Claiming the Wilderness
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Claiming the Wilderness
The Acadians
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The oath of allegiance
Acadia took its name from the garden of the gods in Greek mythology.
Farming some the most fertile land in North America, Acadians never suffered from epidemics of scurvy, typhus or cholera. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Farming some the most fertile land in North America, Acadians never suffered from epidemics of scurvy, typhus or cholera. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Some of the best lands in North America were found here, so fertile that the Acadians never suffered epidemics of scurvy, typhus or cholera. But they lived on a continental fault-line, on the colonial frontier between two great empires which held each other in mortal contempt.

Acadia has been handed back and forth between France and England at least six times. The treaties gave it two names at once: "Acadia or Nova Scotia". In 1713, Acadia was finally ceded to England for good. It was home to 1,800 peaceful, French-speaking farmers. The majority of Acadians decided to stay on their land. They were French and Catholic while their new sovereign was Protestant and English. The English demanded that they swear an oath of allegiance to George I.
Frequently passed between England and France, Acadia became the English colony of Nova Scotia in 1713.
Frequently passed between England and France, Acadia became the English colony of Nova Scotia in 1713.
The Acadians stalled, and then refused. A delegation from Beaubassin explained why to the governor of Annapolis Royal (Port Royal):

"When our ancestors were previously under English rule they were never required to swear such an oath."

There were not enough Englishmen to force the Acadians to swear the oath, and above all Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Caulfield wanted them to stay in the country. "If the French leave," he wrote, "we will never be able to support English families here, and protect them from harassment by the Indians, who are the worst enemies imaginable."

Governor Richard Philipps informed London in 1720 that the Acadians "will never swear the oath of allegiance, no more than they will leave the country." The Board of Trade replied to him: "As to the French inhabitants of Nova Scotia...
we are apprehensive they will never become good subjects to His Majesty... for which reason we are of opinion they ought to be removed as soon as the Forces which we have proposed to be sent your protection shall arrive in Nova Scotia ... but you are not to attempt this expulsion without His Majesty's positive order."

Nothing happened for ten years, and by 1730, the Acadian population had doubled. Philipps wrote that "they constitute a powerful group, which like Noah's offspring are spreading across the face of the province." Philipps and his assistant, Lawrence Armstrong, wanted to solve the problem by satisfying both their superiors and their subjects.
They managed to get the Acadians to take the oath, on the condition that they were exempted from the duty of bearing arms. This clause appeared in the documents that the habitants had to sign. Philipps recommended that it be "written in the margin, next to the French translation, in the hopes of overcoming their repulsion, little by little." However, it was not included in the oath itself, which read,"I promise and swear by my Faith as a Christian that I will be entirely faithful and will truly obey His Majesty King George II, whom I acknowledge as the sovereign lord of Acadia or Nova Scotia, so help me God."

There is no doubt that the promise not to bear arms was made.
Father Charles de Goudalie de Grand-Pré and Alexandre Bourg Belle-Humeur, a notary, were witnesses: "We witness that His Excellency Lord Richard Philipps... has promised the inhabitants of Mines and the surrounding area that he will exempt them from the requirement to bear arms and to make war against the French and the Indians... and that the said French have engaged themselves and promised never to take up arms in case of war against the kingdom of England."

Philipps could reassure London that four thousand Acadians had taken the oath. For their part, the Acadians believed they had found a way to protect themselves from the whims of empires, at the same time preserving their religion and language.

From 1730 on, the English called the Acadians "neutrals" or "French neutrals".


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