These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Ulloa's Salary — His Instructions — His Efforts to keep up the depreciated French Paper Money — These Efforts are Counteracted by the Colonists — Refusal of the French Troops to pass into the service of Spain — Causes for which Ulloa does not take Formal Possession of the Colony — His Impressions, Unfavorable to the Population — France refuses to pay the Expenses of the Colony since March, 1766 — They are assumed by the Spanish Government — Aubry retains the Nominal Command of the Colony, but governs according to Ulloa's dictates — Spanish Commercial Decree, on the 6th of May, 1766 — Appointment of French Commissaries to Purchase articles of exportation — Ulloa visits the several Posts and Settlements — Other Spanish Decree of Commerce in September, 1766 — Effects of that Decree — Remonstrances of the Colonists against it — Its Execution suspended by Aubry — Foucault's Letter to his Government on the Subject — The Colonists are under the impression that their Ancient Rights and Privileges are secured under the Treaty of Cession — Ulloa Sojourns seven months at the Balize — His Marriage with the Marchioness of Abrado — Aubry's Description of Ulloa's Character — Communication of the Marquis of Grimaldi to the Count of Fuentes on Spain's Delay to take Possession of Louisiana — Return of Jean Milhet, the Delegate of the Colonists, fromºFrance — Signs of Hostility to the Spaniards — Intense Cold in 1768 — Increase of Excitement — Ulloa's Tastes, Habits and Dispositions — His Wife gives Offence — Aubry's Observations on his own extraordinary Position — Conspiracy against the Spaniards — Proceedings of the Conspirators — Character of Lafrénière, the King's Attorney-General — The Conspirators take Possession of New Orleans at the Head of the Acadians and Germans — General Insurrection — Aubry's Conduct — Ulloa Retires on board of the Spanish Frigate — Loyola, Gayarre, Navarro, and the other Spaniards, on the point of being exterminated — The Colonists demand of the Superior Council the Expulsion of the Spaniards — Speech of Lafrénière in the Council — Decree of the Council against Ulloa, Gayarre, Loyola, and Navarro — Aubry's Protest against it — Opinion emitted by Foucault in the Council — Dinner at Foucault's House — The Council visits the Insurgents in a body — Tumultuous Rejoicings of the People — Reflections.
The annual salary allowed to Don Antonio de Ulloa as Governor, in 1766, of a colony of ten thousand whites p158 and blacks, was $6,000. The same sum is granted in 1851, as a sufficient remuneration to the present Governor of Louisiana, with a population of more than 500,000 souls. Considering the difference of circumstances, and of the relative value of money at that time and in our days, it cannot but be seen that there was, in reality, a striking difference between the two salaries. Under the French government the salary of the governor had risen, from two thousand dollars given to Bienville, to ten thousand allowed to the Marquis of Vaudreuil.
Acting with the usual benevolence which formed one of the well-known features of his character, and taking into consideration the habits, customs, prejudices, wants and wishes of his new subjects, Charles III had given to Ulloa the following instructions:
"I have resolved that, in that new acquisition, there be no change in the administration of its government, and therefore, that it be not subjected to the laws and usages which are observed in my American dominions, from which it is a distinct colony, and with which it is to have no commerce. It is my will that it be independent of the ministry of the Indies (ministero de Indias), of its council, and of the other tribunals annexed to it; and that all which may be relative to that colony shall pass through the Ministry of State (ministerio de Estado), and that you communicate to me, through that channel alone, whatever may be appertaining to your government."
It will be recollected that there were in the colony seven millions of paper currency, which had been issued by the French government. When the rumor spread that the Spaniards were coming up the river, among the other causes of consternation was the uncertainty existing as to that currency. Would the Spanish government p159 reject it altogether? Would it be suppressed in private transactions? Or, would the new government step into the place of the old, and assume its obligations? In that case, would the paper currency be redeemed at par, or only at a discount of 75 per cent, which the French government had established as the legal amount of its depreciation, although, in fact, in the common run of business among individuals, four dollars in that paper currency represented only one dollar in specie. So intense became the excitement on the subject, that, on the very day of Ulloa's arrival, the intendant commissary Foucault thought himself justified, in his first interview with the Spanish governor, to lay before him the apprehensions of the colonists. Ulloa returned the gracious answer, that he perfectly understood the distress which would result from the suppression of that currency, and that, in order to keep it in circulation until he received instructions to stop it by its conversion into some other currency, he would, immediately after having taken possession of the colony, order that the paper issued by the French government be received as well among the Spaniards as among the French at the rate of 75 per cent, which was the rate of depreciation acknowledged by the government of France. Aubry and Foucault hastened to make public this liberal declaration. But the colonists were not satisfied, and clamored that the paper ought to be taken at par.
So anxious was Ulloa to conciliate those over whose destinies he had come to preside, that, having been informed of their complaints, he resolved, in order to put an end to their discontent, to show them that his intention was that the Spaniards should fare no better than the colonists. To accomplish this object, he bought with dollars, at a discount of seventy-five per cent, all the p160 paper he could get in the market, and tendered it to the Spanish troops in discharge of one-third of their pay. But these troops obstinately refused to receive it, and Ulloa found himself opposed in this scheme both by the French and the Spaniards. The inhabitants of Louisiana, who were in the habit of losing three dollars in four of the paper currency, in meeting the current expenses of life, and who had been eager to furnish the French government with as much of it as it had chosen to redeem at seventy-five per cent, refused to part with it on the same terms when offered by Ulloa; and although it was to please them and to show his impartiality, that this functionary was attempting to give it in payment to his troops, yet it was with considerable difficulty that he could procure the small quantity which he had tendered to his troops, and at which they had scouted. The colonists gave as a reason, that the king of France would, if Louisiana had not been transferred to Spain, have called in all his paper at par, and that his Catholic Majesty was bound to do the same; they further pretended, that although the colony had ceased to belong to the Most Christian king, yet that, true to the plighted faith of his royal word, he would pay to the last cent the full amount of the depreciated paper. But the whole financial history of the colony gave the most emphatic contradiction to these assertions, and the pretensions of the colonists were provokingly unjust and unreasonable. They originated in the desire of throwing every obstacle in the way of the new government, and this was the true reason why Ulloa's liberality met with so singular a return. This was the first trial which the philosophy of the man of science had to undergo in Louisiana; and it is not unfair to suppose that he came to the conclusion, that he had to deal with a very intractable set of people.
p161 Another cause of irritation for the Spaniards soon followed. France, in order to induce Charles III to take charge of the burdensome colony of Louisiana, and in order to soften the prospect of the fruitless disbursements with which he was threatened, in case of his accepting the donation pressed upon him, had represented to that monarch that it would not be necessary for Spain to go to the immediate expense of transporting troops, ammunition, etc., to that colony; and had promised that the three hundred men of infantry she had in Louisiana would remain there at the service of his Catholic Majesty, as long as he pleased to retain them. This was the cause of Ulloa's having come only with ninety men to take possession of the province. But the French troops, having for some time past been entitled to their discharge, peremptorily refused to pass into the service of Spain. It was in vain that Aubry, Ulloa, and Foucault assured them that their engagement would not be of long duration, because troops were expected from the Peninsula; it was in vain they were informed that the wish of their king was that they should so enlist, and that a promise to that effect had been made by his Most Christian Majesty; it was in vain that their officers, at least ostensibly, urged them to continue to be on military duty under the Spanish banner. They answered that their time was out; that they were willing, however, not to avail themselves of their right to be discharged, but that it was a sacrifice which they would undergo only to serve their legitimate king under the national flag. Aubry convened all the French officers, laid before them the instructions which he had received from his government, to put the military forces of the colony at the disposal of the Spanish governor, and consulted them on the practicability of coercing the troops into the service of p162 Spain; but the officers unanimously declared that the attempt would be exceedingly dangerous. Such being the state of affairs, Ulloa gave up all idea of taking possession of the colony for the present; he rented at the extremity of the town some houses, in which he lodged his two companies of foot, and sent immediate information to his government of the circumstances in which he was placed.
The pay of the Spanish soldiers in Havana was thirty-five livres per month; but Ulloa, on his arrival in Louisiana, reduced to seven livres a month the pay of the ninety men he had taken at that city on his way to New Orleans. This was the pay of the French soldiers in Louisiana, and Ulloa had, no doubt, taken this step with a good intention — that of putting the Spanish troops on the same footing with the French, and of preventing any invidious comparison. But it was a stroke of bad policy; it was an act of injustice to the Spanish troops, who became discontented; and it was wanting in liberality to the French, who railed at the ill-timed economy. Probably if Ulloa had raised the French pay of seven livres to the Spanish pay of thirty-five per month, the temptation to enlist would have been so great, that the aversion of the French would have yielded to the allurement tendered to them. Ulloa's course, on this occasion, must certainly be blamed, unless he acted under special instructions.
