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Treaty Of Breda Gave No Definition Of Acadia

Although the Treaty of Breda restored Acadia to France in 1667, there was still a dispute over just what territory was involved.

Thomas Temple, the Englishman who had been given the land, wanted to hold onto as much of it as he could. He argued that, under the treaty, Acadia was just a small part of the land that he had been given by Charles Cromwell in 1656, and that what had been returned to France was only a strip of land along the Atlantic Coast.

That left him holding Port Royal and the fertile Annapolis Valley, the fur-rich territory around the fort at Saint John, and the developing trading post at Penobscot Bay.

The French ambassador to Great Britain had the treaty clarified to specify that Acadia included the forts at Pentagoet (Penobscot Bay), Saint John, Port Royal, La Have and Cape Sable. But when a French commissioner brought the order to Temple, who was living in Boston, Temple sent him away. Those places, Temple said, were in Nova Scotia, not Acadia, and the Treaty of Breda said nothing about Nova Scotia.

The negotiations went back and forth for another two years before England's King Charles II finally sent Temple a direct order to hand over all of Acadia "forthwith and without all manner of doubt, difficulties, scruples, or delays." Temple finally complied and, on July 7, 1670, signed a document handing over the lands to Hector d'Andigne de Grandfontaine, French Acadia's first royal governor.

As Charles Mahaffie points out, "By 1670, there were about 500 Acadians. They had never stopped being French. In terms of language, religion, and joie de vivre, they are French today. Yet as recollections of France dimmed, and as trade with New England became more and more important, and in the absence for almost 20 years of any sort of French authority, they had begun to slip their national ties. They meant to give no sovereign their full allegiance. They were adopting the mindset that in later years would give them the name 'French neutrals.'"

The new royal governor, representing France in the style to which the Acadians had been accustomed, governed lightly. Trade ties that had been built with New England were uninterrupted, even though they were illegal again now that Acadia was again French. He did nothing - and didn't have the wherewithal to try - to resist English claims to a disputed area in Maine.

But Grandfontaine did one thing that has been of abiding historical interest. In 1671, he ordered the first census of Acadia. From it we know the names of some of the early settlers there, a little bit about where they lived, and some of their occupations.

For instance, from it we learn that Port Royal in 1671 had 650 cattle, 425 sheep, horses and pigs, and 400 arpents under cultivation, not counting natural grazing meadows.

According to the census data and research by historian and genealogist Bona Arsenault, at the end of 1671, Port Royal and the neighboring area had 68 families and a population of 373.

In Arsenault's words, "These families were to be the founders of the Acadian people and some of them were already in their third generation as pioneers."

Naomi Griffiths, who devoted much study to the origins of the Acadian families, notes, "The census...gave the colony about 350 inhabitants, a figure which is probably a little conservative....The most important settlement was Port Royal, but there were other small establishments at Pubnico, Cap Neigre, Port Rochelais, Pentagoet and Mosquodoboit, and even a family of six on Cape Breton Island. The census in most cases gives the names and ages of the husband, wife and children, as well as their possessions. Two men, Pierre Melanson and Etienne Robichaud, told the census taker that they wouldn't answer his questions.

"Most of he men were identified just as 'laboreur,' but this meant a man who had land and animals," Griffiths continues. "The colony possessed people who considered themselves trained in various ways, the list going from the practice of surgery through carpentry, barrel making, tailoring, masonry, and various branches of the lumber trade to blacksmith, armorer, and candle maker."

In 1673, Grandfontaine was replaced as governor by Jacques de Chambly, who had a misfortune of becoming victim of a ship captain who claimed Acadia for Holland.

In 1672, the Dutch and the French began fighting in Europe, and England allied itself with the French. England and the Netherlands came to terms early in 1674, several months before the July day when Captian Jurriaen Aernoutsz sailed into New York harbor. He had been sailing the North Atlantic, looking for French and English ships to fight.

In New York, he met a trader named John Rhoades who told him that the Dutch were no longer at war with the English, but that France had yet to come to terms. Rhoades went on to explain to Aernoutsz that the French colony in Acadia was barely defended and ripe for conquest.

Aernoutsz immediately set sail for Fort Pentagoet in Penobscot Bay. There were only 30 French soldiers in the fort and they were lightly armed. The Dutchman took the fort easily, then sailed to Saint John and captured the fort there. At both places, he buried bottles with messages inside them proclaiming that Acadia henceforward was to be known as New Holland.

New Englanders looked on with some amusement until Aernoutsz, feeling his oats, attacked two ships from Boston. Governor John Leverett of Massachusetts organized a fleet and, in short battle in the Bay of Fundy, captured Aernoutsz and took him to Boston for trial. He was eventually acquitted.

In 1676, the Dutch named Cornelius Steenwyck governor of the "coasts and countries of Nova Scotia and Acadia," but nothing ever came of it.

The Acadians, meanwhile, continued to devote themselves to raising crops, cattle, and children.