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Spanish Conciliation

Crozat-Law-Louis XV. Charles III. Who ever at one time or another was the transatlantic master of Louisiana managed its affairs on the same bad principle: To none of them had a colony any inherent rights. They entered into possession as cattle are let into a pasture or break into a field. It was simply a commercial venture projected in the interests of the sovereign’s or monopolist’s revenues, and restrictions were laid or indulgences bestowed upon it merely as those interests seemed to require. And so the Mississippi Delta, until better ideas could prevail, could not show other than a gaunt, ill-nourished civilization. The weight of oppression, if the governors and other officers on the spot had not evaded the letter of the royal decrees and taught the Creoles to do the same, would actually have crushed the life out of the province. The merchants of New Orleans, when Unzaga took the governor’s chair, dared not import from France anything but what the customs authorities chose to consider articles of necessity. With St. Domingo and Martinique they could only exchange lumber and grain for breadstuffs and wine. Their ships must be passported; their bills of lading were offensively policed; and these “privileges” were only to last until Spain could supplant them by a commerce exclusively her own. They were completely shut out from every other market in the world except certain specified ports of Spain, where, they complained, they could not sell their produce to advantage nor buy what was wanted in the province. They could employ only Spanish bottoms commanded by subjects of Spain these could not put into...

The American Revolution On The Gulf Side

Now, at length, the Creole and the Anglo-American were to come into active relation which, from that day to the present, has qualified every public question in Louisiana. At a happy moment the governorship of Unzaga, a man advanced in life, of impaired vision and failing health, who was begging to be put on the retired list, gave place to the virile administration of one of the most brilliant characters to be seen in the history of the Southwestern United States. Galvez was the son of the Viceroy of Mexico and nephew of the Spanish secretary of state, who was also president of the council of the Indies. He was barely grown to manhood, but he was ardent, engaging, brave, fond of achievement and display, and, withal, talented and sagacious. Says one who fought under him, “He was distinguished for the affability of his manners, the sweetness of his temper, the frankness of his character, the kindness of his heart, and his love of justice.” A change now took place, following the drift of affairs in Europe. The French, instead of the English merchants, commanded the trade of the Mississippi. The British traders found themselves suddenly treated with great rigor. Eleven of their ships, richly laden, were seized by the new governor, while he exceeded the letter of the Franco-Spanish treaty in bestowing privileges upon the French. New liberties gave fresh value to the trade with French and Spanish-American ports. Slaves were not allowed to be brought thence, owing to their insurrectionary spirit; but their importation direct from Guinea was now specially encouraged, and presently the prohibition against those...

The Creoles’ City

Scarcely had the low, clay chimneys of a few woodsmen’s cabins sent up, through a single change of seasons, their lonely smoke-wreaths among the silent willow jungles of the Mississippi, when Bienville began boldly to advocate the removal of the capital to this so-called ” New Orleans.” But, even while lie spoke, the place suffered a total inundation. Yet lie continued to hold it as a trading post of the Mississippi Company, and, by the close of 1720, began again, in colonial council, to urge it as the proper place for the seat of government; and though out-voted, lie sent his chief of engineers to the settlement ” to choose a suitable site for a city worthy to become the capital of Louisiana.” Thereupon might have been seen this engineer, the Sieur Le Blond de la Tour, in the garb of a knight of St. Louis, modified as might be by the exigencies of the frontier, in command of a force of galley-slaves and artisans, driving stakes, drawing lines, marking off streets and lots, a place for the church and a middle front square for a place-d’Armes; day by day ditching and palisading; throwing up a rude levee along the river-front, and grade. ally gathering the scattered settlers of the neighborhood into the form of a town. But the location remained the same. A hundred frail palisade hats, some rude shelters of larger size to serve as church, hospital, government house, and company’s warehouses, a few vessels at anchor in the muddy river, a population of three hundred, mostly men -such was the dreary hunter’s camp, hidden in the...

