The Conquest of New France

第37章

The Expulsion Of The Acadians

We have now to turn back over a number of years to see what has been happening in Acadia, that oldest and most easterly part of New France which in 1710 fell into British hands.Since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the Acadians had been nominally British subjects.But the Frenchman, hardly less than the Jew, is difficult of absorption by other racial types.We have already noted the natural aim of France to recover what she had lost and her use of the priests to hold the Acadians to her interests.The Acadians were secure in the free exercise of their religion.They had no secular leaders and few, if any, clergy of their own.They were led chiefly by priests, subjects of France, who, though working in British territory, owned no allegiance to Great Britain, and were directed by the Bishop of Quebec.

For forty years the question of the Acadians remained unsettled.

Under the Treaty of 1713 the Acadians might leave the country.If they remained a year they must become British subjects.When, however, in 1715, two years after the conclusion of the treaty, they were required to take the oath of allegiance to the new King, George I, they declared that they could not do so, since they were about to move to Cape Breton.When George II came to the throne in 1727, the oath was again demanded.Still, however, the Acadians were between two fires.Their Indian neighbors, influenced by the French, threatened them with massacre if they took the oath, while the British declared that they would forfeit their farms if they refused.The truth is that the British did not wish to press the alternative.To drive out the Acadians would be to strengthen the neighboring French colony of Cape Breton.To force on them the oath might even cause a rising which would overwhelm the few English in Nova Scotia.So the tradition, never formally accepted by the British, grew up that, while the Acadians owed obedience to George II, they would be neutral in case of war with France.A common name for them used by the British themselves was that of the Neutral French.In time of peace the Acadians could be left to themselves.When, however, war broke out between Britain and France the question of loyalty became acute.Such war there was in 1744.Without doubt, some Acadians then helped the French--but it was, as they protested, only under compulsion and, as far as they could, they seem to have refused to aid either side.The British muttered threats that subjects of their King who would not fight for him had no right to protection under British law.Even then feeling was so high that there was talk of driving the Acadians from their farms and setting them adrift; and these poor people trembled for their own fate when the British victors at Louisbourg in 1745 removed the French population to France.Assurances came from the British government, however, that there was no thought of molesting the Acadians.

With the order "As you were" the dominant thought of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, the highly organized and efficient champions of French policy took every step to ensure that in the next struggle the interests of France should prevail.Peace had no sooner been signed than Versailles was working in Nova Scotia on the old policy.The French priests taught that eternal perdition awaited the Catholic Acadians who should accept the demands of the heretic English.The Indians continued their savage threats.Blood is thicker than water and no doubt the natural sympathies of the Acadians were with the French.But the British were now formidable.For them the founding of Halifax in 1749 had made all the difference.They, too, had a menacing fortress at the door of the Acadians, and their tone grew sterner.As a result the Acadians were told that if, by October 15, 1749, they had not taken an unconditional oath of allegiance to George II, they should forfeit their rights and their property, the treasured farms on which they and their ancestors had toiled.The Acadians were in acute distress.If they yielded to the English, not only would their bodies be destroyed by the savage Micmac Indians, but their immortal souls, they feared, would be in danger.

The Abbe Le Loutre was the parish priest of the Acadian village of Beaubassin on Chignecto Bay and also missionary to the Micmac Indians, whose chief village lay in British territory not many miles from Halifax.British officials of the time denounced him as a determined fanatic who did not stop short of murder.As in most men, there was in Le Loutre a mingling of qualities.He was arrogant, domineering, and intent on his own plans.He hated the English and their heresy, and he preached to his people against them with frantic invective.He incited his Indians to bloodshed.

But he also knew pity.The custom of the Indians was to consider prisoners taken by them as their property, and on one occasion Le Loutre himself paid ransom to the Indians for thirty-seven English captives and returned them to Halifax.It is certain that the French government counted upon the influence of French priests to aid its political designs."My masters, God and the King" was a phrase of the Sulpician father Piquet working at this time on the St.Lawrence.Le Loutre could have echoed the words.

George Mckinnon Wrong

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