These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Aubry's Reflections on the late Revolution — The Superior Council annuls his Protest against their Decree — Ulloa's Letter to Aubry — Circumstances of Ulloa's Departure — Memorial or Manifesto of the Colonists in their justification — The Council appoints a Committee of Inquiry in relation to the Accusations brought against Ulloa, and on which his Expulsion had been based — Depositions of the Witnesses — The Council's Letter to the Duke of Praslin — Their Representations to the King — Composition and Nature of the new Tribunal established by Ulloa — Foucault's Letter to the Duke of Praslin — Aubry's to the same — Ulloa's Arrival at Havana — His Letters to the Marquis of Grimaldi on the Revolution and the Situation of the Colony — Petition of the Colonists to the Council, praying for the Expulsion of the Spanish Frigate, the Volante — The Council's Decree on the Subject — Foucault's Despatches to the French Government — His Treachery — Aubry's Opinion of Ulloa and of the Conspirators — His Wishes and Views expressed to the French Government — The news of the Revolution reaches Spain — Deliberations of the Council of Ministers — Spain determines to retain Possession of Louisiana — Letter of the Marquis of Grimaldi on the Subject to the Count of Fuentes, Ambassador of Spain at the Court of Versailles — General O'Reilly is sent to Louisiana with full Powers to put down the Insurrection, and to try the Rebels — Doubts and Anxieties in the Colony — Beginning of a Reaction against the Chiefs of the Revolution.
On the 30th of October, 1768, Aubry sent to one of the ministers in France a detailed statement of all that had occurred, and said of the Superior Council: "Seeing that I could not oppose what they had resolved upon, and that their minds were made up, I protested against their decree which orders the expulsion, within three days, of him whom his Catholic Majesty had sent to take possession of the colony. I look upon this action as one of the greatest outrages that could be committed. If a dozen individuals, who had contributed not a p211 little to set all on fire, had been spared the country, that event would not have happened. It is my duty to inform your excellency that, although it is the universal wish of the colonists to remain French, and although they protest their fidelity to the King of France, yet every thing is topsy turvy. It is desired that I remain governor, and Mr. Foucault intendant. But violence is the order of the day. Much apparent respect is shown to me, but I am not obeyed. Having no troops at my disposal to enforce my authority, it is reduced to a mere shadow, and my person and the dignity of my office are both degraded."
This despatch was intrusted to De Lapeyrière, a Knight of St. Louis, whom Aubry sent to France, to give all the information that might be wanted in relation to the late revolution. The insurgents lost no time in selecting their delegates to carry their representations to the foot of the throne. Lesassier was appointed by the Superior Council, Bienville, a Lieutenant in the navy, by the planters, and Milhet by the merchants. Bienville having refused, on the ground that his military commission was incompatible with the mandate for which he had been chosen, St. Lette was put in his place.
With regard to Ulloa, he was preparing to leave the country within the time which had been allotted to him, and he wrote to Aubry, to authorize him to withdraw the Spanish troops from the posts which they occupied, and to send them to Havana. "He has even been so generous," said Aubry, "as to order the Spanish commissary to continue to pay the French troops and their officers."
On the 31st of October, the Council met again, and annulled in the following terms Aubry's protest:
"Having taken into consideration the protest made by Mr. Aubry, Knight of the royal and military order of St. Louis, governor of this province for his Most Christian Majesty, in relation to the decree of court delivered on the 29th of the present month against Mr. Ulloa, commissioner of his Catholic Majesty; and this protest being read whilst the audience was holding, and the King's attorney-general being heard thereupon, and the matter thoroughly debated, the Council, without condemning the motives which have caused Mr. Aubry to protest against the decree of the 29th of the present month, has declared and declares the said protest null and void, and orders that the said decree shall have its full force and entire effect, and shall be executed according to its form and tenor.
"Deliberated upon and registered at the Council Chamber, October 31, 1768."
On that day Ulloa wrote to Aubry: "No reproaches can be addressed to me; for, if I had forts constructed, or gave any other commands, it was with your advice and consent, and with the approbation of the King, my master, to whom the colony belongs; and your excellency being the Governor-general of said colony, to whom was directed the edict of his Most Christian Majesty declaring the cession, the Superior Council, which is nothing but a civil tribunal, has nothing to do with it."
In the evening, Ulloa embarked with all his family in a French vessel which he had chartered, because he could not, as was alleged, depart in the Spanish frigate, which needed repairs. On the 1st of November, at the dawning of light, a numerous band of colonists, who had spent the preceding night at a wedding, and who were probably laboring under the ordinary effects of a p213 festivity of this kind, appeared on the bank of the river, where the French vessel was moored, and indulged in the singing of patriotic songs and in the uttering of shouts of exultation. One of them, named Petit, cut the ropes which made fast the vessel, and the joyous band had the satisfaction of seeing her go down the stream. But she stopped at a short distance, and did not sail before the afternoon, in presence of the sergeants and bailiffs of the Council, who reported thereupon to that body. Marquis had ordered fifty men of the militia on board of a boat, to accompany, as far as the mouth of the river, the vessel which was to carry away Ulloa, and had instructed them to garrison the fort at the Balize, with the view to oppose any Spanish force that might come. These men had already embarked, when Aubry commanded them to desist from their enterprise and to land, under pain of being fired at. "On that occasion," said he, in one of his despatches, "I was obeyed for the first time."
After the expulsion of Ulloa, the planters and merchants of Louisiana put forth a memorial or manifesto in justification of the revolution of the 28th of October, which was published by Braud, the King's printer,a with the authorization of Foucault, the intendant commissary. It repeats all that had been said by Lafrénière in his address to the Council, and although containing further allegations and being more developed in its arguments, it seems to have been written by him, and certainly bears the stamp of his style. It begins with expressing the deep regrets of the colonists at being threatened with the loss of so beneficent a master as Louis XV, who is for his subjects the image of God on earth, and an incomparable monarch — the most august of sovereigns, under whose cherished sway it is the wish of the colonists p214 to live and die, and they tender the remnants of their broken fortunes, their blood, their children and their families, to remain under the paternal rule of Louis the well-beloved. They also bestow exaggerated praise on the prime minister, Duke of Choiseul, and seem to forget, or not to be aware, that he was the very man who had transferred them to Spain.
Among the other heads of accusation which they bring against Ulloa, they complain of his having granted to five or six persons the exclusive privilege of trading with the Illinois district, and they also refer to the restrictions on commerce imposed by the famous decree of the 6th of September, 1766. They accuse him of the violation of fair promises made on his arrival, of an antipathy to humanity, and of a natural disposition to do evil deeds. In support of which, they mention his closing all the passes of the Mississippi, except one, which he chose precisely because it was the most shallow, the most difficult, and the most perilous; his ordering the pilots not to pass the night on board of any vessel coming to, or going out of the Mississippi, and his causing thereby many accidents and great damages; the sending of honest and respectable citizens to the mines, and other acts of vexation and tyranny; the sequestration of goods; the establishment of a new tribunal, in violation of the rights and jurisdiction appertaining to the Superior Council; his interfering with the importation of negroes; his ordering a brick-yard to be abandoned, on the ground that it was too close to the fortifications of the town, and because the holes which the negroes dug, to supply the kiln with earth, became full of putrid water, which, he said, corrupted the air, notwithstanding the assertions of physicians to the contrary; his treatment of the Acadians, whom he threatened p215 to sell as slaves; his negotiating with an Englishman the setting at liberty of four Germans detained on board the Spanish frigate, in consideration of the payment of fifteen dollars per head; his haughtiness, his love of money, his sordid avarice; his contempt for the ecclesiastical laws of the colony, his absence from the French churches, and his having Mass said in his own house. They allege that he had the sacrament of marriage administered under his own roof by his chaplain, to a white man and a black female slave, without the permission of the curate, without the requisite previous publications, without any of the forms or solemnities established by the church, in contempt of the decrees of the Council of Trent, and against the precise directions of the civil and canon laws which governed the colony.
"Is there anything reprehensible," they said, "in the step to which we have been driven by Mr. de Ulloa's conduct, and by the vexations to which it led? What harm have we done in shaking off a foreign yoke, which was made still more heavy and crushing by the hand which imposed it? What offence have we committed in claiming back our laws, our country, our sovereign, and in consecrating to him our everlasting love? Are such laudable attempts without an example in our history? Have not more than one city in France, such as Cahors and Montauban, and even whole provinces, such as the Guerci,º the Rouergue, and Gascony, repeatedly broken with patriotic rage the English yoke, or refused to be fettered by foreign chains? Solemn compacts, treaties of cession, and even positive orders from our kings often attempted in vain to accomplish what British arms could not achieve, although smiled upon by victory; and that noble resistance to the decrees of our natural p216 born sovereigns, far from kindling their wrath, stirred up the fountain of their paternal attachment, forced them into helping their loving subjects, and thus wrought out their deliverance."
After having given the reasons why the colony of Louisiana could not be of any advantage to Spain, they proceeded to enumerate those which ought to induce France to retain a possession that was calculated to indemnify her for the loss of Canada.
"The remaining of this colony in the hands of France," so they argued, "is a better security and guaranty for the provinces of Spain bordering on Louisiana, than the cession made to that crown. The unfavorable impressions already conceived by the Indians against the Spanish nation, and which have prompted them, not only to insults, but also to threaten with great violence the Spanish Captain Rici, who commands at the Illinois, would, in case of war, enlist them in the ranks of any power hostile to Spain. On the contrary, the Indian tribes always side with the French soldiers, without inquiring who their enemy is. This is the true bulwark for Spain. Since she cannot find any advantage in the acquisition of this immense possession, and since it is beyond doubt that, from our limited commerce with her, we could not expect any thing beyond the bare support of our existence, why should the two sovereigns agree to make us miserable, for the sole pleasure of doing it? Such sentiments do not enter the hearts of kings, and it would be a crime to entertain any such supposition. [. . .]
"Scrupulous observers of the respect due to crowned heads, and of the mutual considerations of amity which civilized nations ought to cherish, we should feel deeply grieved, if we had lost sight of them in what we have p217 done. There is nothing offensive for the Court of Madrid in the exposition of our wants and in the assurances of our attachment, which we lay at the feet of our august Sovereign. We dare hope that these demonstrations of our zeal will contribute to show to all the nations of the earth, how true is the appellation of well beloved, which the whole world gives to him, and which no other monarch ever did possess. Perhaps, even in Madrid it will be said: Happy the prince, our ally, who finds the inviolable attachment of his subjects to his domination and to his glorious person, an obstacle to his treaty of cession!
