In a preceding work on the French domination in Louisiana,a I have related the cession of that colony to Spain in 1762, the attempt of that power to take possession of its new domain in 1766, the insurrection of the colonists in 1768, who drove away the Spaniards, the arrival of O'Reilly at New Orleans with overwhelming forces, to avenge the insult offered to his Catholic Majesty, the trial and punishment, on the 25th of October, 1769, of the leaders of the insurrection, and the final and complete occupation of the province by the Spaniards. The object of the present work is to record the history of Louisiana, as a Spanish colony, from 1769 to December 1803, when again her destinies were changed, and she was transferred to the United States of America.
O'Reilly, having secured the obedience of the new subjects of Spain, and having, by the terror which the blood he spilt had inspired, guarded against the repetition of any attempt, similar to the one which he had so severely p2repressed, showed his sense of security by sending away the greater portion of his troops; and, retaining only about 1,200 men, he proceeded to the immediate organization of the province in its military, judicial, and commercial departments. It will be recollected that the Louis XV, in his letter to Governor D'Abbadie, after the cession of Louisiana to Spain, had expressed the wish that Louisiana should preserve the laws, institutions, and usages to which it had been so long accustomed, and had declared that he expected from the friendship of his cousin, the king of Spain, that, for the welfare and tranquillity of the colonists, that monarch should give to his officers in that province, such instructions as would permit the inferior judges, as well as those of the Superior Council, to administer justice according to the old laws, forms, and usages of the colony. Such, at first, had been the intention of his Catholic Majesty, but it was changed by the events which occurred in the colony in 1768; and, on the 25th of November, 1769, O'Reilly issued a proclamation,1 in which he informed the colonists that, considering the part which the Superior Council had acted in the late disturbances, his Majesty thought proper to abolish that tribunal, and to establish in Louisiana that form of government and that system of administration, which had always succeeded in maintaining tranquillity and subordination in the domains of his Catholic Majesty, and which had secured for them a durable prosperity. Perhaps the king of Spain, who could not decently have disregarded the wishes expressed by the king of France in relation to his royal donation, was not backward to avail himself of the opportunity offered to him by the colonial insurrection, to refuse the continuance of the French organization, and to remodel it in the Spanish p3style. It was natural for the statesmen of Spain, to think it sound policy to assimilate their new acquisition to their other possessions, and to efface all that might tend to keep up or revive in the colony the recollection and regrets of the past.
Thus O'Reilly, in his proclamation, announced that a Cabildo would be substituted for the Superior Council, be composed of six perpetual regidores, two ordinary alcaldes, an attorney-general Syndic, and a clerk, over which body the governor would preside in person.2
The offices of perpetual regidor and clerk were acquired by purchase, and, for the first time, at auction. The purchaser was declared to have the faculty of transferring his office to a known and capable person, from whom he was permitted to require in payment one half of its appraised value; but one third only could be received on any substitute mutation.
Among the Regidores were to be distributed the offices of Alferez Real, or Royal Standard Bearer, of Principal Provincial Alcalde, of Alguazil Mayor or High Sheriff, of Depositary General, and of Receiver of Fines.
The ordinary Alcalde and the Attorney-General Syndic were to be chosen, on the first day of every year, by the Cabildo, and were always re-eligible, during the first two years, by a unanimous vote, and subsequently by a bare majority. At such elections the votes were openly given and recorded.
The ordinary alcaldes3 were, individually, judges within the town of New Orleans, in civil and criminal cases, in which the defendant did not possess and claim the privilege of being tried by a military or ecclesiastical tribunal, in virtue of the fuero militar, or fuero ecclesiastico.4 p4These alcaldes, in their chambers, and without any written proceedings, took cognizance of, and summarily decided upon, all judicial matters in which the value of the object in dispute did not exceed twenty dollars. In other cases, they sat in a hall destined for this purpose, and their proceedings were recorded by a notary and a clerk; and when the value of the object in dispute exceeded ninety thousand maravedis ($330 88c.), an appeal lay from their decision to the Cabildo.
This body did not examine itself the judgment appealed from, but chose two Regidores, who, with the Alcalde what had rendered it, revised the proceedings; and, if he and either of the Regidores approved the decision, it was affirmed.
The Cabildo sat every Friday, but the Governor had the power of convening it at any time. In his absence, one of the Alcaldes presided, and, immediately after the adjournment, two Regidores went to his house and informed him of what had been done.
The ordinary Alcaldes had the first seats in the Cabildo, immediately after the Governor; and, below them, the other members sat in the following order: the Alferez Real, or Royal Standard Bearer, the Principal Provincial Alcalde, the Alguazil Mayor, or High Sheriff, the Depositary General, the Receiver of Fines, the Attorney General Syndic, and the Clerk.
The office of Alferez Real was merely honorary, no other function being assigned to the incumbent but the bearing of the royal standard in a few public ceremonies. The Principal Provincial Alcalde had cognizance of offences committed out of the town; the Alguazil Mayor executed personally, or by his deputies, all process from the different tribunals. The Depositary General took p5charge of all moneys and effects placed in the custody of the law. The functions of the Receiver General of Fines are pointed out by his official denomination. The Attorney General Syndic was not, as may be supposed from his title, the prosecuting officer of the crown. His duty was to propose to the Cabildo such measures as the interest of the people required, and to defend their rights. This was a sort of imitation of the Roman tribune, and shows that, even in those days, and under that form of government which was reputed, not only absolute, but also tyrannic, the people, contrary to the general belief, were admitted to have rights, which were to be advocated and defended. Such at least was the theory, if the practice was different.
The Regidores, or municipal officers, received fifty dollars each, annually, from the treasury. The Principal Provincial Alcalde, the Alguazil Mayor, the Depositary General, the Receiver of Fines, and the Ordinary Alcaldes were entitled, as such, to fees of office.
In certain cases, there was an appeal from the highest tribunal of the province to the Captain General of the island of Cuba; from him, to the Royal Audience in St. Domingo, and thence to the Council of the Indies in Madrid.
The other officers of the province were a Captain General residing in Cuba, and to whom the Governor of the colony seems to have been subordinate; a Governor, clothed with civil and military powers; an Intendant, who had the administration of the revenues, and of all that concerned the naval and commercial department; a Contador, or Royal Comptroller; an Auditor of War and Assessor of Government, who was the legal adviser of the Governor; an Auditor of the Intendancy, who was the legal adviser of the Intendant. There being in those days, in Louisiana, a scarcity of men learned in the law, p6says Judge Martin in his History, the Auditor of War frequently acted as the counsel, not only of the Governor, but also of the Intendant, of the Cabildo, and of all the other public functionaries. There was a secretary of the governor and a secretary of the intendant, a treasurer of the province, a general storekeeper and a purveyor, a surveyor general, a harbor master, an interpreter of the French and English languages, an Indian interpreter, and three notaries public; besides, a collector, a comptroller, a cashier, an inspector, and a special notary for the custom-house.