These were the difficulties he met on the threshold, and they produced on him very unfavorable impressions, to which other circumstances had contributed to give a deeper shade. The influence of physical and external objects, even on the strongest mind, is well known; and it is not therefore astonishing that gloomy scenery of the Balize, of the heavily timbered and uncultivated p163 banks of the Mississippi, as well as the miserable appearance of the hamlet of New Orleans, which then numbered no more than three thousand inhabitants of every variety of color and condition, should not have predisposed in favor of Louisiana a man who had revelled, for so many years, amidst the most gorgeous productions of nature and art in Spain, in Peru, and many other parts of the earth. On the 5th of March, when he landed at New Orleans, it was in the midst of a storm, through which the new comers saw, for the first time, the capital of the province lately added to the dominions of the Catholic King, and its aspect looked dismal enough. The inhabitants frowned upon the representation of the majesty of Spain; the French troops spurned the idea of serving under the proud flag of Castile, in spite of the assurance given by their king that their assistance would be secured to the Spaniards, in taking possession of the ceded territory. The French government had, therefore, in the opinion of the Spaniards, been unfaithful to, or unmindful of, its engagements. It was negligence, or breach of faith, and it was resented as such by those whom it had placed in a position full of difficulties.
It must be admitted, and it is abundantly proved by the despatches of the highest functionaries, as well as by the documents containing the written complaints of the inhabitants, that Louisiana had been, since its foundation, that is for sixty-six years, in a starving condition; that being deficient in the knowledge of its internal resources, or rather in energy or will to develop them, it had been almost entirely dependent for its very food and for everything else, on the mother country, which could no longer supply its wants; and that the tenure by which the French king held this possession was so precarious p164 and burdensome, that he had pressed the acceptance of it, as a present, on the Spanish king, who had hesitated to receive the onerous donation, and had consented to it merely to oblige his beloved cousin of France. Now when the Spaniards had come at the urgent invitation of France; when they certainly could not make matters worse for the colonists than they had been so far; when, on the contrary, there was a prospect of a change for the better; when the dollars of Spain were to be introduced instead of the stamped paper rags which had constituted the currency of the country; when Ulloa, on the very day of his arrival, had hastened to relieve the uneasiness of the inhabitants, by promising to keep up the depreciated paper at the present rate fixed by France; when he had made known his instructions, that no changes would take place in the civil organization, in the laws, customs and usages of the province; when he had professed in his letter from Havana to the Superior Council, and since, in repeated verbal declarations, that it was both his duty and his most anxious wish to do all in his power to be useful and agreeable to the people; when to remove national prejudices, he had put the Spanish troops on the footing of the French, with regard to their pay, it surely was passing strange, as he thought, that under these circumstances he and his companions should be guests so unwelcome, and even meet with so much undisguised hostility. He felt it keenly.
Ulloa, a few days after his arrival, had sought information from Aubry, as to the resources, the wants, and the character of the province he had come to govern. From certain expressions, which perhaps had dropped imprudently from the French governor, and from a perusal of the documents to which he was allowed access, p165 Ulloa drew conclusions which may explain his subsequent acts, and some of the reproaches to which they gave rise. He saw that, from the earliest day of the existence of the colony, from Lamothe Cadillac to D'Abbadie, almost all its governors and high dignitaries had represented its inhabitants as a set of reprobates, infected with the rebellious spirit of republicanism; that it had been, without interruption, the prey of intestine dissentions, one half of the functionaries and of the population having hardly ever ceased to be arrayed against the other; and that they agreed only in one thing — that is, in accusing each other of the most shameless corruption and hateful malfeasances. Thus he found on record, under the hand and seal of his predecessors, through a long series of years, that Louisiana was, in the words of D'Abbadie, a chaos of iniquity and discord; and Aubry, the last of the French rulers, far from having said one word in extenuation of the sweeping condemnation, had given Ulloa to understand, that between the perversity and the insubordination which prevailed in the past, and that which existed in the present, there was no perceptible difference. As if this was not enough, Kerlerec, who was still detained in the Bastile, wrote to Ulloa a letter, in which he gave him a frightful picture of Louisiana, which he had administered ten years, and he concluded, saying: From the bottom of my heart I pity you for having been sent to such a country! The Superior Council, the king's attorney-general, and other personages who, by their offices, their rank, or their wealth, occupied a high position, had those enemies whom men, under such circumstances, generally meet in their path, and who are generated either by envy, or by the resentment resulting from the existence of real or supposed wrongs. These and other malcontents, p166 who are always to be found in every community, poured also their denunciations into the ears of Ulloa, upon whose mind and temper it is easy to conceive the effect produced by these accusations, coupled with what he had seen and experienced since his arrival.
If Ulloa could not take possession of the colony for the causes already known, the French authorities had no longer the means of carrying on the old government, because they had been informed by the French ministry, that their drafts on the Treasury of France for colonial expenses would no longer be accepted. Not only were they not permitted to issue any further drafts, but also, even those they had given to meet the expenses of the years 1763, 1764, 1765, had been kept in abeyance by the French government, on the ground that the province had become Spanish since the very day of the cession, although the Spaniards had delayed taking possession; and that the French had only administered as trustees, on the account and for the benefit of Spain; wherefore that power was bound to pay all the expenses made by the French authorities. To relieve the officers of his Most Christian Majesty from their embarrassments, and the colony from the state of misery to which it had been reduced by this decision of the French court, Ulloa agreed to loan to Foucault the money necessary to discharge some of the most pressing obligations contracted by the French government before his coming to the colony, and assumed to take for the account of Spain all the expenses of the administration since the 5th of March, 1766, when he had landed at New Orleans. Governor Aubry and the Intendant Commissary greedily assented to this proposition, and all the public functionaries and the troops, as well as the rations given to the Acadians, and all the other expenses, were provided p167 for out of the Spanish treasury, as if Ulloa had taken formal possession. It was further understood that, considering that the French troops refused to obey the Spanish governor, Aubry would remain the apparent and nominal chief of the colony, but would govern according to the dictates of Ulloa. This expedient having been hit upon, the wheels of the government, which had threatened to stop, resumed their rotation. Ulloa commanded, and Aubry faithfully executed; the one was the head, and the other the arm. The leaders of the party opposed to the Spaniards set up a cry of indignation at what they called a shameful compromise, a slavish surrender of the dignity and independence of their nation in the person of the French governor. But the middle course seems to have been the wisest, nay, the only one that could have been followed. What else could have been done? Ulloa held the purse, and Aubry the sword. Without some compromise between the two, it is evident that no government could have subsisted.
On the 6th of May, the Spanish government issued a decree permitting, by a special favor, a direct commerce between the French colonies and its American possessions, from which, on the fulfillment of certain formalities, cattle and grains might be exported provided it should be in Spanish ships from Caraccas. To prevent smuggling and other frauds, there was to be a port designated in every province, where French commissaries were to reside, and be authorized to purchase the articles allowed to be exported. There was a duty of five per cent to be paid on all exportations. From Louisiana, lumber, rice, corn, and other productions of the soil, were permitted to be exported. Favre d'Aunoy and Villars were appointed French commissaries at p168 New Orleans, with a salary of 4,000 livres, or 800 dollars, each.
After having made this decree public, Ulloa departed to visit the several posts and settlements. In relation to those establishments, Captain Pitman, in his work published in London in 1770 on the European settlements on the Mississippi, relates an anecdote illustrative of the state of things and manners existing at the time. "This settlement (Opelousas) was made," said he, "under the direction of Mons. D'Abbadie, in the year 1763, and was governed by a French officer, named Pélerin, till the year 1767, when the inhabitants, who had been oppressed by the tyranny which has been always exerted by officers of that nation commanding outposts, complained to Don Antonio de Ulloa and Mons. Aubry, accusing him (Pélerin) also of sacrilege, he having forcibly taken possession of the plate destined to the use of the altar, and used it at his own table, under pretence of keeping it in security. This worked his ruin more effectually than his ill treatment of the inhabitants, and he was threatened with excommunication. However, he was punished by undergoing severe penances enjoined by the priests, and rendered incapable, by a sentence of a court martial of French officers, of any employment military or civil. The government of this settlement was afterwards vested in a magistrate to be chosen annually by the inhabitants from among themselves. One company of militia was also raised for the defence of the establishment, and the officers received pay from the Spanish government."
On the 6th and 7th of September, a score of soldiers, with fixed bayonets, and preceded by a drum, whose solemn and loud beating attracted the attention and excited the anger of the inhabitants, paraded the streets p169 of New Orleans, and proclaimed, by the order of Aubry, an ordinance which had been dictated by Ulloa, in conformity with the instructions he had received from Spain. It contained commercial regulations; and among others the following — French ships had leave to bring from Martinique and St. Domingo wine, flour and other supplies, provided they carried back in return the lumber and other productions of the colony. Passports were to be given to French ships exporting from the kingdom of France the merchandise and other supplies necessary to Louisiana; but "whereas," said the ordinance, "these permissions have been granted only with a view to benefit the inhabitants of the colony; and whereas the merchants have asked for their goods, and particularly for their wines, an extraordinary price, and have refused to receive in payment any other currency than dollars, which pretension is very prejudicial to the inhabitants; now, in consequence of the orders of his Catholic Majesty, addressed to Mr. de Ulloa, and by him communicated to us, we, Philip Aubry, etc., etc., have decreed that all captains coming from St. Domingo, as well as from France, and provided with a passport from his excellency, the secretary of state of his Catholic Majesty (for otherwise they would not be admitted into the colony), shall be bound, on their arrival, to present themselves to Mr. de Ulloa, with their bills of lading and passports, and are prohibited from discharging any portion of their goods, without, beforehand, obtaining his permission in writing at the bottom of their passports or bills of lading; and the agents for those goods are also ordered to present themselves before Mr. de Ulloa, and to furnish him with a note indicating the price at which they intend to sell their goods, which goods shall be examined and appraised by impartial and p170 intelligent persons residing in the colony; and should the prices demanded be excessive, the owners of the goods shall not be allowed to sell them here, and shall be obliged to go to another market. The merchants shall be bound to receive the currency of the country in payment for their goods, and to take one-third of their return cargo in lumber and other productions of the colony."
