A Hundred Thousand People
The following data is extracted from The Creoles of Louisiana.
What a change! The same Governor Villeré could not but say, "The Louisianian who retraces the condition of his country under the government of kings can never cease to bless the day when the great American confederation received him into its bosom." It was easy for Louisianians to be Americans; but to let Americans be Louisianians!-there was the rub. Yet it had to be. In ten years, the simple export and import trade of the port had increased fourfold; and in the face of inundations and pestilences, discord of sentiment and tongues, and the saddest of public morals and disorder, the population had nearly doubled.
Nothing could stop the inflow of people and wealth. In the next ten years, 1520-30, trade increased to one and three quarters its already astonishing volume. The inhabitants were nearly 50,000, and the strangers from all parts of America and the commercial world were a small army. Sometimes there would be five or six thousand up-river bargemen in town at once, wild, restless, and unemployed. On the levee especially this new tremendous life and energy heaved and palpitated. Between 1831 and 1S35, the mere foreign exports and imports ran up from twenty, six to nearly fifty-four million dollars. There were no wharves built out into the harbor yet, and all the vast mass of produce and goods lay out under the open slay on the long, wide, unbroken level of time curving harbor-front, where Ohio bargemen, Germans, Mississippi raftsmen, Irishmen, French, English, Creoles, Yankees, and negro and mulatto slaves surged and jostled and filled the air with shouts and imprecations.
Vice put on the same activity that commerce showed. The Creole had never been a strong moral force. The American came in as to gold diggings or diamond fields, to grab and run. The transatlantic immigrant of those days was frequently the offscouring of Europe. The West Indian was a leader in licentiousness, gambling and duelling. The number of billiard-rooms, gaming-houses, and lottery-offices was immense. In the old town they seemed to be every second house. There was the French Evangelical Church Lottery, the Baton Rouge Church Lottery, the Natchitoches Catholic Church Lottery, and a host of others less piously inclined. The cafés of the central town were full of filibusters. In 1819, "General" Long sailed hence against Galveston. In 1822, a hundred and fifty men left New Orleans in the sloop-of-war Eureka, and assisted in the taking of Porto Cabello, Venezuela. The paving movement had been only a flurry or two, and even in the heart of the town, where carriages sometimes sank to their axles in mud, highway robbery and murder lay always in wait for the incautious night wayfarer who ventured out alone. The police was a mounted gendarmerie If the Legislature committed a tenth of the wickedness it was charged with, it was sadly corrupt. The worst day of all the week was Sunday. The stores and shops were open, but toil slackened and license gained headway. Gambling-rooms and ball-rooms were full, weapons were often out, the quadroon masques of the Salle de Condé were thronged with men of high standing, and crowds of barge and raftsmen, as well as Creoles and St. Domingans, gathered at those open-air African dances, carousals, and debaucheries in the rear of the town that have left their monument in the name of "Congo" Square.
Yet still prosperity smiled and commerce roared along the streets of the town and her faubourgs-Ste. Marie on her right, Marigny on her left-with ever-rising volume and value, and in spite of fearful drawbacks. The climate was deadly to Americans, and more deadly to the squalid immigrant. Social life, unattractive at best, received the Creole and shut the door. The main town was without beauty, and the landscape almost without a dry foothold. Schools were scarce and poor, churches few and ill attended, and domestic service squalid, inefficient, and corrupt. Between 1810 and 1837 there were fifteen epidemics of yellow fever. Small-pox was frequent. In 1832, while yellow fever was still epidemic, cholera entered and carried off one person in every six; many of the dead were buried where they died, and many were thrown into the river. Moreover, to get to the town or to leave it was a journey famed for its dangers. On one steamboat, three hundred lives were lost; on another, one hundred and thirty; on another, the same number; on another, one hundred and twenty. The cost of running a steamer was six times as great as on the northern lakes.
Source: The Creoles of Louisiana