These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Reaction in the Colony against the Authors of the Revolution — Aubry's Letter on this subject — Fortitude and Perseverance of the Chiefs of the Insurgents — Attempt to compel the Spanish frigate to depart from the Colony — Second decree of the Council against said vessel — Explanations asked of Aubry by the Council — Aubry's haughty answer — His bold attitude against the Insurgents — The Colonists' address to the Duke of Praslin — Aubry's letter to the same — The delegates of the Colonists to France fail in their mission — The delegate St. Lette and the Duke of Choiseul — Decree of the French Government converting the paper currency of the Colony into bonds bearing interest — Foucault's treachery to his confederates — He denounces them in a dispatch to the French Government — Third demonstration against the frigate — It is counteracted by Aubry — The frigate departs voluntarily — What occurred on the occasion — Increase of the reaction — The Colonists attempt to gain the favor and protection of Gayarre, Loyola and Navarro — Desperate resolutions of the Leaders of the Revolution — Their fruitless attempts to throw themselves into the arms of England — They propose to expel Aubry and the French troops — Their plan of a Republic — Projected establishment of a Bank — The Leaders are abandoned by the People — Arrival of O'Reilly at the Balize with Spanish troops — Vain efforts at resistance — Lafrénière and his associates inform Aubry that they submit to the Spaniards — O'Reilly's biography — He sends Bouligny as a messenger to Aubry — His reception of Loyola, Gayarre and Navarro — They wait on Aubry at Midnight — Aubry's deportment on that occasion — Aubry's Speech to the People on the public square — Lafrénière, Milhet, and Marquis go to the Balize and present their homage to O'Reilly — Lafrénière and Marquis' speeches — O'Reilly's answer — Aubry goes down the river to present his respects to O'Reilly — Aubry's Proclamation — Arrival of O'Reilly at New Orleans — Possession of the Colony taken on the 18th of August, 1769 — Aubry's dispatch to his Government on this event — O'Reilly gives a festival in honor of Aubry and the French authorities — O'Reilly's letter of inquiry to Aubry — Aubry's answer — Arrest of the chief Conspirators — O'Reilly's Speech to them — They are Imprisoned to stand their trial for Rebellion — Villeré's death — Tradition of the Bloody Shirt — O'Reilly's Proclamation granting full Pardon to all, except to a p272 few leaders — Solemn oath of Allegiance taken or to be taken by all the inhabitants of Louisiana — Foucault's Arrest — He excepts to the Jurisdiction of the Spanish tribunal — His plea is admitted — He is transported to France, and shut up in the Bastile — Arrest of Braud, the King's printer — His plea in self-justification — His Defence is found good, and he is Set at Liberty — Aubry's servility to, and enthusiasm for, O'Reilly — Aubry's Letter to the French Government, in which he Extols every act of O'Reilly — O'Reilly's Opinion of Foucault — Aubry's Speech to O'Reilly, in his own name, and in that of the whole body of French officers.
The year 1768 had closed in gloom for the colonists, and no sunshine had opened the career of its successor. A lowering cloud seemed to have settled over the whole colony, and the doubts which existed on the course to be pursued by Spain and France were thought to be worse than the saddest realities. The chiefs of the insurgents were evidently losing ground, and the Spanish officers, Loyola, Gayarre, and Navarro began to meet with more smiles than frowns, and to discover a very perceptible disposition to court their favor. Governor Aubry himself appears to have been actuated by this feeling, when on the 15th of February, 1769, he spontaneously wrote this letter to the captain-general of the island of Cuba:
"I hope that Mr. Ulloa does me justice, and that he has testified to my good conduct; for no one ever loved and venerated the Spanish nation more than I do. This revolution disgraces the French of Louisiana. Although it has not as yet spent its fury and its frenzied course, yet it seems to me that some of the most obstinate among the insurgents begin to look into the future with some uneasiness, and even fear; and if, in these circumstances, we were favored with the arrival of a battalion and the receipt of some money, coupled with assurances that all that has occurred shall be forgotten or forgiven, tranquillity would soon be restored, after the just infliction p273 of deserved punishments on a small number of seditious persons, who have usurped all powers in this colony and who have done all the harm."
Nevertheless, those chiefs of the insurrection to whom Aubry was alluding, and who had already lost some of their influence, struggled against the impending perils of their situation with no faltering courage. They tried to embolden their confederates by showing them that they persisted in their original designs, and that their faith in their ultimate success was not shaken. Thus the Spanish frigate against which a decree of expulsion had been issued on the 14th of December, 1768, having ever since remained motionless in the river in defiance of the decree, the conspirators convened a meeting of the Superior Council on the 20th of February, 1769. The Council asked Aubry to explain why its decree had not been executed. Aubry haughtily answered, that the captain of the Spanish frigate would depart at the precise time only which had been prescribed to him by Ulloa and that, if any attempt was made to hasten that departure, he, Aubry, would oppose it by force. Accordingly he equipped four hundred men, Spanish and French, to back his word, and to show that he was determined to be true to his declaration. This demonstration he thought himself called upon to make, on account of the issuing of another decree by the Superior Council, in confirmation of its former order of expulsion against the frigate.
It will be observed that Aubry, who had been so powerless at the breaking out of the revolution on the 28th of October, had now a respectable force in hand to oppose the conspirators, and assumed a much bolder attitude. These were unmistakable signs of the reaction which had taken place.
p274 But the colonists who had remained faithful to the cause of the revolution, sent, on the 20th of March, another petition to the Duke of Praslin, in which they sued for his support near the king, and repeated about the same arguments and the same language which they had used in their former addresses. Similar applications had been made to every prince of the blood, and almost to every person supposed to exercise some influence at court.
When this address reached the minister Duke of Praslin, he, almost at the same time, received a despatch from Aubry, of the 1st of April, in which this officer informed him that the people being overwhelmed by the destitution to which they were reduced, were murmuring against the chiefs of the insurrection, whose party was rapidly thinning away.
In the mean time, the new deputies whom the colonists had sent to France succeeded no better than their predecessors. Bienville, on whose support they might have relied, so far as it went, had ceased to exist, and the minister Duke of Choiseul, who had advised the cession, was still in office. St. Lette, one of the deputies, had in early life attracted the friendly regard of that nobleman, and a sort of intimacy had sprung up between them. The Duke welcomed with open arms the friend of his youthful days, and prevented his return to Louisiana by giving him a lucrative employment in the East Indies. But he received with marked displeasure St. Lette's colleagues, and treated them as troublesome intruders. He told them that it was too late for the King of France to undo what he had done; and that the King of Spain had given the necessary orders to take possession of the province. Nothing now remained for the deputies to do, but to hasten back and to inform their fellow citizens of their irrevocable doom.
p275 These deputies had also been instructed to solicit from the French government some final settlement concerning the notes which it had emitted, and which formed the currency of the country. The King of France took into consideration their representations on the subject, and ordered that the notes be brought back to the French treasury in Louisiana, before the 1st of September, 1769, in order to be converted into bonds bearing an interest of five per cent until complete payment. It will be recollected that Ulloa had offered, in 1766, to take up this paper at the rate of depreciation (75 per cent) — which had been fixed by the French government itself, and to pay for its value in dollars. The colonists had refused on the ground that the King of France would, in the end, redeem that paper currency at par. Thus, as it is seen, their hopes were not realized, and the conversion which had been resorted to, being looked upon an expedient of doubtful character which promised little for the future, was not calculated to restore any degree of ease to the affairs of the colony.
