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Part II. Nathaniel Hawthorne

VIII. The Old French War And The Acadian Exiles

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Perhaps some of the Acadians, in their aimless wanderings through the town, found themselves near a large brick edifice, which was fenced in from the street by an iron railing, wrought with fantastic figures. They saw a flight of red freestone steps ascending to a portal, above which was a balcony and balustrade. Misery and desolation give men the right of free passage everywhere. Let us suppose, then, that they mounted the flight of steps and passed into the Province House. Making their way into one of the apartments, they beheld a richly-clad gentleman, seated in a stately chair, with gilding upon the carved work of its back, and a gilded lion's head at the summit. This was Governor Shirley, meditating upon matters of war and state, in Grandfather's chair!

If such an incident did happen, Shirley, reflecting what a ruin of peaceful and humble hopes had been wrought by the cold policy of the statesman and the iron band of the warrior, might have drawn a deep moral from it. It should have taught him that the poor man's hearth is sacred, and that armies and nations have no right to violate it. It should have made him feel that England's triumph and increased dominion could not compensate to mankind nor atone to Heaven for the ashes of a single Acadian cottage. But it is not thus that statesmen and warriors moralize.

"Grandfather," cried Laurence, with emotion trembling in his voice, "did iron-hearted War itself ever do so hard and cruel a thing as this before?"

"You have read in history, Laurence, of whole regions wantonly laid waste," said Grandfather. "In the removal of the Acadians, the troops were guilty of no cruelty or outrage, except what was inseparable from the measure."

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Little Alice, whose eyes had all along been brimming full of tears, now burst forth a-sobbing; for Grandfather had touched her sympathies more than he intended.

"To think of a whole people homeless in the world!' said Clara, with moistened eyes. "There never was anything so sad!"

"It was their own fault!" cried Charley, energetically. "Why did not they fight for the country where they were born? Then, if the worst had happened to them, they could only have been killed and buried there. They would not have been exiles then."

"Certainly their lot was as hard as death," said Grandfather. "All that could be done for them in the English provinces was, to send them to the almshouses, or bind them out to taskmasters. And this was the fate of persons who had possessed a comfortable property in their native country. Some of them found means to embark for France; but though it was the land of their forefathers, it must have been a foreign land to them. Those who remained behind always cherished a belief that the King of France would never make peace with England till his poor Acadians were restored to their country and their homes."

"And did he?" inquired Clara.

"Alas! my dear Clara," said Grandfather, "it is improbable that the slightest whisper of the woes of Acadia ever reached the ears of Louis XV. The exiles grew old in the British provinces, and never saw Acadia again. Their descendants remain among us to this day. They have forgotten the language of their ancestors, and probably retain no tradition of their misfortunes. But, methinks, if I were an American poet, I would choose Acadia for the subject of my song."

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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