Every officer who received a salary of more than three hundred dollars a year, was appointed by the crown; inferior offices to these were in the gift of the governor, or of the intendant, in their respective departments. The governor exercised judicial powers in civil and criminal matters throughout the province, as did the intendant with regard to all that appertained to the revenue and the admiralty; and as did the vicar general in the ecclesiastical department. These officers had, it seems, exclusive jurisdiction in their respective courts. The two former were assisted, as I have already said, by an auditor or assessor, whose opinion they might, on their own responsibility, disregard. It was one of the powers of the governor to make grants of land.
In every parish, says Judge Martin in his History, an officer of the army or militia, of no higher grade than a captain, was stationed as civil and military commandant. His duty was to attend to the police of the parish and preserve its peace. He was instructed to examine the passport of all travelers, and suffer no one to settle within his jurisdiction, without the license of the governor. He had jurisdiction over all civil cases in which the value to object in dispute did not exceed twenty dollars; in more important cases, he received the petition p7and answer, took down the testimony, and transmitted the whole to the governor, by whom the record was sent to the proper tribunal. He had the power to punish slaves, and arrest and imprison free persons charged with offences, and was bound to transmit immediate information of the arrest, with a transcript of the evidence, to the governor, by whose order the accused was either discharged, or sent to New Orleans. These parish commandants acted also as notaries public, and made inventories and sales of the estates of the deceased, and attended to the execution of judgments, rendered in New Orleans, against defendants who resided in the country parishes.
The Spanish language was ordered to be employed by all public officers in their minutes; but the use of the French was tolerated in the judicial and notarial acts of the commandants.
The public officers were bound to take the following oath:
"I, * * * * * appointed . . . (here followed the designation of the office), . . . swear before God, on the holy cross and on the evangelists, to maintain and defend the mystery of the immaculate conception of Our Lady the Virgin Mary, and the royal jurisdiction to which I appertain in virtue of my office. I swear also to obey the royal ordinances and decrees of his Majesty, to fulfil faithfully the duties of my office, to decide in conformity with law in all the affairs which shall be submitted to my tribunal; and the better to accomplish this end, I promise to consult persons learned in the law, on every occasion which may present itself in this town; and, finally, I swear never to exact other fees than those fixed by the tariff, and never to take any from the poor."
These were the principal features in the organization of the new government.
On the 25th of November, 1769, O'Reilly issued a proclamation making known a set of instructions which he had caused to be prepared by two of his legal advisers, Don Jose Urrustia and Don Felix Del Rey, who acted so conspicuous a part in the prosecution against Lafrénière and his accomplices. These instructions were an abridgment or summary of the rules to be followed in civil and criminal actions, and of the laws of Castile and of the Indies, to which they referred, and to which they might serve as an index. This compendium was intended as a guide to all the functionaries and to the public. It contained also an enumeration of all the offices in the colony, and a definition of all the functions and privileges thereto appertaining. In the preamble to his proclamation, O'Reilly said:— "Whereas the want of jurists in this colony and the little knowledge which the new subjects of his Catholic Majesty possess of the Spanish Laws, may render a strict observance of them difficult (which would be so much at variance with the intentions of his Majesty), we have thought it useful and even necessary to have an abstract made of said laws, in order that it may become an element of instruction or information to the public, and a formulary in the administration of justice, and in the municipal government of this town, until a more general knowledge of the Spanish language be introduced in the province, and until every one be enabled by the perusal of those laws, to know them thoroughly. Wherefore, under reserve of his Majesty's pleasure, we order and command all the judges, the Cabildo, and all other p9public officers, to conform strictly to what is required by the following articles." This document5 is given at length in the Appendix,b and is in every way worthy of an attentive perusal. It will be found, with the exception of a few objectionable provisions, to be remarkable for wisdom and humanity, and it would not require much investigation to discover worse legislation in these our days of enlightened morality and progressive knowledge.
The Article 20, of Section I, concerning the Cabildo, runs thus:
"The electors, in the two jurisdictions, being responsible for the injury and detriment which the public may sustain, by the bad conduct and incapacity of the elected in the administration of justice and the management of the public interests, should have for their only objects, in the election of ordinary alcaldes and other officers, the service of God, the king, and the public; and, in order to prevent an abuse of that great trust, their choice should be directed to those persons who shall appear to them most suitable for those offices, by the proofs they may possess of their affection for the king, their disinterestedness, and their zeal for the public welfare."
With the omission of the word king, this article would not be found inapplicable to present circumstances, and might be fitly recommended to that generation of electors who hold now in their hands the destinies of our country.
Article 21 said:
"The Cabildo is hereby informed that it must exact from the governors, previous to their taking possession of their office, a good and sufficient p10surety, and a full assurance to this effect — that they shall submit to the necessary inquiries and examinations during the time they may be in employment, and that they shall conform to whatever may be adjudged and determined against them. This article merits the most serious attention of the Cabildo, which is responsible for the consequences that may result from any omission and neglect in exacting the aforesaid securities from the governors."
Considering the age in which it was framed, and the source from which it emanated, this article deserves to be noticed, on account of the check which it intends to impose on the exercise of the executive power.
The section 11, on the ordinary alcaldes, is not without interest. The 4th article of that section says:
"The alcaldes shall appear in public with decency and modesty, bearing the wand of royal justice — a badge provided by law to distinguish the judges. When administering justice, they shall hear mildly those who may present themselves, and shall fix the hour and the place of audience, which shall be at 10 o'clock in the morning at the Town Hall; and, for the decision of cases in which no writings are required, they shall sit in the evening between 7 and 8 o'clock, at their own dwellings, and in none other."
Art. 13 and 15 read thus:
Art. 13 — "The ordinary Alcaldes, accompanied by the Alguazil Mayor (High Sheriff), and the escribano (clerk), shall, every Friday, proceed to the visitation of the prisons. They shall examine the prisoners, the causes of their detention, and ascertain how long they have been imprisoned. They shall release the poor who may be detained for their expenses, or for small debts; and the jailor shall not exact from them any release fee. The alcaldes shall not set at p11liberty any of the prisoners detained by order of the Governor, of or of any other judge, without the express consent of said authorities."
"Art. 15. The Governor, with the Alcaldes, the Alguazil Mayor, and the escribano, shall, yearly, on the eve of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday, make a general visitation of the prisons, in the manner prescribed by the Laws of the Indies. They shall release those who have been arrested for criminal causes of little importance, or for debts, when such debtors are known to be insolvent, and shall allow them a sufficient term for the payment of their creditors."
These articles are imbued with a spirit of humanity and christianityº highly creditable to the legislation of Spain.
The section 3d defines the attributions of the Alcalde Mayor Provincial, and shows that the celebrated institution of the Santa Hermandad was established in Louisiana.
The 4th article of this section shows great regard for the comfort and protection of travelers and strangers. It says:
"The Alcalde Mayor Provincial shall see that travelers are furnished with provisions at reasonable prices, as well by the proprietors as by the inhabitants of the villages through which they may pass."
