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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Division of New France
1604 – 1713 Flag of Nova Scotia.svg
Flag of New Brunswick.svg
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svg
Location of Acadia
Acadia (1754)
Capital Port-Royal
 - Established 1604
 - British conquest 1713

Acadia (in the French language Acadie) was the name given to lands in a portion of the French colonial empire in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day New England, stretching as far south as Philadelphia. People living in Acadia, and sometimes former residents and their descendants, are called Acadians.

The actual specification by the French government for the territory refers to lands bordering the Atlantic coast, roughly between the 40th and 46th parallels. Later, the territory was divided into the British colonies which became Canadian provinces and American states.

Today, Acadia is used to refer to regions of North America that are historically associated with the lands, descendants, and/or culture of the former French region. It particularly refers to regions of The Maritimes with French roots, language, and culture, primarily in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, as well as in the American state of Maine.[1] It can also be used to refer to the Acadian diaspora in southern Louisiana, a region also referred to as Acadiana. In the abstract, Acadia refers to the existence of a French culture in any of these regions.



The origin of the designation Acadia is credited to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who on his sixteenth century map applied the ancient Greek name "Arcadia" to the entire Atlantic coast north of Virginia (note the inclusion of the 'r' of the original Greek name). "Arcadia" derives from the Arcadia district in Greece which since Classical antiquity had the extended meanings of "refuge" or "idyllic place". The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says: "Arcadia, the name Verrazzano gave to Maryland or Virginia 'on account of the beauty of the trees,' made its first cartographical appearance in the 1548 Gastaldo map and is the only name on that map to survive in Canadian usage. . . . In the 17th century Champlain fixed its present orthography, with the 'r' omitted, and Ganong has shown its gradual progress northwards, in a succession of maps, to its resting place in the Atlantic Provinces."


Port Royal circa 1609

Early European colonists, who would later become known as Acadians, were French subjects primarily from the Pleumartin to Poitiers in the Vienne département of west-central France. The first French settlement was established by Pierre Du Gua, Sieur de Monts, Governor of Acadia, under the authority of King Henry IV, on Saint Croix Island in 1604. The following year, the settlement was moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal after a difficult winter on the island and deaths from scurvy. In 1607 the colony received bad news: King Henry had revoked Sieur de Monts' royal fur monopoly, citing that the income was insufficient to justify supplying the colony further. Thus recalled, the last of the Acadians left Port Royal in August of 1607. Their allies, the native Mi'kmaq nation, kept careful watch over their possessions, though. When the former Lieutenant Governor, Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt et de Saint-Just, returned in 1610, he found Port Royal just as it was left.[2]

The French took control of the Abenaki First Nations territory. In 1654, King Louis XIV of France appointed aristocrat Nicolas Denys as governor of large portions of Acadia and granted him the confiscated lands and the right to all its minerals.

The Netherlands asserted sovereignty over Acadia in 1674 after privateer Jurriaen Aernoutsz captured the forts at Pentagoet and Jemseg. Control over the region reverted to France when Aernoutsz's appointed administrator, John Rhoades, was captured by New England within a few months. The Dutch West India Company continued to assert a paper claim over Acadia until 1678, appointing Cornelius Van Steenwyk as its governor, although they never successfully recaptured actual control of the territory.

British colonists captured Acadia in the course of King William's War (1690–1697), but Britain returned it to France at the peace settlement. It was recaptured in the course of Queen Anne's War (1702–1713), and its conquest was confirmed in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).

On June 23, 1713, the French residents of Acadia were given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave the region. In the meantime, the French signalled their preparedness for future hostilities by beginning the construction of Fortress Louisbourg on Isle Royale, now Cape Breton Island. The British grew increasingly alarmed by the prospect of disloyalty in wartime of the Acadians now under their rule.


The Deportation

In the summer of 1755, the British attacked Fort Beauséjour and burned Acadian homes at the outbreak of the French and Indian War between Britain and France (the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War), accusing Acadians of disloyalty (for not having taken the oath) and guerrilla action. Those who still refused to swear loyalty to the British crown then suffered what is referred to as the Great Upheaval or Le Grand Dérangement when, over the next three years, some 6,000–7,000 Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia to France[3] or the lower British American colonies[4] More fled deeper into the Atlantic Canadian wilderness or into French-controlled Canada. The Quebec town of L'Acadie (now a sector of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu) was founded by expelled Acadians.[5]

After 1764, many exiled Acadians finally settled in Louisiana, which had been transferred by France to Spain before the end of the French and Indian War. The name Acadian was corrupted to Cajun, which was first used as a pejorative term until its later mainstream acceptance. Britain allowed some Acadians to return to Nova Scotia, but these were forced to settle in small groups and were permitted to reside in their former settlements such as Grand-Pré, Port Royal, and Beaubassin.


