The original Acadians were from France. Acadia is now part of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The French first began settling in Acadia during the first decade of the 17th century. In 1713, the British took over Acadia. They expelled the Acadians in the 1750s. The British did not trust the Acadians. The expulsion of the Acadians is also known as the Great Upheaval. The expulsion of the Acadians was tragic. In the 1760s, the British let the Acadians come back. Acadia remains alive and well today in the Maritimes. Thousands of Canadians are the descendants of the Acadians.
(This article is a plain-language summary of the Acadian Expulsion. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Acadian Expulsion (The Great Upheaval).)
British-Acadian Relations after 1713
Britain and France fought over Acadia in the early 18th century. Acadian life did not change much after Britain took over Acadia in 1713. However, in 1730, the Acadians took a neutrality oath. This oath stated that the Acadians would remain neutral if there was a war between the British and the French. The British and the French built fortresses and naval bases in the area in the 1740s and 1750s.
The British became intolerant of the Acadians in the 1750s. One of the reasons for this intolerance was that the French built a naval fortress at Louisbourg. Louisbourg is located in Cape Breton. The most important reason why the British became intolerant of the Acadians was the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War. ( See Seven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary).) At the time, Charles Lawrence, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, was very suspicious of the Acadians. He did not think they were neutral. In 1755, he tried to force Acadian leaders to pledge an oath of allegiance to Britain. They refused. Lawrence then put them in prison. Soon after, the Acadians were ordered to leave Acadia.
The British tried to quickly round up the Acadians. They put many on ships and sent them to the 13 Colonies. They did not want the Acadians to go to New France. The British also burned much Acadian property. Many Acadians fought back. They were defeated easily. Others fled to the forests. The British searched for them. Some fled to French territories. Many starved. The Acadians did not want to leave their homeland. Some of them were caught by the British and were deported.
Fate of the Deported Acadians
From 1755 until 1763, about 10,000 Acadians were forced to leave. The British sent thousands of them to the 13 Colonies. A large percentage of them died of diseases or starved. Others were sent to the Caribbean. Some went to France — a country that was new to them. They were Acadians, not French. The best-known Acadians went to Louisiana. They have come to be known as “Cajuns.” (See French-speaking Louisiana and Canada.) Some Acadians returned to the Maritimes. They did not return to their farms, however. After they were deported, their land was taken by colonists from New England. The New Englanders had wanted their land for a very long time. Acadian culture was never the same after the expulsion. But it remains one of the most important and distinct cultures in the Maritimes today.