The 5th article says:
"The principal object of the institution of the tribunal of the Santa Hermandad (holy brotherhood) being to repress disorders, and to prevent the robberies and assassinations committed in unfrequented places by vagabonds and delinquents, who conceal themselves in the woods, from which they sally to attack travelers and the neighboring inhabitants, the Alcalde Mayor Provincial shall assemble a sufficient number of members or brothers of the Santa Hermandad, to clear his jurisdiction of the perpetrators of such evil deeds, p12by pursuing them with spirit, seizing, or putting them to death."
Section 7th concerns the Procurador General. The article I is as follows:
"The Procurador General is an officer appointed to assist the people in all their concerns, to defend them, preserve their rights, and obtain justice on their behalf, and to enforce all other claims which relate to the public interest.
"In consequence thereof, the Procurador General, who is appointed solely for the public good, shall see that the municipal ordinances are strictly observed, and shall endeavor to prevent everything by which the said public interest might suffer.
"For these purposes, he shall apply to the tribunals competent thereto, for the recovery of debts and revenues due to the treasury of the town of New Orleans, in the capacity of attorney for said town. He shall pursue these causes with the activity and diligence necessary to discharge him from the responsibility he would incur by the slightest omission.
"He shall see that the other officers of the Council or Cabildo discharge strictly the duties of their offices; that the Depositary General, the Receiver of Fines, and all those who are to give sureties, shall give such as are good and sufficient; and in case said sureties should cease to be good, he shall demand that they be renewed conformably to law.
"He shall be present at, and shall interpose in the division of lands, and in other public matters, to the end that nothing unsuitable or injurious shall occur."
It must be admitted that this whole section is replete with a feeling of liberality and a regard for the interests of the people, which is supposed to appertain only to a republican government.
p13 The section 10, which treats of the jailor and the persons, breathes not that spirit of ferocity, which is generally believed to be akin to the subject, and characteristic of Spanish legislation and officials; but, on the contrary, it seems to have been framed under the mild influence of modern philanthropy. The provision which prohibits jailors from exacting any fee from the poor, and from receiving any gratuity, either in money or goods, is worthy of commendation. It may not be inappropriate to quote the whole section.
Art. 1. "The jailor shall be appointed by the alguazil mayor, and approved by the governor before entering on the duties of his office. He shall also be presented to the Cabildo to be inducted into office, and to take an oath to discharge faithfully the duties of the said office, to guard the prisoners watchfully, and to observe the laws and ordinances established in this respect, under the penalties therein declared.
Art. 2. "The said jailor must not enter upon the duties of the said office until he shall have given good and sufficient sureties in the sum of two hundred dollars, as a warranty that no prisoner detained for debt shall be released without an order from the judge competent thereto.
Art. 3. "The jailor shall keep a book, in which he shall inscribe the names of all the prisoners, that of the judge by whose order they have been arrested, the cause for which they are detained, and the names of those who may have arrested them. He shall reside in the prison intrusted to his care, and, for each considerable fault committed by him, he shall pay sixty dollars, applicable one half to the royal chamber, and the other to the informer.
Art. 4. "It is the duty of the jailor to keep the prison p14clean and healthy, to supply it with water for the use of the prisoners, to visit them in the evening, to prevent them from gaming or disputing, to treat them well, and to avoid insulting or offending them.
Art. 5. "It is likewise the duty of the jailor to take care that the female prisoners are separate from the men; that they be kept in their respective apartments, and that they be not worse treated than their offence deserves, or than is prescribed by the judges.
Art. 6. "With regard to his fees, the said jailor shall confine himself strictly to those which are established; he shall take none from the poor, under a penalty of the value of the same. He shall not, without incurring the same penalty, receive any gratuity, either in money or in goods. He shall avoid entirely either playing, eating, or forming any intimacy with the prisoners under the penalty of sixty dollars, applicable, one third to the royal chamber, one third to the informer, and the remaining third to the poor prisoners."
Persons of noble birth, the military, the municipal and other civil officers, lawyers, physicians, women, and certain other individuals, were exempted from imprisonment for debt.
The section on criminal trials has some remarkable features, among which the art. 14, which says: "The accused, being convicted of the crime, on its being fully established on trial by sufficient proof, or by some other proof in conjunction with his own confession, may be condemned to the penalty provided by law for the same. The said condemnation shall also take place, when two witnesses of lawful age and irreproachable character shall depose that, of their certain knowledge, the accused has committed the crime; but when there shall appear against the accused but one witness, and other indications or conjectures, he shall not be condemned to the penalty provided p15by law; but some other punishment shall be inflicted as directed by the judge, with due consideration of the circumstances which may appear on the trial. This state of things requires the greatest circumspection, as it must always be remembered, that it is better to let a criminal escape than to punish the innocent."
This provision concerning condemnation on the testimony of one witness, whatever may be said as to the propriety of its policy, is certainly more humane than the law by which we are now governed, and which may send a man to the scaffold on the bare testimony of another. It will also be observed that the well known axiom that "it is better that guilt should go unpunished, than that innocence should suffer unjust punishment," is not confined to the common law of England. It may, moreover, not be amiss here — to remark, in a parenthesis, that the boasted privileges of English liberty existed in some parts of Spain, although destroyed since, long before they were dreamed of in that noble land from which we have borrowed so much of our judicial and political organization.6
The whole chapter concerning appeals is characterized by the desire of bringing lawsuits to a speedy termination — a thing not to be expected, according to public opinion, from Spanish Legislation.
It must be confessed, however, that some of the penalties inflicted, savored of the peculiar temperament of the age and of the exaggerated devotion to the church and the throne which marked the Spanish character at the time; for instance, art. 1 of section v. on punishments, decreed that: "he who shall revile Our Saviour, or his mother the Holy Virgin Mary, shall have his tongue cut out, and his property shall be confiscated, applicable one p16half to the public treasury, and the other half to the informer."
Art. 2d said:
"He, who forgetting the respect and loyalty which every subject owes to his king, shall have the insolence to vilify his royal person, or that of the queen, of the hereditary prince, or of the infantes (princes of the blood) or of their sons, shall be punished corporally, according to the circumstances of the crime; and the half of his property shall be confiscated to the profit of the public or the royal treasury, if he have legitimate children; but should he have none, he shall forfeit the whole, applicable two thirds to the public treasury, and the other third to the accuser."
"The authors of any insurrection against the king or the state, or those who, under pretence of defending their liberty and rights, shall be concerned in it, or take up arms therein, shall be punished with death and the confiscation of their property. The same punishments shall also be inflicted on all those who may be convicted of high treason."
The Art. 4 contains a remarkable feature. A plebeian, using opprobrious language to the detriment of any one, was condemned to pay a fine of 1200 maravedis; but should a nobleman have committed the same offence, the penalty for him was 2000 maravedis. This distinction seems to have originated from the impression, that such an offence ought to be more severely punished in one of gentle than of base blood, on account of its being more heinous in one who, on account of his rank, ought to have been more correct in his deportment.
The following articles show at least that the new government was imbued with puritanical severity, and was disposed to check by extreme punishment all infractions against morality.
Art. 6 said:
"The married woman convicted of adultery, p17and he who has committed the same with her, shall be delivered up to the husband, to be dealt with as he may please; with the reserve, however, that he shall not put one of them to death, without inflicting the same punishment on the other.