"We are aware that the commissioner of Spain took before his departure, and still continues to gather, through his emissaries, certificates from certain individuals residing among us, who are his mercenary clients, seduced by brilliant promises, and who are looking out for proselytes, by persuading the ignorant and frightening the weak. But whatever may be the contents of those certificates, which are not very authentic, they never can deny what is of public notoriety and contradict the voice of the people. [. . .]
"It is to his beneficent Majesty that we, the planters, merchants and colonists of Louisiana, address our most humble prayers, that he may immediately resume possession of the colony; and being resolved to live and die under his dear domination, as well as determined to do all that may be required for the success of his arms, the extension of his power, and the glory of his reign, we supplicate him to deign to preserve to us our patriotic name of Frenchmen, our laws and our privileges."
The whole of this long document is interesting, as representing the manners, the sentiments, the passions, p218 feelings and talents of the time, but it is a confused mixture of truths and errors, and is written in very defective style. It must be remarked in connection with it, that, with regard to the monopoly of trade granted by Ulloa in the Illinois district, it had been already established by D'Abbadie in 1764, and that such grants had been so frequent since the foundation of the colony, that its inhabitants must have been accustomed to the system, and that it could not be anticipated that they would resent so acutely its continuation, wrong as it certainly was. As to the hyperbolical expressions of inviolable attachment and unshakable devotion for the glorious person of Louis XV, of Louis the well-beloved, it may be permitted to wonder at the foundations on which rested such sentiments. Such was not the judgment of France herself on this degraded prince, who, without a feeling of remorse or shame in his royal breast, had allowed her to be stript of her magnificent colonies, which extended without interruption from the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the St. Lawrence, and who, instead of using her treasures in carrying on a glorious war, and in defending her immense American domains, lavished them away among vile flatterers, flung them in the lap of ignoble courtezans, and wasted his long and worthless life amidst the orgies of a corrupt court and the impurities of that famous seat of debauchery, called the Parc aux cerfs and imagined for his special benefit, without caring probably, and perhaps without knowing, in what part of America Louisiana was situated, and certainly without conceiving that beyond the Atlantic there were men who regretted his domination.
The Superior Council had begun with decreeing at once the expulsion of Ulloa, and six days after his departure, p219 they ordered an inquest in relation to the misdeeds of which this officer was accused. It seems that this should have been the first thing to be done. A committee of inquiry was appointed, composed of Huchet de Kernion and Piot de Launay. The witnesses, heard, corroborated some of the assertions made by Lafrénière in his address to the Superior Council, and those that were set forth in the memorial of the planters and merchants in justification of the revolution of the 28th of October, and, in addition, they certified to these other facts: That Ulloa had caused several children afflicted with leprosy to be seized, and, notwithstanding the supplications of their parents, had the cruelty to send them to the Balize where none of their wants were supplied; that he had forbidden slaves to be whipped in New Orleans, in order to please his wife, whose humanity was shocked by their cries, so that the inhabitants, much to their prejudice, were obliged to go •six miles out of the town to have their slaves punished; that for his own personal convenience, he had encroached on a street, which he had reduced to a width of •sixteen feet, and that he had thought proper to block up one of the gates of the town, still for his own personal gratification.
Among other curious depositions, is that of the reverend Father Dagobert, vicar-general and curate. He swears that the only causes of reproach he has against Ulloa are the following: that he, Ulloa, had caused the sacrament of marriage to be administered in his own house by his chaplain, without the previously required publications, and without the usual formalities; and that he, Father Dagobert, has been assured that the persons thus married were a white man and a black woman. The witness declares that the marriage took p220 place without his consent. He adds, that Ulloa had assumed the right of having a chapel in his own house, that he had mass said in it for eighteen months by the chaplain of the frigate; and furthermore, that there was no decent place for the establishment of said chapel in said house. The deponent affirms that the Señora de Larredo, Marchioness of Abrado, having arrived from Peru at the Balize, where Ulloa had gone to await her, the said Ulloa had carried her up in triumph to New Orleans, pretending to have married her at the Balize, where the nuptial benediction had been administered to them by the chaplain of the frigate, but without the permission of the deponent, and without the required publications, said chaplain having, besides, never been authorized to celebrate marriages in the province. Father Dagobert concludes saying, that this marriage has caused much scandal in the town, has alarmed timorous and scrupulous consciences, and that it is believed to be clandestine, on account of the want of compliance with the civil and canon forms and laws.
On the 22d of November, the Superior Council addressed to the Duke of Praslin a letter, in which they begged him to support the representations they sent to be laid at the foot of the throne. In this letter, they recapitulated all the grievances of the colonists against Ulloa, dwelling on the tyranny, eccentricity, and inflexible temper of that officer, and the excessive indecency of his deportment. They said: "The court could not without a violation of its oath to support the laws, and without being recreant to the most essential obligations imposed by religion and humanity, refuse to a whole colony, groaning under its miseries, the justice which it claimed with so much earnestness against the oppression of that officer. In fulfilling its duty in that respect, the p221 Council certainly prevented the commission of a striking act of despair, which would have tarnished the lustre of the French name. Under the influence of these motives, the Court rendered against that officer a decree, of which a copy is forwarded to your Excellency." To this letter was annexed the document containing the representations which were to be laid before the King, in the name of the Council.
In those representations the Council made the most seductive description of the prosperity of the colony at the time of the cession, a description which it is impossible to look upon as corresponding with facts. But with Ulloa, as they affirmed, came the most disastrous change in the situation of the province. "He arrived at the Balize," they said, "on the 22d of February, 1766; a tragical event deprived him of eleven of his sailors. Rain, thunder and a storm introduced him to the inhabitants of New Orleans, on the 5th of March, at noon." After mentioning these bad omens, they recapitulated the grievances which have already been stated, and made to them some additions, for instance: That Ulloa maintained that he was the king of the colony; that he treated with utmost contempt the Superior Council, whose powers he wished to destroy, and violated all those rights which had been secured by the treaty of cession and the King's letter to D'Abbadie; and that he carried the infraction of the most sacred privileges so far as to create a new council, which had, among other powers, exclusive jurisdiction over all questions connected with the regulations or decrees on exportation, importation and other commercial matters. The sentences rendered by that tribunal were annexed to the petition, in order that the King might judge of their illegality. The Superior Council further alleged that p222 three Acadian families, having arrived in the colony at their own expense, asked Ulloa for leave to buy land in the vicinity of their relations and friends in the upper part of the Mississippi river; but that Ulloa, irritated by the cries of their children, by the critical state of a woman who was on the eve of becoming a mother, and by the representations of the men, forbade their remaining in the colony, and had them put on board of an English ship sailing for New England; and that he declared his intention to sell as slaves other Acadians, who had dared to make some humble representations to him; that the subjects of France were threatened with slavery, whilst negroes were raised by degrees to the dignity of freemen; that he hastened to show his antipathy to the population of the colony by sending to Havana for a nurse for his child, in order that it might not suck one drop of French blood. "What pernicious principles are these!" they exclaimed. "What barbarous dispositions!"
They further represented that, through the misdeeds of Ulloa, the colony had been thrown into such a state of destitution, that half of it was reduced to live on rice and corn; and that, without the wise precautions of Foucault, who had a certain quantity of these articles of food brought down to New Orleans, fathers and mothers would have had, even in the capital, nothing to offer but tears to the plaintive cries of their famished children; that the people became persuaded that Ulloa rejoiced at the success of his attempts to starve them, and that he was determined to reduce the subjects of France to have no other food than the tortilla;1 that a general feeling of despair pervaded the colony; that all the colonists, deprived of their ordinary aliments, were condemned p223 to fatten vampires with their life blood, and that, by a malicious and restrictive legislation, they were prevented from acquiring the means of paying their old debts. The Superior Council then proceeded to relate the events which preceded the revolution, those of the revolution itself, and what had followed. They concluded with supplicating the King to retake possession of the colony, and annul the treaty of cession.
"Your Majesty," they said, "will find in all the citizens brave soldiers, who offer to shed their blood and sacrifice their fortunes to protect the Mexican provinces of Spain and to support your allies, provided they belong only to you, Sire, their most honored Lord and King, Louis the well-beloved. O great King, the best of kings, father and protector of your subjects, deign, Sire, to receive into your royal and paternal bosom your devoted children, who have no other desire than that of dying your subjects. It is the wish of this colony. Your Superior Council has thought it their duty to convey the expression of it to Your Majesty. Deign, Sire, to ward off from your subjects new misfortunes. Their hearts are lacerated, and bleeding from the wounds inflicted by tyranny and despotism. The benefits conferred by the best of kings can alone, Sire, make your people happy. Those who are accustomed to the blessings of a government which is envied by all the other nations, will never be able to subject themselves to the system of exclusiveness and to the despotism which prevail in all the Spanish possessions. Men are born under laws which become gradually familiar and dear to them, in proportion as from childhood they grown into manhood, when their attachment to them can no longer be destroyed. Men who have reached the meridian of life cannot, of their own free will, remold their character, p224 their heart, their honest and time-honored habits. It can only be accomplished by force. What a modification of their existence does it require! What a struggle, Sire, for citizens who are born the subjects of such a King as Louis the well-beloved! Deign again, Sire, listen with favor to the general wish of the colony, and to the most humble representations of your Superior Council."
This address to the King is in a tone of exaggeration which must have weakened the effect it was intended to have. It was not in the temperate language which characterizes truth; but it seemed rather to have been written under the influence of the deepest feelings of anger and hatred. None can believe that it was the intention of Ulloa to deprive the subjects of his Catholic Majesty of their ordinary articles of food, and to reduce them to live on nothing but the tortilla. It was natural to infer that those who could hold it as a heinous crime in Ulloa, to have given a Spanish nurse to his child, were too prejudiced or too irritated to see things in their true light, and to make a fair report on what had occurred. There were good grounds for suspecting them of swerving from the truth, perhaps involuntarily and unconsciously, in their allegations. The fact is, that there might have been some just reproaches to be addressed to Ulloa, but that his faults were far from being as serious as they were represented to be.
