book report: A Great and Noble Scheme (6) by Faragher

John Mack Faragher mentions my former hometown, New London, a couple times in his book A Great and Noble Scheme. When the English commenced the ethnic cleansing of L'Acadie/Nova Scotia of its French Catholic inhabitants, they didn't have a place to send them except anywhere but there. Hence, they decided to force them on the lower 13 colonies, including Connecticut.
The exiles on the Edward reportedly came down with malaria, and by the time the vessel docked at New London, Connecticut, in May 1756, nearly one hundred had died. Dove, one of the vessels assigned to pick up the last contingent of inhabitants from Minas in December 1755, was apparently lost at sea - at least there is no record of its arrival in Connecticut. Out of the nearly seven thousand Acadians who boarded transports at Chignecto, Minas, and Annapolis Royal in 1755, the best estimate is that roughly one thousand died in transit. p. 372
Of course the colonies were not excited about receiving unwanted refugees. They showed a small measure of compassion. In Massachusetts they passed a law regarding the Acadians,
...that the exiles must be self-supporting by the spring of 1756. If any proved unable or unwilling to work, local justices of the peace were empowered "to employ, bind out, or support said Inhabitants." Neighboring Connecticut passed a comparable law shortly after the first of approximately 630 Acadians arrived at New London. The exile families were dispersed among all the towns of the province, with local officials responsible for providing assistance to the sick and indigent and maintaining strict control over the able-bodied, preventing them from wandering from their designated locations or congregating in potentially dangerous groups. pp.374-5
The English had to recruit settlers to the land purged of Acadians. People from New London were interested in moving up there, perhaps they were intrigued by the stories told by the Acadians sent there.
The greatest interest in emigration indeed did come from southern New England, where land was in short supply and where numerous residents had direct experience in l'Acadie, either as sailors or soldiers. Numerous public meetings took place over the winter and early spring of 1759, and in April a group of leaders from New London, representing potential settlers in Connecticut and Rhode Island, sailed to Halifax to meet with Lawrence and the council. p.408
It wasn't hard refusing prepared land recently stolen from its successful owners. The new settlers did not know how to tend the dikes to keep the marshlands-turned-fields dry and productive. The diking was the innovation of the Acadians that turned the peninsula into a successful agricultural region. The terrible irony of that arrangement is that Acadians were forced to help maintain the dikes for the invaders.

I recommend this book to Americans seeking context for the French-Indian War and the views and behaviors of New Englanders before the Revolution. It was a good read, well told, well researched, and well informed.


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