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French Acadia War - 1613, 29, 32

La Cadie (Acadia) is a name derived from an Indian word meaning "the place," and was originally applied by the French to the North American coast from present Nova Scotia to New Jersey. Both the Portuguese and the British briefly established positions in the region in the 16th century, but neither built lasting settlements or trading posts. The Portuguese enjoyed a singular advantage in this field: the Azores, a chain of small islands roughly halfway between the European mainland and Newfoundland. This stopping point between Europe and the Grand Banks enabled Portuguese and Basque fleets to make the voyage into the western Atlantic with relative security and was a key factor behind long-term Iberian involvement on the fisheries and whaling grounds. Their endless supplies of salt, moreover, made it possible for the Iberians to preserve their catch of cod without bothering to make landfall. Had they wanted to, they could easily have dominated Newfoundland and its waters. Doing so was, simply, unnecessary.

French maritime colonies in the neighbourhood of New England were called upon to play a part politically that was even more disproportionate to their material development than the part played by French Canada. The hapless Acadia was the shuttlecock to French and English battledores. Thrice in the wars of the seventeenth century it fell to England; thrice it was restored by treaty to France. It stands apart from the other French colonies, inasmuch as it was scarcely touched, for good or ill, by the commercial companies. Unlike the French Canadians, the Acadian colonists laid no disproportionate stress on military organisation, but, on the contrary, repeatedly allowed themselves to fall a prey to English raids for want of sufficient armament.

But though time after time the little posts were ruined, the fields laid waste, the cattle destroyed, there seemed to be an indestructible vitality in this, the least carefully fostered of all the French colonies. As compared with Canada, Acadia received little or no help from the home government. Its officials, too often men who had failed in Canada, produced the censuses and "memoirs" that were required of them; and the colony flourished rather in spite than because of their efforts, which were mainly directed to their own enrichment. The widely scattered population, settled in hamlets of some twenty persons each, found a congenial climate and soil, and, in their dependence on their own initiative, resembled rather an English colony in its early stages than a colony of New France.

The first French explorers reached the shores of a land they called Acadie (Acadia), a territory which included what is now Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, plus parts of New Brunswick and Maine. In 1603 the first systematic effort to found French colonies in America was made. A company was formed at the head of which was Aymar de Chastes, governor of Dieppe, who sent over Samuel Champlain. He visited the St. Lawrence, and after careful exploration returned to France with a valuable cargo of furs. On his arrival he found De Chastes dead, but Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts, a patriotic Huguenot, took up the unfinished work. He received from Henry IV. a patent ? “to represent our person as lieutenant-general in the country of Acadia from the fortieth to the forty-sixth degree,” with governmental authority, and the exclusive privileges of traffic with the Indians.

In 1605 these merchant-adventurers established the colony's first settlement, Port-Royal, a tiny European outpost situated at the head of the Annapolis Basin, a small, finger-like inlet on the south-eastern, Nova Scotian side of the Bay of Fundy. The community's earliest years were precarious.

In 1604, Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts, a Huguenot gentleman and soldier, undertook to establish Acadia as a New World dominion of France. Assisted by Samuel de Champlain, he founded a colony on an island in the St. Croix River; the settlers later relocated at Port Royal. Champlain then embarked upon further explorations and discovered Mount Desert Island, now in Acadia National Park. In 1613, this island became the site of the first French Jesuit mission in America, Saint Sauveur, on Fernald Point in Somes Sound. At this mission began the epic of French-English rivalry in North America; a few weeks after its founding, Capt. Samuel Argall sailed up from Virginia and destroyed it.

The English had not recognized the claims of the French to any part of the North American continent. Destruction and loss were predominant themes in the early history of Acadia. Thus, while as many as five different church structures — perhaps more — were built to serve the parish of St. Jean-Baptiste during the community's first 150 years, these buildings were all lost over time, victims of ravaging fire or hostile attack, particularly as the French and English engaged in their century-long tug-of-war for ownership of the colony.

The first capital of Acadia, established in 1605, was Port-Royal. The British force from Virginia under Samuel Argall attacked and burned the town in 1613 but it was later rebuilt nearby, where it remained the capital of French Acadia until the British conquest of Acadia in 1710. The French, expelled from Acadia and all the southern part of New France in 1613, by the English, made at the time no attempt to recover it. And although it was abandoned almost as soon as it was invaded, and Mr. de Poutrincourt, who made a voyage thither the next year, found no one there in a position to gainsay him, had he chosen to settle there again, — the few settlers whom he had left there being even quite unmolested,-chagrin at the sight of his ruined labors, and fear that in case he should at new expense begin to rebuild Port Royal, the English would come to dislodge him before he had time to fortify himself there, induced him to renounce it entirely.