Acadia was located in territory disputed between France and Great Britain. England controlled the area from 1654 until 1670 and control was permanently regained by its successor state, the Kingdom of Great Britain, in 1713. Although France controlled the territory in the remaining periods, French monarchs consistently neglected Acadia, failing to contribute much, if at all, to its defence, development, colonization, or administration, leaving the colonists to rely on themselves.[6] The government of New France was located in Quebec, but it had only nominal authority over the Acadians.[7] Landlords owned wide swaths of the land, and while they sometimes collected dues from the settlers, they exercised no other legal powers.[8]

With no strong royal authority, the Acadians implemented village self-rule.[9] Even after Canada had given up its elected spokesmen, the Acadians continued to demand a say in their own government, as late as 1706 petitioning the monarchy to allow them to elect spokesmen each year by a plurality of voices. In a sign of his indifference to the colony, Louis XV agreed to their demand.[8] Male elders of the community settled internal disputes and spoke to the government on behalf of their neighbours, sometimes with the help of the priests.[10]

Most of the immigrants to Acadia were French peasants whose oppression by the noble landholders had left them with a deep suspicion of those in authority. This suspicion was transplanted to those in authority in Acadia as well, be they French or English.[11] Acadians regularly protested the actions of local administrators and clergymen to higher authorities in Quebec and France. If their appeals failed, which they usually did, the Acadians would procrastinate or resort to passive resistance techniques, including subterfuge, to continue defying the authorities.[6] Administrators complained of constant in-fighting among the population, which filed many petty civil suits with colonial magistrates. Most of these were over boundary lines, as the Acadians were very quick to protect their new lands.[12]


After a 1692 visit, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, described the Acadian men as "'well-built, of good height, and they would be accepted without difficulty as soldiers in a guards' regiment. [They are] well-proportioned and their hair is usually blond. [They are] robust, and will endure great fatigue; [they] are fine subjects of the king, passionately loving the French of Europe'".[13] Most Acadians were illiterate, and many of the records, including notarial deeds, were destroyed or scattered during the Great Expulsion. For a time, Port Royal did have schools, but these were closed when the British excluded Roman Catholic religious orders from operating in Acadia.[13] While Acadia was under French rule, all settlers were required to be baptised in the Roman Catholic faith.[14] Despite their nominal faith, Acadians often worked on Sundays and religious holidays.[13]

Before 1654, trading companies and patent holders concerned with fishing recruited men in France to come to Acadia to work at the commercial outposts.[15] The original Acadian population was a small number of indentured servants and soldiers brought by the fur-trading companies. Gradually, fishermen began settling in the area as well, rather than return to France with the seasonal fishing fleet.[6] The majority of the recruiting took place at La Rochelle. Between 1653 and 1654, 104 men were recruited at La Rochelle. Of these, 31% were builders, 15% were soldiers and sailors, 8% were food preparers, 6.7% were farm workers, and an additional 6.7% worked in the clothing trades.[15] Fifty-five percent of Acadia's first families came from the Centre-Ouest region of France, primarily from Poitou, Aunis, Angoumois, and Saintonge. Over 85% of these (47% of the total), were former residents of the La Chaussée area of Poitou.[12] Many of the families who arrived in 1632 with Razilly shared some blood ties; those not related by blood shared cultural ties with the others.[12] The number of original immigrants was very small, and only about 100 surnames existed within the Acadian community.[6]

Some of the earliest settlers married women of the local Mi'kmaq tribe who had converted to Roman Catholicism.[6] A Parisian lawyer, Marc Lescarbot, who spent several months in Acadia in 1606, described the Micmac as having "courage, fidelity, generosity, and humanity, and their hospitality is so innate and praiseworthy that they receive among them every man who is not an enemy. They are not simpletons. ... So that if we commonly call them Savages, the word is abusive and unmerited."[16]

Most of the immigrants to Acadia were peasants in Europe, making them social equals in the New World. The colony had limited economic support or cultural contacts with France, leaving a "social vacuum" that allowed "individual talents and industry ... [to supplant] inherited social position as the measure of a man's worth."[17] Acadians lived as social equals, with the elderly and priests considered slightly superior.[8] Unlike the French colonists in Canada and the early English colonies in Plymouth and Jamestown, Acadians maintained an extended kinship system,[17] and the large extended families assisted in building homes and barns, as well as cultivating and harvesting crops.[18] They also relied on interfamily cooperation to accomplish community goals, such as building dikes or reclaiming tidal marshes.[19]

Marriages were generally not love matches but were arranged for economic or social reasons. Parental consent was required for anyone under 25 who wished to marry, and both the mother's and father's consent was recorded in the marriage deed.[20] Divorce was not permitted in New France, and annulments were almost impossible to get. Legal separation was offered as an option but was seldom used.[21]

