Genesis of a People
Acadians in Nova Scotia, 1604-1713
When the War Between the States began in 1861, Alexandre Mouton, despite his prominence as a planter and politician, was the scion of a people whom their Anglo-Saxon neighbors would still consider exotic, even foreign. Like their English-speaking neighbors, these Louisiana Acadians were of European stock, but their experience in America was different from other Europeans. Port-Royal, not St. Augustine or Jamestown or New Amsterdam, was the birthplace of their culture in the New World. During the interminable wars between the English and the French to wrest control of North America, the Acadians naturally fought against the English, who considered them implacable enemies. The Acadians paid a terrible price for remaining loyal to their ancestral French culture when the last of these wars erupted in the 1750s. Exile, not victory, was their common fate during the final French and Indian War. The Acadians who chose exile in Louisiana soon found themselves part of the Spanish empire, and then they became part of the French empire again. They became Americans only after the new nation that had won its independence from Britain purchased Louisiana from France in 1803. And so these wayward Acadians became Americans, exotic new citizens of the United States. As a result, their history became part of the American experience, no less American than the story of John Smith and Pocahontas or of the Pilgrims giving thanks after their first meager harvest. ... 01
01. For a recent analysis of the "geographical trivialization of the Gulf South," see Usner, Lower Miss. Valley Before 1783, especially his Introduction, in which he says on pp. 3-4: "The geographical trivialization of the Gulf South in colonial American historiography has certainly not helped us overcome this chronological obscurity of older Souths. The Lower Mississippi Valley has been borderland territory for historians as it once was for the English colonies of the Atlantic Coast, and its people have been largely ignored or casually dismissed as mere bit-players in the drama of American development--colorful, no doubt, but peripheral and unimportant. Before falling under the sovereignty of the United States, lands along the Mississippi River appear to be an amorphous area sojourned by French woodsmen and Indian warriors while waiting to be occupied by Anglo-American settlers and their African-American slaves. A determinatively eastern point of view toward regions beyond the Atlantic seaboard is echoed in phrases like Ulrich Bonnell Phillips's 'redskins and Latins' and more recently in Bernard Bailyn's references to 'exotic,' 'strange,' and 'bizarre' people living in the southeastern hinterland. The trans-Appalachian South, in a word, has been only dimly realized by historians as a place with a history of its own and a people whose tale is worth telling in its own right." This certainly applies to the Cajuns of Louisiana.