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Great And Noble Scheme [Hardcover]

John Mack Faragher
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 22 2005
On 25 August 1755, the New York Gazette printed a dispatch from Nova Scotia: "We are now upon a great and noble Scheme of sending the neutral French out of this Province, who have always been our secret Enemies..." John Mack Faragher tells the story of the expulsion of 18,000 Acadians in gripping prose. Following specific families through the anguish of their removal, he brings to light a tragic chapter in the settlement of America.

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From Publishers Weekly

Faragher relates, in all its complex, searingly sad details, the story of how the hapless French Acadians were run out of their Nova Scotia homes—a story known to most from Longfellow's Evangeline. Caught between French and British empires, these peaceful farming and fishing families, descendants of French settlers, struggled to maintain their neutrality and their birthright ways. But in 1755, British and colonial New England forces rounded them up and dispersed them by sea throughout North America. Families were broken up; hundreds died on their voyages; their towns were torched; and only small, scattered communities, like the Cajuns of Louisiana, survived into the modern era. "The removal of the Acadians," concludes Faragher (the Yale biographer of Daniel Boone), "was the first episode of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in American history." More than that, the communities destroyed, some 150 years old, had lived peaceably and intermarried with the Mikmaq natives of the Canadian shores. A way of life that could have been a harbinger of our own era of diversity was destroyed. Unfortunately, the book overwhelms the reader with detail, as if Faragher wanted to set down every fact of Acadian history so it would never again be lost. Instead, it is readers who'll be lost in this gripping tale of a dishonorable affair in American history. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

French Acadia--today's Nova Scotia and New Brunswick--was destroyed in 1755 when British officers expelled an entire people. Here Faragher perceptively narrates the 150-year-long history of French Acadia, profiling its founding personages, significant events, and the Acadians' gradual acquisition of a distinct identity. Grown from intermarriage with the indigenous Mikmaq, this identity resisted pledging fealty to the French or British sovereigns, but to say the Acadians' fate was the consequence of being crushed between imperial millstones would be simplistic. To paraphrase the author, not inexorable forces but willful men determined what happened, a thesis supported by lenient and diplomatic British officials (Britain held Acadia after 1709) who understood the Acadians. Army officer Charles Lawrence was not such a man--with expedient though specious arguments about Acadian hostility, he ordered destruction and removal as a preliminary to the incipient French and Indian War. Faragher estimates expulsion cost about 10,000 lives; the survivors scattered to Louisiana and elsewhere. From the author of the definitive Daniel Boone (1992), this is a superior work of history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THE FRENCH COLONIZATION OF l'Acadie began in earnest on 13 May 1606, when the Jonas, a vessel of 150 tons, loaded with provisions and carrying forty men, weighed anchor at the port of La Rochelle and sailed for the infant outpost of Port Royal on the far side of the Atlantic. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed, but worth your while Dec 10 2009
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Faragher puts a great deal of factual detail into this work and you might think that the story would get bogged down. Not a bit of it. The Acadian deportation is a tragic tale that will never grow old, I dare say, and the factual history of the matter is as gripping as any fictional treatment. A people who just wanted to be left alone (more or less) were viewed with suspicion and also jealousy due to the quality of the country they lived in. They had very little power to bear on their fate and thus their stubborn refusal to pledge allegiance to Great Britain provided the pretext for one of the great injustices in North American history, along with the dispossession of aboriginal populations. This is a Canadian story and an American story. Read it, you'll be better for it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
A superbly researched account of most of the players in the wresting of North America from the French by Britain and the sad results it created for those Acadians who wanted to remain neutral. Many innocents, many villians and some simple patriots on both sides. Very detailed history, lacking only in some of the longer term results which shaped the era after many Acadians returned.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read Aug. 14 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unlike other "history" type books, this one is very easy to read and I am enjoying learning about my ancestors.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Acadian Expulsion in a Logical Format: Readable History April 23 2005
By Juliana LHeureux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A newly published history describing the tragic expulsion of the 1755 French Acadians from their homes in Nova Scotia puts the account of this horrible incident into a readable format. "A Great and Noble Scheme", by John Mack Faragher presents the daunting facts about the terrible French removal in a logical history, combined in one nicely readable text.

This year marks the 250th anniversary of Le Grand Derangement, a tragic episode in North American history known as the 1755 British expulsion of the French Acadians from Nova Scotia (called Acadie by the French at the time).

Besides the tragic nature of the expulsion itself is the unfortunate lack of first person journals describing the incident from a French Acadian's point of view.

Popular Maine poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave his now classic interpretation of the Acadian separation from their homeland in his epic poem "Evangeline", written in 1847, or 92 years after the incident occurred.

Faragher provides information about how the Acadians found themselves in a terrible vice with the British. The Acadians actually tried to remain neutral in the series of conflicts known as The French and Indian wars between the British and the French for control of Canada and North America. Acadians preferred trading to war. They continued their commerce with the French in Quebec and France, with the British and, also, with New Englanders. Acadians prospered with this economic freedom.