Foucault, who had taken so active a part in the conspiracy, although in his official acts and his language in public he had endeavored so to equivocate as to be able to side, when the time should come, with the victorious party, and to claim the merit of having always belonged to its flag, having studied the signs of the horizon, and ascertained from which quarter the wind was likely to blow, trimmed his sails accordingly. The cloak which had concealed the conspirator was partially laid aside, not to show the true character beneath its folds, but to allow the head of the informer to peer out, and watch the opportunity for open denunciation. Thus, on the 21st of March, he had written to the French cabinet at p276 Versailles, to justify himself for having convened the Council which had expelled Ulloa and he had given it out as an excuse, that he had yielded to force only, as he had not at his disposal over one hundred and fifty men to oppose the one thousand rebels who threatened the Spaniards. He also declared that, if there were any truth in the rumors whispered about, the Syndics or Headmen who had been selected by the different classes of the inhabitants to watch over their interests, had sadly misused the powers delegated to them; that the number of persons demanding the complete expulsion of the Spaniards had considerably diminished, and furthermore, that many were opposed to it, because they feared losing, in that case, what was due to them for the Spanish obligations they held in their hands.
The cautious phraseology in which the whole of Foucault's despatch is written, may be offered as a model of composition to such artful villains. "Were it possible for me," said he, "to feel the public pulse on these matters, I should perhaps verify that these rumors are well founded. Should this be the fact, I would then, jointly with Mr. Aubry, pursue such a course as would be sufficient to overawe certain individuals, who take themselves to be very important personages. They are, after all, but pretty bad fellows, who, being loaded with debt, seem striving with eager emulation to avail themselves of the overthrow of the colony, in order to retain with impunity the funds which have been advanced to them, and who are indifferent about the country they may live in, considering that they are not bound to Louisiana by the actual possession of any real estate. I think that, were it not for them, I should no longer stand witness to the most indecent and audacious deportment. There would no longer be any reason to fear the execution of p277 the detestable project which is said to have been formed, of burning New Orleans, on the first news of the arrival of the Spanish troops, if it be still decreed that Louisiana must belong to his Catholic Majesty. Mr. D'Acosta, the captain of the frigate, would be at liberty to prepare himself quietly to regulate his departure, according to the orders given to him by Ulloa, and the other Spaniards might do the same. The officers of the Spanish administration would no longer be exposed to a forced departure, without having time to settle their accounts, and the anarchy and confusion which have taken the place of the small amount of good order that prevailed in this colony, would soon disappear. But, being under the apprehension, when trying to avoid one evil, of falling into another equally great, I have taken the resolution to be silent and inactive, whilst waiting for the orders of the two courts of France and Spain. Without caring, however, for the discontent produced by all my acts of opposition to the enterprises of these turbulent spirits against the Spaniards, I will use the most practicable means to contrive that the officers of the Spanish administration remain here until the receipt of those orders."
It is no very far stretch of the imagination to suppose that, on the very day when this letter was written, in which the fathers of the insurrection to which Foucault had stood sponsor were denounced as bankrupts, thieves, detestable incendiaries, and the like, this same man entertained at supper as usual, at the country seat of his paramour, Madam Pradel, those turbulent spirits and would‑be important personages whom he had denounced to the French government, and who, of course, could be no other than his friends and confederates, Lafrénière, Villeré, Noyan, Masan, etc. — whom he had goaded on p278 to shake off the hated Spanish yoke, and with whose destinies he seemed to have linked his fortunes. There are few conspiracies and perilous enterprises in which such men as Foucault are not to be detected. They are the alloy, the baser metal which appears to be necessary to the composition of the great human coinage. Experience teaches, and the study of historical records demonstrates, that within the shadow of every man of noble thoughts and deeds there always lie some evil spirits, crouching in ambush, and watching for every opportunity to prey on the object of their envy and hatred. It must be admitted that, in the drama in which he was engaged, Foucault acted his part with a consistency of infamy, and a cool, systematic regularity of treachery, which must obtain for him much credit with congenial minds. It is but tardy justice, consolatory it is true, as all acts of justice are, that such a felon should be dragged before the tribunal of posterity, and hung up on the gibbet of atonement.
Notwithstanding the disheartening prospect they had before them, some of the conspirators persisted in their designs, and attempted to make another demonstration against the Spanish frigate, by inducing the Germans to come to town for that purpose. But Aubry sent to the German Coast several officers, whose presence and exhortations prevented the outbreak which was intended. "Mr. de Lafrénière," wrote Aubry, "has much contributed to restore tranquillity. This, to be just to him, must be said in his favor, whatever may have been his previous errors." Great indeed must have been the reaction when Lafrénière came forth to advocate acquiescence!
But the captain of the frigate, in order to do away with all pretexts for further disturbances, resolved to sail on the 20th of April. On that day, all the officers p279 of that vessel waited in a body on Governor Aubry, and thanked him for the protection and the many favors they had received at his hands. On their returning to the frigate, they met on the bank of the river a large concourse of people who had assembled to witness their departure. The crowd was silent, and gave no sign of hostility. On the contrary, some among them addressed words of sympathy, of personal respect and of friendly greeting to the officers as they passed along. As soon as Captain D'Acosta stepped on the deck of the Volante, men were seen running up the masts, and she began to unfurl her broad sails to the strong breeze which courted them to its embrace. Soon after, the three Spanish dignitaries, Loyola, Gayarre and Navarro, who had accompanied D'Acosta on board, were seen descending into their boat, and rapidly approaching the bank of the river. On their landing, the crowd opened before them with respect, and as these gentlemen trod through this human avenue on their way to their residences, they bowed right and left, with some degree of stately formality. No outward signs showed what they may have felt at being thus left alone in the midst of a hostile population. In the steady look with which they met the public gaze there was no fear, no anger, no defiance, but only an expression of cold indifference, although perhaps a close observer might have detected the suppressed scrutinizing glance, which strove to study on the surrounding faces the secret feelings of the hearts.
In the mean time the frigate had begun to move on the warm water, and as she gracefully glided by, Captain D'Acosta, standing up on the quarter-deck, raised his hand to his hat, took it off, and bowed to the crowd with, as some affected to believe, all the pride of mock humility. At this very moment, the frigate poured out p280 her broadsides in a salute to the town, and emerging from the cloud of smoke with all her colors gaily sporting in the wind, was seen turning in a few minutes round that point on the opposite side of the river, where now stands the town of Algiers. Thus the last satisfaction which the colonists had desired had been granted to them; yet it was evident that no feeling of exultation existed among the assemblage that stood gazing at the turbid waters of the Mississippi long after the frigate had disappeared. No shouts of joy or triumph had been uttered; silence was on the lips, and anxiety in the hearts of all. They seemed to be in an atmosphere of gloom; and that undefined feeling which proceeds from the vague anticipation of coming danger pervaded the whole multitude. At last, they dispersed in small detached groups, whispering to each other, and bearing stamped on their brows the thoughts that worked in their brains.
The revolutionary tide was indeed ebbing fast away, and leaving stranded on the shore those it had borne onward to momentary success. The conspirators had hoped at first, that, on their showing a strong aversion to a foreign domination, and on their expelling the Spanish Governor, they might have induced both the French and Spanish governments to consider as null the treaty of cession — the more so, that Spain did not seem to set any value on the donation which had been presented to her. When this hope had been frustrated, they attempted to throw themselves into the arms of England by sending emissaries to the governor of Pensacola, with whom they were to enter into arrangements. But the reception which they met in that quarter convinced them that they were to look elsewhere for support. England, besides the breach of faith of which she would have been p281 guilty, and besides giving the bad example of encouraging the rebellion of colonies, was not then disposed to renew the long wars she had waged against France and Spain, merely for the then paltry consideration of the acquisition of Louisiana.
Reduced to the last stage of despair, the Hotspurs among the insurgents proposed to expel Aubry, and the few French troops that were in the colony, to proclaim New Orleans a free port, and to form a republic, where the oppressed and the needy among all the nations of the earth would find a refuge and a home. The chief of the republic was to be styled Protector, and to be assisted by a council of forty men elected by the people, either for life, or for a certain number of years. A bank, on the plan of that of Amsterdam or of Venice, was to be created, and to furnish the commonwealth with the currency of which it would stand in need. The Swiss captain Marquis had originated this scheme of a republic; and he violently and openly recommended its adoption — so much so, that it became a subject of discussion for and against, in printed and in manuscript documents, which were circulated through the colony, and some of which are really of a curious character.
