The Grand Derangement

I often post stories about Canada, of all these articles this is one of the saddest. It is also one that most who live outside of Louisiana and Canada know the least about...

Today is the anniversary of the Grand Derangement, when the colonies of Great Britain by force drove out the population of Acadia and resettled them in New England, the west Indies and mostly in Louisiana.

The Acadians were forced to leave Acadia for three reasons:
Most Acadians refused to pledge allegiance to the King of England.
The English were worried about the very high birth rate among Acadians.
Getting rid of the French-speaking Acadians made room for more English speakers.

The Grand Dérangement is considered the most important event in "Cajun" and Acadian history.

Excerpt from Lives of Quiet Desperation by Gary M. Lavergne...

The French colonial experience in Louisiana from Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d' Iberville's founding of Biloxi in the late 1690s to the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1763, which ceded Louisiana to Spain and drove France out of North America, was not at all successful or pleasant. Like other French colonial possessions, Louisiana suffered from a lack of investment, a shortage of settlers, and neglect. It was not until shortly after the Spanish took administrative control of the Louisiana colony that any significant population increase took place. In 1784, Spanish Governor Don Bernardo de Galvez ordered a census of the colony. It was revealed that from 1766-1784 Louisiana's population had doubled to 27,500; New Orleans had grown to a city of about 5,000. The largest group of immigrants during this time period was the Acadian exiles.

"Acadia" was an early term for the maritime provinces of eastern Canada and the coastal region of northern Maine. It was established as a proprietary colony by Pierre Duguay, Sieur de Monts. One year earlier he had acquired a decade- long monopoly over the region's rich fur and fish assets. Initially, the colonization of the area was a near-disaster. In 1605, in a second attempt to colonize, de Monts transferred the colony to present-day Port Royal, Nova Scotia; it became the first permanent settlement in Acadia. By 1610 the colony consisted of only 25 men, but the foundations of a permanent settlement were laid. Crops were sown, land had been parceled out among the settlers, and the fur trade had been reestablished. But as Carl Brasseux documents in his landmark The Founding of New Acadia, the French hold on Acadia was tenuous at best. The lack of a firm political and financial commitment to colonization would characterize the French colonial experience in the New World. In 1613 Port Royal was demolished by an English privateer named Samuel Argall. In 1628 the French in Acadia had become so demoralized that they could not prevent the settling of Scottish Calvinists at Port Royal by Sir William Alexander, who had been granted proprietary rights by the King of England who named the area "Nova Scotia." During this period, the French held onto their claims by continuing their fur-trading operations. The restoration of French domination of the area occurred with the signing of the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye in 1632, and through the Company of New France, the French began to concentrate on securing Acadia as a stronghold. Vulnerable outposts were reinforced, the fur trade was expanded, and most importantly, immigration to Acadia was finally encouraged. In July, 1632 three hundred French settlers landed and after being organized into military units reoccupied Port Royal. Like Quebec, Acadia's strategic importance was geographic; it was mid-way between New England and Canada (Quebec). Like other French colonial possessions, Acadia suffered greatly from internal dissension and outright warfare among economic rivals. In the 1650s, while France was preoccupied with a European war, the British seized Acadia and held it for 16 years; by the late 1660s the French regained control. As the British threat loomed, and Acadia became a battleground among imperialist nations, internal dissension subsided and the Acadians began to close ranks. The insularity from other French influences and the necessity to guard against the ever-present British danger forged a French culture quite different from what was found in New Orleans, Quebec or Continental France. Numerous attempts by the British to make Acadians loyal subjects were met with obstinacy and derision, not so much because of the loyalty of the Acadians to the French Crown, Quebec, or their Catholic faith, but more so because of generations of absolute and unrelenting isolation. As Brasseaux states:

The role of geographic isolation in creating, molding, and nurturing early Acadian society cannot be overemphasized. Chronic isolation enhanced the impact of the frontier on the transplanted Frenchmen for it dictated not only the need for economic self- sufficiency, but also for a clannish, self-contained society, able and willing to carve a new life far from other European outposts in North America. Such independence was absolutely essential in the Acadian settlements whose lines of communication with the outside world were often tenuous at best.

Is it any wonder why the Quebecois wish to just speak French?

Dieu le Roy.
de Brantigny

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