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Acadians (1752 to 1784)

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As a result of the discontinuation of E-STAT, some of the links to the tables available in the publication 98-187-X Introduction to Censuses of Canada, 1665-1871 were broken. The tables can be requested via the Statistics Canadas Data Liberation Initiative ( For the convenience of users, the tables are also available on the Queens University website: ( The website is in English as Queens University is not subject to the Official Languages Act.

Table of the French Acadian population from 1749 to 1771
In 1763 there was a return of exiles from Massachusetts to the Acadian Peninsula
1764—Population of Nova Scotia.

It is necessary here to insert a table showing the sudden movements of the French Acadian population from 1749 to 1771, the period of the misfortunes and partial expulsion of this population. This table is partly compiled from the figures given in the memoirs of the time, and partly by estimates deduced from the whole information accessible. Without such a table it would be almost impossible to understand the migrations of this small population, which in spite of all, amounted in 1871 to 77,740 souls in the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick ; about 15,000 in Prince Edward Island, besides an unknown but comparatively considerable number of descendants in the Province of Quebec, and several thousands in different parts of the United States, in the West India Islands and in France.

The figures of this table are given in round numbers, so as not to give them the appearance of an exactitude which there are no means of attaining ; but they are, on the whole, correct, and show in their principal details the statistics of this part of the history, as difficult as it is interesting, of the colonization of the country.

For the proper understanding of these statistics, which have so greatly interested writers of different nations, it is necessary to recall, in a few words and in chronological order, the events which during so long a period have made this small Acadian people, the first colonizers of British North America, the sport of misfortune.

The capture of Port Royal (Annapolis) in 1710, and the cession of the Acadian Peninsula (Nova Scotia) by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 brought the population of this part of the Acadian territory under British rule. The Acadians of the North of the Peninsula, holding the position of neutrals, continued to clear their lands, to reclaim fertile marshes from the sea, and to increase in number from the double cause of the natural increase and the immigration from the south and south-east coasts.

The first capture of Louisbourg by the English took place in 1745 ; and the settlers of Isle Royale (Cape Breton) were sent from the Island. By the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle in 1748, Cape Breton was restored to France and the work of colonizing again began. In 1749, the British Government which, until then, had maintained Nova Scotia merely as a military colony, began to settle the country, and the Acadians of the Peninsula, the Neutrals, began to emigrate to Cape Breton and other French territories in the vicinity. In 1755, took place the banishment of 6,000 Acadians and the destruction of the properties belonging to the French inhabitants of the Peninsula. In 1758, the British, having taken possession of Louisbourg, a part of the population of Cape Breton was sent to France, others sought refuge in French territory, and a certain number of settlers remained dispersed along the coasts.

From 1758 to 1763, the period of the cession to England of the whole of the North American Continent, the Acadians lived in constant alarm, harassed by continued removals, and in a state of wretchedness.

From about 1763 to 1765 the great majority of the Acadians of St. John Island were driven from their properties and obliged to seek refuge in the neighbouring coasts and in Canada. During this same period a certain number of Acadians who had been banished to Massachusetts obtained permission to return to Nova Scotia.

About 1771 these unhappy communities recovered comparative peace : nevertheless, in 1784, the Acadians of the St. John River were in turn expelled from their lands, which were given to the United Empire Loyalists. It was at that time the flourishing Acadian settlements at Madawaska were founded. This last expropriation does not appear to have hindered the progress of the Acadian population.

Table of the French Acadian population from 1749 to 1771, compared with the same population in the Gulf Provinces in 1871.

Names of Places.   1749 1755,
Before the
After the
1756. 1758,
After the taking
of Louisbourg.
1765. 1771. 1871.
New Divisions. Old Divisions. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Nova Scotia Peninsula 13,000 8,200 1,200 1,200 1,200 1,700 1,860 21,969
  Isle Royale 1,000 3,000 3,000 2,500 700 800 920 10,864
Prince Edward Island St. John Island 1,000 3,000 3,500 4,500 6,500 1,400 1,270 15,009
New Brunswick District of Gedaïc 600 3,500 4,000 2,000 300 2,000 1,101 13,008
  Shores of the Gulf 100 400 400 1,000 500 2,000 1,093 12,916
  Bay des Chaleurs 100 150 150 500 400 1,000 795 9,412
  St. John River 200 250 250 1,600 1,100 1,250 1,403 9,571
State of Maine St. John River 7,000
  Total 16,000 18,500 12,500 13,300 10,700 10,150 8,442 99,740
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

What is here called the District of Gedaïc (now Shediac) includes the north bank of Chignitou Bay, or Beaubassin, and the Eastern Shores, from the line now separating Nova Scotia from New Brunswick in the Isthmus, to Richibucto. By the term, Shores of the Gulf, is designated all that part of New Brunswick extending from Richibucto to the Miscou and Shippegan Islands ; and the term, Bay des Chaleurs, means only the south shore of that Bay, part of New Brunswick.

