Our Acadian Heritage

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Money Settles Diplomatic Dispute Over Acadia's Ownership

While English and French colonists dueled in North America, the two countries were also doing battle in Europe. This latest episode in a continuing series of fights between the two countries stemmed from the marriage in 1625 of King Charles I of England to Henriette-Marie, the sister of King Louis XIII of France.

The trouble started in 1625, when the Duke of Buckingham, a friend of King Charles, went to France to escort Henriette-Marie to England. While he was in France, Buckingham made a pass at King Louis' wife, Anne. Then, after the wedding, King Louis accused King Charles of disrespect for Henriette-Marie's Catholic faith and used that to refuse to pay part of her promised dowry.

It all boiled over in 1627, when Buckingham sided with French Protestants in La Rochelle and led an army to fight with them against forces under King Charles. French and English soldiers fought on the Isle de Re, in the English Channel just off La Rochelle. The French won the fight.

That was enough for King Charles of England. He was beginning to face serious threats to his throne from Oliver Cromwell and a recalcitrant Parliament, so he sought peace. The two countries signed a peace treaty in April 1629, three months before the Kirke brothers took Quebec, but before William Alexander's Scotsmen settled in Nova Scotia.

It was clear that Quebec would have to be returned to the French because it was taken after a peace treaty was concluded. Acadia's fate was less clear. There had been no French surrender there. Scottish settlers had simply moved into a place that had been mostly vacant and established a colony with only minimal challenge by the French.

According to Charles Mahaffie, "Three years of ponderous negotiations were required before (the question of what to do with Acadia) and other questions left unanswered (by the treaty of April 1629) were resolved, and while the diplomats argued in Europe, no one gave anything away in Acadia. In 1630, the Company of New France sent reinforcements for Charles de la Tour, and he built a second fort, this one at Saint John Harbor. Bearing his name, it would be his stronghold. The Scots were reinforced too, and to add to the confusion, traders were infiltrating from a new English colony at Plymouth Bay. In 1628, they built a post upstream of the Kennebec River at the site of present-day Augusta, Maine's capital. At about the same time, they moved into Penobscot Bay, near what is now the campus of the Maine Maritime Academy at Castine. By 1631, they had pushed even farther east to Machias, just below Passamaquoddy Bay."

The English had a good argument to keep their Acadian settlements and they had enough strength in the neighborhood to make the argument stick. But King Charles needed money, and the chief French minister, Cardinal Richelieu, knew it. He made a deal: If the English abandoned their settlements in Nova Scotia, King Louis would pay the rest of Henriette-Marie's dowry. King Charles took the money and ordered the Scots in Nova Scotia to come back to Great Britain.

He sent this order to the settlers: "Forasmuch as a final agreement hath been passed between us and our good Brother the Most Christian King, And that for the conclusion thereof we have consented that Port Royal shall be restored to the same condition wherein it was prior to the beginning of the last war, To the end that there may be no advantage on one side or the other...and Without prejudice to any previous right to title... Our pleasure and will is that we command you by these presents, that with all diligence you cause to be demolished the Fort which was built at the sd. (sic) place by our well beloved William Alexander knt (sic), and to remove yourselves thence with your goods...Leaving the limits thereof wholly deserted and depeopled."

 As part of the deal, King Charles promised Alexander 10,000 pounds to pay him for his settlement expenses. Alexander never got the money and died heavily in debt.

Acadia was formally returned to the French by the Treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye in March 1632.