If the plan of Marquis could have been executed, and a Lord Protector elected, it is probable that Lafrénière would have become the Cromwell of Louisiana. There is no doubt but that the colonists would have eagerly adopted this form of government, had it been possible at the time; for it must be recollected that, from the earliest existence of the colony, almost all its governors had uniformly complained of the republican spirit which they had observed in the inhabitants. It would seem as if the European emigrants, on their arriving in Louisiana, had so imbibed the conception and the love of p282 independence from the roaming life of the aborigines, from the sight of the boundless forests, from the immensity of the domain which invited conquest, that they waxed impatient of the yoke imposed upon them by a distant power. But the colonists, on maturer and cooler reflection, became convinced that France, Spain and England, for reasons too obvious to be enumerated, would never permit their rebellion to terminate successfully in the establishment of a republic in Louisiana. They therefore abandoned the idea as Quixotic; but they, nevertheless, bequeathed to their posterity the right of claiming for Louisiana the merit of having been the first European colony that entertained the design of proclaiming her independence. The stoutest hearts, however, and the noblest minds cannot achieve impossibilities. The thought of a republic had been but a rosy colored bubble of the imagination, or rather a flitting rainbow spanning the firmament of a dream, and encouraging hopes but to have them extinguished in the night of the gathering storm. So was it with the majority of the colonists, who, in the wreck of their fortunes, having in vain looked round for any means of salvation, now abandoned themselves to the course of events, and were constrained passively to wait for what fate would ultimately decide.
Rumors were rife in the colony as to the preparations which Spain was making to take possession of Louisiana, and to punish the insult which had been offered to her. Nothing positive, however, could be ascertained, and the very vagueness of the rumors added to the anxieties of the public mind. Those who had played the most conspicuous part in the conspiracy were advised to fly; but this could be more easily proposed than executed. It would have been impossible for them to sell their property, p283 on account of the extreme penury to which the province was reduced; and if there had been men able to purchase, they would have hesitated to invest their money in so insecure a manner; for these sales might perhaps have been set aside, on the ground that they were not made in good faith, but in collusion, only to protect traitors, and to defraud the Spanish treasury of what confiscation would have brought into its coffers. The leaders of the insurrection, therefore, recoiled from the idea of breaking the ties which bound them to Louisiana, where some of them were born, and where the rest had passed the greater portion of their lives; and they turned away from the dire prospect of dragging in poverty, with their families, the miserable existence of exiles in foreign lands. Besides, many among them flattered themselves that a prompt and entire submission on their part, coupled with assurances of repentance, would secure pardon and safety.
In proportion as all ideas of resistance were gradually abandoned, and the schemes of the authors of the revolution demonstrated to be impracticable, Loyola, Gayarre and Navarro had seen the circle of their friends increasing, and their own importance rising in the colony. It was supposed that, from their having gone through all the phases of the revolution, and from their official position, they might exercise great influence on the determination which the Spanish government might subsequently take, and it is very natural that a propitiation in their favor should have been sought by those who trembled for their lives, or for the safety of the objects they loved. These three Spanish officers were men capable of sympathizing with the deep anxieties which they saw, and they became painfully affected by the direct and indirect appeals which were repeatedly made to p284 their feelings. Not knowing what their government intended to do, and careful not to commit themselves to any course of action in their official capacity, they were obliged to act with a considerable degree of caution, imposed upon them by the peculiar circumstances under which they were placed, and they had to confine themselves to mere assurances, as to their personal feelings and wishes, and as to the expectations to be formed from the well-known clemency which was a distinguished feature in the character of Charles III.
Thus matters stood, when on the morning of the 24th of July, 1769, the whole town of New Orleans was thrown into violent commotion by the news that a formidable Spanish fleet had made its appearance at the Balize, that General O'Reilly was the officer whom the court of Madrid had appointed to take possession of Louisiana, and that he brought with him such large forces that any attempt at resistance would be preposterous. Marquis, however, stuck a white cockade in his hat, and appeared on the public square, where he made ineffectual efforts to persuade the people to oppose the landing of the Spaniards. Only one hundred men joined him, and set up the white cockade of France. Petit made his appearance with a pair of pistols in his hands, spoke with the most passionate violence against the Spaniards, whom, he said, the colonists were bound to fight to the last, and declared himself ready to blow out the brains of every coward that would not co‑operate in that holy war. But they both soon retired, when they found out that their words met with no sympathizing echo, and that theirs was the voice in the wilderness.
Seeing the hopelessness of their condition, the leaders of the insurgents became greatly alarmed, on being convinced that they could not even make a show of resistance, p285 such as perhaps to secure favorable terms of capitulation; and, being humbled by the desperate state to which they were reduced, they sought Aubry to ask for his advice and protection. They were evidently thrown into dismay by the magnitude of the armament which had been fitted out against them, and put under the direction of one of the most skillful generals of Europe. Aubry did all he could to cheer and encourage them; he expressed the belief that General O'Reilly could not possibly come with the intention of carrying terror and desolation through the land, and he observed that, no blood having been spilt, it was to be hoped that the colonists, if they submitted promptly, would not in vain trust the good heart and clemency of his Catholic Majesty. He also promised that he would make them acquainted with O'Reilly's instructions, as soon as he should be informed of them. In the meantime, he ordered them to remain quiet, and they took the engagement to obey his instructions. Then, without loss of time, Aubry despatched an officer to the German Coast, to tranquillize its inhabitants, and to command them in the name of the King, not to stir, under the penalty of being punished as rebels.
The Spanish general whose arrival was soon to be expected, was born in Ireland,1 about the year 1735. He was a Catholic, and following the example of many of his countrymen who belonged to that creed, and who, on that account, labored under many disabilities in their native country, he sought to better his fortunes by enlisting in the armies of one of the continental powers. For this purpose Alexander O'Reilly went to Spain, when very young, and entered the service of the Spanish nation by joining a body of Irishmen known under p286 the name of the Hibernia regiment. In the war to which gave rise the pretensions of the different princes of Europe to the Austrian succession, on the death of the emperor Charles VI, who left no other lineal descendant than Maria Theresa, O'Reilly served with distinction in Italy, and received a wound which lamed him for the remnant of his days. In 1757, he obtained permission to enter the Austrian army, and, under the orders of his countryman, Field-marshal de Lascy, he made two campaigns against the Prussians. In 1759, he volunteered in the armies of France, and distinguished himself so much, that the Marshal Duke of Broglie warmly recommended him to the King of Spain, when he returned to that country. This recommendation procured for O'Reilly the grade of Lieutenant-colonel, and, as such, he served in Portugal with the Spaniards, against the Portuguese assisted by the English. This war was not glorious for Spain; but O'Reilly obtained great reputation at the head of a body of light troops, which had been intrusted to his command. Even at that time he was reputed one of the best officers in the Spanish armies. Hence he soon rose to the rank of Brigadier-General, and the post of drilling adjutant was created for him. It was in the change of these functions that he taught the Spanish troops the German manoeuvres and tactics. On the conclusion of the peace treaty signed at Fontainebleau, in 1762, which restored Havana to Spain, he was raised to the rank of Major-General and sent to that city, where he was to be the second in command. He re‑established the fortifications of the island of Cuba, and particularly of Havana, which had been ruined by the English, and returned to Spain, where he was appointed Inspector-General of the King's infantry; and Charles III paid him the compliment of honoring with his presence p287 the operations of a camp of exercise, of which he gave him the command. He was next sent to New Orleans, in 1769, where I shall have to relate in details the part which he acted. In 1765, General O'Reilly, by his presence of mind, had had the good luck to save the King's life in the famous Madrid insurrection which forced the sovereign to fly to Aranjuez. From that time he continued to rise in the favor of a monarch who was well known for the persevering and extraordinary gratitude which he always cherished for all services rendered to his person. Although O'Reilly, as a foreigner, had excited antipathies and jealousies which threw many impediments in his way, yet his merits could not but be acknowledged, and it was admitted that the Spanish armies were indebted to him for many useful reforms and marked improvements. He was made a Count, and his breast glittered with military decorations.
