The Acadians - An Historical Synthesis

In general, Acadians who returned to the Maritimes [after 1755] avoided resettling their former land because it was now occupied by English colonists and because the British authorities preferred to have them scattered in small groups. 

In New Brunswick they settled in the north, the east and the St. John River Valley. Those who returned to the Fredericton area were forced to move to the northwest and northeast between 1784 and 1786 after the Loyalists arrived. 

…the transitory and localized nature of Acadian institutions dominated the history of the Acadians. They established no institutions that could be considered community-wide in scope. For example, their priests were generally missionaries rather than residents. They had few schools and often the teachers were itinerant schoolmasters who dispensed their meagre store of learning from people’s houses. The Acadians had no newspapers, lawyers, doctors, institutions of higher learning or a middle class. But, above all, they did not express themselves as a nation very much because of their extreme isolation from one another and because of the absence of any key Acadian institutions. 

The Acadians had been buffeted about for a generation from approximately 1749 to 1786. Nevertheless, they had finally established a new Acadia, though somewhat scattered than under the French regime. They still had to establish institutions, structures and some kind of organizational framework, since even the family unit had often been destroyed during the 30 years of dispersal. This was an extremely arduous task and it cannot be said that any great success was achieved in this period. 

Meanwhile, the English authorities were continuing the work of anglicizing the colony that they had begun in 1749…To encourage the emergence of a typically British character in the provinces, Catholics were deprived of their political rights from the outset, through religious oaths that had to be sworn in order to hold any public office.

[The subject swore an initial oath of allegiance to the British crown; by a second oath he repudiated the claim of the descendents of James II to the British throne. However, the two other oaths were worded to exclude all Catholics: one denounced the spiritual authority of the Pope in any part of the British realm while in the other, the subject swore to the effect that he did not believe in the sacrament of the Eucharist.] 

Not until 1789 were Catholics granted the vote in Nova Scotia; and in the other two colonies [New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island], they had to wait until 1810. They were not allowed to sit in the Legislature until 1830, when Great Britain decreed the emancipation of Catholics in British territory. 

…Acadians were involved in a market economy, initially in fishing and later in lumbering. However, in both activities, they were often victimized by tough businessmen who paid them in tokens that could only be exchanged for goods purchased in their “company stores”. Commercial activity in some seaports diversified the Acadians’ economic existence a little. Still, with a few notable exceptions, such as Joseph Gueguen of Cocagne and Otho Robichaud of Neguac at the turn of the 19th century, few lived in real comfort. 

Certain Acadians were faced with the consequences of deportation in a much more immediate way. The farmers in Minoudie, N.S. and Memramcook, N.B. learned that they were living on land granted to Governor Joseph Wallett Des Barres and that they would have to pay an annual rent to their seigneur and his heirs. After several years of unsuccessful attempts to take possession of this land, the colonists in Minoudie decided to relocate in southeast New Brunswick while the settlers in the Memramcook region were forced to buy back their land. This problem was not settled conclusively until the 1840s. 

In terms of education, Acadian schools were few and far between before 1820 and there were no Francophone institutions of higher learning before 1854. Furthermore, government authorities from this period seemed to be more concerned with post-secondary institutions than with primary schools. 


- excerpts taken from Léon Theriault, "Acadia, 1763-1978: An Historical Synthesis", in Jean Daigle, ed., The Acadians of the Maritimes: Thematic Studies, Moncton: Centre d'études acadiennes, L'Université de Moncton. 1982, pp. 49-52.
Léon Thériault
1760 - 1850
Nova Scotia, CANADA
New Brunswick, CANADA
© 1982, Centre d'etudes acadiennes. All Rights Reserved.

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