With regard to the new tribunal established by Ulloa, and which was the cause of so many bitter complaints, as usurping the power of the Superior Council, it was composed of three Spaniards: Loyola, the commissary of war; Don Estevan Antonio Gayarre, the contador or royal comptroller; Don Jose Melchiorº d'Acosta, the commander of his Catholic Majesty's frigate, and four Frenchmen: Reggio, a retired captain of infantry; Olivier p225 de Vezin, chief surveyor of the colony; De La Chaise, an honorary member of the Superior Council, and Dreux, a captain of militia. It held its sittings in the house of Destréhan, the ex‑French treasurer of the colony.
With the Superior Council's address to the King, there went at the same time a letter from Foucault to the Duke of Praslin, in which he justified as well as he could, but in very guarded language, the revolution that had taken place, and in which he said of Ulloa: "Without taking possession of the colony, and even without exhibiting his credentials, he arrogated all powers to himself. He was very harsh and absolute, of extremely difficult access, and refusing to listen to every representation. He showed without the least hesitation or equivocation an implacable hatred for the French nation, and marked every day that he passed here with acts of inhumanity and despotism." He then goes into the details of all his exertions to prevent the expulsion of Ulloa and declares that it originated in the many causes of irritation and provocation which the people had; he says that he harangued them several times to induce them to remain quiet, and affirms, in direct contradiction of Aubry's declarations in one of his despatches, that, on the breaking out of the insurrection, he joined his efforts to Aubry's in order to tranquillize the public mind. He concludes with saying that all the colonists hope to resume the privileges and name of Frenchmen, and that, rather than lose these precious advantages, they would quit the colony with their negroes, chattels, goods and all the other property susceptible of being carried away, leaving nothing but a desert to the Spaniards.
Three days later, on the 25th of November, Aubry wrote to the same minister:
"I beg you, my Lord, to deign to cast your eye on a letter which I had the honor p226 to write to you, on the 30th of March, 1767. You will see in three different passages, that I foresaw the unfortunate event which has occurred. I had informed you that Mr. de Ulloa was not the proper person to govern this colony, notwithstanding his vast intellect, his talents, his learning, his great reputation in all the academies of Europe, and although he is full of honor, of probity and of zeal for the service of his sovereign. He does not possess the necessary qualifications to command Frenchmen. Instead of endeavoring to gain the hearts of the people (which is absolutely necessary in a change of government), he has done all that could tend to alienate them. He seemed to despise the first men of the colony, and particularly the members of the Superior Council. By his indiscreet expressions, and by threats which foreshadowed the forthcoming of a frightful despotism, he caused the Spanish domination to be dreaded, and gave rise to the supposition that he did not like our nation. He has alarmed everybody, and, by a deportment as unbecoming as it was surprising in a man of so distinguished a mind, he has not a little contributed to draw down upon himself and his nation the storm which has swept him away.
"In another letter of the 4th of April, 1768, I had the honor to inform you of the deplorable state and of the frightful misery to which this colony is reduced. The uncertainty about the ultimate fate of the French paper currency, the prolonged delays in the payment of the debts of his Catholic Majesty, who has assumed the expenses of the colony, the scarcity of specie, the insolvability of three-fourths of the debtors, a diminution in the value of lands and negroes and of every kind of property, amounting to a loss of two-thirds, the regret of passing under a foreign domination which inspires the people p227 with the apprehension of their being unhappy, the Governor's want of capacity to conciliate the affection and esteem of the inhabitants, the news of a decree rendered by his Catholic Majesty which deprives the colony of its commerce with the Islands and with France — all these motives united, and made still more powerful by the effects of the extreme destitution which has prevailed here for so long a time, and which increases daily, have at last goaded the people into desperation, and produced this fatal revolution, which would not have happened, had I had at hand only a body of three hundred men. [. . .]
"It would perhaps be dangerous, at this moment, to impress the culprits with too deep a sense of their offence and of the rigorous punishments to which they expose themselves. The vicinity of the English settlements requires that we should proceed with great caution. Otherwise, it is to be apprehended that despair might drive the insurgents into something still worse.
"I remain at the head of a colony which has been set topsy turvy by the late revolution, and in the midst of a people who, after looking upon themselves as Spaniards during three years, now detest that nation, and wish not to lose the character of French subjects. With the exception of the officers, whose conduct I cannot but commend, of a handful of old soldiers who have remained faithful, and of a small number of honest people who support me, the rest of the colonists, from the first to the last, wish to preserve the name, character and privileges of Frenchmen."
In another despatch of the same date, Aubry informed the French government that the English had evacuated, in September, the posts of Natchez and Iberville, in conformity p228 with the orders of General Gage, and that they had established their headquarters at St. Augustin, leaving only fifty men at Pensacola and twenty-five at Mobile. Aubry inferred that the object of the English was to concentrate their forces, in consequence of a certain agitation in New England, where had been cast the seeds of that revolution which was to break forth in 1776. "I was waiting only," said he, "for the arrival of the Spanish troops, to deliver up the colony, and to return to France to render an account of my conduct, when a general rebellion of the inhabitants of this province against the Spanish Governor and his nation, which it was not in my power to oppose, and which occurred on the 28th and 29th of October, destroyed in a moment the work of four years, and all the dispositions which I had taken on behalf of the crown of Spain. An audacious petition, insulting to the Spanish nation, rebellious against the King of France, whose orders it set at naught, and signed by six hundred planters and other inhabitants was presented to demand Ulloa's expulsion," etc., etc. — Such being the light under which a French Governor considered this act of the colonists, it is not astonishing that the Spaniards should have looked upon it as a most heinous offence, and should have punished it accordingly.
Thus was the revolution accomplished. A population, which hardly numbered eighteen hundred men able to carry arms, and which had in its bosom several thousands of black slaves, whom it was necessary to intimidate into subjection, had rebelled against the will of France, had flung the gauntlet at the Spanish monarchy, and was bearding a powerful nation, whose distinguished trait of character did not consist in the forgiveness of injuries, particularly when her pride was wounded. With regard p229 to France, it was evident that it was vain to rely on her support, since it was the consciousness of her weakness which had compelled her to give up that colony, and to offer it to the King of Spain, who did not care to have it. Besides, should France have been disposed to assist the colonists, how could she withdraw the donation she had pressed upon Spain, without indemnifying her for her expenses in the colony, and without punishing the authors of an outrage to which she had exposed an ally, whose sole object, in accepting the donation of Louisiana, was to be serviceable to the donor! The colonists had long since sent to France intelligent men as delegates, to urge upon the king their wish that the cession of Louisiana be rescinded; and those delegates, on their return, must have informed them of the true state of things, and made it known to them how fruitless it would be to endeavor to force France into the resumption of a province which she considered as a burden, and whose expenses she could no longer meet, on account of the embarrassed situation of her finances. It is therefore impossible not to be astonished at seeing one of these delegates engaged in a conspiracy against the Spaniards, and not to wonder at the temerity of the colonists in attempting a revolution of which the direful consequences to them it was but too easy to foresee.
"There being a rumor, on the 28th of October, that the insurgents intended to attack my house during the night, and to take possession of all the effects of value which they might find in it, on giving me a receipt for them, in order to enable me to be reimbursed by the treasurers of his Majesty, as rebels generally proceed in p230 a case of insurrection, and having been warned also that they had resolved to do the same with the king's treasury, where they expected to find a capital of more than one hundred thousand dollars, and to attack the frigate of his Majesty, the Volante, in which they imagined also that there was money, and finally, that their intention was to get hold of the papers of the government, and particularly of my correspondence with your Excellency, I retired on board of the frigate, whither I carried along with me all these papers, in order to keep them safe from all danger.
"On the 27th, being made aware of what was brewing, I had taken all the measures which circumstances had permitted, to put the frigate in a state of defence, and to prevent that the King's flag be insulted. No attempt of the kind had been made on the 1st of November, when I embarked with all my household in a French ship for Havana, in conformity with the summons which had been addressed to me.
"On the 16th of November, I went over the bar at the mouth of the river, and arrived yesterday at Havana, after a very painful navigation, the result of a departure so precipitate as not to give me time to provide for any thing.
"I briefly related to the Governor of this place what had happened, and, in the evening of the same day, a council was held to deliberate on what it would be proper to do, in order to afford assistance to the Spanish and French troops in Louisiana. But it was impossible to come to any determination, on account of many difficulties which presented themselves. The day after to‑morrow there will be another Council, to ascertain what remains to be done, and what would be most likely to meet the views of his Majesty. The last council was p231 composed of the Governor, of the Marquis of Rubi, lieutenant-general, and of Michel de Altariva, intendant of the army.
"My opinion was, that I ought to proceed on my way to Spain in the first vessel sailing from this port, not only to present your Excellency with a detailed account of what had occurred, and to solve the doubts and difficulties that may arise, but also to furnish your Excellency with the necessary informations to secure the accomplishment of his Majesty's views, either with regard to the principal chiefs of the rebellion, or on other points; for I am aware that, in such cases, it is very important to know well, not only the nature of the means to be employed, but also the time and the circumstances most opportune for their use. But those gentlemen were of a different opinion, and it seemed to them that it would be more prudent for me to wait for the commands of his Majesty, in order to execute what it might please him to decide in this affair, and they thought that the interval of four or five months which it would require to receive the instructions of his Majesty, would not be detrimental to his service.
"I therefore yielded to their sentiment, although with reluctance, considering that much time would have been gained, had I followed my first impulse, since it would have been as easy for me to go to Spain as to forward a letter."
At the same time, he sent to the Marquis of Grimaldi a despatch containing a relation of the events of the 28th and 29th of October, and the following observations:
"I beg you to recall to your memory a letter which I wrote to you in March, 1766, a few days after my arrival in New Orleans, in relation to the character of p232 the inhabitants. What I communicated to you on the subject was founded on the preliminary information which Governor Aubry had given to me, and on a letter which I received from Mr. de Kerlerec, in which he gave me an abbreviated description of the colony, and pitied me much for having been sent to govern such a country; and, finally, on what I had experienced myself during the few days that had elapsed since my coming to this province, as well as on the liberty which the priests had taken to present me with a kind of manifesto containing different articles, on each of which they asked me for a decision, in order that they might frame their measures accordingly. I sent to your Excellency a copy of that memorial, in order that you might know the audacity of the people with whom you would have to deal, who aimed at no less than forcing their sovereign to capitulate with them, and whose expressions, far from being respectful and supplicating, were imperious, insolent and threatening.
