Three-quarters of a century had passed over the little Franco-Spanish town, hidden under the Mississippi’s downward-retreating bank in the edge of its Delta swamp on Orleans Island, before the sallow spectre of yellow fever was distinctly recognized in her streets and in her darkened chambers. That it had come and gone earlier, but unidentified, is altogether likely. In 1766 especially, the year in which Ulloa came with his handful of Havanese soldiers to take possession for Spain, there was an epidemic which at least resembled the great West Indian scourge. Under the commercial concessions that followed, the town expanded into
“France has cut the knot,” wrote Minister Livingston to Secretary Madison. It is the word of Bonaparte himself, that his first diplomatic act with. Spain had for its object the recovery of Louisiana. His power enabled him easily to outstrip American negotiations, and on the 1st of October, 1800, the Spanish King entered privately into certain agreements by which, on the 21st of March, 1801, Louisiana, vast, but to Spain unremunerative and indefensible, passed secretly into the hands of the First Consul in exchange for the petty Italian “kingdom of Etruria.” When Minister Livingston wrote, in November, 1802, the secret
Weighing all the facts, it is small wonder that the Delta Creoles coquetted with the Baratarians. To say no more of Spanish American or French West Indian tincture, there was the Embargo. There were the warships of Europe skimming ever to and fro in the entrances and exits of the Gulf. Rarely in days of French or Spanish rule had this purely agricultural country and non-manufacturing town been so removed to the world’s end as just at this time. The Mississippi, northward, was free; but its perils had hardly lessened since the days of Spanish rule. Then it was said,
The brow and cheek of this man were darkened by outdoor exposure, but they were not weather-beaten. His shapely, bronzed hand was no harder or rougher than was due to the use of the bridle-rein and the gunstock. His eye was the eye of a steed; his neck-the same. His hair was a little luxuriant. His speech was positive, his manner was military, his sentiments were antique, his clothing was of broadcloth, his boots were neat, and his hat was soft, broad, and slouched a little to show its fineness. Such in his best aspect was the Mississippi River planter.
It has already been said that the whole Gulf coast of Louisiana is sea-marsh. It is an immense, wet, level expanse, covered everywhere, shoulder high, with marsh-grasses, and indented by extensive bays that receive the rivers and larger bayous. For some sixty miles on either side of the Mississippi’s month, it breaks into a grotesquely contorted shoreline and into bright archipelagoes of hundreds of small, reedy islands, with narrow and obscure channels writhing hither and thither between them. These mysterious passages, hidden from the eye that over-glances the seemingly unbroken sunny leagues of surrounding distance, are threaded only by the
The Spanish occupation never became more than a conquest. The Spanish tongue, enforced in the courts and principal public offices, never superseded the French in the mouths of the people, and left but a few words naturalized in the corrupt French of the slaves. To African organs of speech cocodrie, from cocodrilo, the crocodile, was easier than a caiman, the alligator; the terrors of the calaboza, with its chains and whips and branding irons, were condensed into the French tri-syllabic calaboose; while the pleasant institution of ñapa – the petty gratuity added, by the retailer, to anything bought – grew
The planters of the Delta, on their transfer to Spanish domination, saw indigo, the chief product of their lands, shut out of market. French protection was lost and French ports were closed to them. Those of Spain received them only into ruinous competition with the better article made in the older and more southern Spanish colonies. By and by kinder commercial regulations offered a certain relief; but then new drawbacks began to beset them. Season after season was unfavorable, and at length an insect appeared which, by the years 1793-94, was making such ravages that the planters were in despair.
New Orleans had been under the actual sway of the Spaniard for thirty-four years. Ten thousand inhabitants were gathered in and about its walls. Most of the whites were Creoles. Even in the province at large these were three in every four. Immigrants from Malaga, the Canaries, and Nova Scotia had passed on through the town and into the rural districts. Of the thousands of Americans, only a few scores of mercantile pioneers came as far as the town – sometimes with families, but generally without. Free trade with France had brought some French merchants, and the Reign of Terror, as we
If one will stand to-day on the broad levee at New Orleans, with his back to the Mississippi, a short way out to the left and riverward from the spot where the longvanished little fort St. Louis once made pretence of guarding the town’s upper river corner, he will look down two streets at once. They are Canal and Common, which gently diverge from their starting-point at his feet and narrow away before his eye as they run down toward the low, unsettled lots and commons behind the city. Canal Street, the centre and pride of New Orleans, takes its
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,