In 1621, Sir William Alexander obtained a grant from King James for New Scotland, being that part of Acadia now comprising the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick;' and he sent over from time to time a few Scotch emigrants. De la Tour and the French submitted, and English rule seemed firmly established in Acadia when war was declared in 1628. In February, 1629, Alexander received a patent for St. Lawrence River and “fifty leagues of bounds on both sides thereof," and on both sides of its tributary lakes and rivers as far as the Gulf of California.

An English fleet commanded by David Kirke, appeared before Quebec in July, 1629. Champlain and his small garrison were compelled to surrender, and all New France fell under English power. Unfortunately for Alexander and Kirke, war between the two nations had ceased, and the articles of peace provided that all conquests made subsequent to April 24, 1629, should be restored to the former owner. This insured the loss of Quebec and was the forerunner of other misfortunes. In 1632 a treaty was made at St. Germain by which, despite the protest of Sir William Alexander and a memorial from the Scottish Parliament, King Charles consented “to give up and restore all the places occupied in New France, Acadia, and Canada” by his subjects.

In 1632 Champlain returned to his government at Quebec, and with him arrived a number of zealous Jesuit priests, who began that adventurous career of exploration which, after Champlain's death in 1635, connected the fame of their order with the great lakes and the Mississippi. The king of France appointed Chevalier Razilly governor of Acadia, who designated as his lieutenants Claude de la Tour's son Charles, for the portion west of St. Croix; and Charles de Menou, Sieur d'Aulnay Charmisé, for the portion to the east. They claimed dominion for France as far as Cape Cod.

The first era of attempted French settlement (1605-32) bequeathed to its successor (1632-70) nothing but an inheritance of disputed claims, which the fertility of the La Tour family, representing the first grantee, passed on from generation to generation. Argall's raid (1613), and Sir William Alexander's ill-supported attempt (1621) to found a "Nova Scotia" that should be to Scotland as New France and New England to their parent stems, did not make things easier for Razilly, sent as governor to make a fresh start when Acadia had been restored to France by the Treaty of Saint Germain-en-Laye (1632).

When the Treaty of Saint Germain-en-laye. (1632) restored to France her possessions in North America, Acadia and Canada were still savage wastes, Prior to this date Port Royal and Quebec had hardly advanced beyond the status of convenient landing points, while Tadoussac and Three Rivers were mere rendezvous for barter. In theory the profits of the fur trade were enormous, but disaster or disappointment seemed to follow each venture with dismal regularity. At the same time the attempt to establish permanent colonies had been attended by only a moderate degree of success.

From 1632 to 1759 New France was a colony peopled by vigorous and resourceful inhabitants. Unfortunately it possessed a defective system of administration, but its annals are adorned by noble deeds and its life represents a characteristic form of civilization. Of the two regions which France regained in 1632, Canada was destined to be the more important and to be held upon the firmer tenure. Acadia with its long frontier of seaboard lay open to easy attack from the side of New England and after 1621, when James I gave Sir William Alexander the charter of Nova Scotia its population contained a Scottish element. At the moment when Port Royal fell to the English for the second time (1628) the ablest and most loyal Frenchman in Acadia was Charles de la Tour, but on the formal restoration of the colony four years later Isaac de Razilly, a relative of Richelieu, was appointed royal lieutenant. During his lifetime the French in Acadia proved able to hold their own against New England and even to destroy posts which the English had established on the coast of Maine. De Razilly's death, however, precipitated an acute quarrel between de la Tour and the able, unscrupulous Charnisay, who had come to the colony with de Razilly in 1632.

The prosecution of the feud between these rivals led, among other things, to a famous siege of Fort Saint John by Charnisay and a spirited but fruitless defense of the stronghold by Mme. de la Tour in her husband's absence. The long and bitter broil ended peacefully enough in the marriage of de la Tour and Mme. Charnisay after the death of Charnisay and Mme. de la Tour, but meanwhile the prosperity of Acadia had been seriously hampered by a domestic feud which unsettled the whole administrative system and raised the issue of Catholic versus Huguenot.

The English-language version of the group name – “Acadian” – appears here when used in the context of British administration of or campaigns against the Acadiens. Thus, the “Acadian Expulsion” (which in French is Le Grand Dérangement). Many of the deported Acadiens wound up in Louisiana where their group name evolved into Cajuns, a small jump from les Acadiens but a much bigger leap from “Acadians.” The Acadien people in the Maritimes have survived the disruptions of imperial and inter-colonial wars and they remain one of the strongest threads in the fabric of regional cultures.




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Page last modified: 10-07-2020 19:04:22 ZULU