"About three months before the outbreak of the revolution, it was known that Mr. de Bienville, the brother of Noyan, and Mr. Masan, the son of the conspirator of that name, had gone secretly to Pensacola, through a canal on the plantation of the latter which communicated with lake Borgne, without its being ascertained what was the object of their voyage.
"About the same time, a Frenchman, who was a stranger in the colony, and who had come to take possession of certain property belonging to his nephews then in France, and minors, being exasperated at a decree which the Council had rendered against him under the dictation of Lafrénière, and witnessing my want of power to have done to him such justice as he thought he deserved, assured me that there were traitors in the p233 town, and that those traitors were persons intrusted with high powers, giving me to understand that they were the very persons who, to‑day, make a figure at the head of the insurrection.
"When the insurrection began to manifest itself, the persons who were not participators in it, and whose number was pretty considerable, loudly declared what had been the motive of Bienville and Masan's visit to Pensacola, and the conspirators themselves did not hesitate to confess, that these emissaries had gone to solicit the assistance of the English governor-general, and to beg him to send troops to support the rebels after the breaking out of the insurrection. It seems that the Governor's answer was not favorable. For the said Governor, having reflected maturely on that affair, sent them back without encouraging their designs.
"It is proper that your Excellency should know that their plans underwent more than one modification, and that one of them was, as reported, to transform this colony into a republic, under the protection of England; but seeing that they could not obtain from her the assistance which they wished for, they came to the determination to rise without it, and to trample under foot the orders of their sovereign. [. . .]
"Hence the origin of this conspiracy. It is proper that I should make you acquainted with the interests and the relations of the inhabitants among themselves, in order to give every one his due.
"The commissary Foucault has always kept up a scandalous connection with a certain widow called Pradel, living with her even when he resided in a different house, and frequently cohabiting with her on a plantation which borders on the upper precincts of New p234 Orleans. About the same time when Bienville and Masan repaired secretly to Pensacola, Madam Pradel went with Foucault to her plantation, the dwelling house of which is contiguous to the town, and there they spent their nights, coming to town only during the day. On the breaking out of the insurrection, it was publicly said that there were in that residence frequent suppers, at which were present Lafrénière, his relations, and the other conspirators, and that, after the convivialities were over, these men passed the rest of the night in the garden, where they had their conferences, so that it is not doubtful but that the blow was struck from that quarter.
"The captain of the German militia, called Villeré, is the brother-in‑law of Lafrénière, and is married to the niece of D'Arensbourg, who commands at the German Coast. The captain of the Tchoupitoulas militia is an individual named Léry, who is Lafrénière's first cousin; thus, the interests of Lafrénière are supported by the three companies of militia, commanded by his cousin, his brother-in‑law and their relations; so, with mere pretences to induce the militia of the town to rebel, it happens that the whole colony is put in a state of insurrection at the voice of one single man.
"The uncle of Noyan and Bienville had come from Canada to govern Louisiana, and, among the common people he brought over with him, there were four brothers, of the surname of Leroy, who, afterwards, assumed different surnames in Louisiana, one causing himself to be called Lafrénière, the other Léry, the third, Beaulieu, and the fourth, Chauvin. These four Canadians were of so low an extraction, and had so little education, that they could not write, and had come with an axe on the shoulder to live on their manual labor. The sons of these men are now the chiefs and authors of the rebellion.
p235 "In a letter which I had the honor to write to your excellency before the event of the rebellion, I had informed you of the precaution which I had taken to send Mr. Maxent with fifteen hundred dollars, to pay the Germans for the provisions which had been bought from them in order to supply the Acadians with food, because the conspirators had availed themselves of the pretext that this payment would never be made, with a view to induce these people to co‑operate with them.
"On the day following Maxent's departure, Lafrénière and another individual, named Marquis, sent, early in the morning, Villeré and Verret in pursuit of Maxent, to arrest him and to prevent his delivering the money to the Germans, fearing, if they were paid, that the motive which had prompted them to join the rebels existing no longer, these people might withdraw from the conspiracy, and thus force the conspirators to give up their designs. Maxent arrived at the plantation of D'Arensbourg, for whom I had given him a letter, and when he delivered it to that gentleman, he found him so different from what he expected, that, notwithstanding the very old age of that officer, and the unequivocal proofs already received of his fidelity, he discovered in him a man who had entirely yielded to the persuasions of his relations, Villeré and Léry, who had arrayed himself in the defence of liberty, and who had resolved that he should neither be the subject of the King, nor that the colony should belong to his Majesty.
"Maxent was arrested by Verret, as he states in his declaration, at one Cantrelle's house, who is the father-in‑law of another Verret, commanding the Acadians, and where he was exceedingly ill used. The same Verret, whose first name is André, has confirmed Maxent's declaration to Mr. de Sale, lieutenant of foot, who commanded the detachment given to me by the French governor for the protection of my person and my papers, on the 2d of November, when the vessel in which I had embarked was moored in front of the plantation of Madam D'Aunoy. Consequently it is proved by the detention of the person of Maxent, that a plot had been formed to seduce the province from its fealty to Spain, by preventing the execution of those measures which prudence had suggested, to remove the pretexts which were intended to be put in use.
"The same André Verret has declared to Mr. de Sale that, with regard to the order to arrest Maxent, he had received it from Villeré, Lafrénière and Marquis.
"Lafrénière and Foucault have availed themselves of the discontent caused among the merchants by the commercial decree. With regard to the Acadians and Germans, they were persuaded to come to town, to be paid what was due to them in reimbursement of their Canadian bonds. Accordingly they came unarmed, with their captains Judice and Verret. It was in town that arms were distributed to them.
"After the success of the rebellion, the Acadians, being discontented at their having been deceived, made reproaches to their chiefs, and complained of their not having been indemnified for their loss of time and for the damage they had incurred in abandoning their labors.
"The Germans were misled by their being made to believe, that they were threatened with tyranny, and by other false assertions, as well as by calumnies against the Spaniards.
"With regard to the great body of the inhabitants, they were driven by force and violence into this scheme of insurrection by the chiefs of the rebels.
"The Germans and the Acadians are nevertheless p237 guilty of ingratitude, because they had received nothing but benefits from the Spaniards. They were enticed away.
"If there was any scarcity of provisions, in 1766, it was the fault of Mr. Foucault alone, who neglected to procure them.
"The names at the bottom of the memorial of the planters, merchants, etc., etc., which I attribute to Lafrénière, were signed on a blank piece of paper, which was subsequently filled up. It bears the stamp of Lafrénière's style, which is easily detected. In that document are to be found those arrogant expressions, that superciliousness and that insolent freedom with which he is in the habit of declaiming against our nation, and of endeavoring to persuade the inhabitants to remain French.
"From the beginning I had clearly seen that this man would never be a faithful subject of the King, and that he would use all his powers of eloquence to inspire the rest of his countrymen with his sentiments, and your Excellency may remember that I gave you timely information of it, in 1766. At the same time and in the same letters, I informed your Excellency that Lafrénière was considerably in debt — so much so, that the whole of his property could not pay the obligations he had contracted in France. De Noyan, his son-in‑law, Villeré, Milhet and the principal chiefs of the conspiracy are in the same position.
"It would entirely suit their convenience, that this colony should remain a French possession, that Lafrénière should be head and the master spirit of the Superior Council, by which means, he, Lafrénière, would be able to defraud his baffled creditors, and to prevent his friends and relations from being ruined by their p238 own creditors, which would be the case, if they were compelled to pay their debts. Lafrénière had entertained the hope that, after the fall of the Spaniards, he would, with the other members of his family, be able to realize large funds, with which he would retire to France. Foucault's object was to keep up the colonial and commercial connection of France with Louisiana, in order that he might retain his office of counselor and commissary, as I have already informed your Excellency.
"It is not the first time that the seditious maxims of Lafrénière have caused troubles. If Mr. de Kerlerec, when he was Governor of this colony, passed over the intrigues and the practices by which this turbulent spirit then agitated the colony, it was because he was obliged to resist, at the same time, both this secret and intestine war and an open one from the English, so that he was not prepared to take efficacious measures to repress such disorders.
"Mr. D'Abbadie, his successor, experienced so much opposition and so many inconveniences from the same source, that he more than once laid his complaints before the court of France, and represented the risks to which the colony was exposed from the senseless ambition of a subject, who pretended to unite in his person all the powers of the government; and he earnestly insisted on the necessity of removing him from the office of Attorney-General, which had been given to him only for a limited time. If the court of France did not comply with his representations, it is because the cession of Louisiana having been made, it was deemed expedient to leave Spain to act on the reforms which might be thought necessary."
So much for Ulloa's views and self-defence. But his expulsion had not satisfied the insurgents, and, in the p239 month of December, they presented another petition to the Superior Council for the expulsion of the Spanish frigate. It was conceived in these terms:
"Mr. Marquis, late commander of the fourth Swiss company, the chevalier De La Ronde, late lieutenant of foot, Le Breton, late guardsman in the King's household troops, all syndics2 of the planters and colonists of this province, Mess. Caresse and Braquier, syndics of the merchants of New‑Orleans,º represent: that the frigate which used to serve as a prison to the citizens oppressed by Ulloa as an asylum to the slaves who rebelled against their masters, and which was but too evident a sign of the expiring freedom of navigation, that this very frigate continues to sport her flag in this harbor, where she seems to domineer; that the posts of Manchac,b of Natchez and of the Illinois are still occupied by Spanish garrisons and commanders; that the officers of his Catholic Majesty are no more disposed to depart than if this colony was under the rule of Spain, and that, so far, there is no apparent change in the frightful prospect of that foreign domination which has so much disquieted the inhabitants of this colony; that, with regard to the Spanish frigate, it is not astonishing that her remaining in this port should have caused general discontent, considering that the recollection of the vexations which she caused in conformity with the orders of Ulloa both in relation to the freedom of navigation and to that of the citizens, cannot but produce indignation, etc., etc., [. . .]
