A Great and Noble Scheme is not Canadian history; rather the book seeks a larger narrative. This is American history, written for an American audience. Adhering to the frontier thesis, Faragher believes the cultural identity of the Acadians "retained its French origins in custom, language, and religion" while it also embraced "something American in its attachment to place, local practice, and newly developed traditions" (p.179-180). They were early Americans; their key antagonists were New England men who hatched the plan to disperse them from their "American homeland." This sense of American identity is not necessarily a problem. Any study of the period before 1783 should be aware of the inter-connections between places now divided by an international border. There can be little doubt that living in rural North America was a transformative experience for many Acadians. In this case, however, such trans-colonial history has been written without greater contextualization of the European imperial world in which many of its historical actors lived. It is cast as too much of an American story.
Yes, these were not the Irish or the Scots or the Basques of the Old World, although such things had happened to them already, nor were they the Cherokee or the Lakota or the Pomo or any of numerous other peoples of North America, for such things would happen to them in the years to come. These were the Acadians, a French-speaking hybrid people long cut off from their European origins who occupied a strange position on the margins of American history and in between the imperial ambitions of Britain and France. For 150 years they lived along the coastline of what are now the Maritime Provinces, forging extraordinarily warm relationships with their Indian neighbors and insisting on their own neutrality as sovereignty of the region swung back and forth between the great powers.
Since the Acadians could not be trusted to become loyal British subjects, they were to be driven out by fire and sword, and their lands resettled by English-speaking Protestants. And since driving them into French territory would only turn them into implacable enemies, they were to be scattered widely throughout the colonies. Faragher draws the title of his book from an anonymous letter written to Boston by an inhabitant of Halifax, the newly settled English town of Nova Scotia. "We are now upon a great and noble Scheme of sending the neutral French out of this Province," the unknown correspondent wrote, "who have always been our secret Enemies, and have encouraged our Savages to cut our Throats. If we effect their Expulsion, it will be one of the greatest things that ever the English did in America; for by all Accounts, that Part of the Country they possess, is as good Land as any in the World."
As you know, I have direct evidence of that. I quote Indians saying so: "This is the land God gave to us. We never gave it away, and we don't understand why you think you somehow have a right to it." I find those voices very remarkable. The great fear in doing a history like this is that you won't find any voices from Indians, or in this case from the Acadians, who were basically illiterate. So the fact that you can actually go into the records and recover at least some of their voices is pretty astounding.
Over my shoulder, my grandparents and great-grandparents are calling out from their graves and saying: "What about Ireland?" You cite the parallels in Irish history a couple of times; didn't Edmund Spenser suggest this exact solution to the "Irish question" -- uproot the natives and plant loyal settlers?
This book offers a personalized, non-academic look at what it means for one Acadian to be part of the collective Acadian community. The author traces his family history all the way back to the time of the Acadian Expulsion and beyond. That ancestor was Joseph LeBlanc (Tyler's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather). With descendants scattered across modern-day Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the LeBlancs provide a window into the diverse fates that awaited the Acadians when they were expelled from their Acadian homeland. Some escaped the deportation; others were deported and later returned to the region, but not to same areas as those had been taken over by new settlers. In sum, the book is biographical approach to the history of the Expulsion.
This book, which is an excellent new narrative of the Acadian people, is a must-read for anyone interested in early American or Canadian history. The title is somewhat misleading because of its emphasis on the Grand Derangement (Great Disturbance), the brutal deportation of the Acadians by British authorities and New England colonists between 1755 and 1763. In actuality the book provides a comprehensive history of the Acadian people from their arrival in the New World to their expulsion and beyond that era. Faragher's impeccable research, clear and compelling story telling, and thought-provoking interpretations make his study a fitting memorial to the French settlers in Nova Scotia who managed to survive despite becoming victims of ethnic cleansing 250 years ago.
On April 5, 1840, Longfellow invited a few friends to dine at his rented rooms in Cambridge at the Craigie House. Nathaniel Hawthorne brought the Reverend Horace Conolly with him. At dinner, Conolly related a tale he had heard from a French-Canadian woman about an Acadian couple separated on their wedding day by the British expulsion of the French-speaking inhabitants of Nova Scotia. The bride-to-be wandered for years, trying to find her fiancé. Conolly had hoped Hawthorne would take the story and turn it into a novel, but he was not interested. Longfellow, however, was intrigued, and reportedly called the story, "the best illustration of faithfulness and the constancy of woman that I have ever heard of or read." He asked for Hawthorne's blessing to turn it into a poem.
By 1845 when Longfellow began working on the poem, the fate of the Acadians had largely been forgotten. Longfellow researched the basic history of the expulsion at the Harvard library and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He learned that the French began to settle Acadie, modern-day Nova Scotia, in 1604. For the next 150 years, they cultivated the land, maintained a friendly relationship with the native Micmac Indians, and remained neutral in the ongoing conflicts between the French and the English. By the mid-18th century, there were 12,000 to 18,000 Acadians. In 1755 when these British subjects refused to take up arms against the French, they were exiled from their lands, in what the Acadians call "Le Grand Dérangement." The Acadians were scattered far and wide. Many eventually ended up in Louisiana where they formed the basis of the Cajun culture.
A dispatch written in August 1755 by an anonymous correspondent in Nova Scotia and published in the British colonial press suggested larger motives. It is worth quoting in full. "We are now upon a great and noble Scheme of sending the neutral French out of this Province, who have always been secret Enemies, and have encouraged our Savages to cut our Throats. If we effect their Expulsion, it will be one of the greatest Things that ever the English did in America; for by all the Accounts, that Part of the Country they possess, is as good Land as any in the World: In case therefore we could get some good English Farmers in their Room, this Province would abound with all Kinds of Provisions." This amounts to a frank acknowledgement that the expulsion of the Acadians was a classic episode of ethnic cleansing.
I am an English Canadian (descended from Irish potato famine refugees) from Ontario and I have been living for the last year in the heart of Acadia - in a little french town north of Dieppe NB.My sister-in-law is Acadian and she has educated me on the plight of her people.If you want to know where the acadians ended up - it was on the lower quality property that lines the sea. Once you go inland and see farmland you see english farmers.You always know that you are in Acadia because Acadians very proudly display their flags (a french flag with a gold star) outside their homes.Also this summer marked the 250th anniversary of the expulsion so there was much activity here to commemorate that event.You may not realise this but the french in Quebec are not descended from Acadians - they come from a different part of France altogether. And the license plate in Quebec says "Je me souviens".That is the shortform of this:Je me souviens que né sous le lys, je croîs sous la rose.It means "I remember that I was born under the lily but now live under the rose". The lily represents France and the rose represents England.
The simple fact is there was never any Acadian complicity in Canadien and native attacks on New England. The relevant case is the conduct of the Acadians during King George's War during the mid-1740s, when French, Canadien, and Mikmaw forces invaded Nova Scotia and besieged the British garrison at Annapolis Royal. The vast majority of Acadians refused to join the attack. The acting British governor, Paul Mascarene, testified that by maintaining their neutrality the Acadians had effectively demonstrated their loyalty. He cited the statement their leaders had made to the French commander in October 1744. "We hope," they had written, "that you will not plunge both ourselves and our families into a state of total loss, and that this consideration will cause you to withdraw your sauvages and troops from our districts. We live under a mild and tranquil government, and we have good reason to be faithful to it. We hope, therefore, that you will have the goodness not to separate us from it; and that you will grant us the favour not to plunge us into utter misery." British colonial officials chose to ignore the Acadian history of neutrality and pursue their expulsion for reasons other than the security of the region. 2b1af7f3a8