Spanish New Orleans

In that city you may go and stand to-day on the spot still as antique and quaint as the Creole mind and heart which cherish it, where gathered in 1765 the motley throng of townsmen and planters whose bold repudiation of their barter to the King of Spain we have just reviewed; where in 1768 Lafrénière harangued them, and they, few in number and straitened in purse but not in daring, rallied in arms against Spain’s indolent show of authority and drove it into the Gulf. They were the first people in America to make open war distinctly for the expulsion of European rule. But it was not by this episode-it was not in the wearing of the white cockade-‘ that the Creoles were to become an independent republic under British protection, or an American State. We have seen them in the following year overawed by the heavy hand of Spain, and bowing to her yoke. We have seen them ten years later, under her banner and led by the chivalrous Galvez, at Manchac, at Baton Rouge, at Mobile, and at Pensacola, strike victoriously and “wiser than they knew” for the discomfiture of British power in America and the promotion of American independence and unity. But neither was this to bring them into the union of free States. For when the United States became a nation the Spanish ensign still floated from the flag-staff in the Plaza de Armas where “Cruel O’Reilly” had hoisted it, and at whose base the colonial council’s declaration of rights and wrongs had been burned. There was much more to pass through, many events...

African Slaves and Indian Wars

The problem of civilization in Louisiana was early complicated by the presence and mutual contact of three races of men. The Mississippi Company’s agricultural colonial scheme was based on the West Indian idea of African slave labor. Already the total number of blacks had risen to equal that of the whites, and within the Delta, outside of New Orleans, they must have largely preponderated. In 1727 this idea began to be put into effect just without the town’s upper boundary, where the Jesuit fathers accommodated themselves to it in model form, and between 1726 and 1745 gradually acquired and put under cultivation the whole tract of land now covered by the First District of New Orleans, the centre of the city’s wealth and commerce. The slender, wedge-shaped space between Common and Canal Streets, and the subsequent accretions of soil on the river front, are the only parts of the First District not once comprised in the Jesuits’ plantations. Education seems not to have had their immediate attention, but a myrtle orchard was planted on their river-front, and the orange, fig, and sugar-cane were introduced by them into the country at later intervals. Other and older plantations were yearly sending in the products of the same unfortunate agricultural system. The wheat and the flour from the Illinois and the Wabash were the results of free farm and mill labor; but the tobacco, the timber, the indigo, and the rice came mainly from the slave-tilled fields of the company’s grantees scattered at wide intervals in the more accessible regions of the great Delta. The only free labor of any note employed within...

The New Generation

When, on the 10th of May 1743, the Marquis de Vaudreuil landed in New Orleans, private enterprise-the true foundation of material prosperity-was firmly established. Indigo, rice, and tobacco were moving in quantity to Europe, and lumber to the West Indies. Ships that went out loaded carne back loaded again, especially from St. Domingo; and traffic with the Indians, and with the growing white population along the immense length of the Mississippi and its tributaries, was bringing money into the town and multiplying business year by year. Hope ran high when the Marquis was appointed. His family had much influence at court, and anticipations were bright of royal patronage and enterprise in the colony and in its capital. But these expectations, particularly as to New Orleans, were feebly met. There was an increase in the number of the troops and a great enhancement of superficial military splendor, with an unscrupulous getting and reckless spending of Government goods and money, and a large ‘importation of pretentious frivolity from the Bourbon camps and palaces. By 1751, every second man in the streets of New Orleans was a soldier in dazzling uniform. They called the governor the “Grand Marquis.” he was graceful and comely, dignified in bearing, fascinating in address, amiable, lavish, fond of pleasure, and, with his marchioness, during the twelve years of his sojourn in Louisiana, maintained the little colonial court with great pomp and dissipation. Otherwise the period was of a quiet, formative sort, and the few stimulants to growth offered by Government overshot the town and fell to the agricultural grantees. The production of tobacco and myrtle-wax was encouraged,...

The First Creoles

What is a Creole ? Even in Louisiana the question would be variously answered. The title did not here first belong to the descendants of Spanish, but of French settlers. But such a meaning implied a certain excellence of origin, and so came early to include any native, of French or Spanish descent by either parent, whose non-alliance with the slave race entitled him to social rank. Later, the term was adopted by-not conceded to the natives of mixed blood, and is still so used among themselves. At length the spirit of commerce saw the money value of so honored a title, and broadened its meaning to take in any creature or thing of variety or manufacture peculiar to Louisiana that might become an object of sale: as Creole ponies, chickens, cows, shoes, eggs, wagons, baskets, cabbages, negroes, etc. Yet the Creoles proper will not share their distinction with the worthy “Acadian.” He is a Creole only by courtesy, and in the second person singular. Besides French and Spanish, there are even, for convenience of speech, “colored” Creoles; but there are no Italian, or Sicilian, nor any English, Scotch, Irish, or “Yankee” Creoles, unless of parentage married into, and themselves thoroughly proselyted in, Creole society. either Spanish nor American domination has taken from the Creoles their French vernacular. This, also, is part of their title; and, in fine, there seems to be no more serviceable definition of the Creoles of Louisiana than this: that they are the French speaking, native portion of the ruling class. There is no need to distinguish between the higher and humbler grades of those...