In 1774, he was given the command of the great expedition which Spain undertook against Algiers, and which was composed of forty ships of the line, three hundred and fifty transports, and thirty thousand men; but this immense convoy did not arrive in time; and O'Reilly not receiving, when wanted, the flat boats which had been prepared to facilitate a simultaneous landing of the whole of his forces, and after having waited fifteen days, in daily danger of running his vessels aground, was obliged to resort to a partial landing of his troops, and put out a body of ten thousand men, commanded by the Marquis of La Romana. This corps had been ordered so to establish itself on the shore, as to protect the landing of the rest of the army. But La Romana, carried away by his own impetuosity, and by that of his men, pursued the vanguard of the enemy to p288 a point in the interior where he had to contend with very superior numbers, intrenched behind fig trees and hedges of nopals. The Spanish troops fought with undaunted courage, and lost four thousand men, with their chief La Romana. During that time the rest of the army was landing; but this first check had demoralized the troops; the reluctance which they had to serve under a foreigner was fast ripening into a spirit of sedition; it was maliciously circulated that O'Reilly had sacrificed La Romana, of whom he was said to be jealous; and he discovered that he no longer had at his command the proper elements to secure success. Under these circumstances, he found it necessary to return to his ships, and he went back to Spain with much grief at the frustration of his hopes. His only consolation was that the plan of attack he had conceived was approved by all the judges of military art, and that the bravery he had displayed was much admired. His enemies themselves admitted, that he had shown himself wherever there was most danger, during the engagement with the Algerines, that he had exposed his person with the utmost recklessness, and that the horse he mounted had received two wounds. The unfortunate result of this expedition lowered him, however, in the estimation of the Spanish nation; but the King remained true to him and put him at the head of a military school lately established. He was afterwards appointed Commander-general of the province of Andalusia and governor of Cadix, where he exhibited all the talents of a great administrator. But, at the death of Charles III, in December, 1788, he fell into complete disfavor, and lived in absolute retirement in the province of Catalonia. His name had, nevertheless, retained considerable influence in the Spanish armies; and, after the death of General Ricardos, in p289 1794, he was thought to be the most skillful general to be opposed to the French. He was therefore appointed to the command of the army of the East Pyrenees, and he was on his way to his destination, when he died suddenly at an advanced age. His descendants now reside in the island of Cuba. "General O'Reilly," says Michaud in his biographical sketch of that officer, "had always been an object of malignant envy, and had many enemies, whom the flexibility of his temper and the gentleness of his conciliating manners could not reconcile to his advancement among a nation proverbially proud and suspicious of foreigners."
It was, as I said, on the morning of the 24th of July, that the inhabitants of New Orleans were informed of the arrival of O'Reilly at the Balize. In the evening there came the intelligence that a Spanish officer, bearing despatches from O'Reilly to Aubry, was ascending the river. There was, on that night, no thought of sleep for the greater part of the population, and they were seen clustering in groups in the streets, or hurrying from house to house. At about ten o'clock, Loyola, Gayarre, and Navarro, preceded by torches and followed by their subordinates, friends and adherents, were observed traversing the town, and moving towards the landing place. At eleven, the Spanish envoy, whose name was Francisco Bouligny, arrived in front of the public square, and, leaping ashore, was greeted by his countrymen, to whom he was a token of speedy relief. Passing through the large and anxious crowd that had gathered round them in silence, the Spanish officers went to the house of the French officer, who had retired to bed. He was immediately waked up according to the instructions which he had left, and he received with much affability O'Reilly's messenger, who delivered to him the letter of p290 which he had charge. Aubry read it twice over, but, on his not being able fully to understand its meaning, Bouligny proposed to translate it, and his offer was accepted. In this letter O'Reilly informed Aubry of the object of his mission, and requested the French governor to take all the necessary measures to facilitate the transfer of Louisiana from France to Spain, and the execution of the designs of their respective sovereigns. "Tell General O'Reilly," said Aubry to Bouligny in answer to this despatch, "that I am ready at any time to deliver this province to his Excellency, and that should the colonists make the slightest opposition to it, I am determined to join my forces to his, to punish the insolence of the rebels."
On the 25th, Bouligny, Gayarre, Navarro and Loyola dined at Aubry's, with the highest among the civil authorities and the most influential among the French officers and colonists. The past seemed to have been forgotten, the dinner was very gay, and towards its close, Aubry, addressing Bouligny and looking round the table, expressed to him, with marked emphasis, his satisfaction that the people had at last listened to the counsels of prudence, and had taken the only resolution which could save the colony from complete destruction. In the evening, Bouligny and the other Spanish officers promenaded through the streets of the town, and were greeted everywhere with cordiality, and even with apparent demonstrations of joy. On the next day, the 26th, at nine of the morning, Aubry addressed in these words the people, whom he had summoned to meet in the public square: "I have to announce to you that Mr. D' O'Reillyº is now in the river, at the head of several regiments that have come with him from Spain. He is sent to take possession of Louisiana in the name of the p291 King of Spain, by virtue of the sacred orders of their Most Christian and Catholic Majesties, and he will present me with his credentials at our first meeting. You can judge of the degree of irritation which the King of Spain must feel, from his sending to this distant country a General of such great distinction. It is therefore prudent for you to open your eyes on your past conduct, and to prevent your own ruin and that of your native or adopted country. You must be aware that nothing short of a prompt and entire submission, can now ward off the misfortunes with which you are threatened. I think that, in these delicate circumstances, I can assume the responsibility to assure you that, if you offer no resistance, General O'Reilly will treat you favorably, and that you will not be deceived in having full reliance on the clemency and tenderness of disposition of his Catholic Majesty. I order you at the same time, in the name of the King, to abstain from resorting to any meeting and to forbear from taking up arms, except in obedience to an express order from me, under the penalty of being treated as rebels, who disobey his Majesty's commands." He then dissolved the assembly and returned to his house.
A short time after, Lafrénière called on Governor Aubry, and informed him that, having full confidence in the generosity and magnanimity of General O'Reilly, he, Marquis, and Milhet had resolved, provided that Aubry favored them with a letter to his Excellency, to go down the river, in order to present their homages to the Spanish general, to give him the assurance, in the name of the people, of their complete submission, and to entreat him to intercede for them near his Catholic Majesty, whose clemency they implored. Aubry eagerly accepted this proposition, encouraged Lafrénière in his resolution, and told him that it was the only rational p292 one he could take. On that day, the Spanish officers dined again at Aubry's with some of the former chief conspirators, and then Bouligny departed with Lafrénière, Marquis, Milhet, the harbor master, and the oldest commissioned captain in the French troops, whom Aubry sent, the one, to pilot O'Reilly's vessels through the pass at the Balize, and the other to compliment his Excellency, as is customary on such occasions.