"The man who shall consent that his wife live in concubinage with another, or who shall have induced her to commit adultery, shall, for the first time, be exposed to public shame, and condemned to a confinement of ten years in some fortress; and, for the second time, shall be sentenced to one hundred lashes and confinement for life.
"The same punishment shall also be inflicted on those who carry on the infamous trade of enticing women to prostitution, by procuring them the means of accomplishing the same.
"He who shall be guilty of fornication with a relation in the fourth degree, shall forfeit half of his property to the profit of the public treasury, and shall, moreover, be punished corporally, or banished, or undergo some other penalty, according to the rank of the person and the degree of kindred between the parties. If the said crime be committed between parents and their offspring, or with a professed nun, the same shall be punished with death.
"He who shall commit the detestable crime against nature shall suffer death, and his body shall afterwards be burnt, and his property shall be confiscated to the profit of the public and royal treasuries.
"The woman who shall be publicly the concubine of an ecclesiastic shall be sentenced, for the first time, to a fine of a mark of silver, and to banishment for one year from the town or from the place where the offence may have been committed. The second time, she shall be fined another mark of silver and banished for p18two years, and, in case of relapse, she shall be punished by one hundred lashes, in addition to the penalties aforesaid.7
"If fornication be committed between unmarried persons, they shall be admonished by the judge to discontinue every kind of intercourse with each other, under the penalty of banishment for the man, and confinement for the woman, during such time as may be necessary to operate a reformation. Should this menace have not the desired effect, the judge shall put the same into execution, unless the rank of the parties requires a different procedure — in which case, the said offence shall be submitted to the consideration of the judges collectively, to apply the remedy which their prudence and zeal for the repression of such disorders may suggest. They shall punish all other offences of debauchery in proportion to their degree, and to the injury occasioned thereby."
Ever after the promulgation of this document, it is to be supposed that all judicial decisions were grounded on the laws of Spain. At a later period, however, it became a question, which was debated in the courts of justice of Louisiana, how far the French laws had been repealed by O'Reilly, and whether he had the authority to abolish them, as the extent of his powers had never been exactly known. But now the question is set at rest, as it is ascertained that O'Reilly was clothed with unlimited authority,8 and that all he did in Louisiana was fully confirmed by the king and the council of Indies. In a communication addressed to his government, on the 17th of October 1769, he had said,9 "it seems proper p19that this colony be governed by the same laws which prevail in the other dominions of his Majesty in America, and that in its military, judicial, and financial organization, it be, in each of these respective departments, a dependency of the Island of Cuba." The government gave its approbation to these views of O'Reilly.10 Fortunately, there was no very great dissimilarity between the fundamental principles of the Spanish and the French jurisprudence, which had the same sisterly origin, and drew their existence from the honored womb of Roman legislation, emphatically called the "Civil Law," so well known under that name.
O'Reilly had a set of instructions drawn up, which he sent to the parish commandants. From those addressed to de Mézières, who was in command of Natchitoches,º I extract the following passage:
"The commandant of the Post of Natchitoches shall not omit to employ every means to prevent the trade now going on with the Mexican provinces; and, whereas every officer who commands a post, ought not to be ignorant of anything that occurs within the limits of his jurisdiction, he shall bear the responsibility thereof in every respect. There is nothing which renders a government more respectable and beneficent than the prompt and equitable administration of justice. Therefore do I most particularly recommend the observance of this duty to every commandant, and any want of exactitude in the discharge of official functions I shall consider as a contempt of the authority of the Governor General of this province. Those in command have been clothed with power, only to make their subordinates p20happy, and to endear the government of the king to his subjects by its gentleness and benefits. This end will be accomplished by the impartial administration of justice, by a strict compliance with the orders of the Governor General, and by an enlightened exhibition of firmness and humanity on all occasions.
[. . .]
"It shall be made known to all the inhabitants that, by the laws of his Majesty, which shall go into operation in this province on the 1st of December, 1769, it is not permitted that Indians be held in slavery; wherefore, from the date of the notification of these presents, no one shall buy, exchange, and barter, or appropriate to himself Indian slaves. They shall neither sell, nor in any way part with, those they now have (unless it be to set them free), until they hear further from his Majesty on this subject. M. de Mézières shall make out an exact list of the Indian slaves who are within his jurisdiction. Said list shall contain the names of the owners, the price which they ask for every one of their Indian slaves, and the exact filiation of said slaves. This will obviate any future abuse on a subject which has so strongly excited the solicitude of our laws.
[. . .]
"I have remarked a considerable number of traders in the census of Natchitoches. These men can have no other object in view than an illicit trade. Therefore I charge M. de Mézières, most particularly, to cause to depart those named Ménars, Poeyfarré, Dartigo, Durand, Duvivier and Villars, of whom I know enough to desire that they be dismissed from that post, and be forced to remain in this capital (New Orleans), or be expelled altogether from the province.
[. . .]
M. de Mézières shall cause the inhabitants to make p21to their parochial church all the repairs which decency and the security of the edifice require. This is the first duty of every good Christian, and no one has the right nor the power to refuse his contribution thereto. M. de Mézières shall make known to every inhabitant the equity of this contribution, and shall have recourse to compulsory means, and when it shall be absolutely necessary, to enforce the fulfilment of so essential a duty."
It is impossible not to smile at the following passage:
"Having been informed by the curate of Natchitoches that, during divine worship, the church is filled with dogs, I request the commandant to prevent the repetition of this breach of decency."
He also gave a set of instructions to the commandants of the Coast — that is, all the petty governors at the different posts on the banks of the Mississippi.11 In the 16th Article, he said:
"The greatest vigilance shall be exercised to oppose the sojourning of men of bad morals in those posts, in order to prevent that any damage or scandal result thereby to the inhabitants; and should there be such men as above described, when the commandants shall fail to change their vicious behavior by admonitions and corrections, then it shall become the duty of said commandants to arrest them, and to send them to the Governor General, with an account of the causes of complaint laid against them."
The 19th Article said:
"The aforesaid commandants shall take special care, that the inhabitants carry on no trade with the English vessels which navigate the Mississippi, nor with any of the settlements situated on the territory of his Britannic Majesty, and that the king's subjects do not go out of the limits of this province, p22without a written permission from the Governor General. Those acting in violation of the provisions of this article shall be arrested by said commandants and sent to this town (New Orleans), in order that their case be submitted to the further consideration of the government, but the first proceeding shall be to sequestrate their property."
He caused to be framed for the commandant at Arkansas a series of instructions, which it is impossible to read without entertaining a high opinion of his administrative talents, justice and humanity. These instructions descend into the smallest details, and demonstrate that he was well aware, as all truly great minds are, of the importance of apparently unimportant minutiae.
In the 3d Article, he expressed himself as follows:
"It shall be the care of the commandant that every thing offered for sale at that Post (Arkansas), and which may be wanted for the sustenance and support of the soldiers, be sold cheap. There is nothing more indispensably necessary, in order that the soldiers be conscious that nothing is made out of them, and that their chief treats them with the strictest equity. When this is not the case, there never fail to be murmurs of discontent and a deficiency of subordination."
