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|Documents and Maps|
|Page 1||Receipt signed by
Gilbert Leonard for 4,213
reales, partial rental due for use of the schooner Nuestra Señora del Cármen as
during the period December 10, 1794 to February 26, 1895. This copy of the receipt was to be issued to the
ship's owner, Don Prospero Ferrayolo, to serve as a credit voucher. Use of Ferrayolo's ship was made
necessary by the great fire of December 8, 1794, which destroyed the royal jail along with hundreds of other
buildings in the city.|
[Miscellaneous French and Spanish Documents, #328]
|Page 2||In 1795 Don Andrés Almonester
Roxas agreed to pay for construction of the building that we know now as the Cabildo. It replaced an earlier
structure that had been destroyed by the great fire of 1788. Almonester had already commissioned Gilberto
Guillemard to design the new cathedral and presbytere, and the Cabildo chose the same man to plan the
new government building.
Guillemard, a Frenchmen by birth, had long been a member of the Spanish military force in Louisiana (he
designed the five forts ordered by Governor Carondelet in 1794). In this 1797 letter Guillemard asks the
Cabildo members to compensate him for his work. They agreed to pay him the amount of 200 pesos,
presumably half of the total that Guillemard ultimately received. Later, as the building neared completion, the
Cabildo agreed to repay to Almonester the 8,000 pesos he had lent for the project.
|Page 3||Juan de
Casteñado's report listing all
of the merchant vessels that had docked on the river wharves during the year 1797. The captain of each
vessel paid three pesos into the city treasury for the privilege of anchoring in the port. Of the eighty-six ships
listed, thirty-three had traveled to New Orleans directly from ports in the United States. It was not until late
in the year, however, that the Spanish authorities officially opened the port to trade by U.S. ships. By 1801,
according to historian John G. Clark (New Orleans, 1718-1812: An Economic History), the
U.S. ships had risen to 44% from the 38% indicated in the 1797 record.
Spain was at war with England during 1797 and evidence of that conflict is reflected in the entries for
January 31 and February 8, both of which list English vessels that had been captured by French corsairs.
Note also that on February 8 the schooner Amistad was at New Orleans--this was not the same
was made famous by the 1839 slave insurrection.
|Page 4||Itemized bill for work done by the African
American carpenter Bernardo for the city's Lighting Department in 1797. Bernardo's work comprised repairs
to the stepladders that the department's workers used to reach the lamps in order to light them each
evening. Note at bottom right the notation by Manuel Fernandez Munilla that he was preparing the bill for
Bernardo, who himself did not know how to write.
According to historian Kimberly Hanger ("Almost All Have Callings: Free Blacks at Work in Spanish New Orleans," 1994), a census taken in 1795 shows that free blacks numbered twenty-one of the city's thirty-seven carpenters, ten of the nineteen shoemakers, thirty of the fifty-nine seamstresses, and all but one of the thirty-three laundresses. Free black residents of New Orleans continued to play an important economic and social role in the municipality up to the time of the American Civil War. [Miscellaneous French and Spanish Documents, #325]
Almonester y Roxas signed
this receipt acknowledging payment of his one hundred-peso salary for the year 1797. Almonester held the
position of Regidor Alférez Real (Royal Standard Bearer), the highest-ranking office in the Cabildo's
Almonester (1725-1796) was a native of Mayrena in Spain. He came to Louisiana with Governor Alejandro
O'Reilly in 1769 and became one of the wealthiest men in the province, largely through his real estate
holdings and developments. Almonester was also one of Louisiana's most important early philanthropists—he
built a new Charity Hospital for New Orleans and rebuilt St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytere after they
were destroyed by fire.
|Page 6||Juan de Castañedo's report of his
accounts with the Hospital San Lazaro for the year 1797. That hospital, another of the benefactions of Don
Andrés Almonester y Roxas, served the victims of leprosy in New Orleans. Located well outside the
city limits, probably in the present-day Gentilly section, the main purpose of the hospital appears to have
been to isolate patients from the rest of the city. There is no evidence that any attempt was made to actually
provide them with medical treatments for their disease.|
[Miscellaneous French and Spanish Documents, #247]
|Page 7||This report of the
chimney tax in the third
ward of New Orleans, December 31, 1797, shows that there were 717 chimneys in the 259 buildings located
within the ward. At twelve reales per chimney, the tax added just over 1,075 pesos to the municipal
that year. Since at least 1794 street lighting services had been funded by a tax based on the number of
chimneys in each of the city's buildings. In the long run, however, the chimney tax proved to be a less than
reliable source of funding for the lighting department, especially following the fire of 1794. After making
several adjustments in the structure of the chimney levy, the Cabildo abandoned it in 1798 in favor of a
voluntary tax on the city's butchers and bakers.
