Monday, September 05, 2005

Madawaska Acadians

Acadians in Maine, Louisiana renew bond.

September 5, 1755

Today is the 250th anniversary of the expulsion of the Acadians--Le Grand Derangement. On this day John Winslow addressed the men of Grand-Pre, locked in the church of St. Charles-des-Mines:
Gentlemen, - I have received from his Excellency, Governor Lawrence, the King's Commission which I have in my hand, and by whose orders you are conveyed 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 century have had more Indulgence Granted them than any of his Subjects in any part of his Dominions. What use you have made of them you yourself Best Know.

The Part of Duty I am now upon is what though Necessary is Very Disagreeable to my natural make and temper, as I Know it Must be Grievous to you who are of the Same Speciea.

But it is not my business to annimadvert, but to obey Such orders as I receive, and therefore without Hesitation Shall Deliver you his Majesty's orders and Instructions, Vist:

That your Land & Tennements, Cattle of all Kinds and Livestocks of all Sorts are forfeited to the Crown with all other your effects Savings your money and Household Goods, and you yourselves to be removed form this Province.

Thus it is Preremtorily his Majesty's orders That the whole French Inhabitants of these Districts be removed, and I am Through his Majesty's Goodness Directed to allow you Liberty to Carry of your money and Household Goods as Many as you Can without Discommoding 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 Family 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 and Direction of the Troops that I have the Honr. to Command.

It was the uprooting and attempt to destroy a people. They weren't a large people at the time--perhaps 10,000 or so were deported (fewer than the number of people on cots in the Astrodome today). But that doesn't matter. This was the result of a policy, created in Halifax and Boston, to systematically eradicate a population. From Grand-Pre, Piziquid, Cobequid, Annapolis Royal, Beaubassin, and other villages the exiles were marched, their homes in flame, their animals crying for them; families ripped apart; scattered to the winds.

Most of my ancestors were in the Beaubassin area, and fled to Ile-St-Jean (Prince Edward Island) or up the Peticodiac River to Mirimichi. Those on Ile-St-Jean were eventually rounded up. Some of those who fled north made it to Quebec; others, after starving through the winter, made their way south and were captured. Some were deported to France; some of these died on the way, the rest died in France of disease. Some were imprisoned in what is best described as a concentration camp at the former Ft. Beausejour.

But they survived. They returned to the Beaubassin area, to Cheticamp and to the Peticodiac. Some of their cousins went from France to Santo Domingo, and then, courtesy of the Spanish king, to La Louisiane. They survived all that the cruelty of man could devise, and flourished, and retained a sense of national identity.

The resilience of humanity to disaster--a good thing to remember today.