All the regulations which he established, to distribute the customary presents among the Indians, to secure an honest trade between them and the Europeans, and to guard them against deception and oppression, are equally creditable to his head and to his heart.
The 9th Article said:
"The commandant shall prevent, as much as may be in his power, that any damage be done to the English who navigate the Mississippi, and shall take care that there be no crossing over of the river, to inflict any injury on the subjects of his Britannic p23Majesty; and he shall have recourse to every means, to induce the Spanish Indians to live in peace with the English, and also with the other savage tribes."
Instructions were sent in command to the commandants at the posts of St. Louis and St. Geneviève, as well as to others established on the Missouri and in the Illinois district. The population of St. Louis consisted then of 17 males and 16 females (free), of 12 males and 6 females (slaves); that of St. Geneviève happened to be exactly the same.
The instructions began with this preamble, full of dignity and commendable sentiments:
"The great distance between this capital and the Illinois requires proportionate discretion and prudence in the commandant of that remote district. There are three important objects recommended to his special vigilance and attention. Those are: that the domination and government of his Majesty be loved and respected; that justice be administered with promptitude and impartiality and in conformity to law; and that commerce be protected and extended as much as possible. In order to secure ends of such moment, it is necessary that the officer in command should make known, in the most manifest manner, the king's desire to promote and protect the felicity of his subjects, and should also promulgate the express orders which he, the officer in command, has received to discriminate between the good and the wicked, to favor the former in every thing licit, and to prosecute all those who, through bad faith, deceive and ruin their creditors, and who, by their flagitious deportment, disturb public tranquillity."
Articles 3 and 4 show O'Reilly to be a man of high honor and of strict fidelity, in observing the faith of treaties, and in respecting acquired rights.
Article 3 said:
"Should any subject of his Catholic p24Majesty commit any excess or trespass in the territory of the English, or offer any insult to those of that nation who navigate the Mississippi, the commandant shall do prompt justice, and shall give full and immediate reparation, on the just complaints of the English officer, but without failing to observe the formalities prescribed by law."
"The officer in command shall, as much as in his power may be, prevent the Indians who dwell on the king's territory, from inflicting any vexation or extortion on the English who navigate the Mississippi, and from crossing that river to give any offence to the subjects of his Britannic Majesty, and, in every respect, he shall predispose the Indians to be peaceful and humane towards the English and the other nations of savages, and, to that effect, he shall tell them that the principles of our religion and the fidelity of our friendship never permit us to tolerate, that any injury be done to such as are our friends and allies like the English."
It is to be remarked, that O'Reilly prescribed that system of monopolies which the French had adopted in their commercial intercourse with the Indians. Article 7 of the document to which I have referred shows it, and is also a striking proof of the solicitude of the Spanish governor to secure the welfare of the aborigines.
"No trader," it said, "shall be permitted to introduce himself in the villages of the Indians who dwell on the territory of his Majesty, unless the commandant is satisfied with his morals and the correctness of his deportment; but said commandant shall not be at liberty to refuse a permit or license to any one who may be known to be an honest man, and, under no pretext, shall he tolerate, authorize, or grant any exclusive privilege or monopoly. He shall uniformly recommend to all the traders, to make known to the Indians p25the gentleness and equity of our government, and the felicity which it thereby imparts to the subjects of his Majesty."
In Article 9, he went on saying:
"The commandant shall acquaint the Indians with the greatness, the magnanimity and the generosity of the king, and shall inform them that they may expect, every year, to receive the usual presents; that his Majesty desires their happiness, and that they must never yield obedience, nor give credence, to any other word than that of the Great Chief, governor general of the province, communicated to them through the officer who shall have been put in command of the post; and he, the said commandant, shall exhort them (with promises of fair rewards), to arrest12 and deliver up whatever trader or fugitive who, in furtherance of wicked ends and intentions, may endeavor to inspire them with feelings of distrust towards their true father, and towards that nation which deserves, among all others, the renown of being a magnanimous, pious and justice-loving nation, and, in support of the truth of this declaration, he shall communicate to them the order of the king which prohibits that, in his dominions, there be made Indian slaves, even out of the captives of hostile tribes."
"The commandant shall take care, that all the Indians who may come to St. Louis and St. Geneviève be well treated, and be paid an equitable price for the hides they may bring to market, and for whatever other things they may have for sale, and that, in the barters or purchases they may make, they be served with good faith. p26In this way, they will derive more benefit from their trade with us; they will provide themselves with what their wants require, without its being at the expense of the king; and the English will not reap all the profits of a commerce which ought to be in our hands. The advantages of treating the Indians with equity and benevolence have been made apparent in this town, where, since my arrival, on the occasion of the distribution of the annual presents to them, the chiefs of every nation came to compliment me; and now a number of Indians are daily seen here, with their canoes loaded with provisions, hides, and other things, which they offer at public sale for their just value; and then, they themselves buy in the shops what they want, and return home perfectly contented."
These articles of O'Reilly's instructions show that the Spaniards were not disposed to pursue in Louisiana, towards the Indians, the cruel policy which was attributed to them in their other American domains. The rest of O'Reilly's instructions, on all the subjects which they embrace, are marked with foresight, prudence, liberality, and firmness. They conclude with saying:
"The commandants shall have for invariable rules: to keep up the strictest order and economy in all that appertains to the royal treasury, to cultivate the best harmony with the English, to maintain tranquillity and contentment among the inhabitants, to provide for the increase of commerce and its being carried on in good faith, and to take care that the Indians be well treated."
Immediately after his arrival in Louisiana, O'Reilly had taken an enlightened view of the wants of the colony, as appears by a communication of the 17th of October, 1769, which he addressed to the Spanish government, and in which he represents the necessity of favoring commerce, because, without it, the colony could not subsist:
"This province," he said, "wants flour, wine, oil, iron instruments, p27arms, ammunition, and every sort of manufactured goods for clothing and other domestic purposes. These can only be obtained three the exportation of its productions, which consist of timber, indigo, cotton, furs, and a small quantity of corn and rice. In Spain there would be no market for the timber of the colonists, which is one of the most important sources of their revenues. Of all our colonies, the Havana is the only place where this kind of produce could be disposed of. According to my conceptions, the importation of it into that city would be advantageous both to the king and to the island of Cuba. To the king, because he would preserve for the use of his royal navy the cedars which are now employed to make sugar boxes, and because, with the Cuba timber, he could have the lining of his ships and many other works done at a much cheaper rate; to the island, because its inhabitants could cause their sugar boxes and the other works required by them, to be made in Havana at less cost with the Louisiana planks.
"By granting to this province, as formerly to Florida, the benefit of a free trade with Spain and with Havana, its inhabitants would find in that very city of Havana a market for all their produce, and would provide themselves there with all the articles of which they stand in need. The establishing of sugar mills would be increased, by thus affording to the planters of Cuba an outlet for all the rum manufactured by them, and which is lost for want of consumers. The consumption of this article would be considerable here, and every barrel of it would put two dollars into the king's treasury, through the export duty paid in Havana. But, for the better regulation of this trade, and to make it reciprocally advantageous, it seems to me proper and necessary, that the timber, furs, indigo, cotton, corn and rice of this province should pay no entry duty in Havana, and that no other p28new excise or export tax be imposed on any of the articles which may be exported from Havana to New Orleans.