Throughout most of the Spanish period the men responsible for maintaining the streetlights also served as
the city's night police. When they were not keeping the lamps adequately supplied with fish oil, bear fat and
pelican grease, the watchmen were on the lookout for fires and a variety of suspicious characters. For their
efforts, they were paid a monthly salary of fifteen pesos (twenty pesos for the Corporal in
|Page 8||This 1799 document upheld the right of
Gilberto Andry and José Leblanc to hold seats on the Cabildo, despite the fact that they were also
military officers. This communiqué put an end to a protest by Andrés Almonester y Roxas
that the two officers should not be allowed to serve on the local council because of their military affiliations.
The document is significant not only because it demonstrates strong support by the monarch for the actions
of his representatives in Louisiana, but also because it bears the official seal and signature of that monarch,
[Letters, Petitions and Decrees of the Conseil Municipal, #352b]
|Page 9||This communication
from Intendant Juan
Ventura Morales to Acting Civil Governor Nicolas Maria Vidal enclosed a copy of the royal decree ordering
the termination of trade with New Orleans by vessels of neutral nations. Although the order did not revoke
the right of deposit at New Orleans, local merchants feared that it would have a devastating effect on
Louisiana's commerce. They were able to persuade Morales to suspend the royal order in the colony, and
Louisiana continued to enjoy relatively free trade until the Intendant finally did suspend the right of deposit in
1802, an action that directly led to the Louisiana Purchase. Had trade between the city and the United
States, the only major neutral nation at the time, been disrupted in 1799 when Spanish control was
unquestioned, the outcome may have been much different.|
[Petitions, Letters, and Decrees of the Cabildo, September 26, 1799, #327]
|Page 10||This 1799 plan identifies property
with the large "L") granted by the Governor, Gayoso de Lemos, to Barthélémy Lafon. It
comprised a portion of what is now the area bounded by Common, Carondelet, Canal, and Camp Streets.
Lafon, the architect and surveyor best know for planning the subdivision of large portions of what is now the
Central Business District and the Lower Garden District, was not allowed to put up any permanent buildings
on the property, which was part of the city commons. The area did not develop until after Lafon's death in
The plan also shows the old Spanish customhouse and two of Carondelet's forts--St. Louis, at what is now
the foot of Canal Street, and Bourgogne, between present-day Burgundy and North Rampart Streets, near
Canal--and the wall connecting them. The forts remained in place, though not in use for military purposes,
well into the American period.
|Page 11||A portion of
Guillemard's plan for repairs
and additions to the royal jail, 1799. The upper portion shows the elevation facing the Cabildo's courtyard;
the lower portion shows the elevation on St. Peter Street. According to Samuel Wilson, Jr. (The Cabildo
Jackson Square), the design of the old jail building, portions of which are seen at the lower right, greatly
influenced Guillemard's plan for the new Cabildo. Juan María Godefroi Dujarreau erected the building
according to Guillemard's plans, completing the project in 1801. The jail remained in use until 1839 when it
was demolished to make way for the James H. Dakin-designed Louisiana State Arsenal, still standing on St.
[Miscellaneous Record Book of New Orleans, 1760-1830]
|Page 12||Letter from Manuel Juan de Salcedo to
Cabildo, informing them of his appointment as civil and military Governor of Louisiana. Salcedo (b. 1743), a
native of Bilbao, left his post in the Canary Islands for Louisiana in August 1800, but it was almost a full year
before he assumed his new duties in New Orleans. He was the colony's last Spanish governor, but he was
certainly not among its great leaders. An old man by the time he became governor, Salcedo constantly
quarreled with the Cabildo and has been accused of being grossly incompetent, if not thoroughly corrupt.
Charles IV apparently had so little confidence in his abilities that he sent the Marqués de Casa-Calvo
back to Louisiana to assist Salcedo in transferring the province to the French. |
[Letters, Petitions and Decrees of the Conseil Municipal, #340]
|Page 13||Luis Ignacio
Marïa Peñalver y
Cárdenas (1749-1810), a native of Havana, served as the first bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana
Floridas from 1795-1801. In this 1800 letter to the Cabildo he sought to provide for a schedule of Holy Week
services that would be agreeable to the municipal authorities. Apparently, this caused a good deal of
discussion among the Cabildo members. Almost one year later, Acting Governor Nicolas Marïía Vidal
answered the Bishop on behalf of the Cabildo, requesting that the masses on Holy Thursday and Good
Friday be scheduled a half-hour later in the year 1801.|
[Petitions, letters, and decrees of the Cabildo, September 26, 1799, #349]
|Page 14||On March 21, 1800 the Cabildo found it
necessary to provide arms to the night policemen and resolved that eight lances be made--two for the
Corporals and six for the policemen. The upper portion of this document is the bill presented by master
blacksmith Francisco Marre for thirty-two pesos due him for supplying the weapons. The bottom portion is
Juan de Casteñado's certification that the lances were indeed made and delivered to the policemen
for their use.
