along with fruits and vegetables. Their centres of settlement expanded to include not only the Atlantic coast, but also much of the surrounding area. The Acadians clung to their Catholic traditions, which provided a backbone to their daily life. Their faith provided them “a rich heritage for keeping holidays and an introduction to music and poetry.”(3)
Beginning in 1727 the Acadians signed many different oaths of loyalty to England. All oaths sworn contained verbal confirmation of the Acadians’ neutrality, but many of the oaths also contained written terms necessitating their neutrality in conflict. However, the English were not made aware of the conditions attached to the oaths, “and it only slowly came to the attention of the Lords of Trade that the Acadians had extracted conditions for their allegiance from the local officials.” (4)
In spring of 1755, 300 Acadian men took up arms in the French fort of Beausejour. Due to this action, the English decided that an unconditional oath of allegiance must be sworn by the Acadians, in order for them not to be exiled. When asked by the English to bear arms a very short time later, the Acadians refused, which led the Council of the colony to rule in favour of the deportation of all Acadian people. The deportation was regarded by the English not as a war action, rather as a decision stemming from 18th century politics. This action was felt very harshly by the Acadians; they were forcibly removed from their land, and because the deportation signified the falseness of the Acadian belief that “the colonial status of the territory did not mean complete subservience to a stronger power but adjustment to reasonable demands of that power.” (5)
- (1) Naomi Griffiths, “Acadian Identity: The Creation and Re-creation of
- Community,” Dalhousie Review 73: 3 (Fall 1993): 9
- (2) Ibid. 11
- (3) Ibid. 11
- (4) Ibid. 10
- (5) Ibid. 11