When Genealogy Meets History

In my first appearance on LRC ("An ‘Alien’ Patriot"), I introduced myself as an immigrant and a patriot who wished for the re-establishment of the Constitution of the U.S. and the governing of this country by the people and for the people. Then I read John Keller's essay titled "Forget the Constitution," and I've been reading and thinking about this "citizenship" circus.

I know we all realize that most of you LRC readers and writers understand this country and this government much better than I, simply because I come from another country (Canada), even if it's not that far away. However, because I am an immigrant in the U.S., I have first hand experience of what it's like to be an "alien," which is what I first chose to share with you (while having a little fun with the INS citizenship exam).

While it is true that according to the U.S. government I am an "alien," as far as I'm concerned, the only true immigrant in my family arrived in North America in 1654. If our calculations are correct, I am one of the descendents of the 10th generation since he came here. That man, who is obviously not here to comment on the current immigration issues, is nevertheless the one who made it possible for me to be on this side of the pond today.

Because of him, and like most of you, I have a deep love for freedom and for this land we call America, except that mine extends from Louisiana to Quebec without stopping at the government-made Maine border. My ancestors called it la Nouvelle France and a group of them once founded a place we call l'Acadie.

As I learned about my ancestors and the Acadian people in the past few years, their story has become a daily source of inspiration in my life for both freedom and courage. Somewhere along the way, they've become my heroes, although there is nothing glamorous about their story and their faith, except maybe the extraordinary courage they showed in standing up for what they believed in and what they had come to America to find: liberty and freedom.

Acadie or Acadia was born in 1604 when a small group of Frenchmen arrived on the coast of today's Nova Scotia, and established the first European settlement in North America (in modern times of course).

By the time my own ancestor arrived in Port Royal, Acadia thrived as a colony, independently from France, and it was mostly self-sufficient. In Acadia, the people quickly rejected the idea of being "French subjects" and they adopted a new identity: they called themselves Acadiens and Acadiennes.

Most Acadians farmed and they used a system they called les aboiteaux to irrigate lands the sea would have normally claimed with its high tides. The ingenious system of dykes let rain water run out, while it prevented seawater from flooding the fields with the daily tides.

For 150 years, while England and France fought over the territory they occupied, Acadians prospered peacefully and by 1755, historians estimate that there were 14,000 to 15,000 Acadian souls in the area. In addition, Acadians were said to have developed some of the best cultivable lands and farming techniques in North America. As a people, though, they always refused to engage in the French-English hostilities, declaring themselves neutral, which in turn gave them the appropriate nickname of "French neutrals."

Interestingly enough, Acadians might have even been the first people to vote in North America, as it appears that they gathered, discussed, and then voted on issues of matters to their communities.

Acadians owned guns to defend themselves, their families, properties, and to hunt, but they had no fortress or no army to defend the lands they occupied. They certainly did not have the numbers to face an aggressor like the Brutish Empire. In addition, Acadie had no definite borders, it was not recognized as a country, it had no government-run "citizenship" program and, at this point, research tells us that they were a people that did not have a formal government either. While new discoveries about the Acadian people may prove all of this wrong one day, so far everything seem to be consistent with a somewhat government-free society.

Throughout history, however, Acadians have been perceived as a group of desperately honest and hopelessly ignorant and poor people. Additionally, the subsistence living they practiced was often viewed as laziness. But, as historian Carl Brasseaux points out in his book Acadian to Cajun: the Transformation of a People, Acadians seemed to have aspired only to a good life.

In predispersal Acadia and in the early years of settlement in Louisiana, the Acadians were not materialistic in the modern sense. They aspired only to a comfortable existence, and though they consistently produced small agricultural surpluses for sale to acquire commodities they could not themselves produce, they did not labor to produce cash surpluses for the sake of possessing specific material goods, particularly the trapping of high social status. Thus, though significant economic differences existed among individuals, the poorest predispersal Acadian considered himself no less worthy than his wealthiest neighbor.

All this being said, the British did not appreciate the Acadians' neutrality on their territory. They demanded allegiance and they pressured Acadians into taking an "oath of allegiance" to the crown of England. Acadians refused, mostly because they wanted to maintain their Catholic religion and their French language, something the Royal Pain at the time would not grant.

In reality, the "oath" business simply gave the Brits, who coveted Acadian lands for their own colonists, an excuse to do what we would today call "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide." The irony is that today's PC crowd usually refers to the Acadians' story as the Acadian odyssey or le grand dérangement (the great disturbance). Nice way to put it, no doubts, and one might add that Acadians were merely a "small casualty" in a big war, or the "collateral damage" of their time.

