AcadiaAcadia is the region of North America bounded by the St. Lawrence Seaway on the north, the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the east, and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. It includes the present-day Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and parts of the province of Quebec and the U.S. state of Maine. It was first colonized in 1604, when Samuel de Champlain and Pierre du Gua, sieur de Monts, established a settlement on St. Croix Island in the Bay of Fundy. After a disastrous winter that killed half the settlers, the colony was moved across the bay to Port Royal, though this too was abandoned when Champlain and de Monts lost their fur-trading monopoly. French settlers returned in 1610, but Port Royal was destroyed by an English force from Virginia in 1613. King James I of England (r. 1603–25) granted the region to Sir William Alexander, who named it Nova Scotia, Latin for “New Scotland.” In 1632, it was returned to France.
With the rapid influx of British settlers into New England during the 1630s, the French government hoped to establish firm control of Acadia. In 1632, Governor Isaac de Razilly took control of Port Royal, imported “300 gentlemen of quality,” and moved the capital to Le Heve on the Atlantic seaboard. Territorial disputes among the great fur merchants and frequent warfare between Britain and France nevertheless inhibited development of the region. The limited flow of immigrants, chiefly from the French region of Poitou, came to a standstill between 1654 and 1667, when the region was under British control. In 1686, French intendant Jacques de Meulles counted only 885 colonists in the entire region, most living along the Bay of Fundy. Meulles reported that “receiving no help from France,” many Acadians were following their commercial interests and immigrating to Boston. As a result, the Acadian population remained small and isolated. The farmers, hunters, and fishermen of Acadia became known for their self-reliance and were immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Evangeline.
Throughout the 18th century, control of Acadia was disputed by France and Britain. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713), ending Queen Anne’s War (1702–13, the American phase of the War of the Spanish Succession in Europe), ceded Acadia to Britain, though only Nova Scotia was clearly turned over. In 1730, it was agreed that Acadians could swear loyalty to the British Crown without being required to bear arms against France or its Indian allies. British settlers established Halifax, Nova Scotia (1749), and encouraged settlement by French, German, and Swiss Protestants during the 1750s. Despite their traditional commercial contacts with the British, most Acadians remained loyal to France and sometimes encouraged American Indian attacks on British settlements. During the French and Indian War (1754–63, which corresponds to the European Seven Years’ War), the British deported some 6,000 Acadians who refused to swear loyalty to George II (r. 1727–60), an event that came to be known as Le Grand Dérangement (The Great Disturbance). When the principal French fortress of Louisbourg fell to the British in 1758, the fate of Acadia and Canada was sealed. The formal signing of the Capitulation of Montreal in 1760 led many French inhabitants to return to Europe and some 4,000 to migrate to Louisiana, which remained in French hands. Only about 1,000 French settlers remained in Acadia. In their place came hundreds of New Englanders in the 1760s and, during and after the American Revolution (1775–83; see American Revolution and immigration), thousands of United Empire Loyalists who had refused to take up arms against the British Crown.