After forty hours' navigation, Don Francisco Bouligny reached the Balize, and presented Lafrénière and his companions to O'Reilly, who received them in state on the deck of the flag ship, which was crowded with a host of officers who had come from the other vessels to witness the scene. Lafrénière was to be the spokesman of his party, but, when introduced to the presence of O'Reilly, he felt one of those sudden emotions from which the boldest heart is not free on occasions of peculiar solemnity, and his powers of speech failed him for a moment; but encouraged, however, by the benignant expression which he observed in O'Reilly's face, he soon rallied, and in a somewhat faltering voice delivered the following address, which O'Reilly ordered Bouligny to take down: "Excellency, Mr. Marquis, an ex‑captain of a Swiss company, Mr. Milhet, a lieutenant of militia and a merchant, and I, Lafrénière, a planter, and the King's attorney-general, have been chosen as delegates by the inhabitants of Louisiana, and requested to come and assure your Excellency of their submission to the orders of their Catholic and most Christian Majesties, and of their veneration for the virtues and military talents which have raised you to the eminent dignities with which you are clothed. We are instructed to express to you the profound respect of the colony for his Catholic Majesty, and its love for his Most Christian Majesty, and for all the august house of Bourbon. The colony never p293 had the intention to be wanting in the profound respect which it cherishes for the great monarch whom you represent. The harshness of Mr. Ulloa's temper, and the subversion of the privileges guarantied by the act of cession, were the only causes of the revolution which took place in the colony. We beg your Excellency not to consider Louisiana as a conquered country. The orders of which you are the bearer are sufficient to put you in possession of this province, and they make a greater impression on our hearts than the arms which you carry with you. The French are docile, and accustomed to a mild government. On your arrival, you will find every one disposed to yield obedience to the orders of the two majesties. The colony claims from your benevolence the grant of privileges, and from your equity, the allowance of sufficient delays for those who may choose to emigrate."
Don Alexandro O'Reilly2 listened to this address without interrupting the orator, and with the grave and imposing aspect, said an eye-witness, which his rank and dignity required. He then answered; "Gentlemen, it is impossible to judge of facts and events, without having previously obtained a sufficient knowledge of their causes. On my arrival in your town, I shall take special care to become acquainted with the whole truth, to form right conclusions, and to examine the reasons alleged for your justification. You may rest assured that no one can be better disposed than I am, to render good services to the colonists, and that my doing the least injury to any one would be to me a matter of deep regret.3 I shall p294 be the first to furnish you with all the means I may possibly disposed of, to enable you to tranquillize the people; and you may assure them of the good dispositions with which I am animated, and which are natural to my character. I see with pleasure the resolution which you have taken. Had it not been so, you may well be persuaded that I would have caused the flag of my king to be respected, and that, to accomplish it, I would have allowed no consideration to arrest me in my course. Such was my determination, and I would have ascended the river as high as the Illinois, if necessary. Men, when in a state of frenzy, do not reflect, and cannot see the consequences of their actions. If it were not so, how could a handful of people, like you, have imagined themselves capable of resisting one of the most powerful sovereigns of Europe? How could you think that the Most Christian King, bound to the King my master by the ties of blood and by those of the closest friendship, could ever have assisted you, and lent a willing ear to the clamors of a seditious people?
Here, Marquis interrupted the General, to object to the application of the word seditious, and to give some reasons in explanation of the course pursued by the colonists. The General answered with gentle condescension: "Be at ease;4 I have already told you, gentlemen, that I will listen with pleasure to your arguments, when the time shall come. God be praised, I am free from all prejudices, and I am aware that things, which from afar may look as if they were clothed with the dark hue of guilt, may, at a shorter distance, appear decked in the white robes of innocence."
p295 The General detained them to dine with him, treated them with the most delicate politeness, with the utmost suavity of manner, and sent them back, says Bouligny, one of the persons present at the interview, full of admiration for his talents, and with good hopes that their past faults shall be forgotten.
O'Reilly, in order to have proper quarters prepared for his troops, sent back Bouligny to New Orleans, with two other officers named Karbonary and Bordenave.
On the 15th of August, Aubry went down the river, to offer his respects to O'Reilly, who was on his way up, and to come to an understanding with him as to the manner and time of taking possession of the colony. On consultation, they fixed the 18th for that ceremony. On the 16th, Aubry returned to New Orleans, and issued a proclamation enjoining the inhabitants of the town and the most respectable among those of the neighboring country, to be at the august ceremony, and to be ready to present themselves to his Excellency, Don Alexandro O'Reilly, in order to assure him of their entire submission and of their inviolable fidelity to his Catholic Majesty. On the 17th, in the morning, the whole Spanish fleet, numbering twenty-four sails, appeared in front of New Orleans. Immediately all the necessary preparations were made for landing, and flying bridges were dropped from the vessels to the bank of the river. On the 18th, early in the day, the French governor, with a numerous train of officers, came to compliment the new governor, who went ashore in company with his visitors, and proceeded with them to the house which was destined for him. But before 12 o'clock, O'Reilly returned to his fleet, in order to prepare for the landing of the whole of his forces.
At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, a gun fired by the flag p296 ship gave the signal for the landing of the Spaniards. The French troops and the militia of the colony, with Aubry at their head, were already drawn up in a line parallel to the river, and in front of the ships, in that part of the public square which is nearest to the church. On the signal being heard, the Spanish troops were seen pouring out of the fleet in solid columns, and moving with admirable precision to the points which had been designated to them. These troops, numbering 2,600 men, were among the choicest of Spain, and had been picked by O'Reilly himself. With colors flying, and with the rapidity of motion of the most practised veterans, they marched on, battalions after battalions, exciting the admiration and the awe of the population by their martial aspect and their brilliant equipments. The heavy infantry drew themselves up in perpendiculars, on the right and left wings of the French, thus forming three sides of a square. Then came a heavy train of artillery of fifty guns, the light infantry, and the companies of mountain riflemen (fusileros de montañas), with the cavalry, which was composed of forty dragoons, and fifty mounted militia men from Havana. All these corps occupied the fourth side of the square near the river, and in front of the French, who were drawn up near the cathedral. All the vessels were dressed in their colors, and their riggings were alive with the Spanish sailors in their holiday apparel. On a sudden, they gave five long loud shouts of: Viva el Rey — Long live the King, to which the troops in the square responded in a similar manner. All the bells of the town pealed merrily; a simultaneous discharge from the guns of the twenty-four Spanish vessels enveloped the river in smoke; with emulous rapidity the fifty guns that were on the square roared out their salute, making the ground tremble as p297 if convulsed with an earthquake; all along the dark lines of the Spanish infantry flashed a sheet of fire; and the weaker voice of musketry, also shouting in jubilation, attempted to vie with the thunder of artillery. All this pomp and circumstance of war announced that General O'Reilly was landing.
He soon appeared in the square, where he was received with all the honors due to a captain general, drums beating, banners waving, and all sorts of musical instruments straining their brazen throats, and by their wild and soul stirring sounds causing the heart to leap, and the blood to run electrically through the hot veins. He was preceded by splendidly accoutred men, who bore heavy silver maces; and the whole of his retinue, which was of the most imposing character, was well calculated to strike the imagination of the people. With a slightly halting gait he advanced towards the French governor, who, with the members of the Council and all the men of note in the colony, stood near a mast which supported the flag of France. Immediately behind O'Reilly followed the officers of the colonial administration of Louisiana, Don Joseph Loyola, the commissary of war and intendant; Don Estevan Gayarre, the contador, or royal comptroller; and Martin Navarro, the treasurer, who were to be restored to their respective functions, which had been interrupted by the revolution. "Sir," said O'Reilly to Aubry, "I have already communicated to you the orders and the credentials with which I am provided, to take possession of this colony in the name of his Catholic Majesty, and also the instructions of his Most Christian Majesty that it be delivered up to me. I beg you to read them aloud to the people." Aubry complied with this request, and then, addressing the colonists by whom he was surrounded, said: "Gentlemen, p298 you have just heard the sacred orders of their Most Christian and Catholic Majesties in relation to the province of Louisiana, which is irrevocably ceded to the crown of Spain. From this moment you are the subjects of his Catholic majesty, and by virtue of the orders of the King, my master, I absolve you from your oath of fidelity and obedience to his Most Christian Majesty." Then turning to O'Reilly, Aubry handed to him the keys of the gates of the town. The banner of France sunk from the head of the mast where it waved, and was replaced by that of Spain.5 Following the example and the orders of Aubry, the French shouted five times: "Viva el Rey!" Long live the King! — which was repeated three times by the Spanish troops, who recommenced their firing in unison with the fleet.