The figures in the first two columns, 1749 and 1755, are taken from several records, but principally from a memoir of 1748, deposited in the Archives of Paris, and a memoir of the Abbé de l'Isle Dieu of 1754. The total for 1755 is the total carried from 1749, with the addition of the natural increase at the rate of 2.5 per cent. per annum, the normal rate of the Acadians when left to themselves.

The first memoir shows the number of communicants on the Acadian Peninsula to have been 8,850 in 1748, equivalent to about 13,000 souls. The same memoir speaks of 15 or 20 families at St. John River ; a few families from the south joined these soon after. This information is, on the whole, confirmed by Lafarge, in his “Geographical History of Nova Scotia,”published in London in 1749.

These 13,000 inhabitants appear to have been thus distributed on the Acadian Peninsula : at Port Royal, 1,500 ; at Rivière aux Canards, 900 ; at Grand Pré, 1,500 ; at Pipiguit, 2,700 ; at Cobequit, 1,200 ; from thence and on Beaubassin, 3,700 ; and finally in the other parts of the Peninsula, 1,500. The memoir of 1748 has included this last mentioned population with that of Port Royal.

The memoir of the Abbé de l'Isle Dieu (Paris Archives) gives for 1754 the number of 6,318 Acadians settled in the northern part of the Peninsula ; 2,897 in the northern and western parts of Beaubassin ; 2,868 in St. John Island ; in all, 12,083 inhabitants in 1754, without counting the populations of the southern and eastern shores of the Peninsula, of Isle Royale, of the north-east shores, of the Bay of Chaleurs, and of the St. John River. The same memoir, speaking of 1754, fixes the total population of the Peninsula at 9,215 inhabitants : that population was sending emigrants north.

An English memoir, published in London in 1751, under the title of "The Importance of Colonizing and Fortifying Nova Scotia," estimates at "nearly four thousand" the total number of French in Old Acadia fit to bear arms -evidently an exaggeration, but showing that this population was close upon that number. In fact, the whole Acadian people must have amounted in 1751, to about 3,500 men old enough to bear arms. Governor Lawrence, of Halifax, in his Circular addressed to the different Governors in August, 1755 (Archives of the Historical Society of Nova Scotia, reproduced in Haliburton's "Nova Scotia," Vol. I., page 329 and onwards), estimates at nearly 7,000 persons the Acadian inhabitants of the northern parts of the Peninsula whom it was intended to transport to the British Colonies.

It is stated in the memoirs among the Archives of Paris, that in 1751, St. John Island had already 1,868 inhabitants, and that, (also in 1751,) there were already 958 Acadians in the district here called Gedaïc.

The letters of Thomas Pichon assume 3,200 as the number of inhabitants of Isle Royale in 1752. Another memoir, of a few months later, gives to Isle Royale 4,325 residents, besides 30 persons in the house of the Governor and Ordonnateur, a garrison of 1,300 and a population of 600 Indians.

Until 1752 inclusive, a considerable emigration had taken place from the Peninsula to Isle Royale, which in 1754 and 1755 sent, in turn, an emigration to St. John Island and the north shores.

The movements indicated by the figures of the preceding table took place in the following manner. From 1749 to 1755 there was an emigration from the Peninsula to Isle Royale, to St. John Island, to the District of Gedaïc, and to the shores of the Gulf, so that the population of the Peninsula was reduced to 8,200 inhabitants at the date of the banishment. This population was thus distributed : At Port Royale, 1,500 ; around the Basin of Minas, 4,700 ; at Beaubassin, south, 1,500 ; (it is these 7,700 inhabitants whom Governor Lawrence estimates at 7,000) and in the rest of the Peninsula 500. The diminution in the Peninsula caused by this emigration, and the increase arising from the same cause in Isle Royale, St. John Island, in the District of Gedaïc and on the shores of the Gulf, including the natural increase of the population, are shown by the numbers of column 2, in the Table.

An enumeration made in St. John Island, in 1753, shows the presence, at that time, of 2,663 souls ; the memoir of Abbé de l'Isle-Dieu gives 2,897 as the number of the population of the District of Gedaïc in 1754.