One morning in 1755, British soldiers took over the Acadian community of Grand Pré by first rounding up the men in the church. They locked them in, confiscated their guns, and gave women and children the order to evacuate their homes, only taking what they could carry with them. In the church, Acadians were read a "deportation order" (that is still in the books today, although not enforced), which gave Brit soldiers the legal right to confiscate homes, lands, cattle, crops…everything, and the right to deport the Acadian people, which they did.

For months, and community by community, Acadians were rounded up in the same fashion and were deported by boats, landing all over America and all over the world. Between 1755 and 1758, an estimated 11,000 Acadians were deported in this manner while another 3,000 is said to have hidden in the woods, surviving however they could, often times with the help of the natives whom had been their friends since the early days of the colony.

Half of the people who were deported died in the ordeal mostly from starvation and diseases giving the unsanitary conditions of the boats, and more died in the woods from starvation or from freezing to death. Soldiers killed a few more on the spot as they attempted to escape. (Link to article about letter from British Major-General John Winslow.)

Acadians were sent everywhere as families were forever torn apart. Some landed in prisons in Liverpool, while others were sent back to France where they no longer belonged. Some were kept in prison in Halifax and in today's New Brunswick, and some landed in the New England colonies, often times in prisons there as well. Additionally, in the "American" colonies, Acadians were often not allowed to even disembark the boats where they had no food, and it sometimes went on for months.

Simply put, Acadians were not welcomed anywhere and many were imprisoned all over the world just because they were Acadians, Catholic, and they spoke French. Moreover, even the Acadians who did take the "oath of allegiance" to the wicked crown of England were deported. It was just an excuse.

While all of this is going on, British subjects take over Acadian homes and lands, but they did not know how to operate the system of dykes the Acadians had put in place, which was essential for the farming of the lands. They proceeded to ask their government for the permission to hire Acadians who were in prison to operate the system for them. Permission granted.

The Acadians who worked for the Brits at the time demanded to be, and were, well compensated for their efforts. A group of them later chartered a boat with the money earned this way, and they fled south to la Louisiane, which was already occupied by another group of French colonists.

Between 1764 and 1785, an estimated 3,000 Acadians made their way to Louisiana and historians estimate that 10 to 20 years after their arrival here, Acadians had already reached their pre-dispersal economic comfort and way of life. In 1803, these Acadians, whom became known as "Cajuns," were bought for a mere $15 million by founding father Thomas Jefferson with the unconstitutional Louisiana Purchase. Shortly thereafter, they became "citizens" of the U.S.

Meanwhile, another large group of Acadians rebuilt their lives and communities in Canada, settling mostly in today's province of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. They automatically became British subjects (England had won Canada in 1759 with the battle of Quebec, thereby conquering the French-speaking people who lived on the territory) and with the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867, they became "citizens" of Canada while remaining, by extension, French British subject.

The rest, as they say, is history. Like the rest of the Western World, Acadians have been citizenized, socialized, politicized and dumbed down by the government-run, tax-funded schools in both Canada and the U.S.

It is ironic to think that in the richest countries today, most people are dependent on the government for one thing or another, whether it is with schools, health care programs, social security, or any other of the countless welfare programs sponsored by the State. Very few, it seems, are self-sufficient and are guiding and running their own lives.

In a couple of years, I will be invited to take an "oath of citizenship" to the federal government of the U.S. Unlike my ancestors, I'm not pressured into taking this oath and I'm guaranteed all kinds of liberties, even if I do not take the oath. Among those are freedom of speech (which I assume is in any language until they pass the English-only bill) and freedom of religion. I'm even promised a vote, but only after I take the oath, and I am told that I will not be deported if I take the oath.

Another oath, a different kind of king, at another time in history… But who's to say that this one really is different and that this government will not brake its side of the contract (when it can't even promise it won't pass the English-only bill)? Not to mention that according to the INS' web site, to become a citizen, "an applicant must show that he or she is attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States," which does nothing but make me feel like I'd be taking a one-way oath.

In our society today, citizenship programs are nothing but the carrousel in the middle of the government circus. And of course, the ride is free. Let's see… Give us an oath, we give you a vote; give us a vote, we give you a federal government job; we give you a federal government job, you give us a vote… Around in circles we all go, forever riding the little fake ponies, while none of this has ever taught anyone how to ride a real horse.

I agree with Butler Shaffer when he says: "You and I can bring civilization back into order neither by seizing political power, nor by attacking it, but by moving away from it." (Link Much like one can't stop the carrousel by hoping on it or by attacking the fake ponies. It will only stop when the people stop riding the carrousel and learn how to ride (and guide) their own horses.

A special thanks to those who took the time to send welcoming e-mails following my first appearance on LRC, and thanks also to those who sent links to informative web sties and suggestions for books. Until we read each other again.

January 16, 2002