A sudden jar in a beehive would not have produced more buzzing and stirring than did this ordinance in New Orleans. Although it seems to have been framed in the interest of the consumers, yet it certainly was a severe blow to the importers, and they resented it as such. On the 8th of September, two days after its promulgation, the merchants of New Orleans, in a body, presented to the Superior Council, through the attorney-general Lafrénière, a petition in which they begged that the execution of Aubry's decree be suspended until they should be heard on the subject, and sued for the grant of a delay to prepare their remonstrances, which were submitted to the council on the 12th; and also all the captains of ships in the colony presented a document of the same nature.
The remonstrances of the merchants and captains were founded on the belief of the existence of certain restrictions imposed on the government of Spain by France, when she ceded Louisiana. The commissary Foucault seemed to have been himself under a similar impression; for on the 29th of September, he wrote to the minister of the marine department: "It has not been the intention of his majesty, on making the cession, to strip for the benefit of Spain his loyal subjects of the privileges and exemptions which they had always enjoyed. I beg your excellency to transmit p171 to us the necessary orders, to confirm the subjects of the king in the belief that they have suffered no diminution of the advantages granted to them by his majesty."
The petitions laid before the council were not acted upon. A verbal declaration made by Aubry, that, on reflection, he would suspend the execution of his ordinance, was considered by that body as sufficient for the time. "But," said Foucault in one of his despatches, "the revocation of the ordinance, not having been made in due form, gives no security. Several persons have written to the other colonies to suspend all shipments to this one. For several months past there have come but few French ships, and none belonging to the English. These last had always been of great assistance by furnishing us with flour, of which their cargoes were generally composed; and as my supplies are very limited, I shall be reduced to the necessity of giving nothing but rice to the troops, and to the other persons entitled to rations."
It seems as if nothing could convince the colonists that the cession of Louisiana to Spain was serious and conclusive. Yet they must have been prepared for it by the transmission of half of the territory to the English, who had already taken final possession. Would France have abandoned so rich a portion of her domain, if she had not determined to part with the rest? Was it not to the knowledge of all, that the French government had refused to accept the drafts issued for the expenses of the colony during the years 1763, 1764, 1765, on the ground that those expenses were to be paid by Spain? Was not then the cession an accomplished fact, a bona fide transaction; and therefore was not France holding Louisiana only as a mere trustee, until the new owner should take possession?
p172 It is evident that the colonists were bent upon giving to the king's letter to D'Abbadie much more importance than it really had, and looked upon it as a sort of Magna Charta, binding on the king of Spain, whilst it could have no such effect. When the king of France, informing the inhabitants of Louisiana that he had placed them under the domination of Spain, told them that he hoped that his Catholic Majesty would maintain them in the enjoyment of all their rights and privileges, and would make no innovation in the order of things to which they were accustomed, and in the laws to which they had always been subjected, it is apparent that he had no other object than that of gilding the bitter pill which they had to swallow. Besides, the colonists had been made acquainted with the acts of donation and acceptance, and the mere perusal of those documents ought to have convinced them that the cession was without reserve and condition. The very letter on which they were basing their pretensions and remonstrances had been addressed by the French king to one of his own officers, after the unconditional alienation of the colony. The king of Spain was not a party to that instrument, and could not even be supposed to know of its existence. After all, had it been officially communicated to him, it contained merely the expression of wishes on the part of the king of France, which the king of Spain might or might not take into consideration. Those wishes could not be construed into imposing any binding obligation on the Spanish government, and therefore could not constitute rights of which the colonists could avail themselves. Nevertheless, although they could not claim anything of right, and in law, by virtue of the French king's letter to D'Abbadie, yet they might have relied on it, in equity, as having p173 some moral force, when making an appeal to the generosity and magnanimity of the King of Spain.
Whilst the colonists were in that state of excitement, Ulloa left New Orleans and departed for the Balize, in the month of September. At first it was rumored that he had gone to meet the Spanish troops which he expected; and this rumor kept alive the anxiety which had so long agitated the colony. But when October and November had elapsed, the people began to wonder at what might detain the Spanish governor in the dismal spot to which he had retired. The month of December came on with its freezing northern blasts, but did not drive away Ulloa back to New Orleans in search of more comfortable quarters. January and February swept by with their dreary train of howling storms, and sharp edged cold, and piercing sleet, convulsing the broad bosom of the Mexican gulf; and yet it seemed that a spell kept Ulloa rooted in the midst of what, to every other, must have looked as the worst abode on earth. At a loss for discovering a motive sufficiently strong to warrant so strange a conduct on the part of the unpopular Spaniard, the colonists came to the settled conviction that the hatred he had conceived for them was such, that rather than live among them, and purposely to show his feelings, he had taken the step which astonished them so much, and their resentment rose in proportion to the enmity which they supposed to exist against them.
Loyola, Gayarre, and Navarro had, alternately and successively, visited their chief at the Balize, and whenever they returned to New Orleans, earnest attempts were made to draw from them some information as to the motives, the feelings, and the plans of Ulloa. But these officers had answered in a manner which had parried p174 and silenced all inquiry. Aubry himself paid a visit to Ulloa, at the Balize. Ulloa then proposed to him that he, Ulloa, should take possession of the colony at the Balize, and that the French flag be withdrawn, to be succeeded by the Spanish flag. This proposition surprised and embarrassed Aubry, who observed that the inhabitants, and even the strangers who were in the colony, would be astonished if such an out‑of-the‑way place were chosen for the theatre of so important a ceremony. He remonstrated that it was proper that it should be performed with all the requisite pomp and dignity in the capital itself, and in the presence of all the inhabitants, who would come to take the oath of allegiance, and would assure him of their inviolable fidelity to the service of his Catholic Majesty. But Ulloa persisted in his proposition, and although it seemed singular to Aubry, this officer after some difficulties finally consented to it. Accordingly, in the evening, an instrument was drawn in writing, by which Aubry declared that he had delivered up the colony to Ulloa, but retained its government until the arrival of the Spanish troops. This document was signed by these two high functionaries. However, on the next morning, which was the time fixed for the formal taking possession of Louisiana by the Spaniards, Ulloa declared that he had reflected during the night on what had been done the day previous, and that he now thought that it would be better to postpone the contemplated ceremony until the arrival of the Spanish troops; but that although the engagement they had concluded together had not been completed, yet he would send a copy of the document they had signed to his court, and that Aubry might do the same with regard to his government, should he deem it necessary. Two days after, on Aubry preparing to p175 return to New Orleans, Ulloa requested him to order the French commander at the Balize to pull down the French flag, and to hoist up the Spanish, whenever he, Ulloa, should desire it. Aubry acquiesced in this request, and went back to New Orleans; where, to the disquietude and indignation of the inhabitants, he related what had occurred between Ulloa and himself, and sent a detailed account of it to the French court.
But still the inquiry remained unanswered. What could have induced Ulloa, during so many months, and even in the depth of winter, to lock himself up in a miserable shed at the Balize? It is true that when he left New Orleans for the mouth of the Mississippi, he had given it to be understood that his object was to establish a Spanish post at that locality; but that was, at farthest, the work of a few days, and it certainly was not an object of sufficient importance to detain the Spanish governor more than a very short time. Whatever his motives might be, people were amazed at the fortitude which Ulloa must have possessed to have remained so long at such a spot. How did he pass his time? How could he live there at all? How is it that he did not die, either from want of comfort and of company, or from weariness of spirit and despair? Was he mad? How could anybody but a prejudiced ascetic, and iron-willed Spaniard forego the conveniences of a home in New Orleans to perch, like a sea-bird, during the wintry season, on the shaking piles driven into the mud and amidst the reeds of the mouth of the Mississippi? These were the reflections and inquiries.