From September to December 1755 took place the banishment from the Peninsula of 6,000 Acadians, who were sent off in five detachments, as follows : 1,500 to Virginia ; 2,000 to Carolina ; 1,200 to Maryland ; 400 to Pennsylvania ; and 900 to Boston, according to the memoir of M. de la Rochette in the Paris Archives, the letter from the Acadians of Port Royal, dated from St. John River, July, 1756, to their former Missionary, Mr. Daudin, and what remains of the English records of the time. Of the 2,200 persons who escaped the proscription, 1,200 remained in the Peninsula, concealed in the woods and along the sea shore, living by hunting and fishing, and in the greatest distress. The other 1,000 went to swell the population of St. John Island and the district of Gedaïc. As the latter district had been ravaged by the burning of a part of the settlement and crops in the neighbourhood of Beaubasssin, the wretchedness there was extreme, and the mortality enormous.

In 1756, a good number of the banished had found means to return, some by taking possession of the ships by which they were transported, others in small boats. Nearly 1,400, in all, went to St. John River, and a small number landed on the western shores of Nova Scotia. But death visited them, and the whole Acadian population, in spite of these returns, increased that year only by about 800.

From 1756 to 1758 a comparatively large emigration to Canada took place, and the mortality on the coast was enormous. A letter from the Bishop of Quebec says, that in 1757 there were 900 refugees at Miramichi ; of whom it is known that 200 died in a single winter. The taking of Louisbourg in July, 1758, diminished the population of Cape Breton from 2,500 to 700 ; 1,700 were transported to La Rochelle, 700 remained on the island, and the small number not represented by these figures went to increase the population of St. John Island. The letter of the Bishop of Quebec says, that there were at least 6,000 inhabitants on St. John Island in 1757. In that same space of time, death decimated the districts of Gedaïc and the coasts, and Acadians of these localities emigrated in great numbers to Canada and St. John Island. These causes reduced the population on the mainland to a few hundred persons.

From 1758 to 1765, the property of the Acadians of St. John Island was taken possession of, and they were driven out, reducing this population from 6,500 souls to 1,400, but increasing the population of the District of Gedaïc, of the Shores and of the Bay des Chaleurs.

From 1765 to 1771, the mortality in the groups of population on the Gulf Shores was so large as to cause a comparatively important emigration to Canada. The descendants of the Acadians are met with everywhere by thousands in the Province of Quebec, but especially in the Magdalen Islands, the County of Bonaventure, the North Shore, the Counties of Bellechasse, Beauce, Champlain, Nicolet, Maskinongé, Montcalm, Assomption, Laprairie, St. John and Iberville.

In 1763 there was a return of exiles from Massachusetts to the Acadian Peninsula, which explains the increase from 1,200 in 1758 to 1,700 in 1765, notwithstanding the mortality.

It was apparently only about 1771 that the Acadians saw the cessation of the emigration which had diminished their population, and that having again attained to easy circumstances, they began to increase at the rate of 2.5 per cent. per annum. It is at this rate, taking the Census of 1871 for a basis, that the probable number of the Acadian population in each centre has been fixed in column 7 ; in fact, the number of 8,442, in the ratio of the increase indicated during the course of a century, accounts for the Acadian population of 99,740 souls (the Acadian population of Prince Edward Island and the State of Maine included) in 1871. Exchanges of settlers from Acadia to Canada, and vice versa, have taken place in the course of this century, but as these exchanges almost balance each other, they have not affected the general result.

The sum total of the losses experienced by the Acadian population in Acadia from 1755 to 1771, without taking into account the absorption by death of a number of victims equal to the whole of the births, has been 10,058, which may be approximately apportioned thus : Returned or sent to France, about 3,500 ; settled in the British Colonies, Louisiana, St. Domingo, Martinique and elsewhere, about 1,500 ; emigrated to the Province of Quebec, about 3,500 ; excess of deaths over births during this period, 1,558. In adding to this last number the deaths which occurred by hundreds on board ships and on foreign shores, and a number equal to all the births, a frightful mortality is exhibited, which called forth the expression of the poet who has sung of the Acadians :

"Written their history stands on tablets of stone in the church yards."
     (Longfellow.-Evangeline : A Tale of Acadia.)

1752—British and German population of Acadia or Nova Scotia : 4,203, thus divided :
Above 16 years–men, 574 ; women, 607. Children–boys, 1,899 ;
girls, 1,123.
(Halifax Archives.)

French population of the Acadian Peninsula
       "               "                Isle Royale
       "               "                Acadian Mainland (New Brunswick)
       "               "                St. John Island (Prince Edward)

1753—Population of Newfoundland, estimated at 13,000.
(Various authors.)

1754—Population of New France : 55,009.
(Census.–See summary tables in E-STAT 1.)

1755—Before the proscription of September.

French population of the Acadian Peninsula
      "               "                Isle Royale
      "               "                Acadian Mainland (New Brunswick)
      "               "                St. John Island (Prince Edward)

After the proscription.