Then O'Reilly, followed by the principal Spanish officers, and accompanied by Aubry and his retinue, proceeded to the cathedral, where he was received at the threshold by the clergy, with all the honors of the Pallium6 and with the other usual solemnities.7 The curate or Vicar General, in the name and on behalf of the people, addressed to the general a pathetic harangue, coupled with the most caressing protestations of fidelity on his part. The General answered with concise eloquence, declaring his readiness to protect religion, to cause the ministers of the sanctuary to be respected, to support the authority of the King and the honor of his arms, to devote himself to the public good, and to do p299 justice to all. He then entered the church, where a Te Deum was sung, during which the troops and the fleet renewed their discharges in token of rejoicing.
When the pious ceremony was over, O'Reilly and Aubry returned to the public square, where all the Spanish troops filed off before the governors in the most redoubtable order and equipage, says Aubry in one of his despatches, and, after having saluted them, retired to their respective quarters.
In a despatch in which, some time after the taking possession of the country by the Spaniards, he rendered to one of the French ministers an account of the events which had preceded, and of the results which had followed, O'Reilly's arrival in Louisiana, Aubry says: "In circumstance so deplorable, without troops, without money, without resources, without assistance, having against me the Superior Council and the great majority of the inhabitants, I thought that in order not to ruin this colony, it was necessary to act with the utmost reserve. I concluded that it was my duty to endeavor to the best of my abilities to prevent the effusion of French and Spanish blood, and to preserve this unfortunate country in its integrity, until it be possible to cause its population to respect the orders of their Catholic and Most Christian Majesties, determined, however, as I was to perish with the few officers and soldiers who had remained under my orders, when the fury and violence of the rebels should drive me to the last extremities, and put me under the indispensable necessity of meeting them in battle.
"At the very moment when all seemed to be lost, Providence took compassion of our calamities, and when we were near being submerged by the storm, sent us a liberator, who, by his mere presence and by his wisdom, p300 has in an instant re‑established order and tranquillity in a country, which had been so long in an indescribable state of disorder and confusion.
"After having experienced the most terrible alarms and afflictions in governing a colony, which I several times saw on the very brink of ruin and destruction, it has been my good luck, by the grace of God, to deliver it in its integrity into the hands of a General, to whose presence, wisdom and firmness it is now indebted for its tranquillity. Listening with the greatest kindness to those who have any business to transact with him, he fills with hope and satisfaction all the inhabitants, who, after so many disturbances and disorders, see at last the restoration of peace and justice in the country. The thanks which the General was pleased to address to me at the head of my troops, and in presence of the whole people, and the approbation which he expressed of my conduct during all those unfortunate occurrences of the past, are to me a sure pledge of its obtaining also the sanction of your excellency."
On the 19th, the day following the ceremony of taking possession, O'Reilly gave with great pomp a dinner to the French Governor, the Spanish and French authorities, and all the persons of distinctionº in the colony. In the mean time, with his customary habits of activity, he had not allowed these festivities of the preceding and of the present day to interfere with the business which he had on hand, and he had proceeded in secret to take the depositions of witnesses as to what had occurred in the colony, and to peruse all the papers and documents which could give the desired information on the subject. On the very day he thus entertained Aubry and some of the chiefs of the revolution, he addressed to that officer the following letter: "Sir, as you witnessed all that occurred p301 in this colony, when Don Antonio de Ulloa, appointed governor of the same by his Catholic Majesty, was expelled from it, I beg you to enlighten me on the subject, to make me acquainted with all those events and their true causes, and to furnish me with the names of the persons who induced the people to commit the offence of presenting themselves with arms in their hands to enforce the violent expulsion of Don Antonio de Ulloa, and to renew the same excesses against all the Spanish officers and troops in the colony.
"As Governor of this colony for his Most Christian Majesty, and as the commander of the French troops, you recognized Don Antonio de Ulloa as the person designated by his Catholic Majesty to take, in his royal name, full possession and command of this colony. Consequently, you gave to Ulloa possession of the Balize and of other posts, and the complete cession was deferred, only at the solicitation of Ulloa himself, until the arrival of the Spanish force which he expected; a proof of confidence on your part, which was due to the close union existing between the two crowns.
"It is expedient that you have the kindness to communicate to me, as soon as possible, all that you may know in relation to said revolution, without omitting to quote literally all the orders, protests, and public or secret documents to which you may have had recourse, in order to reduce to, and to keep within, the bounds of duty, the chiefs and agents of the conspiracy.
"It is very essential that I should know who is the person who wrote, printed and circulated the document having for its title: Decree of the Council, dated October, 1768, and under what authority this was done. I desire the same information with regard to the other document entitled: Memorial of the inhabitants of Louisiana on the p302 event of the 29th October, 1768, because all the articles of said documents claim my special attention. I shall put entire faith in your communications, and I again beg you not to omit any circumstance relative to men and things, in what concerns said revolution."
On the 20th, without losing sight of the object of his investigations, O'Reilly went to pay a formal visit to the French governor, with the whole body of Spanish officers.8 On that very day, Aubry answered the communication which he had received from O'Reilly on the preceding one. Aubry's letter is a very long document, in which he designates all the chiefs of the revolution, and relates minutely their respective shares in that event. No attorney general could have drawn a more precise and more fatal indictment. He concludes in these words: "I will communicate to your Excellency all the decrees, memorials, and other pieces of iniquity which were fabricated in those times of disturbances and disorders. I will deliver into your hands all the protests which I made against such injustices. My conduct shall be laid bare before the most equitable and the most enlightened of judges. His approbation, which I dare flatter myself to deserve, will be the greatest honor and the handsomest reward which I can ever crave." This communication, which is a model of humility, if not servility, does not redound to the credit of Aubry. Far from interceding in favor of his unfortunate fellow citizens, far from endeavoring to palliate their guilt, which he could have done without deviating from truth, he arraigns them with bitter asperity, and is certainly answerable, to a considerable degree, for the shedding of the blood of those he had accused with such violence. If he had contented p303 himself with this brief answer: "The King of France, my master, appointed me governor of this colony, and I cannot believe that the King of Spain wishes to convert me into a common informer," he, perhaps, would have stood higher in the estimation of O'Reilly himself, and undoubtedly, in that of posterity.
On receiving Aubry's communication, O'Reilly's mind was immediately made up. On the next day, the 21st, he communicated to Aubry, at eight o'clock in the morning, the orders of his Catholic Majesty to arrest and bring to trial, in accordance with the laws, the chiefs of the revolution. Aubry, in one of his despatches, says that he never suspected before that O'Reilly had been invested with any such powers. The Spanish Governor, without loss of time, whilst Aubry was with him, drew to his house, under different pretexts, nine of the leaders of the late insurrection, and had three others, of an inferior rank, arrested in the town hall. They were Nicolas Chauvin de Lafrénière, Jean Baptiste de Noyan, Joseph Villeré, Pierre Caresse, Pierre Marquis, Joseph Milhet, Jean Milhet, Joseph Petit, Balthasar de Masan, Julien Jerome Doucet, Pierre Poupet, and Hardy de Boisblanc. When they were all in his presence, and Aubry standing by, he thus addressed them: "Gentlemen, the Spanish nation is respected and venerated all over the globe. Louisiana seems to be the only country which is not aware of it, and which is deficient in the respect due to that nation. His Catholic Majesty is much displeased at the violence which was lately exercised in this province, and at the offence which was committed against his governor, his officers and his troops. He has been irritated by the writings which have been printed, and which revile his government and the Spanish nation. He orders me to have arrested and tried, according to p304 the laws of the kingdom, the authors of these excesses and of all these deeds of violence."