But such a mind as that of Ulloa carried within itself a world of enjoyments, which few dreamed of. The man who, when in command of a fleet, became so abstracted in scientific pursuits as to forget the instructions which p176 ordered him to capture eight English ships loaded with the wealth of India, could live apart from the world, forgetting, and perhaps happy to be forgotten. He had carried to the Balize his books, his manuscripts, his mathematical, astronomical, and other scientific instruments; and when surrounded by them he could bid defiance to the cares of office, to time itself, and to the other foul fiends which persecute mankind. His body was at the Balize, but his mind was diffused through space and through the universe. What did he care for the moaning reeds, for the shrieking winds, for the pitiless storms, for the roaring waves, for the tottering shelter, for the humble abode, for the dark face of nature? Could he not light it up and change it at will? Had he not the enchanter's wand? Had he not Aladdin's lamp? Was he confined by place or time? Could he not go back to the creation of the earth, study it in its primitive and almost chaotic state, and follow it up, through its infinite modifications, to its present organization? Could he not, when it suited his pleasure, live for days among the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans of old, and pursue through centuries the mighty revolutions of empires — the births, the struggles, and the deaths of nations? Could he not dive into the bowels of the earth to revel in its mysteries? Could he not, on the wings of imagination, return to the gorgeous sceneries of Peru, or to the Arabian palaces of Spain? Could he not sail with the clouds, to mark the formation of lightning, and the other prodigies of the air? Were not the elements his companions, holding with him such converse as unfits one for the inane talk and flat communion of man? Towering far above the flight of the eagle, could he not ascend among the planets, to solve some great problem of the Deity, or
Far happier, indeed, was he, the gifted son of science, in the solitude of the Balize than in New Orleans, where he was constantly dragged back from the heaven of the student to the petty miseries of earth, and recalled to a painful sense of his official duties and of their annoyances.
In the month of March, 1767, a piece of news reached New Orleans, which became the wonder of the day, and explained the enigma of Ulloa's sojourn at the Balize. For seven months the illustrious companion of La Condamine, the celebrated member and correspondent of so many learned academies had been with the romantic gallantry of the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, awaiting the arrival of his bride, who was no less than the young and beautiful Marchioness of Abrado, one of the richest women of Peru,a whom he had known when travelling in that country. Ulloa was then fifty-one years old, and possessed few of those attractions which, in the common estimate of the world, are supposed to be valued by the daughters of Eve. The good luck of the hated Spaniard excited envy, and gave fresh fuel to the hostility already existing against him. He was married at the Balize by his chaplain, and immediately after came up to New Orleans with his Peruvian wife.
It seems, from several of Aubry's despatches, that, in his opinion, the Spanish Governor was deficient in those qualifications which endear a man to those over whom he is called to rule. In a communication of the 30th of March to his government, he said: "The Governor whom his Catholic Majesty has sent here, is a man full of merit, learning and talents, but, as an exception to the well known temperament of his nation, he is exceedingly p178 hasty, and it seems to me, that he does not listen sufficiently to the representations addressed to him. It is a cause of discontent in those who have to deal with him.
"Considering the change of government which the colony has to undergo, I had wished that the officer sent to assume its command, had possessed the art of managing the public mind, and of gaining the hearts of the inhabitants. Men are not to be ruled with haughtiness and pride, with threats and punishments. Marks of kindness and benevolence, with judicious promises, would have been necessary to reconcile the colonists to the change of dominion which has come over them. This was the only course to be pursued, in order to win the affection of new subjects, who regret their former master. If the Spaniards do not act with mildness, and if they attempt to govern this colony like a Mexican Presidio,1 most of the inhabitants will abandon their lands, to cross over to the English, who are on the opposite side, and who will neglect nothing to attract them. In this way, the Spanish portion of Louisiana, which had remarkably increased in population for the last few years, will soon become a desert." He concluded with informing the French Court, that the measures adopted by Ulloa were not calculated to give popularity to the Spanish government.
In relation to the reproaches which were addressed to the Spaniards, as to their delaying so long the taking possession of Louisiana, and in relation to the expenses of the colony, which France wished Spain to pay, back to 1763, the Marquis of Grimaldi, who was a member of the cabinet of Madrid, wrote as follows, on the 11th p179 May, 1767, to the Count of Fuentes, the ambassador of Spain at Versailles:
"Ulloa arrived at New Orleans only on the 5th of March, 1766. He did not then take possession, for the motives already explained. The Duke of Praslin2 will recollect that there were doubts on our part, as to the acceptance of the donation tendered by his most Christian Majesty. But, as the same reasons which had made France believe in the necessity of the cession prompted Spain to accept it, the king gave it his assent, although it was well known that we were acquiring nothing but an annual incumbrance of two hundred and fifty to three hundred thousand dollars, in consideration of a distant and negative utility — which is — that of possessing a country to prevent its being possessed by another nation.
"After all, there never was any stipulation as to the time when Spain should take possession of Louisiana, and it ought not to be a matter of astonishment, if we have not been in a hurry to do so, because, if the colony is profitable, we have been the sufferers by the delay; and if not, what reason could we have to change our ordinary way of proceeding, and to run after an onerous burden. This, sir, is the cause of our surprise at the Duke of Praslin's insinuation, that we may be called upon to pay all the expenses of the colony, from 1763, when the cession was made. France would have as good grounds to ask us to pay all her expenses in Louisiana since its foundation. What makes this pretension still more singular is, that, from the date of the cession to Ulloa's arrival at New Orleans, it is France which has had the absolute enjoyment of all the commercial advantages of that colony, which advantages she continues p180 to enjoy to the present day, when the expenses of administration are no longer hers. Not a single Spanish vessel has as yet gone to Louisiana with a cargo of merchandise. So far, that trade is monopolized by French ships. Would it be just that France, when reaping all the profits that the country can afford, should require of us to pay the expenses which had been incurred before Spain had set her foot in that new possession?
"The King, always ready to avoid causing the least prejudice to the interests of the Most Christian King, his cousin, although knowing from the beginning that the colony was an unprofitable charge, although Mr. de Ulloa was prevented from taking possession of it through the want of co‑operation of the French troops, on which we had been led to believe that we could rely, and although all the commerce of the colony has not ceased to be in the hands of the French, the King, I say, has declared, that he would assume all the expenses incurred since Ulloa's arrival."
Towards the end of the year 1767, Jean Milhet returned from France, whither, it will be recollected, he had been sent as a delegate by the colonists, in 1765, to remonstrate against the treaty of cession of Louisiana. His long absence had contributed to feed the hopes of his fellow citizens, who supposed that he would not have remained away so long a time, if he had not seen a fair prospect of success in his mission. But when, on his return, he put to flight all the illusions with which they had deluded themselves, their exasperation reached its climax, and they did not fear to give to Ulloa an open manifestation of all their aversion for the Spanish domination.
Thus closed the year 1767. The 17th and 18th of p181 January, 1768, were the two coldest days that had ever been known in Louisiana. All the orange trees perished a second time throughout the colony, as in 1748. In front of New Orleans, the river was frozen on both sides, •thirty and forty feet from its banks.
The rigor of the season did not divert the attention of the inhabitants from the main calamity which was impending over them, and the thermometer of agitation was daily rising in the colony. There seemed to be a fixed determination to construe into an offence everything that Ulloa could say or do. His manner of living, his tastes, his habits, his conversations, the most trivial occurrences in his household, were interpreted so as to keep up the excitement; and the estrangement between the people and their new governor had become complete.
Ulloa was a man of the most amiable disposition, but he was of that nervous, excitable temperament, which is said to be the attribute of those who consecrate their days and nights to study. He, who had associated with Newton, with Folkes, La Condamine, Voltaire, and the most distinguished men of the age, he, whose society was courted in the most polite circles of Europe, found himself suddenly thrown into an uncongenial atmosphere, and soon discovered that he was very little appreciated by those whom he had been sent to govern. His desire to please was met with cold repulse; his plans to benefit were not understood; the expression of his determination to correct certain abuses, was tortured into threats of oppression and into an invasion of established rights. Even the superiority of his high intellectual and moral qualifications unfitted him to be the welcome guest which he otherwise might have been. His sense of rectitude revolted at many things, on which he commented perhaps in terms too p182 severe, and he was thought to be harsh and cruel. Averse to convivialities and to worldly amusements, a man of spare habits, he had little in common, as to tastes and pursuits, with those among whom he had come to live; and as he allowed his indifference to fellowship with them to become visible, and, as in several instances, when surrounded by the magnates of the land, he had been observed to be supercilious and haughty. At times, when interrupted in his favorite studies, to listen to some petty grievance or some trivial application, he had received the intruder with some peevishness of manner, or with cutting sarcasm, and hence he was said to be ill tempered and prejudiced. Ulloa could not but be alive to the painfulness of the situation in which he was placed; and the injustice with which he was treated made him perhaps unjust to others. He had been goaded into contempt for the colony and its inhabitants; and, conscious of his worth, he took very little pains to conceal that he considered himself as being very much out of his element in Louisiana. Placed amidst a poor and illiterate community of a few thousand souls, in a country hardly redeemed from its primitive character of a wilderness, he had very little space left for the range of his great native and acquired powers of intellect. Therefore, he may well be supposed to have felt the agonies of a mind, used to expansion without limits, then suddenly confined within the narrowest possible space, and to have realized the existence of the fair spirit of the air, which, as we read of in fairy tales, a hostile magician had corked up in a battle. Hence he was soured into discontent and lived in retirement waiting for better times.