"It would also be proper, that the vessels belonging to this colony be received in Havana and the ports of Spain on the same condition and footing with Spanish vessels, but with the understanding that no vessels, except they be Spanish, or belong to the colony, shall be admitted in this port, or employed in transporting goods, and that this be recommended to the special care of my successors.
"From Catalonia there would come ships with red wine; here they would take a cargo of timber and other articles for Havana, and they would load with sugar.
"I found the English in complete possession of the commerce of the colony. They had in this town their merchants and traders with open stores and shops, and I can safely assert that they pocketed nine tenths of the money spent here. The commerce of France used to receive the productions of the colony in payment of the articles imported into it from the mother country; but the English, selling their goods much cheaper, had the gathering of all the money. I drove off all the English traders and the other individuals of that nation whom I found in this town, and I shall admit here none of their vessels."
In a despatch of the 1st of March, 1770, O'Reilly took credit to himself for having reduced the annual expenses of the colony, from $250,000 to $130,000, by the economical retrenchments which he had introduced into the administration of the province, and applied to the salaries of its officers; and he informed the government, that the religious wants of the colony would require the permanent employment of eighteen priests. In the same despatch, he said:
"I visited and examined in person the most p29populous parts of this province, by proceeding from this capital to Pointe Coupée, which is •one hundred and fifty miles up the river, and I took care, as I progressed along, to convene the inhabitants in every district, at the most convenient place for them, where I listened to their grievances and provided a remedy thereto, by referring them to the arbitration of their best informed neighbors, without having recourse to the judicial tribunals, and, in this way, I gave those people a very favorable opinion of the government of his majesty, and I succeeded in obtaining that the arbitrators named by the respective parties be acceptable to them, on account of their being chosen among the men enjoying the best reputation; and by these means, I have procured that the new government be grateful to the inhabitants.
"I thought it my duty to acquiesce in the prayer of the inhabitants in almost every district, that a surveyor be appointed to measure out the lands and determine their limits, but I reduced the salary of that officer to half of what it was formerly, and I decreed that, for the future, it be paid out of the sale of the crops of the inhabitants, at the price fixed for their commodities at New Orleans.
"So far, the concessions of land in this province had been intrusted by his most Christian Majesty to the Governor and to the ordaining commissary, and the concurrence of both was necessary thereto; but I have thought it advisable, that, for the future, the Governor be the only one authorized by the King to make such concessions; and, for the apportionment of the lands belonging to the royal domain, I have appointed a council of twenty-four persons, known for their practical sense and information, and for their sound judgment."
O'Reilly, with striking liberality, and, no doubt, also from motives of sound policy, appointed almost none but Frenchmen to the command of the several posts, even the p30most distant, and, therefore, all the instructions which he gave them were originally drawn in French. They were afterwards translated into Spanish, and sent to the court of Madrid for its approbation.
In conformity with the orders of the king, a regiment was raised in the colony under the name of "Regiment of Louisiana," and Don J. Estecheria was appointed its Colonel. But this officer having not as yet arrived, Unzaga, who was to succeed O'Reilly as governor of the province, undertook to organize the regiment, and assumed its command provisionally. O'Reilly sent commissions to all those whom Ulloa had, in his despatches, represented as well affected towards Spain, and those commissions were eagerly accepted. There was no want of a keen desire to gird on the sword of command, under a government which granted so many privileges to the wearers of epaulets. The pay of the Spanish troops being greater than that formerly allowed to the French, a certain number of disbanded French soldiers, who had remained in the colony, were tempted to enlist, and the "regiment of Louisiana" was soon complete. It is an admitted fact, that the Creoles of those days were remarkable for their great size, for the stateliness of their bearing, for those peculiarly striking lineaments which constitute the nobility of the face, and for the elegant symmetry of their forms. O'Reilly is said to have been so much struck with this characteristic distinction in the Creole officers of the regiment of Louisiana, that he regretted his inability to take with him some of them to Spain and to Charles III, as a fair specimen of the new subjects acquired by his Catholic Majesty.
The arrival of the Spaniards in New Orleans had produced a considerable increase of population, and the provisions which they expected having been unaccountably delayed, the colony was threatened with famine. p31The price of flour ran up to twenty dollars a barrel; fortunately, there arrived from Baltimore a brig, with a cargo of flour belonging to one Olive Pollock, who tendered it to O'Reilly on the terms which that officer might himself determine. O'Reilly refused to avail himself of this liberal offer, insisted on Pollock's specifying his price, and finally agreed to take the whole load of flour at fifteen dollars the barrel. The Spanish governor was so well pleased with Pollock's behaviour on this occasion, that he told him he would report it to the king, and assured him that he, Pollock, during his lifetime, should enjoy, for all the merchandise which his brig could carry, a free trade with Louisiana. A very valuable privilege, forsooth, if it had been long enjoyed! But it is not in evidence that such was the case.
The new Cabildo was solemnly inaugurated, and began its sessions on the first day of December, 1769. It was composed of François Marie Reggio, Pierre François Olivier de Vezin, Charles Jean Baptiste Fleuriau, Antoine Bienvenu, Joseph Ducros, and Denis Braud. Jean Baptiste Garic, who had been clerk of the Superior Council, had bought the same office in the Cabildo. Reggio was alferez real, De Vezin principal provincial alcalde, Fleuriau alguazil mayor, or high sheriff, Ducros depositary general, and Bienvenu receiver of fines.
On the 1st of January, 1770, the Cabildo elected as ordinary alcaldes St. Denis and De La Chaise. One was a descendant of the celebrated St. Denis, whose name is so chivalrously connected with the history of Louisiana, and the other was the grandson of the royal commissary De La Chaise, who had come to the colony in 1723, and was a brother-in‑law to Villeré, whose tragical death had so recently taken place. These facts seem to prove, that the horror produced by the execution of Lafrénière and his companions was not so great as reported by tradition, p32and that the Spaniards did not think themselves so hated as they have been represented to be, since they intrusted so many important offices and the command of the most distant posts to almost none but Frenchmen. It cannot certainly be denied, that, on their part, it denoted at least, confidence and liberality.
Don Luis de Unzaga had been designated to succeed O'Reilly, who had been sent to Louisiana only for temporary purposes. As a preliminary step and a prelude to a transfer of his powers to that officer, O'Reilly immediately after the organization of the Cabildo, ceded to him the presidency of that body, in which he ceased to appear. About the middle of December, 1769, he had gone up the Mississippi, to visit the establishment at the German Coast, the Acadian Coast, Iberville, and Pointe Coupée. In all the parishes through which he passed, he convened the inhabitants, as he mentions in one of his despatches, which I have already cited, and invited them to make known their wishes and wants, promising to satisfy them to the utmost of his powers.