Most historic accounts of the 1755 expulsion focus on the actual incident and what happened subsequently to the Acadians who were "scattered to the winds" in boats where they sailed to ports on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Faragher's history takes the time to describe the nature of the "neutral" Acadians prior to the expulsion, or those who wanted to remain free and aloof from the continental conflicts.

Faragher describes how the Acadians became victims of the schemes some claim were premeditated by British Lieutenant Governor Charles Lawrence (1709-1760) and Massachusetts Governor William Shirley (1694-1771).

Using a classic propaganda campaign to stir up negative news about the Acadians, Faragher describes how Lawrence and Shirley preyed on colonial anti-French sentiments of the time. Lawrence used weaknesses he perceived in the Acadian social or political systems to justify writing a deportation order, forcing them out of the property they developed during over a century of settlement in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley region.

Back in Massachusetts, Governor Shirley sought the assistance of John Winslow to supplement the British troops in Nova Scotia, thereby contributing to the Acadian expulsion scheme. Recruitment of Massachusetts militia began in early February, 1755, immediately after the colony's Assembly voted to approve an expedition to Nova Scotia in a secret session, writes Faragher. Winslow was a highly regarded New England citizen and a seasoned military man. Due to his good reputation, he quickly recruited about 2000 Massachusetts militia to join him and the British in executing the "Great and Nobel Scheme" of 1755, writes Faragher. Winslow's recruits were motivated by clerics and others who preached against the Acadians who were Roman Catholics. "French Catholics must be evicted from L'Acadie at the muzzle of our guns and at the point of our Swords", wrote Governor Shirley on February 18, 1755.

Lawrence supposedly ordered the Acadian expulsion without authority to do so, but modern historians have tried implicating the British Crown in the incident.

Faragher keeps the horror of Le Grand Derangement alive with this well documented accumulation of data about a horrible incident in America's colonial history.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, Well-Researched History May 31 2005
By Sam A. Mawn-Mahlau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a readable, well-researched history that lets us look at the well-trod landscape of colonial history in British North America from a novel and revealing perspective.

In its own right, this is an interesting story with much vivid detail - which was undoubtedly a challenge for the author given the lack of detailed written source material for Acadia, especially as compared to Canada, New England, or even Newfoundland. The author does a good job of suggesting some of the deeper and more abstract historical analysis he gleans from his work without overburdening the story itself.

There are some places where the author's own perspective is clearly revealed, as well as places where he brings some baggage from being an American rather than a Canadian looking at this relatively unfamiliar history (for example, he suggests intermarriage between the French and Native Americans in Acadia was unusual even by comparision to the rest of Canada, when such intermarriage was quite common in the Canadian interior). I suspect some of the analytical points look much different to those more steeped in Canadian history and its themes.

But the book is most interesting read together with histories of New England or Canada. The Acadian story highlights some of the choices made that altered the cultures of each area, such as the differing relationships with Native Americans, or the differing relationships with the mother countries. For those interested in more popular and accessible history, I might suggest reading this together with "The Unredeemed Captive", for example.

In a number of cases, I would have enjoyed still more attention to some of the relationships between the settlers and their land and transplanted political institutions, and Faragher's work only begins to scratch the surface. The fact that the signeurial tenure system did not prosper in Acadia while it became well established in the St. Lawrence River Valley, for example, is an area where still more detail would have been welcome. Likewise, the adoption of quasi-representative government along the New England model (and the later quashing of this representation because of the Acadians' Catholicism) is an area rich for further investigation and review. At the same time, whenever one wants yet more detail in a 400 page work of history, the author has a success on his hands!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A remote and tragic chapter in North American history June 7 2005
By Paul Tognetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Being descended from French Canadians, I had more than a passing interest in the heartbreaking saga of the Acadian people. In "A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland" author John Mack Faragher traces the long and troubled history of these truly unique people. Determined to remain neutral in the ongoing struggle between the British and the French for supremacy on the North American continent, the Acadians constantly found themselves at odds with officials on both sides of the conflict. Yet the reality was that for decades the Acadians led a peaceful, prosperous and largely independent existence, forging alliances of convenience with both local Indian tribes as well as French and British interests depending on the circumstances.

Over the years the Acadians insistance on remaining neutral became more and more unacceptable to local British officials and ultimately the Acadians would be viewed as a thorn in their side. Many of these officials called for drastic measures to deal with the Acadian problem. In fact, plans were in the works to expel the Acadians from their land as early as the mid 1720's. But as events unfolded the actual removal of the Acadian people would not begin in earnest for another three decades.

"A Great and Noble Scheme" is a meticulously researched and well written book. John Mack Faragher has succeeded in capturing the essence of these tragic events. Much like the Cherokee "Trail of Tears" that would occur nearly a century later, the removal of the Acadians from their adopted homeland in L'Acadie is a cruel and disturbing chapter in the history of this continent. At the time British officials attempted to justify their actions as a "cruel necessity". Many historians would argue that the expulsion of the French Acadians is a clear case of ethnic cleansing. I suggest you read "A Great and Noble Scheme" and draw your own conclusions. Highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, Yet Reads Like Swashbuckling Novel Jan. 10 2007
By Shane K. Bernard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Mack Faragher examines the colonization of Nova Scotia by French peasants in the seventeenth century and how their occupation of this strategically important peninsula eventually resulted in their forced expulsion by the British military -- an event that Faragher regards as an instance of "ethnic cleansing," if not outright genocide.