After having read to them the orders of his Catholic Majesty which prescribed to him the course he was pursuing, he added; "Gentlemen, I regret to say, that you are accused of being the authors of the late insurrection. I therefore arrest you in the King's name. My earnest wish is, that you may prove your innocence, and that I may soon set you free again. Here are your judges (pointing to some officers who were in the room). They are as equitable as they are learned, and they will listen to your defence.9 The only part which I shall take in the trial will be, to favor you as much as I may be permitted. In the mean time, all your property, according to the custom of Spain with regard to prisoners of state, shall be sequestered. But you may rest assured that you shall be treated as well as possible in the places where you shall be respectively confined. As to your wives and children, be persuaded that I shall grant them all the assistance of which they may stand in need. In relation to the sequestration of your estates and effects, a faithful inventory shall be made of them, and I invite each of you now to appoint whom he pleases, to be present on his behalf at that inventory, and every person so appointed by you shall also countersign the inventory of your papers."
He paused for an answer; and the unfortunate prisoners, after they had somewhat recovered from the first shock they had felt at such a proceeding, gave, according to O'Reilly's invitation, the names of those who were to represent them, and a list of those names was made on p305 the spot. "Now, gentlemen," resumed O'Reilly, "please to deliver up your swords." Whilst this scene was acting, the whole house had been surrounded by troops, and the rooms had been filling up with grenadiers. One of O'Reilly's aids received the swords of the prisoners, and some officers of grenadiers, courteously taking them arm in arm, placed them between two companies of grenadiers, and thus conducted them to their places of confinement, where they were all separated from each other. Some were put in the frigate in which O'Reilly had come, some in two of the other vessels, and the rest in a well-guarded house. It was ordered that they should be interrogated, and their depositions be taken down in writing, and that they be allowed all the conveniences they might want, provided they be not permitted to communicate with each other, nor with any body else. On rendering an account of this event to the French ministry, Aubry said: "I have the honor to forward to you a list of the small number of those whom the General was indispensably obliged to have arrested. This proves his generosity and the kindness of his heart, considering that there are many others whose criminal conduct would have justified their being treated in the same manner."
With regard to Villeré, it seems that he had been the only one who had prepared to fly with his family and negroes, when he had heard of the arrival of the Spaniards. His plan was to retire to Manchac,a under the protection of the English flag. But, either being deceived as some say by a letter from Aubry, who pledged himself for his safety, or believing, when he was informed of the kind reception made to his associates in the late revolution, that it was not the intention of the Spanish government to act with rigor, he gave up his original design and came to town from the German Coast, to present p306 himself to the General and ascertain the true state of things. He was one of those who were confined in the frigate. Being of an exceedingly violent temper, this sudden blasting of his hopes threw him,10 as the Spanish official report says, into such a fit of frenzy, that he died raving mad on the day of his arrest. Bossu, in his work on Louisiana, gives a different version, but he is so fanciful in all his relations of pretended facts, that he is hardly to be believed.b Judge Martin, in his history of Louisiana, gives a third version, and says: "He (Villeré) was immediately conveyed on board of a frigate that lay at the levee. On hearing of this, his lady, a grand-daughter of De Lachaise, the former commissary and ordonnateur, hastened to the city. As her boat approached the frigate she was hailed and ordered away. She made herself known, and solicited admission to her husband, but was answered she could not see him, as the captain was on shore and had left orders that no communication should be allowed with the prisoner. Villeré recognized his wife's voice, and insisted on being permitted to see her. On this being refused, a struggle ensued, in which he fell pierced by the bayonets of his guards. His bloody shirt thrown into the boat announced to the lady that she had ceased to be a wife; and a sailor cut the rope that fastened the boat to the frigate." This atrocity of the bloody shirt is not probable. It is not mentioned in the official French despatches which I have seen, and rests only on popular tradition, which delights in tales of similar exaggeration. It has, no doubt, been preserved and handed down on account of the dramatic effect which it produces, and which has made it acceptable to the imagination.
It is impossible to describe the terror which the arrest p307 of these men and the death of Villeré scattered far and wide. They were so much identified with the whole population, their personal friends were so numerous, their family connections so extensive, that the misfortune which had befallen them could not but produce a general desolation. Besides, every one trembled for his own life, or for the safety of others, and many, in secret, began to make immediate preparations to fly to the English. In New Orleans, the doors of the majority of the houses were closed, and the inhabitants deserted the streets, which resounded only with the heavy tramp of Spanish patrols. On the 22d of August, the day following the arrest of Lafrénière and his companions, O'Reilly, in order to dissipate the fears which agitated the population, had this proclamation posted up at the public square and at the corner of every street:
"In the name of the King,
"We, Alexander O'Reilly, Commander of Benfayan in the order of Alcantara, Major General and Inspector General of the armies of his Catholic Majesty, Captain General and Governor of the Province of Louisiana, in virtue of his Catholic Majesty's orders, and of the powers with which we are invested, declare to all the inhabitants of the Province of Louisiana, that, whatever just cause past events may have given his Majesty to make them feel his indignation, yet his majesty's intention is to listen only to the inspirations of his royal clemency, because he is persuaded that the inhabitants of Louisiana would not have committed the offence of which they are guilty, if they had not been seduced by the intrigues of some ambitious, fanatic, and evil-minded men, who had the temerity to make a criminal use of the ignorance, and excessive credulity of their fellow citizens. These men p308 alone will answer for their crime, and will be judged in accordance with the laws.
"So generous an act on the part of his Majesty must be a pledge to him that his new subjects will endeavor, every day of their lives, to deserve by their fidelity, zeal and obedience, the pardon and protection which he grants them from this moment."
This proclamation made more than one breast breathe freely, and diminished to some degree, the feeling of terror which had been produced by the events of the preceding day.
On the 23d, O'Reilly issued another proclamation inviting the inhabitants of the town and its vicinity to appear before him, at his house, on the 26th, at seven o'clock in the morning, to take their solemn oath of vassalage and fealty to the new sovereign. Those of the inhabitants who resided in distant settlements were informed that, on certain days to be fixed hereafter, and before certain officers to be appointed for this special purpose, they would have to appear in their turn, and to go through the same ceremony. O'Reilly also wrote to Aubry a letter, in which he told him that he had perused the original of the document entitled: "Memorial of the planters, merchants, and other inhabitants of Louisiana, on the event of the 29th of October, 1768", which was found in possession of the printer Braud,c with an order signed by the Commissary Foucault, authorizing the publication; that he considered this document as a libel injurious in the highest degree to the authority of the King, and derogatory to the respect due to his royal person, that it was defamatory of the Spanish nation; and that Foucault's crime being fully proved by his signature, there could remain no doubt but that he was one of the chiefs of the late insurrection, and one of the principal authors of the excesses committed against Don Antonioº de Ulloa p309 and the government of his Catholic Majesty, wherefore he begged Governor Aubry to have Foucault arrested with the greatest precaution and promptitude, in order that the most unfaithful and criminal conduct of that officer being investigated, both he, O'Reilly, and Aubry, should be able to lay before their respective sovereigns full copies of the proceedings of the trial to which he would be submitted. This request took Aubry by surprise; but he complied with it readily, although he says, that it caused him a great deal of grief. He sent Major de Grand-Maison, Captain de Lamazelière, and Adjutant Major Aubert, to arrest Foucault in the name of the King of France, in the house where this Commissary resided, and which was to be his prison. There, with the approbation of O'Reilly, he was guarded by a French detachment and two officers, whom Aubry made personally responsible for the safe keeping of the prisoner. As a measure of precaution, Foucault's guard was to be changed every day. Grand-Maison, assisted by Lamazelière and Aubert, and in the presence of Bobé, the Marine Comptroller, put the seals on Foucault's papers. Bobé was appointed by Aubry to fulfil the functions of Foucault. "I told him," says Aubry to the French government, "that I would hold him answerable for all the harm that he might do, although I think that he is incapable of doing wrong, because he is an honest man, and has always blamed the conduct of his superior" (Foucault).