Praying to the King

A single paragraph in recapitulation. In 1699, France, by the hand of her gallant sailor, D’Iberville, founded the province of Louisiana. In 1718, his brother, Bienville, laid out the little parallelogram of streets and ditches, and palisaded lots which formed New Orleans. Here, amid the willow-jungles of the Mississippi’s low banks, under the glaring sunshine of bayou clearings, in the dark shadows of the Delta’s wet forests, the Louisiana Creoles came into existence valorous, unlettered, and unrestrained, as military outpost life in such a land might make them. In sentiment they were loyal to their king; in principle, to themselves and their soil. Sixty-three years had passed, with floods and famines and Indian wars, corrupt misgovernment and its resultant distresses, when in 1762 it suited the schemes of an unprincipled court secretly to convey the unprofitable colony land arid people, all and singular to the King of Spain. In the early summer of 1764, before the news of this unfeeling barter had startled the ears of the colonists, a certain class in New Orleans had begun to make formal complaint of a condition of affairs in their sorry little town (commercial and financial rather than political) that seemed to them no longer bearable. There had been commercial development; but, in the light of their grievances, this only showed through what a debris of public disorder the commerce of a country or town may make a certain progress. These petitioners were the merchants of New Orleans. Their voice was now heard for the first time. The private material interests of the town and the oppressions of two corrupt governments were...

Ulloa, Aubry, and the Superior Council

The cession had now only to go into effect. It seemed to the Louisianians a sentence of commercial and industrial annihilation, and it was this belief, not loyalty to France, that furnished the true motive of the Creoles and justification of the struggle of 1768. The merchants were, therefore, its mainspring. But merchants are not apt to be public leaders. They were behind and under the people. Who, then, or what, was in front? An official body whose growth and power in the colony had had great influence in forming the public character of the Creoles -the Superior Council. It was older than New Orleans. Formed in 1712 of but two members, of whom the governor was one, but gradually enlarged, it dispensed justice and administered civil government over the whole colony, under the ancient “custom of Paris,” and the laws, edicts, and ordinances of the kingdom of France. It early contained a germ of popular government in its power to make good the want of a quorum by calling in notable inhabitants of its own selection. By and by its judicial functions had become purely appellate, and it took on features suggestive, at least, of representative rule. It was this Superior Council which, in 1722, with Bienville at its head, removed to the new settlement of New Orleans, and so made it the colony’s capital. In 1723, it was exercising powers of police. It was by this body that, in 1724, was issued that dark enactment which, through the dominations of three successive national powers, remained on the statute-book-the Black Code. One of its articles forbade the freeing...

History of the Creoles in Louisiana

The first white settlers of Louisiana were French, usually the second born sons of aristocrats who left France to seek adventure in the New World. They brought their traditional style of cooking from the continent, and being rich aristocrats, they also brought along their chefs as well! These Frenchmen came to be called Creoles, and made up the upper crust of New Orleans. Their descendents can still be found in the French Quarter today. This manuscript takes a look at the history of this unique group of people. One city in the United States is, without pretension or Mention, picturesque and antique. A quaint Southern-European aspect is encountered in the narrow streets of its early boundaries, on its old Place d’Armes, along its balconied facades, and about its cool, flowery inner courts. Among the great confederation of States whose Anglo-Saxon life and inspiration swallows up all alien immigrations, there is one in which a Latin civilization, sinewy, valiant, cultured, rich, and proud, holds out against extinction. There is a people in the midst of the population of Louisiana, who send representatives and senators to the Federal Congress, and who vote for the nation’s rulers. They celebrate the Fourth of July; and ten days later, with far greater enthusiasm, they commemorate that great Fourteenth that saw the fall of the Bastile. Other citizens of the United States, but not themselves, they call Americans. A Hundred Thousand People African Slaves and Indian Wars Barataria Destroyed Brighter Skies Burr’s Conspiracy Count O’Reilly and Spanish Law Fauborg Ste. Marie Flush Times French Founders From Subjects To Citizens How Boré Made Sugar Inundations Later...
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