Faragher delves deep into colonial archives to locate obscure source material that brings to life a people who were at best semi-literate. He does so by drawing on government correspondence (between colonial administrators and government officials in London and Paris), on the personal diaries of British soldiers, on the memoirs of French missionaries, and on letters written by the few literate Acadians, among other sources.

More than previous writers, Faragher stresses the intimate relationship between the Acadians and the local Micmac Indians, with whom the Acadians intermarried much more frequently than thought originally.

He also emphasizes the leading role played by New England "Yankees" in carrying out the expulsion, showing that the event was hardly a purely British operation.

He traces the Acadians' repeated efforts to secure their New World homeland by swearing an conditional oath of allegiance to the British crown -- allegiance in exchange for wartime neutrality. To do otherwise, Faragher repeatedly notes, would have been for the Acadians to invite attack from the French military and their Indian allies . . . as did indeed happen at the village of Beaubassin, when Indians under French command burned the village in an event that mirrors the "burn-the-village-to-save-it" mentality of the Vietnam War (my comparison, not Faragher's).

The book is heavily documented, complete with detailed endnotes and bibliography; and despite the academic trappings it reads like a swashbuckling novel.

As a professional historian, I highly recommend this book to scholars and laypersons alike.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy reflected in current events April 12 2006
By Arthur P. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
While the name is relatively new, the practice of deliberate ethnic cleansing reflects thousands of years of human cruelty and inhumanity. On the North American continent, the treatment of native Americans amounted to one form of such cruel displacement from home and prosperity, that of African slaves another. But few remember the clearest case of tragic forced removal as government policy in North American history: the treatment of the tens of thousands of French-speaking Acadians living in Nova Scotia in the 1750s, the central topic of Faragher's book.

The ethnic divide here was one of religion, language, and political affiliation as well as race. The Protestants of New England feared attacks from the Catholic French forces in North America, and had suffered defeats against them before. The Acadians by their language and religion seemed more naturally allied with the French crown than the English, and British officers and governors constantly suspected them of sedition and treason. The Acadians had also intermingled freely with local Indian tribes, something much rarer in the English settlements. Before the French, New Englanders had feared the natives at least as much, so the native element did not help improve relations.

The other clear element in the ultimate expulsion policy was one of greed: Acadians were clearly prosperous, their farmlands producing great plenty; the prospect of free developed land was surely a strong motivating factor in the displacement. But this seems to have been lost in the event itself - in the end it was only years afterward that English settlers came to claim it, and much longer before they learned how to prosper there.

Faragher does a wonderful job of describing the early history of the settlers, the first families who came in the 1600s, and additions through the years. After several exchanges of sovereignty, Nova Scotia finally fell into the hands of the British, who demanded a loyalty oath of the inhabitants. The Acadians were happy to be good subjects, but refused to swear to take up arms against their fellows, and constantly insisted they were entitled to a modified version of the standard oath, a constant source of irritation to those in the British bureaucracy not attuned to local custom and feelings. The Acadians had a natural streak of independent feeling coupled with close community ties, using local representative councils to present a unified front to their governors.

The irony is that this expulsion of "traitors to the king", spurred principally by the New England colonies and Massachusetts in particular, happened only a bit over a decade before the rebellion of the thirteen colonies from that king's son. And that time, the French were on the colonies' side.

Faragher's account is most enthralling in the chapters covering the preparation for and act of expulsion. The process was clearly meticulously planned by the local British leaders. Adult males were separated from their families for a space of time, lies were told to them about what was happening, then all were boarded on ships and dispersed in small groups to other English colonies, some of which were clearly surprised by the new refugees. Huge fractions of those thus deported died in the process, or not long after arrival; Faragher estimates a total of 10,000 lost. The treatment was truly horrific.

The treatment was also greatly reminiscent of the so recent dispersal of victims of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans was not the original destination of any of the Acadians, but via France and the other colonies, many arrived in Louisiana in the years that followed the expulsion, settling new lands on the Mississippi and gulf coast and developing a new culture from the old Acadian one: the Cajuns. The connection in place and culture over time is haunting; Faragher's book of course predates the 2005 hurricane season.

Many of the Acadians settled much closer to home - among the much more numerous French population of Quebec, or in the interior of what are now New Brunswick and Maine. Some returned to Nova Scotia, but were treated as little better than slaves there for a very long time. Faragher covers all this aftermath, both positive and negative, in as thorough a fashion as the early history.

While this book has clear villains and victims, as the truth surely does, Faragher spends much time considering the motivations and thinking behind those who caused this to happen; in some ways he makes it all too easy to understand. We prefer to keep what is clearly evil more remote from us, but this is not the story of the Holocaust, communist purges, or other familiar injustice; seeing how such tragedy can happen in a situation unfamiliar yet so close to home would force any reader of this book to come away questioning prejudices, and perhaps a better person for it.
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