"Said petitioners proceed to represent, that the decree rendered by the court, on the 29th of October last, p240 when it enjoined Mr. Ulloa to embark within three days, either in the frigate, or in such other vessel as he might choose, did also impliedly enjoin the officers of said frigate to make themselves ready to depart in a few days, and that if Mr. Ulloa was allowed to choose the vessel in which he was to sail, it is only because the court had presumed that the frigate was in want of some repairs to go to sea with security; that even a vague rumor had been spread, that Mr. Ulloa himself, before his departure, had ordered the officers of the frigate to have her promptly repaired, and then to leave the country for Havana without loss of time; that in fact, they had taken workmen almost immediately, but that their labors were conducted with excessive slowness; that the careening of that frigate seems to be the work of Penelope; and that there will be no end to it, if their diligence is not stimulated; that, according to the declaration of all the seafaring men of this port, she ought to have been ready a long time since, and that they would undertake to make her seaworthy in fifteen days. [. . .]
"Said petitioners further represent: That this slow proceeding has no tendency to produce tranquillity and general satisfaction; that devotedly obedient to the orders of his Most Christian Majesty, the colonists cherish and revere all that bears such a character; but that they hold in utter detestation all that can perpetuate to their eye the administration which Ulloa presented to them under so threatening an aspect, well seconded as he was by all those to whom he had delegated the slightest particle of the powers he assumed; that the petitioners have lately received sad news in relation to p241 those who have exercised those illegal powers; that the merchants, Rivard and Bérard, who were going to Illinois, have been forced to land at the Arkansas, not to hear any longer the insulting language in which a certain Catalan, named Chouriac, who was sent by the Spaniards to Illinois as storekeeper and commissary, expressed himself toward the French nation; that Piernas, the commander of the Spanish troops, when going with said Chouriac to the Illinois district, to assume its government, had met, at the Ecores à Margot, a boat which was coming down; that said Piernas and Chouriac stopped her, and pressed out of her two rowers to increase their own crew, by threatening to fire at the boat with their swivel gun if they were not obeyed, and to put in chains the nine men who manned her; that notwithstanding they could spare no one out of their small number, yet they drew lots to ascertain which of them would embark in the Spanish boat, in which they had nothing to expect but ill-usage; that having attempted to stipulate for their wages, the said Chouriac told them that they must go to work for the service of the King without further discussion.
"The petitioners beg leave to state in addition, that this circumstance calls to mind another, which is not a less powerful demonstration of the evident tyranny already exercised by the officers acting under the command of Mr. Ulloa; that these facts are related such as they happened, without the least passion or rancor; and the petitioners ardently wish that the pure spirit of truth which guides their pen may open the eyes of some bad citizens, if, unfortunately, there should be any among them, whose base and venal souls are still wavering between the choice of liberty or slavery. Thus the petitioners represent, that Mr. Chamard departed last year p242 in his boat for Illinois; that having stopped at Natchez, Mr. Piernas, the Spanish commander at that place, addressed one of the passengers on board Chamard's boat, and asked him for provisions, as he feared that we would soon be in need of them; and this passenger answered that some might easily be procured at Pointe Coupée or elsewhere, adding that the boats bound from New Orleans to Illinois, far from being able to sell their provisions, were obliged to purchase some for their own use at all the posts established on the banks of the river; that Mr. Piernas having retired, the men of the boat thought they had done with him, and that they were pushing from the shore, when suddenly Mr. Piernas had a piece of artillery loaded, to fire at the boat if she dared to leave the landing, and caused the alarum bell to be tolled, (the ordinary signal to take up arms,) collected his troops, and ordered Mr. de Lavillebeuvre to put himself at their head; that this officer, notwithstanding the strong reluctance which he felt, was obliged to obey, and the provisions had to be delivered up to Piernas; that there never was a specimen of more complete vexation and of bitter circumstantial violence; that the natural inference is, that they, the colonists, must be looked upon by the Spaniards as galley slaves; finally, that the haughty temper and tyrannical pretensions of that self-styled officer of his Catholic Majesty cannot but be the cause of unbounded indignation.
"The petitioners further represent, in their aforesaid capacities and character, that it falls within the province of the court to apply the remedy to the evil which they expose, and they do not hesitate to say, that the continuance of these vexations would convert the colony into a desert.
"Therefore they beg the Council to solicit from Mr. p243 Aubry's sense of justice, that he invite the captain of the Spanish frigate, the Volante, to hasten his departure in the interest of public tranquillity."
The Superior Council, on the conclusions of the attorney general, who supported the petition, rendered a decree in conformity with the prayer of the petitioners.
On the 23d of December, Foucault, continuing the part which he had so long been playing, of secretly instigating insurrection and of openly disclaiming all participation in it, nay, of apparently opposing the measures which he had provoked by underhand suggestions, wrote to his government:
"On the 9th inst. (December, 1768) the syndics of the planters, merchants and inhabitants of this colony handed to me a petition addressed by them in their official capacity, to the Superior Council, begging that the frigate of the King of Spain, which is moored at the quay of the town, together with the officers and other persons having titles or brevets from his Catholic Majesty, or commissions from Mr. Ulloa, the same having come with him or in other Spanish vessels, be compelled to withdraw from this colony within the shortest possible delay. I was aware of the vexations which had given rise to this demand, and they were so iniquitous, that I could not help blaming inwardly captain Piernas, the Spanish commander at Natchez, and Chouriac, whom Ulloa had sent as storekeeper and commissary to the Illinois district. But I was at first tempted not to lend a favorable ear to the petition of the colonists, because, in my opinion, the Superior Council could not grant what they prayed for, without going out of the bounds which it had prescribed to itself in its decree of the 29th of October last; and because to dismiss from the colony the vessels and the officers sent to it by his Catholic p244 Majesty, would be an infraction of the orders of our Sovereign, and because it seemed to me that it would be more proper to suspend any of those officers who should make an abusive use of their authority, and to account for our motives for so doing, etc., etc. [. . .]
"But, for many reasons, I was obliged to convene the Council for the next day. It rendered an interlocutory decree, ordering a judicial investigation of the facts imputed to Piernas and Chouriac, to be reported upon as a basis for further proceedings.
"On the 14th, the Council having met again to take into consideration the report, which contained the depositions of four witnesses, I gave my opinion in writing, and stated my reasons for strongly opposing any decree of expulsion, either against the frigate, or any Spanish officer. But the Council ordered that its decree of the 29th of October be carried into full execution, and begged Mr. Aubry to solicit the captain of the frigate to accelerate his departure in the shortest possible delay. It has also begged me to offer to that captain, and if accepted, to furnish him with any additional number of sailors, workmen, or whatever other things he might deem necessary to have, in order to enable him to quit the colony. I complied with the wishes of the Council on this subject, notwithstanding the reluctance which I felt, but only with regard to the sailors and workmen, because, with regard to provisions and other supplies, I had nothing which I could dispose of in the King's warehouses. I have the honor, my lord, to transmit to you, herein annexed, copies of the report of the committee of inquiry appointed by the Council on the charges brought against the Spanish officers, of the opinion which I gave in the Council, and of the decree of that tribunal.
p245 "We shall take the command of the several posts established by Ulloa, in conformity with the request which he addressed to Mr. Aubry, and they shall be occupied by the French until we receive the orders which we have asked for. We have been for a month in possession of the post at the Balize. Mr. Aubry and myself have sent Mr. Andry, sub-engineer, to the posts of Iberville and Natchez, in order, jointly with the officers of his Catholic Majesty who command at these places, to draw and sign the plans and estimates of all the buildings, and make an inventory of all the artillery, provisions, ammunition, merchandise and other effects there to be found, in concert with those commanding officers and the storekeepers; to receive the whole into his custody, and to station at each of these points eight or ten Acadians, in the place of soldiers, whom it is impossible to send there, on account of the small number of them that are here."
Foucault concludes with saying, that all the Spaniards are withdrawing from the other posts, and that it is agreed with them that, after the event of the 29th of October, the expenses of the colony shall, nevertheless, be supported by the King of Spain, up to the 31st of December next inclusively, and that the account shall be settled accordingly.
This despatch is another proof of the miserable shuffling to which Foucault resorted in all those transactions. His plan had been to show himself in his official acts as favorable to the insurgents as he possibly could, and to encourage them as far as he could go, without committing himself too much in the eyes of the French and Spanish governments. Thus he had affected to oppose the expulsion of the frigate and of the Spanish officers, and at the same time, he had recommended to suspend p246 from their functions any of these very same officers who might be deemed guilty of an abuse of power. Yet to a man of his intelligence this dilemma must certainly have presented itself: the colony was either a Spanish, or a French province. If French, the colonists had the right, not only to prevent the Spanish officers from exercising their usurped functions, but also to expel them altogether, as intruders and trespassers. On the other hand, if Louisiana was a Spanish possession, and if, as Foucault maintained, the officers of his Catholic Majesty could not be driven away, whence did the colonists derive their authority, save from the right of revolution, to suspend them from their functions on the plea of abuses of power? Whence the right assumed by Foucault on behalf of the colonists, to account for so high handed a measure, not to the King of Spain, their new master, but to the late one, the King of France? These inconsistencies evidently proceed from his desire to steer his bark safely between two opposite shoals.
On the very day when Foucault was writing the preceding despatch, Aubry, whose mind was sufficiently enlightened, and whose judgment was sufficiently calm, to foresee the fatal consequences of what had happened in Louisiana, and therefore whose anxieties were incessantly growing, communicated to the minister his reflections on the revolution which he had witnessed.
"I find myself under the sad necessity of speaking, and of telling all, in spite of my reluctance to do so. The Council behaved badly. The attorney-general Lafrénière is one of the principal leaders.
"Mr. de Ulloa committed several faults, but never perpetrated crimes, and, setting aside his rank and his character, did not deserve the treatment which he underwent.
p247 "It is necessary to send here a battalion and a new council. The one, to drive out of the country from ten to twelve firebrands, who rule it as they please, and are the causes of all the harm done; the other, to administer justice, which is almost entirely set aside.
"Should this revolution produce no change in the arrangements between France and Spain in relation to the colony, would it not be proper that his Majesty should transmit his orders here as soon as possible, and announce his ultimate and irrevocable will on the cession to Spain, promising pardon and oblivion, save to a few who are guilty, and whom it is absolutely necessary to punish? Besides, it is probable that the guiltiest will take refuge among the English, when they shall learn the arrival of the troops.