The Acadians were suspicious of outsiders and did not readily cooperate with census takers. The first reliable population figures for the area came with the census of 1671, which noted fewer than 450 people. By 1714, the Acadian population had expanded to 2,528 individuals, mostly from natural increase rather than immigration.[6] Most Acadian women in the 18th century gave birth to living children an average of eleven times. Although these numbers are identical to those in Canada, 75% of Acadian children reached adulthood, many more than in other parts of New France. The isolation of the Acadian communities meant the people were not exposed to many of the imported epidemics, allowing the children to remain healthier.[22]

In the 18th century, some Acadians migrated to nearby Île Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island) to take advantage of the fertile cropland. In 1732, the island had 347 settlers but with 25 years its population had expanded to 5000 Europeans.[23]


Most Acadian households were self-sufficient[24], with families engaged in subsistence farming supplemented by means of fishing and hunting.[25] In the early days of the colony, Acadia was an "economic backwater", with few trade goods and little money to attract merchants. Acadia was not near the sea lanes which brought ships to Quebec and Boston, and transportation within the peninsula was difficult.[24] Farms tended to remain small plots of land worked by individual families rather than slave labor.[26] Farmers grew wheat, peas, cabbage, turnips, and apples, and raised maize as a secondary crop. Barley, oats, and potatoes were also planted as feed for the livestock, including cattle, pigs, and poultry. These animals provided a steady supply of meat to the Acadians, which they supplemented with fish.[21]

After 1630, the Acadians began to build dikes and drain the sea marsh above Port Royal. The high salinity of the reclaimed coastal marshland meant that the land would need to sit for three years after it was drained before it could be cultivated.[18] The land reclamation techniques that were used closely resembled the enclosures near La Rochelle that helped make solar salt.[6]

As time progressed, the Acadian agriculture improved, and Acadians traded with the British colonies in New England to gain ironware, fine cloth, rum, and salt. During the French administration of Acadia, this trade was illegal, but it did not stop some English traders from establishing small stores in Port Royal.[13] Under English rule, the Acadians often smuggled their excess food to Boston merchants at Baie Verte and to the French at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island.[27]

Many adult sons who did not inherit land from their parents settled on adjacent vacant lands to remain close to their families.[28] As the best land was taken, some moved further north of Port Royal, into the Upper Bay of Fundy settlements, including Mines, Pisiquid, and Beaubassin. Many of the pioneers into that area persuaded some of their relatives to accompany them, and most of the frontier settlements contained only five to ten interrelated family units.[29]

See also


  1. ^ Beaujot (1998), p. 79.
  2. ^ Faragher, John Mack (2005). A Great and Noble Scheme. W.W. Norton & Co., New York. pp. 17–19. ISBN 0-393-05135-8
  3. ^ Mouhot, Jean-Francois (2009) Les Réfugiés Acadiens en France (1758-1785): L'Impossible réintégration?, Editions du Septentrion, Québec, 456p. ISBN 2-89448-513-1
  4. ^ Lacoursière, Jacques (1995). Histoire populaire du Québec, Tome 1, des origines à 1791. Éditions du Septentrion, Québec. p. 270. ISBN 2-89448-050-4; see also John Mack Faragher (2005). A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland, New York: W.W. Norton, 562 pages ISBN 0-393-05135-8 (online excerpt).
  5. ^ Ville de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu history
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Moogk (2000), p. 7.
  7. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 9.
  8. ^ a b c Moogk (2000), p. 175.
  9. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 176.
  10. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 73.
  11. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 4.
  12. ^ a b c Brasseaux (1987), p. 8.
  13. ^ a b c d Moogk (2000), p. 174.
  14. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 62.
  15. ^ a b Moogk (2000), p. 92.
  16. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 18.
  17. ^ a b Brasseaux (1987), p. 3.
  18. ^ a b Brasseaux (1987), p. 11.
  19. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 270.
  20. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 180.
  21. ^ a b Moogk (2000), p. 229.
  22. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 219.
  23. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 6.
  24. ^ a b Brasseaux (1987), p. 10.
  25. ^ Brasseaux (1987), p. 9.
  26. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 12.
  27. ^ Brasseaux (1987), p. 16.
  28. ^ Moogk (2000), p. 178.
  29. ^ Brasseaux (1987), p. 12.


  • Beaujot, Roderic (1998), "Demographic Considerations in Canadian Language Policy", in Ricento, Thomas; Burnaby, Barbara, Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, ISBN 0805828389  
  • Brasseaux, Carl A. (1987), The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765–1803, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, ISBN 0807112968  
  • Moogk, Peter (2000), La Nouvelle France: The Making of French Canada—A Cultural History, East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, ISBN 0870135287  

External links

Further reading

  • Clark, Andrew Hill (1968), Acadia: The Geography of Early Nova Scotia to 1760, University of Wisconsin Press  


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also acadia


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Proper noun




  1. (history) A colonial territory owned by France in the 17th and early 18th centuries, spanning over what is now northeast USA and the Maritime provinces of eastern Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland)
  2. Acadia National Park, a national park in Maine

Derived terms


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