On the 25th, O'Reilly was engaged in issuing several provisional decrees in relation to securing immediately the faithful and prompt administration of justice, and chose among the inhabitants those who were reputed the most intelligent and honest, to call them to the discharge of those judicial functions which the good of the country required.
p310 On the 26th, the ceremony of taking the oath of allegiance was performed, as it had been prescribed. It began with the clergy, to whom precedence was allowed, and so on, through all the classes of the population. "This ceremony," wrote Aubry, "was conducted with much order and dignity. I presented to the General every corps, company, or corporation, according to its rank. The General explained to them, in a loud voice, all the obligations to which they would be subjected by their oath; he told them that they were fully and entirely free to take, or not to take it; that those who should not be disposed to assume such an engagement, were the masters of their own decision, and that he would give them all the time and all the necessary facilities to arrange their affairs, and to retire to their country. Almost all the inhabitants took the oath with zeal, and I dare assert that they will, henceforth, be as faithful subjects to his Catholic Majesty, as they were to the Most Christian King. After the ceremony was over, I approached the Spanish Governor with the whole body of the French officers, and I told him that we deemed it a compliment and an honor to serve under the orders of so distinguished a general as he was; that we were ready to shed our blood for the service of the King of Spain, just as willingly as for the King of France; and that, in so doing, we would merely execute the will of the King, our master, which was all that he wished. He was completely satisfied with this demonstration, and answered us in the most obliging manner."
On the 27th, the Acadians and Germans who, although they had made all possible haste to reach New Orleans on the 26th, had not been able to accomplish their object, were admitted to take their oath of allegiance, and were immediately sent back to their rural occupations.
p311 On the 28th, the Spanish troops were engaged in landing from the fleet all the ammunition, provisions, and other materials and effects of which it had brought an ample supply. On that day, by the order of Aubry, Major de Grand-maison, with Captain Lamazelière and Trudeau, assisted by the notary Garic, and in the presence of Bobé, the marine comptroller, proceeded to raise the seals which had been affixed in Foucault's house, and to inventory all the papers relative to his office, and which were to be handed to Bobé, his successor. "I had also ordered the same officer," wrote Aubry, "to require of Foucault a declaration under oath, of all the movable and immovable property he owned in the colony. It appears from his own showing that he owns little or nothing, and has a heavy amount of debts, both in France and in this colony."
Although the preceding operations had given much occupation to General O'Reilly, he did not neglect to inform himself minutely of all the wants of the colony. He despatched messengers to all the distant settlements, to convey official intelligence of his arrival, and of his having taken formal possession of the province, and to authorize their commanders, to receive the oath of allegiance of all the inhabitants residing within their jurisdiction. He requested them also to state what they desired to supply the necessities of their respective posts.
"His intention," wrote Aubry, "is to introduce no innovations but those which may be absolutely necessary. He will maintain and cause to be executed all the wise and useful regulations which the government, on account of its weakness, had not been able to enforce for several years back. He will keep in force the Black Code, which, he thinks, contains excellent provisions, not only with regard to the discipline which it establishes among p312 the negroes, but also in relation to the moderation which it prescribes to masters, in the treatment of their slaves. This has infinitely pleased the inhabitants. I have the honor to transmit to you the ordinance which he has issued on this subject.
"Finally, after so many disturbances and disorders which had so long desolated this colony, it is surprising that the mere presence of one individual should, in so short a time, have restored good order, peace and tranquillity. Had it been the good fortune of this province that General O'Reilly had arrived sooner, it would never have felt all the calamities it has endured. With the exception of a small number of families which are in a state of consternation, on account of what has so justly befallen some of their members who have been arrested, all the rest of the colonists are quiet and satisfied. They are grateful to his Catholic Majesty for having sent them a governor who listens with kindness to those who have any business with him, and who, although respected and feared, is not the less loved for his generosity, his magnanimity and his equity, of which all of us feel the effects. He will make the happiness of this colony."
On the 5th of October, Aubry, at the request of O'Reilly, proceeded to the interrogation of Foucault, who declined answering, on the ground that whatever he had done, was in his official capacity of commissary of the King of France and in his name; that to his government alone he was answerable, and that, as he had not seen any order of arrest issued against him by his Most Christian Majesty, he protested against the decrees of which he was the object, and excepted to the jurisdiction of any Spanish tribunal over acts which he had done officially, in the name of the King of France, and on his behalf. Several attempts were made to induce p313 him to undergo an examination, but he remained obstinately silent on those occasions. He merely said that he was willing to stand his trial in France, and he repeatedly asked to be sent thither. Upon consideration, it was thought proper to comply with his request, and, on the 14th of October, he was embarked for France, where, on his arrival, he was thrown into the Bastile.
Speaking of Foucault in a letter written to the Marquis of Grimaldi, O'Reilly says: "He is a conceited and narrow-minded man, who has cheated a host of people here, as demonstrated by the amount of debts which he leaves." Indeed it appears from Foucault's own statement of his affairs, that his debts exceeded his worldly goods by twenty-seven thousand dollars, which was a pretty considerable sun at that epoch. The schedule of his debts proves, that he had even possessed the art of duping those whose destruction or expulsion from the colony he had aimed at; for the Spanish Contador, Don Estevan Gayarre, is put down for $780 on the list of his private creditors.
Braud had also been arrested for having printed the memorial of the planters, merchants, etc. of Louisiana on the event of the 29th of October, 1768. But he pleaded in justification that, as the King's printer, he was bound by the tenure of his office to print all that was sent to him by the King's commissary, and he showed Foucault's signature at the bottom of the manuscript which he had published. This defence was admitted as good, and he was set free.
This was the prelude to the great trial which was soon to begin, and which, ending with the shedding of the blood of men who were loved and respected, whatever their faults may have been, left a deep and indelible impression in the annals of the colony.
1 Biographie Universelle de Michaud.
2 Don Alexandro O'Reilly escuchó esta arenga sin interrumpirla, con la seriedad y señorio correspondiente á su caracter.
4 El General le respondió con dulzura — Ya he dicho a Vs, Señores, que á un tiempo escucharé con gusto las razones de Vs. A Dios gracias, estoy libre de preocupaciones, y no ignoro que muchas veces las cosas que parecen negras desde lejos, suelen verse blancas, quando uno se aprocsima.
6 A sort of canopy, under which the Chase of the Eucharist is carried in processions.
7 El cura ó Vicario principal hizo á S. E. una arenga muy patética en nombre del pueblo, y con las mas tiernas protestas de fidelidad.
8 Sin abandonar dicho cuidado, fué á visitar al gobernador frances con todo el cuerpo de oficiales nuestros.
9 Dijó que S. E. no tomaria otra parte en esta causa (cuyos jueces estaban alli presentes, y les hizo ver), que la que fuese conducente á favorecerlos, y que deseaba que todos pudiesen justificar plenamente su conducta.
10 Murió al 1o dia de su prision, de terror y enojo, y antes perdió el juicio.
Thayer's Note: Literally translated, He died on the 1st day of his imprisonment, of terror and angst, and before that he lost the case. No fit, no frenzy, no raving madness.
b Gayarré may not have thought so ill of Bossu as all that: in his preface to the Third Series of Lectures (Vol. II, p14) he includes him among the sources that insured his own accuracy; and leans on him rather heavily when reporting the customs of the Natchez in Chapter 6 of the Second Series.
As of this writing (Feb 06) Bossu's work is not online, except for a dozen or so pages of excerpts, in Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Vol. I, No. 3, pp190‑206.
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