Acadians Are Expelled from Canada

The British forcibly expelled most of the French population of Nova Scotia, which had been called Acadia when it was under French control. Many French Acadians subsequently returned to Nova Scotia or found new homelands elsewhere, especially in Louisiana.

Summary of Event

In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht Utrecht, Treaty of (1713) awarded the French colony of Acadia Acadia to the British, who renamed it Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia The Acadians were given the option of either moving to Isle Royale (Cape Breton Island) or Isle Saint Jean (Prince Edward Island), which were still French possessions, or staying in their settlements and swearing allegiance to England. The British, who saw the Acadian farmers as a source of food for their soldiers and as a buffer against local Indians, discouraged emigration by decreeing that Acadians would not be compensated for their property and forbidding them to build boats. The French for their part did not object to this treatment of their colonists, because they viewed the Acadians as strategically located allies in future wars. [kw]Acadians Are Expelled from Canada (July, 1755-Aug., 1758)
[kw]Canada, Acadians Are Expelled from (July, 1755-Aug., 1758)
[kw]Expelled from Canada, Acadians Are (July, 1755-Aug., 1758)
French Canada
British Canada
[g]Canada;July, 1755-Aug., 1758: Acadians Are Expelled from Canada[1440]
[g]American colonies;July, 1755-Aug., 1758: Acadians Are Expelled from Canada[1440]
[c]Colonization;July, 1755-Aug., 1758: Acadians Are Expelled from Canada[1440]
[c]Expansion and land acquisition;July, 1755-Aug., 1758: Acadians Are Expelled from Canada[1440]
[c]Government and politics;July, 1755-Aug., 1758: Acadians Are Expelled from Canada[1440]
[c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;July, 1755-Aug., 1758: Acadians Are Expelled from Canada[1440]
Lawrence, Charles
Shirley, William
Braddock, Edward
Monckton, Robert
Winslow, John
Handfield, John
Broussard dit Beausoleil, Joseph
Ulloa, Antonio de
O’Reilly, Alejandro

The Acadians enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence, until England and France intensified their competition for Canada’s maritime provinces. In 1749, the British founded Halifax as the capital of Nova Scotia to counterbalance the power of Louisbourg, on Isle Royale. In 1751 the French built Fort Beauséjour and Fort Gaspéreau in Nova Scotia and forced some Acadians to move to present-day New Brunswick to establish a claim to the territory.

In 1754, fighting broke out between French and British troops in the upper Ohio Valley, precipitating the French and Indian War, which led to the Seven Years’ War in 1756. As a result, Charles Lawrence, the British governor of Nova Scotia, decided to take extreme measures to address the “Acadian problem.” Acadians had steadfastly refused to take an unqualified oath of allegiance to England, insisting on maintaining their rights to emigrate, remain Catholic, and remain neutral during war. Lawrence decided forcibly to deport the Acadians if they continued to insist on these qualifications. William Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts, supported Lawrence’s plan and convinced General Edward Braddock, commander in chief of British forces in North America, to send troops to attack Fort Beauséjour. When the fort fell on June 16, 1755, the last obstacle to the implementation of Lawrence’s policy was removed.

In July of 1755, Lawrence ordered the arrest of two groups of Acadians who refused to take the oath and decided that all Acadians would be relocated to England’s American colonies. Major John Handfield, Colonel Robert Monckton, and Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow were ordered to orchestrate the mass arrests and deportations from various parts of Nova Scotia. During the fall of 1755, more than six thousand Acadians had their property confiscated and their farms destroyed and were forcibly exiled to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. When Virginia refused to take 1,150 exiles, those Acadians were sent to England: Many of them later emigrated to France.

Inhabitants of Acadia (Nova Scotia), in French Canada, were forcibly expelled from the region by the British, who were competing with the French for control of Canada’s maritime provinces.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

The capture and deportation of Acadians continued for years. Some Acadians avoided arrest and deportation by fleeing to northern New Brunswick, Isle Saint Jean, and Quebec. However, about thrity-five hundred Acadians on Isle Saint Jean and Isle Royale were finally deported to France in August of 1758, after the fall of Louisbourg Louisbourg, Siege of (1758) ended French control in those areas. The British broke up families, separating women and young children from men and boys, and the unsanitary and overcrowded conditions on ships killed many of the Acadian deportees. Upon arrival in the various colonies, some exiles were forced into indentured servitude on farms or sold into slavery. Mortality rates were high for these displaced people, who were left to live on whatever stipends were provided for the poor locally. Furthermore, the exiles were hated by the colonists because of anti-Catholic bigotry and resentment over the cost of their upkeep. Although August, 1758, marked the end of the most concerted phase of mass deportations from Nova Scotia, the explusions did not end completely until 1763. By this time, three-fourths of the Acadian population, more than ten thousand people, had been deported and dispersed.