But to those who frequented his house, as retainers p183 or friends, he showed himself to the best advantage, and excited their warmest admiration. Three times a week, he threw open his saloons, where, about the same visitors, few in number, used to assemble. There was not above a score of the colonists and of the French officers who ventured to attend on these occasions. They were those who did not fear to abstain from showing hostility to the Spanish Governor, and who had thereby made themselves obnoxious to the majority of the inhabitants, and to their brother officers who pursued a different course. Thus Aubry, Bellevue, Vaugine, Roche, Populus de St. Protais, Grand‑Pré, Grand-Maison, Olivier de Vezin, Reggio, De Lachaise, Dreux, Maxent, and others, had, by their attendance at Ulloa's house, the moral courage to show openly their adhesion to the Spanish government. Foucault, the Intendant Commissary, would occasionally appear, but as it was well known that his sympathies were on the side of the opposition, he came, as it were, in his official capacity only, was received as such with cold formality, and as, under such circumstances, he could not help laboring under some degree of embarrassment, he would soon relieve himself by never remaining long in an atmosphere in which he did not feel at ease.
On these evenings, the late Marchioness of Abrado, now the Señora de Ulloa, was the centre of attraction. To great personal beauty she joined a cultivated mind, the accomplishment of musical talent, and the fascination of manner of the high bred lady. On Ulloa's return to Spain, she became an object of admiration at the court of Madrid. But, in Louisiana, she had shared the unpopularity of her husband, and few of the French ladies in the colony had paid her the respectful attentions and civilities to which she was entitled. The aversion p184 entertained for her husband, her very rank, her wealth, the other advantages which she possessed, and which, probably, were too many things at once to be forgiven and forgotten, had perhaps contributed to produce the feeling of alienation that was exhibited in her regard. This feeling the Señora de Ulloa had made no efforts to overcome, and had even given it more intensity, by appearing provokingly indifferent to the solitude in which she was left by those of her sex. Nay, she unconsciously provoked resentment and passionate abuse, by showing herself in public, attended by several young Indian girls whom she had brought over with her from Peru, whom she delighted to fondle as pets or favorites, and whom she treated almost with that kind of familiarity which is used only towards equals. Owing to this circumstance, much blame was thrown upon her in the colony for keeping low company, as it was said, and for associating with mulatresses.º The haughty smile and the merriment with which the aristocratic lady received this report, when carried up to her ears, gave still deeper offence to the community.
No man could be more entertaining than Ulloa, in his moments of relaxation. He was sprightly and even playful, and his conversation was a rich mixture of humorous wit and deep learning. As a man who had made himself famous by his travels, he had an inexhaustible fund of observations on the countries and nations with which he had become familiar; as one who had left no field of science unexplored, he brought to bear even on the most commonplace topic such a variety of knowledge, that he clothed with interest what did not seem to admit of any. His favorite position was to stand up at the mantel corner of the fire-place, and there, with his hands behind his back, his eyes sparkling, and p185 his face beaming with animation, he gathered round him and kept, as it were fettered by a spell, a group of admiring listeners. He was a man of middle stature, stooping a little, with pale cheeks, thoughtful brow, limbs thin and spare — in a word — the very prototype of the lover of the midnight lamp.
As a matter of course, all the Spanish functionaries and officers were present on these occasions. Of them the most conspicuous were: Loyola, the Commissary of War and Intendant, Gayarre, the Contador, or Royal Comptroller and Auditor, Navarro, the Treasurer, Piernas, the commander of the two companies of foot that had come with Ulloa, and d'Acosta, the Captain of the frigate which had transported the Spanish Governor to the colony, and which had ever since remained in the river. They were men of merit, and by their urbanity of manner and various accomplishments, they contributed their share to the pleasantness of the passing hour.
On the 20th of January, 1768, Aubry wrote to his government: "I am still waiting for the arrival of the Spanish troops, without which it is absolutely impossible that Ulloa should take possession of the colony. In the meantime, the affairs are conducted as much as possible as if it had been effected.
"But I am in one of the most extraordinary positions. I command for the king of France, and, at the same time, I govern the colony as if it belonged to the king of Spain. A French commander is gradually moulding Frenchmen to Spanish domination. The Spanish Governor urges me to issue ordinances in relation to the police and commerce of the country, which take the people by surprise, considering that they are not used to such novelties. This colony is an instrument which it is necessary p186 to take to pieces and to remodel, so as to make it play to the Spanish tune. The Spanish flag is now waving at the extremities of the province. It is at the Balize, at Missouri, on the bank of the Iberville river, and opposite Natchez. Mr. de Ulloa has just established these four posts, and has distributed among them the ninety soldiers that came with him. This operation was executed peaceably, without any accident, and has produced no change in our posts, which still continue in existence as in the past, so that, in all those which are on the banks of the Mississippi, from the Balize to Illinois, the French flag is kept up as before.
"It is no pleasant mission to govern a colony which undergoes so many revolutions, which has not known, for three years, whether it is Spanish or French, and which, until Spain shall take formal possession, is, to speak properly, without a master. When that event shall happen, I shall feel authorized to say to Mr. de Ulloa, that I deliver into his hands a Spanish colony, considering the changes and novelties which I have introduced in concert with him, during its French administration.
"It seems to me that Mr. de Ulloa is frequently too punctilious, and raises difficulties about trifles. We sometimes dispute about things which are clear and just beyond any possible doubt, and about which there would be no discussion even between two private individuals in a state of poverty." With regard to Ulloa, he was so well pleased with Aubry, that, on his recommendation, the Spanish government made to that officer a present of three thousand dollars.
Two-thirds of the year, 1768, had passed away in apparent quiet. But a secret conspiracy had been kept alive in the town of New Orleans and in the neighboring p187 parishes, to drive away the Spaniards from the colony. The chief conspirators were some of its most influential men, such as: Lafrénière, the king's Attorney-General, Foucault, the Intendant Commissary, Masan, a retired captain of infantry, a wealthy planter, and a knight of St. Louis, Marquis, a captain in the Swiss troops enlisted in the service of France, Noyan, a retired captain of cavalry, and Bienville, a lieutenant in the navy, both the nephews of Bienville, the founder of the colony, Doucet, a distinguished lawyer, Jean and Joseph Milhet, Caresse, Petit, and Poupet, who were among the principal merchants, Hardy de Boisblanc, a former member of the Superior Council, and a planter of note, Villeré,º the commander of the German Coast.
Lafrénière was a native of Louisiana, and of an obscure family. His father, a poor Canadian, who had followed Bienville to Louisiana, had, by dint of industry, acquired some fortune, and had sent his son to be educated in France. A plebeian by birth, Lafrénière had the majestic aspect of a king, so much so, that he had been nicknamed Louis XIV. He was a man of strong passions, expensive tastes, and domineering temper. He was gifted with considerable eloquence, bordering, it is true, on the bombastic, but well calculated to produce an impression on the masses. His ambition was unbounded, and was supported by an indomitable energy. He had those qualifications of mind, soul and temperament, which, under different circumstances, will, however paradoxical it may appear, make a man feel and act, truly and honestly to himself and to others, either as an intense aristocrat, or as an impetuous demagogue, a devoted tribune of the people — that being whom Shakspeare calls: "the tongue of the common mouth." This was the man who was the acknowledged leader of the anti-Spanish p188 party, and his efforts had been incessant to pave the way to the contemplated insurrection.
A secret association had been formed, and the chiefs of conspiracy used to meet, either at Masan's house, or at a house situated out of the precincts of the town, but contiguous to it, which belonged to one Mrs. Pradel, who was the avowed mistress of the Intendant Foucault. This house was surrounded by a large garden, thickly shaded with those magnificent trees which are the pride of Louisiana. There the conspirators used to resort at night, one by one, from different directions, and discussed the plans they had prepared. There, after the dangerous occupation for which they had met was over, they sauntered in the perfumed alleys of roses, myrtles and magnolias of their fair associate in the partnership of conspiracy, and then they ended the evening in merriment and in the enjoyment of a luxurious banquet. This circumstance puts one in mind of the meeting, as related by Alfred de Vigny, of young Cinq-mars and his friends, at the house of the faithless courtezan Marion de Lorme, when that unfortunate favorite of Louis XIII dared to head a conspiracy against the omnipotent and all-seeing minister, Cardinal Richelieu. But the secret of this conspiracy was better kept than that of the one to which I have alluded, and Aubry and Ulloa were not informed of it, before the 25th of October, when it was too late and all was ready to insure success.
The Germans and Acadians had been long tampered with, and Ulloa having lately sent Maxent with bags of dollars, to pay these people for grain and other provisions which the Spanish government had bought, and of which the payment had been delayed, the conspirators became apprehensive that this circumstance would operate unfavorably for them on these Germans and p189 Acadians, whom they had persuaded that their claims would never be acknowledged and settled. Therefore, when Maxent stopped at the house of D'Arensbourg, the old Swedish captain, who, it will be remembered, had come to the colony in 1721, after having distinguished himself at the battle of Pultawa, and who was one of the most respected inhabitants of Louisiana, he was arrested by Verret, under the authority of Villeré, who commanded at the German Coast, and all the government money was taken away from him. A capuchin, who was the curate of that settlement, had been one of the most active tools of the conspirators, and, by circulating every kind of exciting rumors, had powerfully helped them in inducing the Germans and Acadians to rise against the Spaniards.