There appears to be no earlier mention of weapons for the policemen, nor is it clear what prompted the
Cabildo to order the lances in 1800. Perhaps there was simply a general increase in violent activity as the
port attracted more and more non-resident sailors and flatboat men into the city. Control of the city's slaves,
of course, was always a concern, but the local militia played more of a role in that effort than did the night
policemen who, after all, were primarily responsible for lighting and looking after the city's street lamps.
|Page 15||Gayoso de Lemos
gave permission to
Santiago Coquet to hold weekly public dances for the free black population of New Orleans. These dances
developed over the years into the famous "Quadroon Balls" of the Crescent City. Early in 1800, however,
Coquet lost his rights to the dance hall, and dances for the free blacks were suspended. In October of that
year four military officers petitioned the Cabildo for permission to reinstate the Terpsichorean events.
Though the Cabildo preferred that the free black dances remain suspended, the civil governor, Nicolas
Maria Vidal, ordered that they be allowed to continue.
This document is interesting because it includes descriptions of obnoxious behaviors observed at some
earlier dances, and requests that guards be posted at Coquet's establishment in order to keep proper order.
It also provides evidence of the role of African Americans in the military establishment of Spanish Louisiana,
specifically in the campaign against Fort San Marcos de Apalache, an English outpost in Florida.
|Page 16||Copy of the Royal Order by Charles IV
instructing the local authorities to proceed with the transfer of Louisiana to the French. Though the order is
dated October 15, 1802, it did not reach New Orleans until May, 1803. By that time, of course, the Louisiana
Purchase had already been completed, and the King's instructions only accomplished one half of the task at
Actually, Salcedo and the Cabildo knew as early as March 11 that Louisiana was to be transferred to the
French. Within three weeks Pierre Clément de Laussat was in New Orleans to begin preparations
for the retrocession. The formal transfer of power did not take place until November 30.
|Page 17||These specifications
for folding beds to accommodate the French army. When this document was prepared in April 1803,
Laussat still expected Napoleon to send the troops needed to consolidate French control of Louisiana. At
the end of that month, however, the Emperor's representatives signed the Louisiana Purchase treaty and
the folding beds, suddenly, were no longer needed.|
[Letters, Petitions and Decrees of the Conseil Municipal, #440]
|Page 18||When this letter was written on July 28,
1803 from George Town, Kentucky, to New Orleans merchant Shepherd Brown, the citizens of New Orleans
did not know that Louisiana had already been sold to the United States. Instead, they were uneasily
awaiting the transfer of the colony from Spain to France. The French Colonial Prefect, Pierre
Clément de Laussat, had arrived in the city only four months before and, in July, had not yet
received official word that his task would be merely to oversee the orderly transfer of the colony to the
Americans. Laussat learned of the Louisiana Purchase in August, perhaps about the same time that this
letter, relating the success of Monroe and Livingston in Paris, reached Shepherd Brown. The unknown
correspondent is eager to do business in New Orleans, soon to be freed from the uncertainties of colonial
[Shepherd Brown and Co. Records, 1801-1804, #70]
|Page 19||Nathaniel Badger
wrote to Shepherd Brown
three months later when news of the Purchase was more wide-spread, even among those secluded in the
countryside of Avoyelles. He salutes the "busy Citizens" of New Orleans as "bons Americans."
Badger's correspondent, Shepherd Brown, was a native of Virginia, who came to New Orleans in 1800 and
established himself in business with Baltimore merchant William Taylor and, later, with the firm of McDonogh
and Payne. By 1802, he had formed his own company, Shepherd Brown and Co., while continuing his
association with McDonogh. Brown's company pursued the newly developing western trade, purchasing
agricultural products from up river for eventual transshipment to eastern markets. In 1805 Brown retired to
his farm in St. Helena, where he was appointed an alcade by the Spanish rulers of West Florida and,
because of his opposition to the revolution there, was briefly imprisoned. After the Florida parishes were
annexed by the United States, he was appointed a parish judge. He died in Baltimore in 1818. The records
he left behind, along with the records of McDonogh and Payne, both preserved in the Louisiana Division,
provide a wealth of information on trade practices in New Orleans during the late colonial and early territorial
|Page 20||Decree by Pierre Clément de
Laussat establishing a municipal government for French New Orleans. This body, though an appointed one,
was an improvement over the Spanish Cabildo, whose members gained their seats through payments into
the Royal treasury. An elected City Council would have to wait for U.S. statehood in 1812.
