Hodson, “The Acadian Diaspora”

An extremely interesting work of imperial history by Christopher Hodson (BYU) involving an understudied episode in Canadian religious history, The Acadian Diaspora: An Eighteenth Century History (OUP 2012).  The publisher’s description follows.

Late in 1755, an army of British regulars and Massachusetts volunteers completed one of the cruelest, most successful military campaigns in North American history, capturing and deporting seven thousand French-speaking Catholic Acadians from the province of Nova Scotia, and chasing an equal number into the wilderness of eastern Canada. Thousands of Acadians endured three decades of forced migrations and failed settlements that shuttled them to the coasts of South America, the plantations of the Caribbean, the frigid islands of the South Atlantic, the swamps of Louisiana, and the countryside of central France.

The Acadian Diaspora tells their extraordinary story in full for the first time, illuminating a long-forgotten world of imperial desperation, experimental colonies, and naked brutality. Using documents culled from archives in France, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, Christopher Hodson reconstructs the lives of Acadian exiles as they traversed oceans and continents, pushed along by empires eager to populate new frontiers with inexpensive, pliable white farmers. Hodson’s compelling narrative situates the Acadian diaspora within the dramatic geopolitical changes triggered by the Seven Years’ War. Faced with redrawn boundaries and staggering national debts, imperial architects across Europe used the Acadians to realize radical plans: tropical settlements without slaves, expeditions to the unknown southern continent, and, perhaps strangest of all, agricultural colonies within old regime France itself. In response, Acadians embraced their status as human commodities, using intimidation and even violence to tailor their communities to the superheated Atlantic market for cheap, mobile labor.

Through vivid, intimate stories of Acadian exiles and the diverse, transnational cast of characters that surrounded them, The Acadian Diaspora presents the eighteenth-century Atlantic world from a new angle, challenging old assumptions about uprooted peoples and the very nature of early modern empire.

Douthat on Nonjudicial Constitutional Obligations

Apropos of my post below, have a look at this column by Ross Douthat this morning about judicial restraint.  I have some doubts about the work that judicial restraint is sometimes asked to do, and the contexts in which it is invoked.  But Douthat, it seems to me, is onto something important when he says: “It should be a point of bipartisan consensus that the judiciary is a political body rather than a panel of Platonic Guardians, and it’s a healthy thing for our democracy to have the other branches of government ready to push back when the high court seems to overreach.” 

The “push back” might take the form of the sorts of structural reforms Douthat discusses.  But it need not do so.  In fact, it may be better if it did not do so.  It might instead take the form of substantive push back, based on the obligations of nonjudicial actors to think the merits of constitutional issues through on their own and to live up to their Article VI oaths.

It is “up to” you, Governor

The Rhode Island legislature recently sent a bill to Governor Lincoln Chafee designating a latin cross which is part of a war memorial in Woonsocket, Rhode Island as having attained “secular, traditional, cultural, or community recognition and/or value,” notwithstanding the cross’s “recognizable identification with a known or established religion.”

Governor Chafee has indicated that the bill will become law without his signature.  The story above reports that the Governor stated that it is “up to” “the courts” to determine whether the cross violates the Establishment Clause: “‘[P]assing the bill does not change the fact-finding mission in which the courts must engage to resolve these questions.”

Actually, Governor, it is “up to” you, too.  Article VI of the Constitution is plain that “[t]he Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution . . . .”  Of course, opining on questions of this kind is politically delicate.  But it is quite wrong for the Governor to suggest that it is not explicitly his responsibility as the chief executive officer of the state of Rhode Island to form an opinion based on his own “fact-finding” about the constitutionality of this symbol.

(h/t Religion Clause blog)