"It is much to be desired that the officer who may be sent by his Catholic Majesty to take possession of this colony, should have the necessary qualifications. If Mr. de Ulloa had been of a milder and more complaisant disposition, the colony would long ago have become Spanish; all would have remained quiet, and we should not be in the situation in which we are now. I assure you, my lord, that, but for me, he would have been sent away two years ago.
"It is desirable that, for some time, vessels be allowed to come here from France and from the Islands. It is the greatest benefit that his Catholic Majesty could confer on the inhabitants of Louisiana.
"Should the province remain to France, its inhabitants would be transported with joy. It would be the most agreeable news they could receive, as they generally have French hearts. But I am certain that, at present, they would prefer passing under the English domination than the Spanish, unless his Catholic Majesty should be disposed p248 to grant them some privileges and advantages, to induce them to live under his flag. Ulloa's too great severity has frightened them, and they fear to be governed as despotically as the Mexicans.
"With a million a year, France could keep up here a sufficient force to support the administration of this possession, and to make to the Indians the necessary presents, and she would preserve a colony, where a great attachment is felt for her, and whose commerce may be very advantageous."
It must be observed that Aubry denounced to his government a dozen of firebrands, who had become the masters of the country, and whom it was absolutely necessary to punish; and declared that the honest administration of justice was trampled under foot by the Superior Council. If such were the sentiments of a Frenchman, whose prejudices and feelings must have been enlisted in favor of his countrymen, if such was the language of the chief of the colony, when addressing his own government, what must have been the impressions of the Spaniard, and is it to be wondered that they subsequently pursued the course which I shall have to describe!
When Ulloa arrived at Havana, he found in that city eight hundred troops, that were preparing to come to New Orleans with Urissa, late consul of Spain at Bordeaux, and recently promoted to the office of intendant of Louisiana. Urissa had stopped at Havana to take a million of dollars, which the king of Spain had appropriated to meet the payment of his intended expenses in the new domain which he had just acquired. If the eight hundred men, and particularly, if the million of dollars, a sum which the colonists had never, as yet, seen in coin in Louisiana, had arrived in time, it is likely p249 that there would have been no revolution. But, on being informed of the treatment inflicted on Ulloa, Urissa determined to return to Europe.
The news of the revolution in Louisiana reached Spain in forty days, and a cabinet council was held on the subject, to determine3 whether Spain should retain Louisiana, on account of the extreme importance of establishing barriers to the aggrandizements of the English, or leave it in the hands of France. The council was composed of the Duke of Alba, Don Jaime Masones de Lima, Don Juan Gregorio Muniain, Don Miguel de Muzquiz, the Count of Aranda, the Baron Don Julian de Arriaga and the Marquis of San Juan de Piedras Albas. It was on the 11th of February, 1769, that the Marquis of Grimaldi submitted to these gentlemen all the documents relative to what had occurred in Louisiana, requesting them to give, individually, their separate opinion in writing. On the 5th of March, the Duke of Alba gave this brief and characteristic opinion. It bears the stamp of the hereditary temper of the men of that haughty and inflexible house.
"I am of opinion that the King ought to retain Louisiana, on account of the extreme importance of the river Mississippi being the fixed and settled limit of the English possessions.
"That his Majesty should choose a man of intelligence and energy, and send him with the necessary forces to subject those people, and, at the same time, with all the powers to cure such disorders, by striking them at the root.
"That the form of the government in the colony be radically changed, in order to leave no means within the p250 reach of the malice or audacity of those people, to attempt other revolutions.
"That all the members of the Superior Council there existing, and the deputies of the commerce of Bordeaux, be immediately transported to Europe, and also every other person that may be suspected.
"And, taking into consideration that, from the possession of that colony, it does not seem that any other advantage can be derived than that of determining incontestable limits between the neighboring powers, I am of opinion that it be reduced within very narrow bounds, in order that its administration should cost the King as little as possible.
"But finally, what, to my judgment, appears to be of more importance than all the rest is, that it be seen throughout the world, and particularly in America, that the King knows how, and is able, to repress any attempt whatever, derogatory to the respect due to the royal majesty."4
Don Jaime Masones de Lima, Don Miguel de Muzquiz, and Don Julian de Arriaga gave their opinions on the 21st of March. Don Jaime Masones de Lima said:
"Having examined the documents submitted to my consideration, it seems to me that it would be proper to retain possession of that colony, considering that the river Mississippi forms an already established line of demarcation between the possession of the French and of the English. I have only to add that this advantage, which is the only one I can conceive, is not counterbalanced by the inconveniences which I foresee as being p251 likely to result, in the future, from retaining possession of that colony.
"One of them is, that the colony is entirely inhabited by Frenchmen, who are openly inimical to our government, and who are supported by the partiality of their countrymen in France; that there is no fortified place in it (presidio) and that the quality of the soil does not admit of such works, the want of which would require a larger number of troops to keep the colonists in subjection. Such being the case, it is proper to consider whether the expenses of retaining that possession are not liable to exceed the damages which we may suffer from its contraband trade, should it be in other hands.
"The Count of Fuentes, in the letter which was read to the council of ministers, treats this question with sufficient precision and details, and in a manner which did not fail to produce much impression on my mind.
"But I further say that, in case my opinion should not prevail, on the policy of our retaining that colonial possession, and on account of the inconveniences I have pointed out, his Majesty should be inclined to leave it in the hands of France, then, the better to provide for the future, I recommend a stipulation by which it should be understood, that France shall never cede that province, either to the English or to the colonists themselves, without the consent of Spain, reserving its reversion to us, whenever France shall feel disposed to part with it.
"Having done with the question of his Majesty retaining possession of the colony, which is the one especially presented to the council, I proceed to express what offers itself to my mind on the offence committed by its inhabitants p252 against the person of Don Antonio de Ulloa, as this subject is somewhat connected with the other.
"Supposing, then that Spain is to retain possession of that colony according to my opinion, I consider that the crime committed by the inhabitants deserves the most severe and rigorous punishment, on account of the circumstances which accompanied its commission. But, however offensive their conduct may have been to the King and to his subjects, it remains not the less an outrage against the Majesty of the Most Christian King, because so far as we are concerned, the colonists having before them no other document than the act of cession made by his Most Christian Majesty, and registered by their Superior Council, and until now, Spain having not by any public act taken solemn possession of the province, the correct construction to be put on what has occurred may be looked upon as problematical among the French, and even among us. But considering that colonists declare themselves to be the subjects of his Most Christian Majesty, they thus increase their culpability, on account of the notorious insolence with which they disobeyed his orders, as they could not plead their ignorance of the treaty of cession.
"For these reasons I have come to the conclusion that, whatever be the means that we may employ to obtain satisfaction for so enormous an offence, it would be proper that we should come to an understanding with France; so that, by procuring her concurrence in the punishment of that offence, we shall avoid that any military operation to which we might proceed by ourselves, be accused of being unjust by those who consider the question of possession as doubtful, and who would argue that we enforce our authority, without having previously established our sovereignty, because we never made p253 apparent and publicly known to the colonists, by any act of notoriety, the new obligation of vassalage to which they were subjected by virtue of the cession made by his Most Christian Majesty.
"This is all that my poor abilities venture to suggest to the King, in order that his Majesty may resolve what may be the most agreeable to his royal breast, as the determination which he will take will certainly be the best for the occasion."
So much for the very considerate and courtier-like opinion of Don Jaime Masones de Lima. Now comes Don Juan de Arriaga.
"From the moment," said he, "that France offered to cede Louisiana, it seemed opportune to me to take her, not because it might be a profitable possession to us in a pecuniary point of view, but because of the advantage which we obtain of securing indisputable limits between us and the English, who never stand in need of some pretext or other to overstep them, without any open and avowed act of transgression.
"For the same reason I persist in my former opinion; I recommend, however, that proper precautions be taken in the establishment of the government of that colony, not only on account of what occurred recently, but also on account of the information we have acquired on the composition of that population, which, as Ulloa says in one of his dispatches, is made up of all sorts of people, without fealty, without law and without religion. It is therefore evident that, unless we cut off and remove the most conspicuous and most vitiated portion of that population, and unless we establish for the rest new rules of government, not only with regard to the political, but also the religious organization of that colony, we cannot with any security rely on that possession, except it be p254 through force, and with the aid of troops to bring those people to submission; the consequences of which measures would be our going into enormous expenses, and our being in a state of constant suspicion and anxiety.
"The examination of the means to be employed requires the most serious reflection, and calls for the most detailed information from Ulloa, because the points which it is necessary to regulate are numerous. One of the first to be taken into consideration is the number of troops to be sent there, and the expenses it will put us to, in order to restrict them within what can be supplied out of the royal revenue and treasury of Mexico; and although it is not to be hoped that the commerce of that colony can be of any advantage to his Majesty, nevertheless it is necessary to determine by whom and how it is to be carried on, it being important that there be no failure in that part of it which is relative to the Indians, with whom we must, by all means, keep on terms of amity."
As to the Marquis of San Juan de Piedras Albas, he said:
"I think that it is of extreme importance for Spain to retain under her domination that part of the colony of Louisiana which was ceded by France, not only because it is a valuable barrier and a means of protection for the provinces of New Spain and the Mexican Gulf, but also for the other reasons which were given verbally in the cabinet council, and which have convinced me in the most effective manner, that, taking into consideration the position of Louisiana, in no other hands than in ours can that colony, for the present and for the future, be as important and useful to Spain; and, under the circumstances in which we are placed, supposing that p255 France persists, as she does beyond a doubt, in her disposition to ratify her voluntary donation to Spain, and is prepared, (considering that she is more particularly interested in resenting the indolent want of respect with which she was disobeyed by her subjects and vassals,) to accomplish what, so far, she has not been able to execute, and to put Spain in quiet and peaceful possession of that domain, I reiterate the opinion which I have already expressed: that Spain must maintain herself in the possession of that province, which was ceded to her in good faith, and which was not formally delivered up to her on account of the criminal disobedience of its inhabitants."
On the next day, the 22d of March, the Count of Aranda, who had the reputation of being one of the shrewdest and ablest statesmen of Spain, presented a somewhat more elaborate opinion than those of his colleagues. Taken in connection with the events which have happened on the continent of North America, and which have transformed colonies into empires, it certainly is a curious and remarkable document.
"Considering," he said, "the original cause of the acquisition of Louisiana by Spain, and the reasons which were then given for it: and, whereas that colony must be looked upon as one of the dependencies of the crown, and as so much territory annexed to our Mexican provinces, I am of opinion that it was wisely done to accept the donation which France made of it, and that it is indispensable to keep possession of that acquisition, at whatever cost.
