The historical boundaries of Acadia included most of what is now Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island (then called Île Royale), New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (then called Île St-Jean). Under the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, mainland Acadia was ceded to Britain. The treaty made provision for the resettlement of the Acadians, but, for a number of reasons, this never occurred.
As subjects of the British Empire, Acadians were expected to swear allegiance to the British monarch. Acadians offered to swear an oath of neutrality, which was accepted by the British governor of the day, Richard Philips. For the most part, the Acadians enjoyed a period of prosperity after becoming subjects of Great Britain.
After the mid 1840s, however, Acadia was of growing strategic interest and was to become the battleground for British and French expansion on the eastern seaboard of North America. Tensions between the British in Nova Scotia and the French on Île Royale and Île St-Jean rose dramatically after the arrival of 7000 British colonists in the area.
In the face of increasing military preparations and other fighting in North America, the new governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, demanded an unconditional oath of allegiance to ensure that the Acadians would not take up arms against the British.
The Acadians at first refused as they were concerned about possible retaliation from the French should they swear allegiance to Britain. Later, they reluctantly agreed. This was not convincing enough for Governor Lawrence, who ordered the expulsion to begin.
In July 1755, the deportations began. The total Acadian population at the time was around 12 000 and it is estimated that as many as 10 000 were expelled. The British seized farms, goods, livestock and pillaged and ruined Acadian homesteads to ensure that they would not return. This continued until 1762.
When the British won control of most French possessions in North America under the Treaty of Paris, 1763, French settlers on Île Royale and Île St-Jean were also expelled. Those on the islands were returned to France, and from there many of them re-settled in French territory of Louisiana (later purchased by United States) to become the “Cajuns” of today.
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