This Week in History


Nova Scotia becomes the new New England

For the week of Monday May 6, 2013

On May 11, 1760, some 40 families from New England arrived in Nova Scotia. These newcomers, the Planters, were among the first English-speaking immigrants to Canada. They would transform the way of life established by the Acadians in Nova Scotia.

The order expelling the Acadians is read in Grand Pré Parish Church in 1755
© Library and Archives Canada / 1972-26-768
Acadia was ceded to Great Britain on the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The Acadians however, stuck to their French traditions and refused to pledge allegiance to the British Crown. Governor of Nova Scotia Charles Lawrence ordered their deportation in 1755. The decree forcibly removed some 10,000 Acadians out of a population of about 12,000 and relocated them elsewhere in the British and French Empires. The deportees were uprooted and forced to abandon their homes, farms and livestock.

In 1759, Governor Lawrence issued a proclamation inviting settlers from the Thirteen Colonies (today the United States) to Nova Scotia. The stratagem worked, and thousands of New-Englanders, especially from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, voluntarily relocated to Nova Scotia between 1760 and 1763.

As soon as they arrived, the Planters transformed the cultural landscape of Nova Scotia. English became the dominant language. Protestant beliefs altered the religious makeup of the territory. Civil law, including land tenure, was introduced. Traditional Acadian villages were replaced by townships, and the Planters took possession of the most fertile lands. Traces of the Acadian presence remained, however, notably the system of tide gates (aboiteaux), a land draining technique that made farming on marshes possible. Whether they liked it or not, the Planters had to consult the few Acadians remaining in Nova Scotia to keep the aboiteaux operating.

Rural historic district of Grand Pré
© Parks Canada

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 established the administration of land acquired by the British and stimulated the immigration of Planters to Nova Scotia. Although some Acadians eventually returned to Nova Scotia, they settled on the east coast of what is now New Brunswick. The land they had once owned was now occupied by the Planters and British colonists. The Planter immigration ended in about 1768, when land opened up west of the Ohio valley.

The Coming of the New England Planters (pre-loyalists) was designated an event of national historic importance in 1958. The Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 by British decree, the Return of the Acadians, the Acadian Odyssey and the System of Tide Gates (Aboiteaux) are also events of national historic importance. Grand Pré National Historic Site of Canada, in Nova Scotia, commemorates the area as a centre of Acadian settlement and the Deportation of the Acadians.

To find out more about the Acadians, read the following articles, Peace Treaty at Utrecht Changes Map of North America, National Acadian Day, The Return of the Acadians and British Land at Louisbourg, in the archives of This Week in History.

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