"The more or less fertility and extent of Louisiana is not the principal question to be examined. But we ought to judge of the importance of that acquisition, from the fact that it extends our Mexican territories to p256 the bank of the Mississippi, a well-known barrier and a distant one from the population of New Mexico, and that it furnishes us, through that river, with an indelible line of demarcation between our provinces and those of the English, which have been widened by their acquisition of our domain of Florida; and that it gives the occasion to create, at certain determined points, a chain of posts which, in time of peace, will be the evidences of our territorial rights, and will prevent usurpations and trespasses made under the plea of ignorance. Besides securing the notoriety and the indisputable acknowledgment of our sovereignty, we obtain a precious protection for ourselves, and oppose a serious impediment to the progress of the English, because, in case of a rupture with them, they will have to begin their operations from afar; because they will be exposed to great losses before having gained much ground, and will not have the advantage to make, in anticipation, secret preparations in the interior of their possessions, in order to shorten and facilitate their operations on the breaking out of hostilities.
"In short, under this view, which is full of interest, the insurrection at New Orleans seems to be an object of the greatest importance, not only for the reasons which have already been expressed, but on account of its consequences.
"Its situation in the Gulf of Mexico, its being already, as it were, an European town by its population, its being inhabited altogether by merchants and traders, and its being converted into a free port, which no doubt would be done, would attract thither large numbers from Europe; and considering that a republic in Louisiana would be independent from all the European powers, it would then become the interest of all to keep on p257 terms of amity with her, and to support her existence.
"The favorable circumstances in which Louisiana would then be placed, would not only increase her population, but also enlarge her limits, and transform her into a rich, flourishing and free State, in sight of our provinces, which would present the melancholy contrast of exhaustion and of the want of cultivation.5
"From the example under their eyes, the inhabitants of our vast Mexican domains would be led to consider their utter want of commerce, the extortions of their different governors, the little esteem in which they are held, the few offices which they are permitted to fill, and would weigh the great inducement which they would have to hate still more the Spanish domination and to think that they can brave it with greater security, when they shall see that a weak province, compared with their extensive and populous country, can make good her position with impunity and secure her prosperity.
"Even if by dint of efforts to meliorate as much as possible the government of the Mexican provinces, and improve the condition of their inhabitants, we should succeed in avoiding the fatal revolution which might break out, how could we prevent the illicit commerce of Louisiana by sea with all the harbors on our coasts, and also by land with Texas and New Mexico, and through them to old Mexico?
"To think of being agreeable to France by returning to her what she ceded, would be attended by the gravest inconveniences; because, besides that in her hands the colony, by its situation, would be a possession prejudicial to our commerce, she would probably, on the first emergency, p258 avail herself of it as a sort of pledge or guarantee, which she would transfer to the English, whom it suits exceedingly, and which she would use for the purpose of obtaining peace on better terms.
"I can easily imagine the costs of fitting out a proper expedition to retake possession of Louisiana, as well as to keep her for the future, and also the doubts which present themselves, whether, in the progress of time, the profits which might be derived from that colony would compensate for the immediate expenses to be incurred, or at least meet those that would be required annually. But all these reasons, individually and collectively, cannot counterbalance, in my judgment, those which militate on the other side, considering that the keeping of that possession, although expensive, is necessary to preserve our principal dominions.
"Of what importance to us is it, that the French should retain their known limits with regard to the English, when such not being the case on the side of our territories, it will be left to their own pleasure, on their retaking possession of Louisiana, to extend their frontiers at will and to our prejudice? So that, instead of keeping at a distance our neighboring enemy, by retaining Louisiana in our hands, we should admit between him and us another power, and that power might recognize no barriers to his own encroachments on our possessions. Thus, for the very reason that there are no established limits between Louisiana and Mexico, the present rebels would, if they were permitted to remain so, have a pretext for claiming an arbitrary extension of territory, and, besides the disputes to which it would give rise, it would put us under the necessity of going to the expense of establishing a new cordon.
p259 "It seems to me, therefore, that the best policy is to repossess ourselves of New Orleans, with sufficient forces to prevent the possibility of disgrace to the King's arms; to expel from the colony all those who were the causes of the late troubles, confiscating their property as a punishment for their rebellion; to order that all those who are innocent, but who may not choose to submit themselves to the new domination, be transported to France, or where they please; to send some Spanish families to Louisiana, to serve as the main root of the new population which is to rule in that country; to limit, for the present, that population to the extent which will be sufficient to keep up there just enough of cultivation to make New Orleans a place capable of offering temporary resources, in cases of need, to the commerce and fleets of his Majesty; and, for the purpose of making known our frontiers as plainly as possible, to establish all along those of the English a chain of posts, at regular intervals of •thirty miles, or at the most important points.
"I am also of opinion that we ought not to have in New Orleans more than one small fort, to keep the people in subjection, and to cause the flag of his Majesty to be respected, in case any insult to it should be attempted by the enemies of the crown. By abstaining from making of that town a place of importance, we shall avoid making it an object of attack; because, if with that view, an enemy should send there a considerable body of troops, these very forces might ultimately serve to carry on further designs against Mexico, and our other domains in that part of America.
"What is also of importance is, to ingratiate ourselves with those different Indian nations that are on bad terms with the English, because, by fomenting hostilities on p260 the part of those Indians, we shall keep the northern establishments of the English in a state of alarm, and by this means oblige them to retain there all their forces, because, should they dare to do otherwise, the Indians I have spoken of, being on their shoulders, would immediately devastate their territories by their irruptions."
On the 24th, Don Miguel de Muzquiz delivered his written opinion in these terms:
"I find inconvenience in leaving Louisiana to the French, but still greater ones, and more certain, in its being retained by Spain.
"From the moment that the French made their first settlements in that country, they have been to the present time imagining more than one project to approach the provinces of Texas and New Mexico, and they have not been able to execute their plans, not only on account of the distances to be overcome, but also because they never could gain the good will of the Indians, and because they had to watch the proceedings of their English neighbors. These same obstacles still subsist for the French and preserve us from the threatened danger of their penetrating into Texas and New Mexico.
"The French have long been in possession of that province, where they are accustomed to enjoy a freedom, as to their persons and as to their commerce, which our laws do not admit of; but they are obliged to suffer and tolerate the excesses which are committed by the Indians, and as these savages prefer a state of war to any other, and as they are armed, they can make sudden and fatal attacks.
"The navigation of the Mississippi is common both to the French and to the English, and, although their p261 respective territorial limits are determined, it will be impossible for them to avoid having disputes arising from competition, if there be any commerce carried on, and it is better that the encountering of these difficulties should fall on the French rather than on the Spaniards. The French can easily provide for the preservation of Louisiana and keep the English in check with little expense.
"The Spaniards would have many disagreements6 with the French inhabitants of Louisiana and with the Indians, because they would lack the necessary patience to manage these people, and although their submission might be secured by the strong arm of force, yet I do not conceive that the object to be attained is worth the cost.
"It is true that the French will have ingress into the Gulf of Mexico, under the pretext of going to Louisiana, and will be able to carry on a contraband trade, but besides that it is impossible to prevent this evil, even were Louisiana ours, it does not seem to me that the injuries which we wish to escape from would be equal to the expenses that the possession of that colony would entail upon us.
"Should we retain Louisiana, we should incur a perpetual and annual expenditure of three hundred thousand dollars, put ourselves under the necessity of increasing the number of our officers, have incessant causes of difficulties with the English, and have to encounter numerous obstacles in the administration of that possession.
"In time of war, we should have to reinforce that p262 province, and the means employed to accomplish this aim would be so much lacking for the preservation and defence of more essential points: so that, weakened as we are at present by the necessity of providing for so many scattered posts in America, we should increase our weakness by putting ourselves to the charge of maintaining and defending Louisiana, whilst, leaving her to the French, it is probable that they would protect her against the English better than we can do.
"For these reasons and others to be deduced from them, my opinion is, that it is proper for the crown to abandon Louisiana to the French. It remains to be examined, whether the King can do so without any forfeit of honor. Ulloa took possession of the government of the colony, only ad interim, so that said act may be considered as merely preparatory to the solemn formality of a final taking of possession by the officers and troops he was waiting for; and thus, according to my judgment, the offence is common to the two crowns, and should Louisiana remain in the hands of France, it would become her sense of self-dignity not to suffer to go unpunished those who have disobeyed the orders of her king."
On the 31st (March), Don Juan Gregorio Muniain closed the consultation with the following concise opinion:
"The situation of the colony of New Orleans which, with its limits, extends itself all along the right bank of the Mississippi as far as the unknown mountains, many leagues beyond its meeting with the Missouri, secures the following advantages:
"1o.— It establishes between New Mexico and the territories ceded to England invariable limits, such as the course of a river which preserves its name from its source to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico.
"2o.— By giving to that colony the same uniform system p263 of government which has been imposed on all our American provinces, and by keeping in active service at the port of New Orleans a small and light frigate, we shall repress the commercial frauds which are meditated against us from Florida, and put a stop to the contraband trade.
"3o.— By encouraging the cultivation of wheat, and other grains and plants, we shall promote a trade in flour and vegetables, of extreme utility to Havana, Puerto-Rico and the other Islands.
"4o.— It seems to me that the expenses attending the preservation and administration of that colony, cannot be greater than those to which we were put in Florida, by the possession of St. Augustin, Pensacola and Apalache, and those which we incur, at present, in maintaining our Presidios in New-Mexico, some of which, if not all, could be suppressed with advantage.
"5o.— In order to avoid that the English establish themselves without opposition in our territory by crossing the river Mississippi, it will be necessary to erect some small fortified posts according to the fashion of the country, that will serve as scouts, and will advise the governor of the colony of the least possible change.
"6o.— Should this colony be ceded to France with all its territorial enlargement, that power might extend itself towards Mexico, and establish with that country an illicit commerce, as the merchants of that nation have already done. Besides, should France be worsted in war by the English, she would have an object of value to offer to them, to obtain an advantageous peace for her establishments in Africa and Asia.