On the 27th, Foucault convened a meeting of the Superior Council for the next day. During the night, the guns which were at the Tchoupitoulas gate were spiked, and the next morning, on the 28th, the Acadians, headed by Noyan, and the Germans by Villeré, entered the town, armed with fowling-pieces, with muskets, and all sorts of weapons. The planters who lived below New Orleans, also forced its gates and joined the other confederates. Marquis had been appointed commander-in‑chief of the insurgents, and immediately assumed the duties of his new office. The town became the theatre of fearful alarm and confusion. The Spanish frigate broke the bridge which connected her with the bank of the river, and moved off to cast anchor in deeper water. The rumor that she was going to fire at the town produced the wildest excitement. All the private and public houses closed their doors, and heavy patrols of the insurgents, who were completely masters of New Orleans, paraded through its streets.
p190 Aubry took with great celerity and energy all the necessary measures to protect the Spaniards, and to save Ulloa from injury. He had cartridges distributed to his men, who numbered only one hundred and ten, the rest being scattered throughout the colony in its different posts, and had them ready for action. He assembled their officers, and told them that he would die, rather than suffer that a hair should be touched on Ulloa's head, and that he relied on their zeal and fidelity. He sent for Lafrénière, and urged him to desist from an enterprise which would be his perdition and the ruin of the colony; he told him that he would oppose it with force and arms, and that a great deal of blood would be shed. Seeing that he could not change Lafrénière's resolution, he added: "Well, sir, remember that the chiefs of a conspiracy have always met with a tragical end." He sent also for Foucault, and asked him what side he would take. On Foucault's answering with his usual ambiguity, Aubry told him that he would ruin himself beyond redemption, if he did not oppose so atrocious a rebellion. But he could not prevail on Foucault to pursue any decided course. His appeals to the other leaders were equally fruitless. In the evening, seeing that, to use his own expressions, all was in a state of combustion, he waited on Ulloa, and, informing him that he could not answer for his life, requested him to retire with his wife on board of the frigate of his Catholic Majesty. He then accompanied the Spanish Governor to that place of security, and left with him an officer and twenty men.
On the first appearance of danger, Gayarre, Loyola, Navarro, and the other few Spaniards who were in the town, with some of their French adherents and friends who had showed themselves true in the hour of trial, p191 had gathered round Ulloa to die with or save him. They had barricaded his house, and put it in such a state of defence as would have enabled them to stand a siege, and to sell their lives dearly. After Ulloa's retreat to the frigate, they remained in the same position, expecting to be attacked at every moment, and continued in that state of imminent danger and anxious suspense during four days. Occasionally, the people would come rushing on, as it were to storm the fortifications which had been got up on the spur of the moment, and, uttering fierce shouts, would, with wild gestures, heap abuse on the Spaniards and their king, and deafen their ears with loud hurrahs for the King of France. But, on every one of these occasions, some of the chiefs among the insurgents, who seemed determined to keep the people from committing any unnecessary outrage, appeared among them, and by their exhortations induced them to abstain from deeds of violence, and to act with that magnanimity which the consciousness of vast superiority of force ought to inspire. They assured them that the Spaniards would retire without resistance, and thereby succeeded, every time, in drawing them away from the spot to which they were but too often recalled by their excited passions. Besides, it was evident from the most cursory survey, made even by an unmilitary eye, of the preparations visible in what might be called the little stronghold of the Spaniards, that, with the unyielding temper which is the so well known attribute of their race, they had made themselves ready for the most desperate struggle. This, also, contributed perhaps to ward off the threatened blow. The following passage in Aubry's letter to O'Reilly, when rendering an account of these events, shows how great the danger had been: "Several times," said he, "the party of the rebels and p192 that of the Spaniards, which certainly was not the strongest, were near coming to blows. Should that misfortune have happened, your Excellency would now be treading on the ashes of New Orleans."
In compliance with Foucault's convocation, the Superior Council had met at eight o'clock on the morning of the 28th. The members present were Foucault, Lafrénière, Huchet de Kernion, De Launay, and Laplace, the rest of the council being absent for the alleged cause of sickness. Caresse was then introduced, and presented a petition signed by about six hundred planters, merchants and others, demanding the restoration of some liberties and ancient rights, the granting of new privileges, and the expulsion of Ulloa and of the other Spanish officers. This petition, which is said to have been written by Lafrénière and Doucet, was not read, but was referred to Huchet de Kernion and De Launay, with instructions to report on the following day. On the proposition of Lafrénière, who represented that there would not be a full council at the next meeting, on account of sickness among the members, and that it was impossible to delay action on a matter of so much importance, it was determined that supernumerary members of the council be appointed. On the joint recommendation of Foucault and Lafrénière, Messrs. Hardy de Boisblanc, Thomassin, Fleuriau, Bobé, Ducros, and Labarre were elected, and a resolution was passed, inviting them to be present at the meeting of the 29th.
The petition presented to the Superior Council for the expulsion of Ulloa had been signed in a large assembly, which had taken place early on the 28th, and which had been addressed with great vehemence by Lafrénière, Doucet, Jean and Joseph Milhet.
p193 On the 29th, the Superior Council met at nine o'clock in the morning, to take into consideration that petition. To back it, the insurgents, to the number of about one thousand, were assembled on the public square, round a white flag which they had hoisted up in its centre, and declared that they would exterminate all the Spaniards and their adherents, if the decree of expulsion should not be issued, because they were determined to submit to no other government than that of France. The Superior Council, composed of thirteen members, before deliberating, inquired of Aubry, through its president, whether Ulloa had exhibited to him his powers to take possession of the colony in the name of the King of Spain. Aubry answered that nothing very decisive had ever been shown to him on the subject. Then the Attorney-General rose and said:3
"Gentlemen: the first and most interesting point to be examined, is the step taken by all the planters and merchants in concert, who being threatened with slavery, and laboring under grievances which have been enumerated, address your tribunal, and require justice for the violations of the solemn act of cession of this colony.
"Is yours a competent tribunal? are these complaints just?
"I shall now proceed4 to demonstrate the extent of the royal authority vested in the Superior Council. The parliaments and Superior Council are the depositaries of the laws, under the protection of which the people live happy; they are created and organized to be, from the very nature of their official tenure, the sworn patrons of p194 virtuous citizens; and they are established for the purpose of executing the ordinances, edicts and declarations of kings, after they are registered. Such has been the will and pleasure of Louis the well-beloved, our liege Lord and King, in whose name all your decrees, to the present day, have been issued and carried into execution. The act of cession, the only title of which his Catholic Majesty's commissioner can avail himself, to make his demands auctoritate et proprietate, was addressed to the late Mr. D'Abbadie, with orders to cause it to be registered in the Superior Council of the colony, to the end that the different classes of the said colony may be informed of its contents, and may be enabled to have recourse to it upon occasion, that instrument being calculated for no other purpose.
"Mr. Ulloa's letter, dated from Havana, July 10th, 1765, which expresses his dispositions to do the inhabitants all the services they can desire, was addressed to you, gentlemen, with a request to make it known to the said inhabitants, that, "in thus acting, he would only discharge his duty and gratify his inclinations." The said letter was, by your decree, after full deliberation, published, set up and registered, as a pledge to the inhabitants of happiness and tranquillity. Another letter of the month of October last, written to Mr. Aubry, proves that justice still continues to be administered in the colony in the name of Louis the well-beloved. It results from the solemn act of cession and its accessories, that the planters, merchants, and other inhabitants have the most solid basis to stand upon, when they present you with their most humble remonstrances; and that you, gentlemen, are fully authorized to pronounce thereupon. Let us now proceed to a scrupulous examination of the act of cession, and of the p195 letter written by Ulloa to the Superior Council. I think it likewise incumbent on me to cite, word for word, an extract of the King's letter, which was published, set up and registered.
"This very solemn act of cession, which gives the title of property to his Catholic Majesty, secures for the inhabitants of the colony the preservation of ancient and known privileges; and the royal word of our sovereign Lord the King promises, and gives us ground to hope for, others, which the calamities of war have prevented him from making his subjects enjoy. The ancient privileges having been suppressed by the authority of his Catholic Majesty's commissioner, property becomes precarious. The act of cession, which was the mere result of good will and friendship, was made with reserves which confirm the liberties and privileges of the inhabitants, and which promise them a life of tranquillity, under the protection and shelter of their canon and civil laws. As property accruing from a cession by free right cannot be claimed and obtained, except on the condition of complying, during the whole possession of said property, with the reserves contained in said act of cession, our sovereign Lord the King hopes and flatters himself that, in consequence of the friendship and affection shown by his Catholic Majesty, he will be pleased to give such orders to his governor, and to other officers employed in his service in that colony, as may be conducive to the advantage and tranquillity of the inhabitants, and that they shall be ruled, and their fortunes and estates managed according to the laws, forms and customs of said colony. Can Mr. Ulloa's powers give authority to ordinances and orders which violate the respect due to the solemn act of cession? The ancient privileges, the tranquillity of the subjects of France, p196 the laws, forms and customs of the colony are rendered sacred by a royal promise, by a registering ordered by the Superior Council and by a publication solemnly decreed and universally known. The sole aim of the letter of our sovereign Lord the King, was to grant to the different classes of the colony a recourse to the act of cession. Therefore, nothing can be better grounded or more legal than the right of remonstrating, which the inhabitants and citizens of the colony have acquired by royal authority.