Many exiled Acadians were understandably anxious to leave New England, and they were given permission by some colonies to do so as early as 1756. At that time, the British barred Acadians from returning to Nova Scotia, but many did go back later, when the restriction was lifted. Others went to Quebec to join those who had fled there in 1755. In 1763, when the Peace of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War and gave all Acadians eighteen months to emigrate, they established settlements in numerous places, including Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Martinique, Santo Domingo, and Saint Dominique (Haiti).

In 1765, Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil led a group of about two hundred Acadians from Saint Dominique to the Attakapas region of Louisiana (now Vermilion, Lafayette, Saint Martins, Iberia, and Saint Mary parishes) to join about twenty Acadians from New York who had traveled there the year before. When word spread that the Spanish colonial government in Louisiana welcomed Catholics in search of a homeland, many other Acadians journeyed there. The French government was anxious to reduce France’s large Acadian population, and Spain agreed to provide them with free land in Louisiana. In 1785, sixteen hundred Acadians took the offer and emigrated from France. By 1788, there were about three thousand Acadians in Louisiana.

The Acadians became a political force soon after their arrival in Louisiana. In 1766, Governor Antonio de Ulloa began forcing Acadians to locate on the boundaries between Spanish and British territory to assist with colonial defense. The Acadians, unhappy at once again being used as pawns in two colonial powers’ territorial disputes, participated in a revolt in 1768 that drove Ulloa from office. His successor, Alejandro O’Reilly, allowed the disgruntled Acadians to move away from the border areas. The Acadians also advanced economically very quickly in Louisiana, significantly contributing to the colony’s productivity and achieving a standard of living that was comparable to what they had had in Nova Scotia before their exile.


The forcible deportation of the Acadians had an immediate and long-lasting impact on the ethnic compositions of both Nova Scotia and the exiles’ areas of destination. The redistribution of the Acadian population not only vastly decreased their numbers in Nova Scotia but also established sizable Acadian enclaves throughout North America and parts of Europe. As a result, the most significant concentrations of Acadian-heritage people today are located in New England, Quebec, France, and Louisiana, with about forty thousand residing in Canada’s Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island).

The effects of the Acadian presence have been especially pronounced in Louisiana. In 1779, Spain allied itself with the colonies in the Revolutionary War, and from 1779 to 1781, an army made up mostly of Acadians took Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola, and several British forts. These victories were strategically significant, because they prevented the English from attacking the colonies via the Mississippi River or Florida, and Great Britain never regained any of its possessions in the lower Mississippi Valley.

The Acadian population that dominated southern Louisiana in the eighteenth century incorporated elements of Spanish, English, French, German, African, and American Indian cultures to develop what came to be called the Cajun culture. Cajuns are credited with establishing the rice, shrimp, and cattle industries, which are still mainstays of Louisiana’s economy today. Anti-Cajun discrimination resulted in legally mandated English-only education in 1921 as part of an effort completely to eliminate the Cajun language and culture. In the late 1960’s, the Louisiana state legislature created the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana to promote the restoration of Cajun culture and established Acadiana, an area made up of twenty-two French-speaking parishes in southern Louisiana. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Cajun music and food gained international acclaim, and today people of Acadian descent comprise approximately one-fourth of the entire Louisiana population, forming a powerful political, economic, and cultural force in the state.

Further Reading

  • Brasseaux, Carl A. The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765-1803. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Describes the history of Acadians in Nova Scotia, their forced deportation and dispersal, the routes by which many found their way to south Louisiana, and their successful struggle to become a well-established population there.
  • Braud, Gerard-Marc. From Nantes to Louisiana: The History of Acadia—The Odyssey of an Exiled People. Translated by Julie Fontenot Landry. Lafayette, La.: La Rainette, 1999. Chronicles the history of the Acadians in Nova Scotia, the mass deportations to Europe and various colonies beginning in 1755, and the journey of large numbers of Acadians from France to Louisiana in 1785.
  • Doughty, Arthur G. The Acadian Exiles: A Chronicle of the Land of Evangeline. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1916. Details the early history of Acadians, including the founding of Acadia, the appearance of the British and subsequent Acadian expulsions, and the exiles’ numerous destinations in North America, Europe, and the Carribean.
  • Plank, Geoffrey. An Unsettled Conquest: The British Campaign Against the Peoples of Acadia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003. A comprehensive history of the struggle between France and England over Nova Scotia, and the fates of the Mi’kmaq Indians and the Acadians who were caught in the middle.

Founding of Louisbourg

Treaty of Utrecht

French and Indian War

Seven Years’ War

Siege of Louisbourg

Peace of Paris

Loyalists Migrate to Nova Scotia

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