"For these reasons I am of opinion, that it is proper to keep possession of the colony of New Orleans with all its limits."
p264 These deliberations of the statesmen of Spain, in 1769, show in an interesting manner, the policy which guided her in the formation and prosecution of her colonial system, and give the key to her subsequent administration of Louisiana. But it is impossible to peruse them without a smile, when taken in connection with those wonderful events, those political, moral, social and national transformations, and those irresistible workings of the human mind, which have since so changed the face of the world in little more than three-quarters of a century. To the eye of philosophy how illustrative is it of the vanity of man, when with his puny foresight and blind wisdom he strains to look into futurity, and, attempting to prepare for its exigencies, builds up the tower of strength which he fancies of sufficiently enduring materials to meet those anticipated necessities of which time only has the secret!
It has been seen that only one minister in the council of Spain was of opinion that Louisiana ought to be returned to France. Some time after, in the month of May, the Marquis of Grimaldi informed the Count of Fuentes, the Spanish ambassador at the Court of Versailles, of all the proceedings which had taken place at the Court of Madrid, and said:
"The King approved of the conclusions to which had come the council of ministers, not only on account of the reasons by them expressed, but also on considering that, if what had occurred in Louisiana remained unpunished, this bad example might have a fatal influence over our other American possessions, and even over those of the other powers, in which a spirit of sedition and independence has begun to spread, as it appears by what lately happened to the French themselves in the Island of St. Domingo. His Majesty concluded also, that from p265 his being essentially in possession of Louisiana in virtue of a very legitimate title, although it is not completed by the ceremony of taking possession, that colony was to be reputed a province of the crown, and its inhabitants, his subjects; whence it resulted that it appertained to his Majesty alone to recover that possession, and to punish the temerity of the colonists, and the offence of which they have been guilty toward his government and his people. His Majesty thought also, that it was necessary that it be seen throughout the world, that he knew and was able, without the assistance of any foreign power, to repress the audacity of sedition, and all designs whatever, derogatory to the respect due to his dignity and to his crown. In accordance with these principles, his Majesty has resolved to use force to reduce the rebels to submission, and has ordered that the necessary measures to that effect be taken without delay.
"Don Alexandro O'Reilly, Inspector and Lieutenant general of the royal armies, had already been designated by the King to repair to Havana and to other cities in New-Spain, in order to review the troops and militia, and it seemed to his Majesty that this officer could at the same time be intrusted with the expedition against Louisiana. Consequently, being ordered to hasten his departure, O'Reilly immediately went to Cadix, where he found a frigate which had been prepared for him. He embarked, and he must be, at present, near the Island of Cuba. He has drawn none of his means of operation from Cadix, because it was thought proper to conceal the object of his commission. To that effect, he received an ostensible order which treated of nothing else than of inspection and general review, but he well knew that he would find at Havana all of which he stood in need. The instruction given to him was, to take at that p266 place the battalions of infantry, the ammunition and the other materials which he might deem necessary, to transport himself to Louisiana, and, after having taken possession of her in the name of his Majesty, to have the heads of the rebellion tried and punished according to law, and then to remove out of the colony all the individuals and families whose presence might endanger its tranquillity. He was also ordered to provide for the military and police organization of the province, to establish the necessary rules for a correct administration of justice and of the finances, to secure the dependence and the subordination of the inhabitants, and to frame the new form of government — the whole, according to the verbal instructions which had been or might be given to him. He takes along with him persons learned in the law, who will superintend the judicial proceedings, and he has been authorized to have recourse to the force of arms, in case the inhabitants should oblige him to resort to it by their resistance. It seemed proper to invest Don Alexandro O'Reilly with these extensive powers, on account of the distance at which we are from that country. But, as the King, whose character is well known, is always inclined to be mild and clement, he has ordered O'Reilly to be informed that his will is, that a lenient course be pursued in the colony, and that expulsion from it be the only punishment inflicted on those who have deserved a more severe one.
"I could have informed you sooner of all this, but, as you will not have to act in the matter, because the King has assumed to take satisfaction himself for the offence committed by the inhabitants of the colony, we judged that it would be useless to send you, by the ordinary courier, the great mass of papers which would be necessary to make you acquainted with all that had occurred. p267 I had also thought of transmitting to you, with these documents, the Memorial or Manifesto published by the inhabitants of Louisiana. But I am persuaded that a printed copy of it must have reached you, considering that it has been republished in France with the decree of the Superior Council. I do not think that I am at liberty to conceal from you, Sir, that, when the King was made aware of the insolent language of that document, he felt greatly indignant, and that his indignation was not less, when he was informed that the authors of that memorial had not only succeeded in making it public, but also had caused to be inserted in different European gazettes, under the head of a Paris Article, a certain composition in which our government and nation were represented under the blackest colors. The entire freedom with which the delegates from the colony are allowed to remain in Paris has contributed, not a little, to the publication of those insolent declamations, and our enemies may have imagined that these men were not disapproved by the minister of his Most Christian Majesty, from the fact that not the slightest demonstration has been made against them. I must however assure you that the King never suspected any thing of the sort, and that, besides, he is convinced that the honor of his government and the credit of his nation can never depend upon the invectives of gazetiers, and of those who are their instigators. But I must tell you frankly, that the delicate feelings of his Majesty would never have allowed him, had he been in the place of his cousin of France, to be satisfied with closing his ears to those who style themselves the delegates of the colony, and that he certainly would have caused to be punished, the audacity of reprinting and republishing in Spain writings injurious to the government of his Most Christian p268 Majesty and to the French nation. His Majesty thought that we must not remain contented with the intimate union which binds the two monarchs and the two ministers, but that we must make it embrace the two nations, and he is certain that writings of this kind will not produce such results. Your Excellency knows very well that the loss of great interests is looked upon in Spain with indifference, but that it is not so with regard to insults and contumelies.
"As soon as we received the said manifesto of the colonists, it was determined that Mr. de Ulloa should answer the fables and the exaggerated accusations which it contains. But before his being informed of this determination, he had anticipated our intentions, and had sent from Cadix the communication hereto annexed. The copy of it which I send you, with the abstract which accompanies it, renders, as it were, useless, all the other papers which I had intended to forward to you. These two documents will demonstrate to you, that the true object of the inhabitants of the colony, and particularly of the heads of the sedition, was to live in the most absolute independence, without laws, without police and without order, and that the King has treated, and intended to treat them, at all future time, with kindness, and to favor them with marks of predilection and with a grant of liberty far different from those which his other American colonies have been permitted to enjoy, whatever may be their merit, and whatever services they may have rendered to the metropolis.
"You will give an account of the whole of this to the Duke of Choiseul, and you will ask him for a letter or declaration from his Most Christian Majesty, in improbation of the conduct of the inhabitants of Louisiana. You will beg that minister to invite his Most Christian p269 Majesty to declare, that the said inhabitants of the colony, being the subjects of the King his cousin, must throw themselves upon his mercy and live under his laws. The act of cession of the colony, as you will see by a mere reference to the copy, was absolute, and without any obligation whatever on the part of the King. Only, in the letter subsequently written to Mr. D'Abbadie with regard to the delivering up of the colony to Spain, his Most Christian Majesty insinuated to the King his cousin his expectations that his Catholic Majesty would maintain the inhabitants in the enjoyment of their privileges. This is what the King was resolved upon, and he had even issued orders accordingly, but said inhabitants have made themselves unworthy of this favor by their rebellion.
"This is all, sir, that I have to request you to attend to, for the present; for although the Gazette of France7 ought, as a matter of course, to have disavowed the article inserted in some of the papers of the Low Countries under the head of Paris News, it would now be a little too late to do so, and it would not become us to solicit such a thing. We have contented ourselves with writing to Vienna and Holland, to have the remedy applied to the evil."
The old hereditary temper of Spain is condensed in this composition, and particularly in this phrase: "Your Excellency knows very well that the loss of great interests is looked upon in Spain with indifference, but that it is not so with regard to insults or contumelies." As an expression of feelings and sentiments, as an exhibition of cold and solemn majesty, this document is as characteristic, in its way, of the Spanish nation, as the awe-inspiring p270 grandeur of that architectural wonder, the well known palace of the Escurial.
While the fate of Louisiana was thus discussed and settled in Spain, that colony had resumed a certain degree of apparent tranquillity, but it is to be questioned whether it was not as much the torpor occasioned by fear, as the calm which betokens true repose and a sense of security. Now that the revolution had been accomplished, its results could be measured with more accuracy. Now that the storm was hushed, that the angry waves were smoothed into a liquid plain, it was easy to discover if anything was left floating on its surface to inspire hope. Now that the excitement of action had given way to the considerate workings of reflection, there was ample leisure to examine the extent and nature of the dangers which had been brooding, and which many thought they saw rising up like black clouds on the verge of the horizon. What would France do? What would Spain resolve? These were questions which anxiety propounded to itself, and could not answer. They were not few, those who had already repented of what they had done, and who earnestly struggled to show that they had not participated in the revolution. As it had frequently occurred in similar circumstances, the leaders were beginning to find themselves in a state of isolation, and to be alone pointed out to the anger of the coming avenger. The crowd among which they had lately stood, now shrank away from them gradually, in obedience to the same instinct which prompts the wayfarer to avoid, when the lightning flashes, the proximity of those tall trees whose shade he would have courted, had heaven smiled on the green honors of their majestic heads.
1 In Spain, a dish of eggs, and in Mexico, of corn flour, fried in oil or lard, in the round shape of a pie.
2 A Syndic is the chief or headman of a corporation or community, of which he is a member, and with the management of whose affairs he is intrusted.
3 Sobre si conviene conservar España esta posesion, por la suma importancia de poner limites á los Ingleses, o quedarse por de la Francia.
4 Lo que enfin importa mas que todo, á mi parecer, es que se vea en el mundo y en America especialmente, que el Rey sabe y puede reprimir cualquiera intento contrario al respeto que se debe á la Majestad.
5 A remarkable prophecy!
6 Los Españoles tendrian muchos disgustos con los Franceses que se quedasen, y con los Indios salvajes, porque les faltaria la paciencia que se necesitaria para contemplarlos, y aunque con la fuerza se puede asegurar todo, no concibo que el objeto merezca tanto gasto.
7 The official journal.
a For Denis Braud — the remainder of his saga is next chapter, pp308, 313 in a more consequential connection — see also Douglas McMurtrie, "The Pioneer Printer of New Orleans", Southern Printer's Journal, Jan.‑Feb. 1929.
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