"Let us proceed to an examination of the letter of Mr. Ulloa, written to the Superior Council of New Orleans, dated the 10th of July, 1765. I shall here cite, word for word, the article relative to the Superior Council and the inhabitants:
'I flatter myself, beforehand, that it will afford me favorable opportunities to render you all the services that you and the inhabitants of your town may desire — of which I beg you to give them the assurance from me, and to let them know that, in acting thus, I only discharge my duty and gratify my inclinations.'
"Mr. de Ulloa proved thereby the orders which he had received from his Catholic Majesty, conformable to the solemn act of cession, and manifested a sentiment which is indispensable in any governor who is desirous of rendering good services to his king in the colonies.
"Without population there can be no commerce, and without commerce no population. In proportion to the extent of both, is the solidity of thrones; both are fed by liberty and competition, which are the nursing mothers of the State, of which the spirit of monopoly is the tyrant and step-mother. Without liberty, there are but few virtues. Despotism breeds pusillanimity and deepens the abyss of vices. Man is considered as sinning p197 before God, only because he retains his free will. Where is the liberty of our planters, our merchants and our other inhabitants? Protection and benevolence have given way to despotism; a single authority would absorb and annihilate every thing. All ranks, without distinction, can no longer, without running the risk of being taxed with guilt, do any thing else but tremble, bow their necks to the yoke, and lick the dust. The Superior Council, bulwark of the tranquillity of virtuous citizens, has supported itself only by the combined force of the probity and disinterestedness of its members, and the confidence of the people in that tribunal. Without taking possession of the colony, without registering, as was necessary, in the Superior Council, his titles and patents, according to the laws, forms and customs of the colony, and without any exhibition of the act of cession, Mr. de Ulloa has caused a president, three counsellors and a secretary, nominated for the purpose, to take cognizance of facts which belonged to the jurisdiction of the Superior Council, and in which French citizens were concerned. Often did discontents and disgusts seem to force you to resign your places, but you have always considered it as a duty of your station of counsellors to the Most Christian King, to alleviate and calm the murmurs of the oppressed citizens. The love of your country, and the sense of the justice due to every citizen who applies for it, have nourished your zeal. It has always been rendered with the same exactness; although you never thought proper to make representations on the infractions of the act of cession. You have always feared to give encouragement to a mass of discontented people, threatened with the most dreadful calamities; you have preferred public tranquillity. But now, the whole body of the planters, merchants, p198 and other inhabitants of Louisiana apply to you for justice.
"Let us now proceed to an accurate and scrupulous examination of the grievances, complaints and imputations contained in the representations of the planters, merchants and other inhabitants. What sad and dismal pictures do the said representations bring before your eyes! The scourges of the last war, a suspension to this day of the payment of seven millions of the King's paper money, issued to supply the calls of the service, and received with confidence by the inhabitants of the colony, had obstructed the ease and facility of the circulation, but the activity and industry of the planter and of the French merchant had almost got the better of all difficulties. The most remote corners of the possessions of the savages had been discovered, the fur trade had been carried to its highest perfection, and the new culture of cotton, joined to that of indigo and tobacco, secured cargoes to those who were engaged in fitting out ships. The commissioners of his Catholic Majesty had promised ten years of free trade — that period being sufficient for every subject of France attached to his sovereign Lord and King. But the tobacco of this colony being prohibited in Spain, where those of Havana are the only ones allowed, the timber (a considerable branch of the income of the inhabitants) being useless to Spain, which is furnished in this article by its possessions, and the indigo being inferior to that of Guatimala, which supplies more than is requisite to the manufactures of Spain, the returns of the commodities of the inhabitants of this colony to the Peninsula became a ruinous trade, and the inhabitants were delivered up to the most dreadful misery. His Catholic Majesty's commissioner had publicly declared his conviction of p199 the impossibility of this country trading with Spain; all patronage, favor and encouragement were formally promised to the inhabitants; the title of protector was decreed to Mr Ulloa; the hope and the activity necessary to the success of the planter were nourished by the faith and confidence reposed in these assurances of the Spanish governor.
"But by the effect of what undermining and imperceptible fatality, have we seen a house, worth twenty thousand livres, sold for six thousand, and plantations, all on a sudden, lose one-half and two-thirds of their intrinsic value? Fortunes waste away, and specie is more scarce than ever; confidence is lost, and discouragement becomes general; the plaintive cries of distress are heard on every side; the precious name of a subject of France is in an eclipse, and the fatal decree concerning the commerce of Louisiana gives the colony the last fatal stroke which must lead to its total annihilation. The Spanish flag is set up at the Balize, at the Illinois, and other places; no title, no letters patent were presented to the Superior Council; time flies apace; the delays fixed for the liberty of emigration will soon expire, force will tyrannize, we shall be reduced to live in slavery and loaded with chains, or precipitately to forsake establishments transmitted down from the grandfather to the grandson. All the planters, merchants and other inhabitants of Louisiana call upon you to restore them to their sovereign Lord the King Louis the well-beloved; they tender to you their treasures and their blood to live and die French.
"Let us proceed to sum up the charges, grievances and imputations.
"Mr. de Ulloa has caused counsellors, named by himself, to take cognizance of facts concerning French subjects, p200 which appertained only to the jurisdiction of the Superior Council. The sentences of that new tribunal have been signified to, and put in execution against, Mess. Cadis and Leblanc. Mr. Ulloa has supported the negroes dissatisfied with their masters. He has exhibited to the Superior Council none of his titles, powers and provisions, as commissioner of his Catholic Majesty; he has not exhibited his copy of the act of cession, in order to have it registered; he has, without the said indispensable formalities, set up the Spanish flag at the Balize, at the Illinois, and other places; he has, without legal authority, vexed, punished and oppressed subjects of France; he has even confined some of them in the frigate of his Catholic Majesty; he has, by his authority alone, usurped the fourth part of the common of the inhabitants of the town, has appropriated it to himself, and has caused it to be fenced in, that his horses might graze there.
"Having maturely weighed all this, I require in behalf of the King:
"That the sentences pronounced by the counsellors nominated for the purpose, and put into execution against Mess. Cadis and Leblanc, subjects of France, be declared encroachments upon the authority of our sovereign Lord the King, and destructive of the respect due to his supreme justice, seated in his Superior Council, inasmuch as they violate the laws, forms and customs of the colony, confirmed and guaranteed by the solemn act of cession.
"That Mr. de Ulloa be declared to have violated our laws, forms and customs, and the orders of his Catholic Majesty in relation to the act of cession, as it appears by his letter, dated from Havana, on the 10th of July, 1765.
p201 "That he be declared usurper of illegal authority, by causing subjects of France to be punished and oppressed, without having previously complied with the laws, forms and customs; in having his powers, titles and instructions registered by the Superior Council, with the copy of the act of cession.
"That Mr. Ulloa, commissioner of his Catholic Majesty, be enjoined to leave the colony in the frigate in which he came, without delay, to avoid accidents or new clamors, and to go and give an account of his conduct to his Catholic Majesty; and with regard to the different posts established by the said Mr. Ulloa, that he be desired to leave in writing such orders as he shall think necessary; that he be declared responsible for all the events which he might have foreseen; and that Mess. Aubry and Foucault be requested and even summoned, in the name of our sovereign Lord the King, to continue to govern and administer the colony as heretofore.
"That all ships sailing from this colony shall not be despatched without passports signed by Mr. Foucault, as intendant commissary of his Most Christian Majesty.
"That the taking possession of the colony can neither be proposed nor attempted by any means, without new orders from his Most Christian Majesty.
"That Mess. Loyola, Gayarre and Navarro be declared guarantees of their signatures, on the bonds which they have issued, if they do not produce the orders of his Catholic Majesty, empowering them to issue said bonds and papers; and that a sufficient time be granted them to settle their accounts.
"That the planters, merchants and other inhabitants be empowered to elect deputies, to carry their petitions and supplications to our sovereign Lord the King.
"That it be resolved and determined, that the Superior p202 Council shall make representations to our sovereign Lord the King; that its decree, when ready to be issued, be read, set up, published, and registered.
"That collated copies thereof be sent to his Grace the Duke of Praslin, with a letter of the Superior Council, and likewise to all the posts of the colony, to be there read, set up, published and registered."
Then Mess. Huchet De Kernion and Piot De Launay, to whom the petition of the colonists had been referred, having made their report, the whole being duly weighed and deliberated upon, the attorney-general having been heard and having retired, the Council proceeded to frame its decree.
Every one of the thirteen members gave his opinion separately, and in writing. Hardy de Boisblanc, during the deliberations, was observed to be one of the most violent advocates of the expulsion of Ulloa. Aubry, who had put his handful of men under arms, and who had been very active in every part of the town, to maintain order as much as possible, and to prevent the outbreaking of popular passion into deeds of blood, presented himself before the Council, and remonstrated against the decree, which, he was informed, they were going to adopt. He called their attention to the consequences of what they were doing, and to the magnitude of the affair of which they presumed to take cognizance. He told them that they had no jurisdiction over the case on which they were preparing to decide, that Ulloa was the commissioner and representative of a great king, and that they would provoke the resentment of their Most Christian and Catholic Majesties by sending him out of the colony. But seeing, he said, that neither prayer nor threats could produce any impression, except on two or three, who seemed to be moderate, and that the rest p203 allowed themselves to be swayed by the sentiments of Lafrénière, he desisted from his vain attempts.