In addition to Jean Etienne Boré, the first mayor of New Orleans, Laussat's municipal government
included a future mayor, John Watkins, and two future governors of Louisiana, Pierre Derbigny and Jacques
Philippe Villeré. Two of the members, Evan Jones and William Donaldson, were Americans,
indicating the strength of that segment of the population even before the U.S. took control of the
|Page 21||At Noon on
November 30, 1803, at the
Cabildo, Pierre Clément de Laussat took formal possession of the Louisiana colony from the
Spanish officials, Don Manuel de Salcedo and the Marqués de Casa-Calvo. To mark the event, he
issued this proclamation to the "Louisianais" which focused not on the retrocession of the colony to France
but on the transfer of Louisiana to the United States, so soon to occur. "They are about to arrive," he says
of the United States Commissioners; "I am awaiting them." In the proclamation, Laussat sought to
congratulate and reassure the United States' newest citizens. "You are going to form part of a People
already numerous & powerful," he wrote, "renowned also for its activity, its industry, its patriotism and its
enlightenment, & which, in its rapid advance, promised to fill one of the most splendid places that a people
has ever occupied on the face of the globe." |
[Letters, Proclamations, and Decrees from Pierre-Clément de Laussat, 1803-1804, #433]
|Page 22||When President Thomas Jefferson
appointed William Charles Cole Claiborne as Governor General and Intendant of the Province of Louisiana
in December 1803, one of Claiborne's first acts was to establish a provisional government for the territory
until a more permanent structure could be legislated by Congress. To provide for judiciary, Claiborne almost
immediately created two courts: the Court of Pleas, composed of seven justices with civil and criminal
jurisdiction over certain cases; and the Governor's Court, which gave Claiborne himself original jurisdiction in
other legal matters and appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the Court of Pleas. Both of these courts
ceased operation in November, 1804, when Congress established the Superior Court, the predecessor of
today's Louisiana Supreme Court.
This is one of only a handful of extant documents from the Governor's Court. (Only a minute book survives
from the Court of Pleas.) In this case, Charles Lalande Dapremont, of the Cote des Allemands, asks
Governor Claiborne to rule on a matter begun in the Spanish courts but left incomplete at the time of the
Purchase. Dapremont asks that his former employer, the Widow Isabelle Renaud Trepagnier, be compelled
to pay him salary and expenses due him in his role as overseer of her plantation. The record does not
record the outcome of the case.
|Page 23||On April 19, 1804,
wrote to the Mayor and Municipality of New Orleans asking that, in order to assist in the reorganization of
the militia in New Orleans, a census be made of "all free male white inhabitants of this city, between the
ages of eighteen and forty-five." (The letter is displayed here.) In the Municipal Council session of April 21,
1804, Mayor Boré informed the Council of the governor's request and, at that time, one of the
members proposed that "a general census of the inhabitants of both sexes in the City and Banlieu of New
Orleans" also be taken. The census of "the "2nd Quartier" shown here is the surviving result of that
general census. One of the familiar names on this page is that of the Marqués de Casa-Calvo,
Spanish Governor of Louisiana from 1799-1801 and one of the officials who handed Louisiana over to
France in 1803. Casa-Calvo remained in New Orleans after the Purchase until he was expelled by 1806 by
Claiborne, who suspected him of sowing seeds of discontent among the population.|
[Conseil de Ville. Letters, Petitions and Reports, #492;
Census of the Second District of the City of New Orleans, 1804]
|Page 24||In this 1804 letter to the Mayor and
Municipal Council, Governor Claiborne transmitted the alarming news from Dr. Watkins, the physician of the
port (and later Mayor of New Orleans) that small pox, earlier detected on board ships downriver, had
reached the city itself. But the Governor took comfort in the fact that a supply of small pox vaccine was
available to help prevent a serious outbreak of the dreaded disease. The accompanying letter from Dr.
Watkins explained that small pox was discovered in a "Negro man" admitted to the Charity Hospital and
speculated that the victim may have been "clandestinely introduced from on board some vessel."
The small pox vaccine (actually an injection of the less serious disease cow pox) had only been discovered
by British physician William Jenner in 1796; it was introduced into New England in 1800 and reached the
Southern colonies a few years later. When smallpox appeared in the city in 1804, Governor Claiborne
strongly supported the use of the new vaccine over the older form of inoculation or variolation (which
involved deliberate exposure to smallpox itself), and, as a result, a major epidemic was averted.
|Page 25||The November 28,
1804 session of the
Conseil Municipal includes a reference to a communication from George Pollock, who asked to purchase a
lot owned by the city adjoining his property fronting on the river and laying between Rue Neuve du Quartier
(now Barracks Street) and the Northeast Rampart of the city.
Accompanying Pollock's request was a map by the surveyor Barthélémy Lafon showing the
property Pollock owned and the lot he wished to purchase. The map itself is more interesting than Pollock's
petition to purchase his lot, since it shows the location of the old military barracks ("casernes") in the large
square which also housed Ursuline convent and the Royal Hospital (neither of which appear on the map).
