If you read history books compiled by professional researchers, I wrote in a 1998 column, you’ll find that for the most part, the expulsion had little or nothing to do with the Acadians refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the British crown.
In this column, I unwisely went on to state bluntly that the expulsion was simply a “massive land grab by New Englanders.” I’m not the only dabbler in history to make this assumption but it wasn’t the wisest thing to say in this nest of New England descendants. One e-mail letter I received after the column appeared called me a bigot and stated that I often take a derogatory attitude when writing about the New England Planters.
I deny this, of course. However, I still believe that the rich lands of the Acadians along the Minas Basin were too much of a temptation for those in power. And, bottom line, the possibility that those lands could be made available be removing the Acadians was a main factor in the expulsion. Of course other factors, perhaps the Noble massacre for example, also contributed to the expulsion.
Recently I received an e-mail from Dr. Daniel Paul with his review of the book A Great and Noble Scheme. The title of the book, which is the story of the Acadian expulsion, is based on a news dispatch from Nova Scotia that appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper in 1755. I quote the dispatch since it reinforces the views in my 1998 column abut the expulsion simply being a land grab:
“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 Accounts, that Part of the Country they possess, is as good Lands 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 public notice puts it plainly. While it may be a necessity to rid ourselves of our “secret Enemies,” there also happens to be another reason for removing the Acadians – land as good as any in the world.
I mentioned the reaction to my 1998 column to Dr. Paul and he wrote later that he concurs with my observation. “A land grab was a major objective in the deportation,” he said.
“However, Dr. Paul wrote, “I think fanatical anti-Catholic hatred, deeply instilled in both New Englanders and the English was also a major factor. Keep in mind that a Catholic could not run for public office in most of the British Empire until after 1783, when laws forbidding it were repealed, at the insistence of non-French Catholics.
“It’s sometimes forgotten that the English society of that era was among the most racially biased societies that ever existed. Class orientated, open discriminating among themselves was rampant. When it came to Native Americans, most held the opinion that they were animals. It is not unusual to run across a comment from some of their colonial officials about the French and Spaniards in particular, being inclined to cohabit with them and produce half humans.”