On his return to New Orleans, O'Reilly published a set of regulations concerning the concessions of vacant lands:
"Divers complaints and petitions," said he, "which have been addressed to us by the inhabitants of Opeloussas,º Attakapas, Natchitoches and other places of this province, joined to the knowledge we have acquired of the local concerns, culture, and means of the inhabitants, by the visit which we have lately paid to the German Coast, to Iberville and Pointe Coupée, with the examination we have made of the reports of the inhabitants assembled by our order in each district, having convinced us that the tranquillity of the said inhabitants and the progress of cultivation required a new regulation, which should fix the extent of the grants of land p33to be hereafter made, as well as determine the enclosures to be put up, the lands to be cleared, the roads and bridges to be kept in repair by the inhabitants, and specify what is the sort of damage done by cattle for which the proprietors shall be responsible — for these causes, having nothing in view but the public good and the happiness of every inhabitant — after having advised with persons well informed in these matters, we have regulated all these objects in the following articles."13
After having ordered, that, for the future, grants of land should not exceed a certain extent, and having entered into many minute regulations, he says:
Art. 12. — "All grants shall be made in the name of the king, by the Governor General of the province, who will, at the same time, appoint a surveyor to fix the bounds thereof, both in front and in depth, in presence of the ordinary judge of the district and of two adjoining settlers, who shall be present at the survey. The above mentioned four persons shall sign the proces-verbal which shall be made thereof, and the surveyor shall make three copies of the same; one of which shall be deposited in the office of the escribano of the government and Cabildo, another shall be delivered to the Governor General, and the third to the proprietor, to be annexed to the titles of his grant.
"In pursuance of the powers which the king, our Lord, (whom God preserve!) has been pleased to confide to us by his patent issued at Aranjuez, on the 16th of April, 1769, to establish in the military and in the police departments, in the administration of justice and in the colonial finances, such regulations as should be most conducive to his service and to the happiness of his p34subjects in Louisiana, under the reserve of his Majesty's approbation, we order and command the governor, judges, Cabildo, and all the inhabitants of this province, to conform punctually to all that is required by these regulations.
Given at New Orleans, the 18th of February, 1770."
It will be observed that O'Reilly, who had come to Louisiana as the delegate of royalty itself, and who was invested, as such, with unbounded powers of legislation, prescribed the manner in which all future concessions of land should be made by the governors of Louisiana, and determined with precision the extent of those concessions, which were not to exceed certain limits. Hence it follows, that it is questionable whether some of these immense grants of land which were made at a later period by the governors of Louisiana had the requisite validity, except it be shown that the limitations assigned by O'Reilly to his successors, in the name of the king, had been subsequently repealed or modified.
By an ordinance of the 22d of February, 1770, O'Reilly provided a revenue for the town of New Orleans. An annual tax of forty dollars was to be levied on every tavern, billiard table, and coffee house, and one of twenty dollars on every boarding house; a duty of one dollar was to be charged on every barrel of brandy brought to the town; and O'Reilly graciously accepted and sanctioned a proposition liberally made by the butchers, to pay an annual contribution of three hundred and seventy dollars into the coffers of the town, to meet municipal expenses. In making this offer, these butchers expressly declared, that they did not mean to justify thereby any alteration on their part, now and thereafter, in the price of meat — which alteration, they said, ought never to take place without extreme necessity. It was estimated that, p35with all these branches of revenue, the annual income of the town would amount to two thousand dollars.14
As the town was put to considerable expense, to keep up the levee which protected it against inundation, it was authorized to collect an anchorage duty of six dollars from every vessel of two hundred tons and upwards, and half that sum from smaller ones.
On both sides of the public square or Place d'armes, from Levee to Chartres and Condé streets, there was a large space of ground facing on St. Peter's and St. Anne's streets, with a front of •three hundred and thirty-six feet on both these streets, and •eighty-four feet in depth. O'Reilly granted to the town, in the name of the king, the whole of that space of ground, which was soon afterwards sold to Don Andres Almonaster on a perpetual yearly rent.15 It is still owned by his daughter, the baroness of Pontalba, who has lately covered it with buildings of an imposing aspect, by which she has considerably embellished the great commercial emporium to which she is indebted for her birth and wealth.
O'Reilly expressly prohibited the purchase of anything from persons navigating the Mississippi, or the lakes, without a passport or license.16 It was, however, permitted to sell fowls and other articles of provisions to boats and vessels, provided the fowls and provisions were delivered on the bank of the river, and payment received in ready coin.
Persons violating this prohibition were liable to a fine of one hundred dollars, and to the confiscation of the articles so purchased, one third of the whole being the reward of the informer.
p36 No change was effected in the ecclesiastical organization of the province. The old Superior of the capuchins, the reverend father Dagobert, remained in the undisturbed exercise of his pastoral functions, as curate of New Orleans, and in the administration of this southern part of the diocese of Quebec, of which the Canadian bishop had constituted him vicar general. The other capuchins were maintained in the curacies of their respective parishes.
It may be remembered that, in 1726, the Ursuline Nuns, by the agreement which they had made with the India Company, had bound themselves to take charge of the Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Displeased probably with this kind of service, the Nuns had, in the course of time, obtained from the Pope a bull releasing them, it seems, from their obligation, which had become merely nominal, being confined to the daily attendance of two nuns, during the visit of the king's physician.17 After having noted down his prescriptions, they withdrew, contenting themselves with the easy task of sending from their dispensary in the convent the medicines he had ordered. The Catholic king, to show his regard for this religious corporation, decided that two of the Nuns should be maintained at his own expense, for each of whom sixteen dollars was to be paid monthly to the convent out of his royal treasury.
Don Joseph de Loyola, who had come to Louisiana with Ulloa, in 1766, as intendant died in 1770, and his functions were discharged ad interim by Don Estevan Gayarre, the royal comptroller, or contador.
Don Cecilio Odoardo arriving with the commission of auditor of war and assessor of government, Jose de Urrustia and Felix del Rey, those two learned men in the law, who had been the advisers of O'Reilly, and who had p37been discharging the duties now imposed on Odoardo, departed for Havana.
Bobé Desclozeaux, who, on the death of Michel de la Rouvillière, in 1759, had acted as commissary general ad interim, remained in New Orleans by order of the king of France, with the consent of the king of Spain, to call in and redeem the paper money which had been emitted by the former colonial administration, and of which a very considerable quantity was still in circulation.
When Louisiana was ceded to Spain, there were pending in France several appeals from the judgments of the Superior Council. On the 6th of April, 1770, the king of France, through his council of state, declared that he could no longer take cognizance of said appeals, because, when parting with Louisiana, he had also parted with the first and most glorious of his rights, that of rendering justice in that province, wherefore he ordered that all the cases which might still be on the dockets of any of his courts, be transferred to the tribunals of Spain, by which they were to be decided.
O'Reilly thought it necessary, by a special proclamation, to re‑enact the Black Code which Louis XV had given to the province. This seems to confirm the opinion, that the French laws were considered by the Spanish government as virtually abrogated by the publication of the ordinance subjecting the colony to the laws of the Indies. A short time after, O'Reilly having completed the mission for which he had been clothed with extraordinary powers, and temporarily sent to Louisiana, delivered up the government of the province to Don Louis de Unzaga, and departed, on the 29th of October, 1770.
