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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The peaceful habits and the misfortunes of the Acadians


The

English nation was not divided. The ministers and the Parliament, as well as the American colonies, were for war. "There is no hope of repose for our thirteen colonies, as long as the French are masters of Canada," said Benjamin Franklin, on his arrival in London in 1754. He was already laboring, without knowing it, at that great work of American independence which was to be his glory and that of his generation; the common efforts and the common interest of the thirteen American colonies in the war against France were the first step towards that great coalition which founded the United States of America.

The union with the mother-country was as yet close and potent: at the instigation of Mr. Fox, soon afterwards Lord Holland, and at the time Prime Minister of England, Parliament voted twenty-five millions for the American war. The bounty given to the soldiers and marines who enlisted was doubled by private subscription; fifteen thousand men were thus raised to invade the French colonies.

Canada and Louisiana together did not number eighty thousand inhabitants, whilst the population of the English colonies already amounted to twelve hundred thousand souls; to the twenty-eight hundred regular troops sent from France, the Canadian militia added about four thousand men, less experienced but quite as determined as the most intrepid veterans of the campaigns in Europe. During more than twenty years the courage

and devotion of the Canadians never faltered for a single day.

Then began an unequal, but an obstinate struggle, of which the issue, easy to foresee, never cowed or appeased the actors in it. The able tactics of M. de Vaudreuil, governor of the colony, had forced the English to scatter their forces and their attacks over an immense territory, far away from the most important settlements; the forts which they besieged were scarcely defended. "A large enclosure, with a palisade round it, in which there were but one officer and nineteen soldiers," wrote the Marquis of Montcalm at a later period, "could not be considered as a fort adapted to sustain a siege." In the first campaign, the settlements formed by the Acadian emigrants on the borders of the Bay of Fundy were completely destroyed: the French garrisons were obliged to evacuate their positions.

This withdrawal left Acadia, or neutral land, at the mercy of the Anglo-Americans. Before Longfellow had immortalized, in the poem of Evangeline, the peaceful habits and the misfortunes of the Acadians, Raynal had already pleaded their cause before history. "A simple and a kindly people," he said, "who had no liking for blood, agriculture was their occupation.

They had been settled in the low grounds, forcing back, by dint of dikes, the sea and rivers wherewith those plains were covered. The drained marshes produced wheat, rye, oats, barley, and maize. Immense prairies were alive with numerous flocks; as many as sixty thousand horned cattle were counted there. The habitations, nearly all built of wood, were very commodious, and furnished with the neatness sometimes found amongst our European farmers in the easiest circumstances. Their manners were extremely simple; the little differences which might from time to time arise between the colonists were always amicably settled by the elders. It was a band of brothers, all equally ready to give or receive that which they considered common to all men."


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