Our Acadian Heritage

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European Religious Differences Spread To Acadia

Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, and the company that he formed to settle Acadia needed a fur monopoly.  He and his partners financed the settlement on credit, and without funds from furs there was no way that they could pay their debts.

De Monts received the news on May 24, 1607, Ascension Day, that his trade monopoly in
Acadia had been revoked by the king.  He knew then that he was in big trouble.  He had no option but to give up the colony.  He left what rights and properties he still held to Jean de Biencourt, Sieur de Poutrincourt, one of the principal investors in the settlement.  Poutrincourt sailed for France in August 1607 to find new financial backers.

It would take two years, after which he returned with his two sons, Charles de Biencourt, and Jacques de Salazar, as well as Father Jesse Fleche, Claude de La Tour de Saint Etienne and his 17-year-old son, Charles de La Tour; also with Thomas Robin, son of the governor of Dieppe, and 23 colonists.  To his delight, Poutrincourt found that the Indians had preserved Port Royal just as De Monts had left it.  His colonists did not have to spend time rebuilding.  They could begin immediately to sow crops and gather furs.

On July 28, 1610, Poutrincourt sent his son, Charles de Biencourt, back to France to find more supplies for the expanding colony.  It turned out to be a mission that became more difficult by the day.

Religious rivalries that divided Europe had begun to spill over into North America.  When Biencourt got to France, he found that the Jesuits had gained the king's ear, and that they wanted a piece of the action in

The king decided to send two missionaries back with Biencourt.  They were Fathers Enemond Masse and Pierre Biard.  But Poutrincourt, like De Monts before him, was financed mostly by Protestant merchants.  They didn't want Jesuits involved in their business.  When the king insisted, the merchants not only refused to provide new credit and supplies to Poutrincourt, they called in the loans they had already made.

This was the first injection of the religious rivalries in France directly into the affairs of
Acadia  Neither De Monts nor Poutrincourt had demanded a particular religious belief from the people they dealt with.  The Edict of Nantes, which King Henry IV proclaimed in 1598, had established religious tolerance, or at least the appearance of tolerance, in France.  But the tolerance was more fiction than fact.  There was still a major division between Protestants and Catholics.  It was a division that tangled politics as well as worship, and Poutrincourt's Acadian colony was caught in the middle.  In attempting to raise funds for it, Biencourt had to deal with Protestant merchants who were his father's primary backers and a Catholic king who was being influenced by the Jesuits.

Kink Henry was assassinated by a lunatic in 1610, but that made things even worse for Poutrincourt.  The Jesuits had even more influence over the king's widow, Marie de Medicis.  Biencourt was caught in the tug of war while his family waited for more supplies.

In desperation, he turned to Antoinette de Pons, Marquise de Guercheville, who had money and who had influence with Marie de Medicis.  She paid off the loans that were called by Poutrincourt's first backers and bought their Acadian rights.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that she then turned over those rights to the two Jesuits, Masse and Briand. Now they not only had religious say-so in the colony, there were Poutrincourt's business partners.

On January 26, 1611, Biencourt finally raised anchor aboard the
Grace de Dieu to head back to Acadia.  His mother, Jeanne de Salazar, was also aboard ship, becoming one of the first women to travel from Europe to North America.  The two Jesuits were also aboard, along with 36 other men.  It took four months of stormy sailing to reach North America.  And then things got even stormier.

Almost as soon as the Jesuits set foot on land, they began to argue with Poutrincourt, who was a good Catholic, but a better businessman.  He didn't want the Jesuits in his colony either.  The order was Spanish in origin and policy, and he suspected the priests had more on their minds than saving Micmac souls.  He almost immediately sailed back to France, hoping to make a new deal with Madame de Guercheville.  She would not be swayed.  While Poutrincourt continued to argue with her, Biencourt continued to argue with the Jesuits in

One of the principal targets of the Jesuits was Father Fleche, the secular priest who had originally come to the settlement with Poutrincourt.  The Jesuits accused him of baptizing the Indians without providing enough religious instruction.  The end result of the fighting was that Madame de Guercheville decided to withdraw her support entirely and start a new colony of her own.

For the entire year of 1612, Port Royal was without assistance of any kind from France.  The colony barely survived.  The colonists thought things could hardly get worse.  Then, on May 12, 1613,
La Fleur de Mai, a ship equipped by Madame de Guerchevile, sailed into Port Royal harbor.  The captain had instructions to carry away everything the ship could carry, "even the church ornaments given by the queen."  The good news was that the ship also carried away the Jesuits.

Port Royal was left to fend for itself.  The Jesuits and
La Fleur de Mai headed for a place then called Monts-Deserts de Pentagoet.  They founded a colony that they called Saint Sauveur.  Today it is called Penobscot, Maine.