Judge Martin, in his History of Louisiana, says: "Charles III disapproved of O'Reilly's conduct, and he received on his landing at Cadiz, an order prohibiting p38his appearance at court." This assertion seems to rest only on the very fallible authority of tradition, and is certainly irreconcilable with official documents on record. Thus, on the 28th of January, 1771, the king of Spain sent to his Council of the Indies a communication, in which he informed them, that he submitted to their consideration all the acts of O'Reilly's administration in Louisiana, which he fully approved, but on which, nevertheless, he wished to have the opinion of his faithful council. The answer was: that the council, having carefully examined all the documents to which the king had called their attention, could discover in the acts of O'Reilly nothing which did not deserve the most decided approbation, and which was not a striking proof of the extraordinary genius of that general officer. Would such an encomium have been bestowed on him, if he had been even suspected of having excited the slightest royal displeasure? Not only all his acts, but also all his suggestions were sanctioned, with one solitary exception, which seems to give still more force to the sweeping commendation expressed, as to every thing else, by the king and his council. The exception is relative to the 6th article of section 5 on punishments, in which O'Reilly said: "The married woman convicted of adultery, and he who has committed the same with her, shall be delivered up to the husband, in order that he may do with them what he pleases, with this reserve, however, that he shall not put one of them to death, without inflicting the same punishment on the other." The council declared that this article, "The perusal of which had proved sufficiently disgusting to them, should be considered18 as of no effect, and as having never been written." p39This article, however, had not been devised by O'Reilly, but was borrowed from book 8 of the "Nueva Recopilacion de Castilla" (new digest of the laws of Castile). It is besides well known that O'Reilly remained high in favor at court, until the death of Charles III.
The motto on O'Reilly's coat of arms was "fortitudine et prudentiâ;" and he seems not to have been deficient in the possession of both these virtues. But there is hardly an instance, when blood shed in a political cause, whatever may have been the just and apparent necessity of it at the time, did not, sooner or later, rise from the earth, to cloud in the eye of the world the fame of the author or adviser of the deer. This has become an historical truth, and is confirmed by what O'Reilly's memory has suffered, in consequence of the execution of Lafrénière and his companions. He was not, however, the blood-thirsty tyrant that he was represented to be, and never, except on this occasion, in the whole course of a long public life, which was exposed to the scrutiny of those who hated him as a foreigner, and envied him as one of the king's favorites, did he ever give the slightest cause to accuse him of not having been always attentive to the dictates of humanity. His talents as a military man, and as an administrator when discharging the functions of a civil officer, cannot be the object of a doubt, and it must even be admitted that they were of a superior order.
When in Louisiana, he was no more than thirty-four or thirty-five years old. There he left a reputation of strict morality and military precision. Fond of pomp, and somewhat ostentatious in all his tastes, naturally gay, and animated with strong sociable dispositions, he, nevertheless, was not addicted to pleasure, and he devoted himself entirely to the business he had on hand. He was exceedingly prompt, exact and active, and he p40required the same qualifications in his subordinates. By a proper and systematic distribution of his time, to which he inflexibly adhered, he could get on, with astonishing ease and rapidity, through an immense deal of labor, and he left nothing to be done by others which he could do himself. He emphatically was a man of action, a lover of the camp, as his predecessor, Ulloa, was a man of study, a lover of meditation and scientific speculations. It was said that he endeavored, as far as possible, to see every thing with his own eyes, and, when he had to trust others, he never failed to descend into the minutest details of the duties which he expected them to fulfil. Not only was O'Reilly excessively urbane in his social and official intercourse, but distinguished also for the exquisite refinement of those courtly manners which have now almost ceased to be a reality, and the recollection of which will soon fade away into vague and dreamy traditions. But he was of an irritable temper, and liable to fits of haughtiness on the slightest appearance of what he supposed to be premeditated contradiction or opposition. Preserving all the vivacity, excitability, and sprightly wit of the Irish temperament, he was remarkably animated in conversation, and seemed to have a relish and a turn of mind for a good joke. He cultivated with sedulous attention the society of some families with which he seemed to be highly pleased, and which he always treated with deferential courtesy. Escorted by a few dragoons, his carriage was frequently seen driving at a rapid pace up the Coast, where he used, in his moments of leisure, to visit a family residing a few miles from the town, and in which he found himself in an atmosphere reminding him of that of the best European society. One day, when, according to his habit, he had provoked a keen encounter of wits with the lady of the manor, p41being stung by a sharp repartee, his hasty temper betrayed him, and he forgot himself so far as to say, with a tone of command: "Madam, do you forget who I am?" "No, sir," answered the lady, with a low bow, "but I have associated with those who were higher than you are, and who took care never to forget what was due to others; hence, they never found it necessary to put any one in mind of what they were." Nettled at this proud answer, Count O'Reilly departed instantly, but returned the next day with a good-humored smile, and an apology befitting a gentleman of his rank. Finally, he became a much valued friend, where at first he had merely been a guest, and, to complete the description of his character, it may be sufficient to add, that, whatever may have been some of his errors, he won esteem and affection wherever he was intimately known.
2 Martin's History of Louisiana.
4 Fuero means privilege — for instance, such as the fueros, or privileges granted (p4)to particular provinces, to corporations, to the military, or to the ecclesiastical body, &c., &c.
6 See art. Navarre, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. XV, p743.
7 No penalty was decreed against the ecclesiastic by the civil authorities, because he probably had the privilege of being tried only by the tribunals of his holy order.
8 See the Letter of the Marquis of Grimaldi to the Count of Fuentes, at the court of Versailles. Gayarré's Louisiana, 3d series of Lectures, p264, vol. II.
9 En la 3aº Fha, en Nueva Orleans, 17 de Oct. de 1769, dice: "Que le parece conveniente (p19)que dicha colonia se gobierna por las mismas leyes que los demas dominios de S. M. en America, y que en lo militar, judicial y economico depende de la isla de Cuba."
10 See the Records of the deliberations of the Council of the Indies on O'Reilly's acts in Louisiana, which are in manuscript in the office of the Secretary of State at Baton Rouge.
11 Tenientes particulares de la Costa.
12 Arrestar y traer preso á cualquier tratante ó prófugo que por sus malos fines esparciese entre ellos desconfianzas de su verdadero padre, ni de la nacion que merece, entre todas las del mundo, el renombre de magnanima, piadosa y justiciera, y, en prueba de elló, manifestará la orden del Rey, para que ni aun de las naciones enemigas se sufra en sus estados esclavo Indio.
14 Que con todos los expresados ramos podran ascender los proprios de la ciudad á 2000 pesos fuertes. — See the Records of the deliberations of the Council of the Indies on O'Reilly's acts in Louisiana.
15 Martin's History of Louisiana.
17 Martin's History of Louisiana.
18 Se considerase como suspenso y no escrito el art. 6, que dice: "La muger casada que adultere y el adultero sean entregados al marido para que haga de ellos lo que quiera, con tal que no pueda matar al uno sin matar al otro." El cual causó bastante repugnancia al tiempo de leerse.
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If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 7 Apr 10