John McDonogh, who bought the barracks and the land surrounding them in 1821, described the larger of
the two buildings as "of great extent and of brick, it is 56 feet in width, by 225 feet in length,--and its height,
equals that of a three story house—it is capable of lodging 2000 men . . . " By the late 1830's, Chartres
Street and Hospital Street were cut through the large square, the Ursulines relocated to a new convent on
the Industrial Canal, the barracks were demolished (in 1838), the troops moved to Jackson Barracks, and
the square was subdivided and sold to individual owners.
|Page 26||On February 17,1805, the Legislative
Council of the Territory passed an "Act to Incorporate the City of New Orleans," New Orleans' first City
Charter. Governor Claiborne sent a copy of the charter to the Mayor and Council by this letter of February
20, 1805. The 1805 charter provided for a Mayor and a Recorder (both appointed by the Governor of the
Territory), a Treasurer, and a Council (or Conseil de Ville) composed of fourteen Aldermen, two from each of
the seven wards, elected by the eligible voters of the Territory of Orleans. This Charter remained in effect
[Conseil de Ville. Letters, Petitions and Reports, #536]
|Page 27||Le Moniteur de la
appeared in 1794, was the first newspaper published regularly in Louisiana. The Louisiana Gazette,
however, was the first English language newspaper in New Orleans, beginning on July 24, 1804 and ending
in 1826. The pages shown here (the front page of February 22, 1805 and the final page of February 19,
1805) give a wonderful glimpse of everyday life in New Orleans in the very early years after the
[Louisiana Gazette, February 19 & 22, 1805]
|Page 28||The October 26, 1805 session of the
Conseil de Ville includes a reference to a petition from several of the city's butchers complaining that rain
water leaking through the roof of the meat market was spoiling their meats. The Council directed the Mayor
to ask the city surveyor to examine the roof and present an estimate of the cost of the most urgent repairs.
Apparently, the job of repairing the roof was given to one Charles Laveau, who tackled it quickly and, at the
end of November, presented his bill for $101.7 "bits." Charles Laveau, a free man of color, was the father of
the famous Marie Laveau. His work must have been found satisfactory, because in later years he made
other repairs to city property.
The meat market referred to here is not the current meat market on Decatur between St. Anne and
Ursulines. That building, the oldest of the current French Market structures, was not built until 1813. The
market that Laveau repaired was completed in May, 1790 by contractor Augustin McCarty and located on
the levee approximately where the current meat market stands today.
|Page 29||In 1806, the Conseil
de Ville passed an
ordinance requiring the Collector of Levee Dues to keep a record of flatboats, barges, rafts, and other crafts
arriving in the Port of New Orleans. This page shows one page of the list of crafts that docked during the
month of May, 1806 (a total of 123 vessels arrived that month – not counting ships, which were recorded
separately). Note the two barges named the Napoleon and the Thomas Jefferson, an unintentional, but
interesting, comment on the changing times in Louisiana.
After the Louisiana Purchase and the lifting of many inland trade restrictions imposed by the Spanish and
French, business in the port surged. In 1803 hundreds of barges, flatboats and keelboats, loaded with such
commodities as flour, pork, lard, tallow, whiskey and corn, reached New Orleans from Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Kentucky and elsewhere upriver. By the end of the decade, thousands arrived annually, particularly in the
late fall and spring.
|Page 30||Plan of the riverfront of the Faubourg
Marie by Mansuy-Pellitier, 1807. This plan rather dramatically illustrates the extent of the batture, the land
that the river deposited in front of the levee. The plan includes a note asserting that the batture was to be
used for the public benefit of the city of New Orleans, a claim that was disputed by Edward Livingston in a
series of court cases running from 1806 well into the 1820s. |
[Louisiana Map Collection, MaM 807/4; MS42]
|Page 31||This 1807 document
from the City Court,
accuses Juan Portas, "an evil disposed person," of swindling—specifically, of having purchased 3804 pounds
of coffee from Maurice Dumas and Jean Jarreau with a forged promissory note. In 1807, towns like New
Orleans and St. Louis were gateways to the vast, unexplored frontier of the new Purchase and, as such,
they attracted people eager to make their fortunes—by honest means or not. |
[Territory of Orleans. City Court, #123]
|Page 32||This plan, filed in the Superior Court
The Mayor, Alderman and Inhabitants of New Orleans v. John Marie Henry, Philip Harty, et al. shows
a portion of the riverfront opposite the Place d'Armes, the present day Jackson Square. In this suit, Henry,
Harty and 19 others were taken to court by the City, which had in July, 1805 ordered that the huts
(barraques), cabins, houses and buildings on the levee in front of the city be demolished since they had
become "a great nuisance to the hindrance and annoyance of passengers as well as to the injury of the
health and good Police of said City." The right to use the buildings on the levee had been granted by the
Spanish Cabildo "during a time of great and peculiar distress in this city, from a fire which swept off a
number of houses" –presumably the fire of 1794. The City argued that use of the buildings had been granted
on the condition that the occupants would vacate them when requested to do so by the Cabildo and, since
the Conseil de Ville now held all the administrative rights that the Cabildo had once enjoyed, the plaintiff's
were bound by their conditional agreement to give up their possession of the levee buildings when asked to
The issues in the case were complicated by the fact that the ownership of the land under the levee was claimed by both the City of New Orleans and the United States Government. The defendants argued that the City had no right to force them from the levee since the land was owned by the federal government. The United States' attorneys made it clear in their statement that they considered the land in question to belong to the federal government, but that they were willing to enforce the Council's decree that the buildings be vacated.
