| Once the Seven Years War was over (1763),
France turned its attention to building up their surviving colonies.
One of its colonies was Saint Domingue, and island in the Caribbean.
The Rochette correspondence that was sent
to England made its way to the Acadians in the American colonies, and they
subsequently petitioned Louis XV for repatriation to France. Thinking
of building his colonial population, the king instructed the governors
of Saint Domingue and Martinique to send ships to the American colonies
(especially to New York and Boston) to pick up Acadians.
The British government, however, refused to
allow the Acadians to leave. But the Acadians still made their way
to the French Antilles. They would secretly board merchant ships
in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts and sail to the
Caribbean. By September 1764, they were regularly bringing molasses
and rum and exchanging them for Acadians and lumber.
The French government actually hired a recruiting
agent in New York. The man, named Hanson, circulated a proclamation
by the governor of Saint Domingue offering to pay for the trip and to give
them land and goods until they could take care of themselves. What the
Acadians didn’t know was that they were headed for a work camp. The
governor wanted manpower to construct a naval base at Mole Saint Nicolas.
Some Acadians traveled to Saint Domingue from
France in 1763-64. But most (hundreds) of them came from the American
colonies. There would have been even more, but Hanson was asking
the Acadians for large sums of money to book their passage, even though
the Saint Domingue government had already reimbursed him for the cost of
the trip. Most of the Acadians did not have that kind of money.
From Jan. 23, 1764 to Jan. 26, 1765, 418 Acadians
were sent to Mole Saint Nicolas by Hanson. For example, a Dec. 15, 1764 entry from Savannah in the South Carolina Gazette notes that "All the Acadians here are about leaving the place; yesterday upwards of 90 of them went on board a vessel in the river for Cape Francois."
In the March 22, 1764 Pennsylvania Gazette, an entry from Charlestown, SC notes on Feb. 18 that "The remains of the Acadians that were removed to this province in the year 1755, and who all went from hence for Cape Francois in November last, soon after their arrival there, had land allotted them at Cape Nicola in the Windward Passage, and are settling at the Platform, where most English vessels passing to and from Jamaica commonly call for water; but are by no means pleased, either with their reception or situation."
They found that they had
to clear a jungle and build a naval base in return for a little land, food,
clothing, and tents. But the French didn’t supply a proper ration
of food, and many Acadians died of malnutrition and tropical diseases.
They protested, but to no avail. Still more Acadians were arriving
in 1764-65, stretching the rations even furthers. The colony just
couldn’t care for all of its new citizens. By the beginning of 1765,
the 938 Acadians who had arrived at Mole Saint Nicolas in 1764 had dwindled
down to 677. In 1765, German settlers arrived and the situation got
In the March 7, 1765 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette, there is a letter from Cape St. Nicholas (Mole St. Nicholas) that noted "out of 700 Acadians that went from these Colonies, 400 are dead. They had been put to many Difficulties; when they landed they had no House to put their Heads in, till they built one themselves; they were kept to work like Negroes, allowed no Land, and had no Money for their Work."
Beginning in August 1765, they began asking
governor d’Estaing to leave Mole Saint Nicolas. Some were allowed
to leave, while others deserted to other parts of the island. Those
who decided to stay were able to start small farms, build a home, and find
employment as laboreres, carpenters, and masons. Besides Mole Saint Nicolas, Acadians were
settled in other areas of Saint Domingue. In August 1764, 180 Acadians
settled at Mirebalais. The local planters objected to giving them
land, so the Acadians worked on existing plantations as laborers and managers.
They lived in communities such as Montagne Terrible, the Capuchin canton,
and Boucan Carre.
Some headed back to France, where they made port at Bordeaux. Some Saint Domingue Acadians made their way
to Louisiana, but we don’t know how many. They had urged the Halifax
Acadians to come down to the island, where they would join them in travelling
to Illinois. But by the time the Halifax Acadians got there, the
Acadians on the island couldn’t afford to make the trip. So they
probably merged in with the other Saint Domingue people.
When the Haitian revolution occurred in the
1790’s, some of the inhabitants (probably including some Acadians) migrated
to the eastern U.S. In 1809, some 10,000 people from Saint Domingue
migrated to New Orleans via Cuba. But most of them stayed in New
Orleans. Any Acadians in this group probably merged into the mixture
of New Orleans’ melting pot.
Some Acadians stayed in Saint Domingue. We know, for example, that Pierre Hebert (b. 1745 in Acadia) was at Jérémie (a province in south Saint Domingue) for 34 years. He and his wife Marie Victoire Rambaud, his mother-in-law, and his 7 children (from 2 to 17) returned to Nantes on Nov. 24, 1805.
A good resource for material is "The Acadians
in St. Domingo: 1764-1789" by Gabriel Debien in The Cajuns: Essays
on Their History and Culture.