His Majesty’s Pleasure: The Expulsion of the Acadians
During the French and Indian War the British looked at Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and saw a threat. The Acadians, original settlers to this area from France, had been allowed to remain for 40 years after France had conceded this territory after the capture of Port Royal in 1713. But the Acadians had never pledged an oath to Britain, and the resumption of hostilities in the French and Indian War became the tipping point. How many in North America suffered because the French and English couldn’t get along? Too many.
Beginning on August 10, 1755 the British began rounding up Acadians and expelling them. Often families were separated, with husbands and wives, mothers and children being sent to different places. It reminds me of what happened to Japanese Americans in World War II, and what’s happening now on the Mexican border. The weakness of moral character in people in power causing immense suffering for those who are powerless. You can have homeland security without being an asshole.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard about the expulsion of the Acadians from Nathaniel Hawthorne. There’s a moment when I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall listening in. Longfellow then wrote a poem called Evangeline that told the plight of a fictional character of the same name trying to reunite with her husband. The poem brought attention to the expulsion then, and still offers insight into their suffering now. The Acadians were lured into church to hear at announcement, only to find out that they were prisoners, and their world was being turned upside down.
“Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them
Entered the sacred portal. With load and dissonant clangor
Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement, –
Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal
Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.
Then uprose their commander, and spake from the steps of the altar,
Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.
“You are convened this day,” he said, “by his majesty’s orders.
Clement and kind he has been; but how you have answered his kindness,
Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper
Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.
Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch:
Namely that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds
Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province
Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there
Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!
Prisoners now I declare you, for such is his majesty’s pleasure!”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline
Many of the Acadians would end up in Louisiana, and their descendants are Cajuns. Others would go to the thirteen colonies. Some would eventually go back to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Many others died before they reached a destination. It a dark stain in the history of a beautiful place. And it offers a lesson we often forget. The decisions of a few can disrupt the lives of many.