The case is interesting, not simply because of the map filed amongst its papers, but because it touches
upon some of the same issues of ownership of "public" land as the more famous "Batture Case," filed
several years later.
|Page 33||We include this
document here for the
simple reason that it is signed by James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and Secretary of
State during the Louisiana Purchase negotiations. In the letter, sent to the Conseil de Ville in response to
their message of congratulations upon his election, Madison says, "I behold with truest satisfaction, the
advantages which the Territory and City of New Orleans have reaped from their incorporation with the U.
[Conseil de Ville. Letters, Petitions and Reports, #563]
|Page 34||In 1809, John L. Bujac, a Philadelphia
merchant, took the audacious step of suing Napoleon Bonapart, Emperor of the French, to recover $2000
owed him as a result of a bill of exchange drawn up in favor of himself and J.S. David by the French consul
in New Orleans, "a certain Deforgue." Since Consul Deforgue signed the bill of exchange as a
representative of the Emperor, known to be absent from the Territory and never likely to appear to honor the
debt himself, Bujac petitioned the court to seize property owned by the crown in order to satisfy the debt, as
well as damages and costs due him. The Superior Court ruled in Bujac's favor, and, no doubt, Bujac was
highly satisfied by the workings of American justice.|
[Territory of Orleans. Superior Court (no docket # )]
|Page 35||Plan of the division
a portion of the city
commons located between the city and the property reserved by Congress for use of the Orleans Navigation
Company by Jacques Tanesse, 1810. The land reserved by Congress was to be used by the Navigation
Company to dig a canal to connect the Mississippi with the existing Carondelet Canal/Bayou St. John outlet
to Lake Pontchartrain. The Canal was never built, of course, but it did give its name to Canal Street, shown
on the plan, lined with trees, as the chemin publique (public road).|
[Louisiana Map Collection, MaM 810/3; MS3]
|Page 36||The College d'Orléans was
established by an act of the Territorial Legislature in 1811, having been in the planning stages since 1805.
The legislature appropriated $15,000 for its founding, and the City of New Orleans donated land and
buildings that had been part of the plantation of Claude Tremé. Administered by a board of regents,
the College (really a combined primary and secondary school) opened at the end of 1811. It was never a
financial success, plagued by mismanagement and a certain amount of scandal over some of its
administrators. By 1826, it was forced to close. It remains, however, the Territory's first attempt to provide
for the higher education of its new citizens.
This letter to the Conseil de Ville from Louis Moreau Lislet, one of the College's regents (and one of the
authors of Louisiana's civil code), lays out the terms of the 1811 agreement, outlining the obligations of the
Territory and the City.
|Page 37||This tattered
document played a major role
in one of the most famous court cases in United States history: the case of Myra Clark Gaines, fought
through local, state and federal courts for nearly sixty years, all told. The litigation arose from Mrs. Gaines'
claim that she was the legitimate daughter of Daniel Clark, businessman, landowner, U.S. Consul in New
Orleans during the last years of Spanish rule, and the Territory of Orleans' first delegate to Congress. If she
won her case, Mrs. Gaines would inherited enormous wealth and property – property constituting, in fact, a
large portion of what is today New Orleans' Central Business District.
The will shown here was written in 1811, two years before Clark's death. But Gaines claimed that Daniel
Clark had written a second will shortly before he died in 1813, naming her as his only legitimate child. This
all-important second will, she argued, had been destroyed by Clark's business associates to protect their
own interest. It was the 1811 will shown here, however, that was admitted to probate in New Orleans,
setting off an impossibly complicated legal proceeding that ended, ultimately, with the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision in Gaines' favor (after the court changed its mind several times). But by the time of the Court's final
ruling in 1891, attorney's fees and other debts had eaten drastically into Clark's estate, and Mrs. Gaines'
heirs (for Myra Clark Gaines herself died before the suit was finally settled) got very little.
|Page 38||In this indenture document, signed
Mayor James Mather in July, 1811, Jack Spicer, a free mulatto man of 26, agreed to bind himself to William
Francis as his indentured servant for a period of two years. In return, Francis, who had had Spicer
imprisoned on a charge of theft, agreed to pay all expenses necessary to free Spicer from jail. The two men
also agreed that if Spicer violated the agreement before the two years are up, his term of service would
The majority of indentures signed before the Mayor were not like this one. Most were apprentice agreements, contracts in which young people were bound legally to an employer for a period of time in order learn a trade or skill. Many of the apprentices (and employers) were free people of color, many of them natives of St. Dominque, sons of French-speaking colonials who had fled the slave revolt there and settled first in Cuba, and then in New Orleans.