French population of the Acadian Peninsula
      "               "                Isle Royale
      "               "                Acadian Mainland (New Brunswick)
      "               "                St. John Island (Prince Edward)

British population of Nova Scotia estimated at 5,000.
(Haliburton, N.S., Vol. II., page 274.)

1758—Population of New France : 80,000, of whom 15,000 were fit to bear arms.
(Considérations sur l'état présent du Canada, Edition Canadienne, page 2.)

Note: This statement of the population of New France is evidently exaggerated, as well as the one for 1759.

French population of the Peninsula of Nova Scotia
      "               "          Isle Royale, after the Capture of
               Louisbourg, and shipment of settlers to France
      "               "          Acadian Mainland (New Brunswick)
      "               "          St. John Island (Prince Edward)

1759—Population of New France : 82,000.    (Evidently incorrect.)
(Archives de Paris.)

1760—Population of New France : 70,000.
(Archives de Paris.)

1762—British population of Nova Scotia : 8,104.
(Halifax Archives.–See summary tables in E-STAT 1.)

1763—British population of Nova Scotia : nearly 9,000.
(Halifax Archives.–See summary tables in E-STAT 1.)

French population of the Peninsula of Nova Scotia
      "               "           Cape Breton
      "               "           Mainland of Nova Scotia
                                      (New Brunswick)
      "               "           St. John Island (Prince Edward)

In the London Archives, (1763), is a memorandum by Sir William Johnson containing an estimate of the number of Indian warriors frequenting the neighbourhood of both banks of the St. Lawrence from Quebec westward ; of both banks of the Ottawa River and of both sides of Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior, a portion of the Central and Western States and of the North Western Prairies, under the four following designations :

Six Nation Confederacy
2,230 warriors
Indians of Canada in alliance with the Six Nations
630       "       
Indians of Ohio
1,100       "       
Ottawa Confederacy
3,220       "       
Miamis or Twightwees
800       "       
Chipeweighs &c.
4,000       "       

(exclusive of the Sioux and Illinois). In all 11,980 warriors, which supposes a population of about 59,900 souls. A serious error of addition in the memorandum has been corrected in this statement. This document is commented upon further on.

1764—Population of Nova Scotia : 12,998.
(Halifax Archives.)

Note: This statement of population contains only a portion of the Acadians.

Note: An estimate of Population for the year 1764, was made at the request of the Massachusetts Historical Society, which estimate is as follows :

Dispersed along the coast, Louisbourg
    and St. John's Island excepted
River St. John
French Acadians still in the Province

1765—Population of Canada : 69,810.
(Census.–See summary tables in E-STAT 1.)

Note: The number of 14,700 souls inserted in the summary, for the united cities of Quebec and Montreal is taken from a memorandum found in the Fabrique of Cap-Santé.

Note: The Census of 1765 did not include the cities of Quebec and Montreal; the blanks in the columns having for titles Population (Table I.), and Houses (Table II.), have been supplemented by estimates calculated on the proportions of previous Censuses.

1765—French population of the Peninsula of Nova Scotia
                    "            "          Cape Breton
                    "            "          Mainland of Nova Scotia (N. B.)
                    "            "          John Island (Prince Edward)

British and German population of Nova Scotia : 9,789.
(Halifax Archives.)

1767—Population of Nova Scotia : 11,779, including a small portion of the Acadians.
(See summary tables in E-STAT 1 & 2.)

1771—French population of the Peninsula of Nova Scotia
                    "            "          Cape Breton
                    "            "          Acadian Mainland (N. B.)
                    "            "          St. John Island (Prince Edward)

1772—Population of Nova Scotia estimated as follows : British settlers, 17,000 ; Acadians of the Peninsula, 1,300 (too low) ; Acadians of Cape Breton, 800 (too low) ; 20 Negroes and 865 Indians.
(Report to the Board of Trade, Haliburton, Nova Scotia, Vol. I., page 250.)

1775—Population of the whole of Canada estimated at 90,000.
(Bouchette.-Topographie, page 8.)

1781—British Population of Nova Scotia, diminished by counter emigration, estimated at 12,000.
(Memoir of Judge Deschamps, Haliburton, Nova Scotia, Vol. I., page 261.)

1784—Population of Canada : 113,012.
(Census.-See summary tables in E-STAT 1.)

There were at that time (1784) in Upper Canada about 10,000 United Empire Loyalists, according to memorandum contained in the Appendices of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada for 1823. These 10,000 are not included in the preceding Census.

1784—British Population of Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton and the Mainland, estimated at 32,000 souls, having been increased by the arrival of about 20,000 United Empire Loyalists.
(Haliburton, Nova Scotia, Vol. II., page 275.)

This estimate of the population of Nova Scotia, which still comprised New Brunswick and Cape Breton, cannot include the Acadians, who then numbered in all about 11,000.