J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Arrival of the French Neutrals

This weekend the New England Historic Genealogical Society on Newbury Street in Boston will host a lecture on the deportation of French nationals from Acadia after the British conquered the region (for the second time) in 1755. Here are the particulars:

The Acadian Deportation
Saturday, December 8, 2007, 10:00 a.m.
Lucie LeBlanc Consentino, author and owner of the website the Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home, will speak about the forced deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia during the Great Diaspora between 1755 and 1763.
At its largest, the region of Acadia included parts of the Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island and what is now Maine. Over the 1700s, the British Empire sliced segments of that region from France: Nova Scotia (minus Cape Breton Island) in 1713, the fortress of Louisbourg in 1745 and again in 1755, and eventually all of French Canada in 1763.

For the first half of that century ethnic French families could remain in British territories by promising to remain neutral in the imperial wars. As late as the Massachusetts census of 1765, the tally sheets still had a column for “French neutrals.” I believe the men in that category weren’t expected to serve in the militia against invaders (who, most British colonists assumed, were going to be French anyway).

In 1755, with a global war about to start, the British colonial governors instituted a new policy toward the ethnic French: expulsion from the land around the fortress at Louisbourg. On 11 August, Gov. Charles Lawrence (shown above, courtesy of CyberAcadie.com) issued these orders:
That the Inhabitants may not have it in their power to return to this Province nor to join in strengthening the French of Canada in Louisbourg; it is resolved that they shall be dispersed among his Majesty’s Colonies upon the Continent of America.

For this purpose Transports are ordered to be sent from Boston to Annapolis to ship on board one thousand persons reckoning two persons to a ton, and for Chignecto, transports have been taken up here to carry off the Inhabitants of that place; and for those of the District around Mines Bason Transports are in from Boston. . . .

Upon the arrival of the vessels from Boston in the Bason of Annapolis as many of the Inhabitants of Annapolis District as can be collected by any means, particularly the heads of families and young men, are to be shipped on board of them at the above rate of two persons to a ton, or as near it as possible.
Boston was designated to receive two hundred or more Acadian deportees; eventually more than a thousand arrived in Massachusetts as British authorities widened their deportation orders. By the end of the Seven Years’ War, it is estimated, more than 10,000 French colonists had been moved out of Acadia. About a third went to France and a slightly larger number resettled in other parts of what is now Canada. Many of the deportees brought to Britain’s older Atlantic colonies eventually made their way to the territory of Louisiana.

The Acadian expulsion inspired Henry W. Longfellow’s 1847 poem Evangeline, which in turn helped inspire new ethnic pride among people of Acadian ancestry. In 1884 the Second Acadian National Convention, held on Prince Edward Island, adopted an Acadian flag based on the French tricolor—which the Acadians had never actually lived under.

1 comment:

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you for the information you have shared regarding the French Neutrals. The plight of the Acadians has often been lost in the annals of history often lost in the recesses of an archive. The search for those records is unending.

Every mention of the Acadians reminds the world that indeed they were here and survived the most unimaginable adversities. Their descendants are testimony to their spirit of tenacity and will to survive.


Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian Ancestral Home