Interestingly, affixed to this document is perhaps the earliest instance of the New Orleans city seal, still in
|Page 39||When Louisiana was
admitted to the Union
as the eighteenth state in 1812, W.C.C. Claiborne was elected as the state's first governor and Nicholas
Girod was elected the fifth mayor of New Orleans (and its first elected, rather than appointed mayor).
Shown here is Girod's oath of office, signed on October 6, 1812, along with the Oath of the Recorder. On
the second page are the oaths of the newly elected Aldermen, many of whom continued their terms from
[Conseil de Ville. Letters, Petitions and Reports, #589]
|Page 40||Algernon Sidney was
a pseudonym used by
Gideon Granger (d. 1822), a native of Connecticut and a graduate of Yale, who served as Postmaster
General under Thomas Jefferson. As a member of the administration he voiced his support for Jefferson's
policies, including his efforts to resolve the crisis ignited by Spain's revocation of the right of deposit at New
Orleans. Granger wrote this Vindication after the appointment of James Monroe "to regain the enjoyment of
the right of deposit, to remove, and in future, prevent the embarrassments under which the Western states
labor; to enlarge the rights of the nation, and ensure those already acquired beyond the possibility of dispute
[Algernon Sidney. A Vindication of the Measures of the Present Administration (Hartford, 1803)]
|Page 41||Andrew Ellicott was one of the most
celebrated surveyors of his day and an early advocate of the United States' acquisition of Louisiana. The list
of his accomplishments is long; for example, it was Ellicott who laid out the City of Washington and first
measured the height of Niagara Falls. His connection to the Louisiana Purchase story is two-fold. In 1796,
he was appointed by George Washington as U.S. Commissioner to survey the boundary separating the
United States from Spain's Mississippi Territory as defined in the Treaty of San Lorenzo, a task which
occupied him from 1796 to1800 and is detailed in his Journal. And he also assisted Thomas
Jefferson in planning the Lewis and Clark expedition following the Purchase and instructed Meriwether
Lewis in various surveying techniques.
Included in the Journal are a number of maps, including this early map of the mouth of the Mississippi
Berquin-Duvallon was born in
St. Dominque and, at the time of the revolution, left the island for Baltimore. In 1800 he came to New
Orleans, traveled through Louisiana, and purchased a plantation on the Tchoupitoulas Coast where he
wrote the travel account for which he is remembered. His account of his travels in Louisiana and the
Floridas was first published in French in 1803, translated into German in 1804 and into English (in an
abridged version) two years later.
On these pages, he describes New Orleans as it existed a scant eight years after the disastrous fire of
1794, with its muddy, dirty streets (a common complaint of visitors to the city) and its few public buildings.
He focuses, however, on the "small theatre" near the center of town, where he attended "several dramas
performed with considerable ability." The theatre was probably the St. Peter Street Theatre, the first theatre
in the city, which operated from 1792 to 1810. Berquin-Duvallon, who did not have too many compliments to
pay to New Orleans, seemed surprised to find such signs of culture in the colony.
|Page 43||François Marie Perrin du Lac, a
French émigré, was an administrator in Saint Domingue during the time of the revolution and
fought on the side of the colonials against Toussaint L'Ouverture. In 1791, he accompanied French officials
to the United States to seek help from Congress to combat the insurrection. Prevented from returning to
France as a result of the war between France and England, he traveled through the United States and
explored the southern and western states, visiting Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. The result of this journey was his Travels Through the Two Louisianas, and Among the
Savage Nations of the Missouri; Also, in the United States, Along the Ohio, and the Adjacent Provinces, in
1801, 1802, & 1803, published in London in 1807.
Like a number of other newcomers or visitors to New Orleans, du Lac found more to criticize than to praise.
His chapter on the city during the last days of Spanish rule begins, "New Orleans, at which I arrived in six
weeks, does not merit a favorable description." du Lac found the city dirty, smelly, and unhealthy, the
Spanish officials corrupt and foolish, the clergy debauched, and the Creoles vain and overly fond of
pleasure. Nevertheless, he lamented the loss of the French empire in the New World. On the page shown
here, he lists the income derived by Spain from the Louisiana colony (and hints that if not for Spanish
corruption and mismanagement, the colony could provide far more riches).
|Page 44||When W.C.C.
Claiborne was appointed
governor of the newly acquired province of Louisiana in 1803, he declared that all laws currently in force
would remain so until a permanent system of justice could be determined. When the governmental structure
of the Territories of Louisiana and Orleans was organized a few months later, Congress established a
system of courts, but left the structure of the law as it was; the current laws "were to continue in force, until
altered, modified, or repealed by the legislature." In the meantime the question under debate was whether
the Territory of Orleans would adopt a legal system based on English common law as the United States had
done, or whether the Territory would retain or modify the more familiar civil law system previously
established by the colony's French and Spanish colonial rulers.