At 12 o'clock, the Superior Council adjourned, after having, with Foucault's exception, agreed on their decree. It was in conformity with Lafrénière's conclusions, which were all adopted, and almost in the very words he had used. The time allowed Ulloa to quit the colony, was only three days, and he was to depart, either in the frigate of his Catholic Majesty in which he had come, or in whatever other vessel he should think proper. Loyola, Gayarre and Navarro were permitted to remain to settle their accounts, but were made personally responsible for the bonds and papers they had put in circulation, unless they showed their authority to emit them under the special orders of his Catholic Majesty. In conclusion, the Council said: "We order all our bailiffs and sergeants to perform all the acts and formalities requisite for carrying the present decree into execution; we at the same time, empower them to do so. We also enjoin the substitute of the King's attorney-general, to superintend the execution, and to apprize the court thereof, in due time.
"Given at the Council chamber, on the 29th of October, 1768."
Foucault, who had been, under ground, one of the most ardent firebrands of the insurrection, and who had secretly goaded on the conspirators in every step they had taken, faithful to the plan he had followed, to shelter himself against any future contingencies of danger, to save his responsibility, and to insure his safety, by not breaking into any open and palpable act of rebellion, on the plea that, as the French King's intendant, he was restrained, and forced to a great deal of caution by his official position, and that, by appearing not to be entirely p204 with his associates, he could afford more real and effective aid to their cause, gave his opinion in writing, as follows:
"The intention of the King, our master, being that the colony should belong, fully and without reserve, to his Catholic Majesty, by virtue of the treaty of cession, my opinion is that none of the Spanish officers who have come here by order of their government, can be legally sent away; that, considering the causes of discontent enumerated in the petition of the citizens, and Ulloa's omission to take possession of the colony with the usual formalities, he, the said Ulloa, should be prohibited from exercising the powers of Governor, in anything relating to the French subjects now in Louisiana, or who may come thereto, hereafter, either as colonists or not; and that everything appertaining to the commerce carried on by the French and other nations with this colony, be regulated as it was before his arrival; nevertheless, that all the officers of the Spanish administration should continue their respective functions, in order to provide for the supplies necessary to the town and to the posts, for the payment of all salaries, and for the expenses of the French troops which will continue to serve, and of the works which will be deemed proper; this, until the decisions of the courts of France and Spain be known, reserving to the delegates of the people the right to address his Catholic majesty in the most respectful and lawful manner, in order to obtain the privileges they claim."
Aubry, with his characteristic energy and frankness of behavior, without hesitation or equivocation, protested against the proceedings of the Council in these terms:
"I protest against the decree of the Council which p205 dismisses Don Antonio de Ulloa from this colony. Their most Christian and Catholic Majesties will be offended at the treatment inflicted on a personage of his character; and though I have so small a force subject to my orders, I would, with all my might, oppose his departure, were I not apprehensive of endangering his life, as well as the lives of all the Spaniards in the colony.
"Delivered at the Council chamber, on the 29th of October, 1768."
At 2 o'clock P.M. the decree of the Superior Council was officially communicated to Ulloa on board of the frigate, and to the assembled insurgents. "The most intense enthusiasm," said the Council in a letter to the French government, "followed this information, when given to the people. Women and children were seen rushing to the post which supported the French flag, and kissing it with passion; the air was rent with thousands of cries of: Long live the King! Long live Louis the well-beloved! What a glorious moment, sire, for so great a monarch!"
On the adjournment of the Council, its members had been invited by Foucault to dine at his house. They took their seats at the table, at 2 o'clock, and at five, whilst they were enjoying the last course of the banquet, Noyan and some others entered the room, and, addressing Foucault and Lafrénière, begged them to prevail on the Council to visit the barracks, where all the planters, merchants and other colonists were assembled. Coffee, to close the convivial festivity, was immediately called for, and then, at the request of Foucault and Lafrénière, the Council, in a body, with the exception of Messrs. Lalande d'Apremont and Huchet de Kernion, p206 who said that they were sick, and retired, proceeded to meet the insurgents, by whom they were welcomed with loud acclamations, and the welkin rang with tumultuous and prolonged cries of: Long live the King of France! Long live Louis the well-beloved! These cries were responded to and repeated by the Council in a body. From the barracks, the Council, followed by some citizens of note and consequence, went to Aubry's house. There, both Foucault and Lafrénière addressed him, and requested him to resume the government of the colony in the name of the King of France. Aubry again reproached them with what they had done, and said that they would soon see his prophecies realized.
Some reflections present themselves to the mind, in reviewing Lafrénière's address to the Council. It is apparent that he had assumed false and untenable grounds, and he must have known them to be such, when he argued in the Council, that the treaty of cession was with conditions and reserves, that the letter of Louis XV to D'Abbadie was binding on the King of Spain, and that it secured in law to the colonists their ancient rights and privileges. It is equally evident that it was by the most forced construction that he interpreted into an acknowledgment of those rights Ulloa's letter to the Council, which this officer wrote from Havana, giving notice of his coming, and which contained nothing but empty and vague expressions of civility, usual on such occasions. Foucault was therefore right when he said, that the treaty of cession was absolute, that the officers of the King of Spain could not be legally dismissed from the colony, and that, if the colonists were oppressed by those officers, their only course, save the inalienable right of revolution in cases of extreme hardship, was to apply to his Catholic Majesty for redress. But, p207 in his desire to pursue a middle course and to keep on terms with both parties, he fell into a state of contradiction and inconsistency. To invite and to allow Ulloa to pay all the French functionaries and the French troops, and to assume all the expenses of the colony, was to invite and to allow him to be its governor. He could not, except as such, perform what he was requested to do, and the public functionaries, as soon as they accepted the pay of Spain, ceased to be French and became Spanish. The French troops, from the moment that they were supported by the Spanish treasury, had virtually passed into the service of Spain, and owed obedience to the Spanish governor. Thus Aubry, having consented that Ulloa should assume all the expenses of the colony, acted logically in executing the mandates of that officer, and in behaving only as his lieutenant. It was too late to allege the want of formality of taking possession and of the vain parade of a public ceremony, when that possession had been effectually superseded by the fact of the colony being entirely supplied, in all the wants of its administration and in every thing else, out of the Spanish treasury, with the consent and invitation of all. Ulloa's authority could not partially admitted; it was impossible not to reject or to recognize it in its integrity. Therefore, Foucault's recommendation to retain Ulloa in the colony, as merely a French paymaster, and to deprive him of all authority as a Spanish governor, seems to be almost ludicrously incoherent. The fact is, that the colonists had achieved a revolution, and had by force of arms annulled the treaty of cession made between France and Spain. Foucault forgot that, on such occasions, men must have the courage of acknowledging the paternity of their acts; that, as a revolution cannot be disguised, it had better p208 be proclaimed; and that it is a futile attempt to reconcile with the existing political organization and laws, and to defend in their name, what is frequently their manifest disruption and violation, and a return to the reserved and natural rights of man.
There is a passage in Lafrénière's address, of which Louisiana may well be proud, and of which she can boast, as spoken by one of her children, in 1768, before the voice of 1776 was heard. "In proportion," said he, "to the extent both of commerce and population, is the solidity of thrones; both are fed by the liberty and competition, which are the nursing mothers of the State, of which the spirit of monopoly is the tyrant and step-mother. Without liberty there are but few virtues. Despotism breeds pusillanimity, and deepens the abyss of vices. Man is considered as sinning before God, only because he retains his free will." To appreciate this bold language, it must be remembered that it was officially uttered by the attorney-general of an absolute King, and that it was intended to reach the ears of the despotic government of France.
Another passage of Lafrénière's address must be commented upon in justice to Ulloa. It must be observed that he said: "His Catholic Majesty's commissioner had publicly declared his conviction of the impossibility of this country trading with Spain. All patronage, favor and encouragement were formally promised to the inhabitants; the title of protector was decreed to Mr. Ulloa; the hope and activity, necessary to the success of the planter, were sustained by the faith and confidence reposed in these assurances of the Spanish governor." This shows what spirit had animated Ulloa on his arrival in Louisiana. His enlightened mind had immediately discovered all the wants of the colony, and it p209 had cost him no effort to be convinced that it was laboring under fatal commercial restrictions. He had expressed himself to that effect, and had promised his intercession with his government. He had kept his word, and had made remonstrances which had been disregarded. Instead of inviting, he had deprecated, the commercial decree which had been sent to him from Madrid, which he had been bound to put in force, and which had produced so much discontent. It was therefore with great injustice that, in this instance, he had been charged by the inhabitants with duplicity and wanton tyranny.
But whatever had been his faults, his virtues, the merits and demerits of his deeds, his connection with Louisiana, as governor, had now ceased for ever.
1 A Presidio is both a Spanish and Mexican establishment, half barracks and half jail for refractory soldiers and unfortunate convicts.
2 One of the French Ministers.
4 The peculiarities of Lafrénière's style have been preserved in the translation as much as possible.
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