This state of affairs continued, amid considerable confusion and controversy, until 1808, when Louisiana's first civil code, A Digest of the Civil Laws Now in Force in the Territory of Orleans with Alterations and Amendments Adapted to the Present System of Government, was published. The code, authored by Louis Moreau-Lislet and James Brown and authorized by the territorial legislature, thus solidified the civil law tradition in Louisiana, which continues to this day.
The page shown here is from Book I, Title VI, Chapter 3, Article 17, "Of Slaves."
|Page 45||Julien Poydras de Lalande (1746-1824),
native of France, was a large property (and slave) owner in Pointe Coupée Parish and New Orleans.
In 1809 he served as delegate to Congress for the Territory of Orleans. Poydras published five pamphlets in
support of the rights of the people in the ongoing Batture Case. In the pages displayed here, from one of
those pamphlets, he describes the process of batture formation, and presents his arguments in favor of the
doctrine of its ownership by the people.|
[Julien Poydras. A Defence of the Right of the Public to the Batture of New Orleans (Washington, 1809)]
|Page 46||James Wilkinson
(1757-1825), a native of
Maryland, was the ranking general in the U.S. Army in 1803 when he and Governor William C. C. Claiborne
accepted the Province of Louisiana from the French. Later appointed Governor of the Louisiana Territory
(the Louisiana Purchase above the Territory of Orleans), he became involved with Aaron Burr in his scheme
to detach the western states from the U.S. Wilkinson eventually turned against Burr but only narrowly
escaped indictment and prosecution. As the government's chief witness in the conspiracy trial, held in
Richmond, Virginia during the year 1807, Wilkinson began the process of rehabilitating his reputation. He
was finally cleared of charges that he was complicit in Burr's scheme in 1811, the same year as the
publication of Burr's Conspiracy Exposed. In the page from that work displayed here is a letter from
Wilkinson to Governor Claiborne in which the General describes measures to be taken to protect New
Orleans from attack by the conspirators.|
[Burr's Conspiracy Exposed; and General Wilkinson Vindicated Against the Slanders of His Enemies on that Important Occasion (1811)]
|Page 47||Josiah Quincy (1772-1864), a native of
Boston, served as a Federalist congressman from 1805-1813. He opposed statehood for Louisiana, a
position that he made very clear in his speech before Congress in January 1811. Essentially, Quincy argued
that the bill for admission was unconstitutional, and that Louisiana would be the first of many new
slave-holding areas to be admitted to the Union. Though he would not have agreed, he acknowledges on
this page that some supporters of statehood proclaimed New Orleans as "the most important point in the
union," an auspicious position for the capital of the soon-to-be eighteenth state.|
[Mr. Quincy's Speech, on the Bill Admitting the Territory of Orleans, into the Union (1811)]
|Page 48||This page from the
documents day one of that body's session in the state of Louisiana's first legislative session. It also shows
the key role that New Orleans played in the new government--that of its capital. Note that while the County
of Orleans sent three members to the upper chamber of the legislature, not all of them represented what
was then the city of New Orleans since the county included such outlying areas as present-day Gentilly,
Algiers, and Jefferson Parish.|
[Senat de l'Etat de la Louisiane, Premiere Session de la Premiere Legislature de l'Etat de la Louisiane (New Orleans, 1812)]
|Page 49||William Darby (1775-1854), a native of
Pennsylvania, was a surveyor and geographer who lived in Louisiana during the years following the
Louisiana Purchase. In the preface to his Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana, Darby
that he had witnessed, "The various events and revolutions that have developed the character of the
people, and demonstrated the value of Louisiana as an acquisition to the United States...." In the pages
displayed here, Darby provides an inventory of the major public buildings of New Orleans, gives a succinct
description of its population, comments most favorably on the "livability" of the city, and discusses the
condition of the area's fortifications.|
[William Darby. A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana . . . Being an Accompaniment to the Map of Louisiana (Philadelphia, 1816)]
(1745-1837) served as Napoleon's Minister of the Treasury from 1801-1806. It was in that position that he
negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. Years later he wrote a History of Louisiana in which he recounted
in great detail his role in those negotiations. The pages displayed here present his account of the physical
transfer of Louisiana by France to the United States. Though not an eyewitness, he no doubt had a great
interest in accurately reporting the event that finalized his work on the diplomatic end.|
[François Barbé-Marbois. Histoire de la Louisiane (Paris, 1829)]
|Page 51||Vincent Nolte was a German-Italian
merchant and cotton buyer for an Amsterdam firm. He came to New Orleans in 1806 and accumulated
considerable wealth and social position in the city before he was forced to return to Europe after his firm
failed. Although his reminiscences were not published until 1854, shortly before his death, Nolte was in the
city during the years surrounding the Purchase and his memoirs provide a vivid account of life in New
Orleans at the time.
On these pages, Nolte describes the business climate in New Orleans at the time of its transfer to the
United States, focusing on the business acumen of such enterprising American merchants as Shepherd
Brown, W.M. Montgomery, and John McDonogh, all of whom made their fortunes in the "great and growing
city" of New Orleans.
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