Louisiana Under Spain 1762-1783
The cession.—On October 9, 1762, Louis XV offered western Louisiana, with New Orleans, to Charles III, king of Spain, both as a compensation for the loss of Florida, and to put an end to the constant Franco-Spanish friction over contraband trade. Charles at first rejected the gift, but reconsidered, and the treaty of cession was signed on November 3, the day of the signature of the preliminaries of the peace with England.
The state of the province.—With Spain's small means and great responsibilities, the gift was not very tempting, and Spain was not eager to take possession of it. The ceded district embraced New Orleans and the western watershed of the Mississippi River. The principal settlements lay along the Mississippi and Missouri, as far as the Kansas post, and along the lower Red River, as far as the Cadadacho post. The bulk of the population lay between Pointe Coupée and New Orleans, where there were over 7000 persons, of whom nearly two-thirds were colored settlements in the lower district were La Balize, Attakapa, Opelousas, Avoyelle, and Natchitoches. On the way to the Missouri district were the post opposite Natchez and the Arkansas settlement. Near or on the Missouri were St. Charles and Ste. Genevieve. Farther in the interior were slender trading posts, such as St. Louis among the Cadadacho, a post on the Osage, and Ft. Cavagnolle, near the mouth of the Kansas River. The total population of the province ceded to Spain was estimated at from 8250 to 11,500, over half of whom were colored.
Industries.—Rice, indigo, tobacco, and grain were cultivated in small quantities, but there was little stock raising. For horses, mules, and cattle dependence was placed upon trade with the Indians and the Spaniards of the West, much of which trade was contraband. The principal industries of the province were the fur trade and commerce with Illinois. The paper money issued during the recent war, of which there was nearly a million unredeemed, had depreciated to 25 per cent, of its face value.
Dissatisfaction with the transfer.—It was not till September, 1764, that the cession was known in New Orleans. The news caused consternation and protest. Some of the inhabitants of Illinois, left under English rule, moved across the Mississippi River to La Clede's recently founded fur-trading post of St. Louis. When, in 1765, the British took possession of Fort Chartres, Captain St. Ange, in charge of the latter place, moved with his garrison to St. Louis, where he continued to rule until Spanish possession was taken. Some French settlers from the more southern districts moved across the Mississippi or to New Orleans. There the feeling was intense. In January, 1765, the inhabitants held a meeting and sent a delegate, Jean Milhet, to France to remonstrate, but without avail, for after months of waiting he failed even to get an audience with the king.
Ulloa expelled.—At last, in March, 1766, Don Antonio de Ulloa arrived at La Balize as Spanish governor. The choice was not a happy one, for although a distinguished scientist and naval officer, Ulloa had an unpleasant and inflexible personality which made him unpopular. In July he reached New Orleans, with ninety soldiers. But the French militia refused to serve him, and Aubry was left in command. Bickerings and dissatisfaction followed. The colonists demanded the redemption of the depreciated paper money at face value; the recently arrived Acadians, who had become indentured servants, made constant complaint, until at last redeemed by Ulloa.
Ulloa did not confine his efforts to New Orleans, but established Spanish garrisons at several interior posts and issued ordinances regarding the Indian trade. In the spring of 1766, with Aubry, he visited the settlements between New Orleans and Natchitoches, and sent an officer to report on the best means of defending the upper posts against the English. In 1767 he sent Captain Francisco Ruí to establish posts on the lower Missouri at St. Charles and Bellefontaine.
The prohibition of trade with France, promulgated in October, 1768; caused a veritable insurrection in New Orleans, and Ulloa was expelled from the province. His departure was followed by a removal of the Spanish garrisons from the Missouri and elsewhere in the interior, and there was an interregnum of several months, during which Aubry governed.
O'Reilly.—Charles III now sent a man made of sterner stuff. He was Alexandro O'Reilly, an officer who had served with distinction in Europe, had reorganized the defences of Havana after the recent war, and was now recalled to cope with the situation in Louisiana. With 4500 regulars he reached Balize in July, 1769. There was renewed excitement. Some talked of independence and others of joining the English colonies; but Aubry counselled against resistance and the disturbance subsided.
His coup d'état.—King Charles had demanded nothing more severe than the sending of the leaders of the opposition to France, but O'Reilly was not so mild. By a ruse he arrested a number of prominent citizens, executed five and imprisoned others. For this violent deed he has become known as "The Bloody O'Reilly." If the government of Charles III had been imbued with a full sense of its responsibility, it would never have left unpunished such a violation of the fundamental rules of justice.
The Spanish régime installed.—For thirty-four years Louisiana remained under Spanish rule, and during that time it prospered as never before. O'Reilly governed for a year or more with great vigor, not as governor, but as special commissioner to establish Spanish authority. Possession was taken of the interior posts, and by the end of 1770 the Spanish flag had been raised at Ste. Genevieve, the last place to haul down the French emblem. Having accomplished his coup d'état, O'Reilly was conciliatory, and appointed numerous old French officers, like Villiers and De Mézières, to important positions. After authority had been established, the military force was reduced to 1200 men. Spanish law was installed, although the French Black Code was retained. New Orleans was given a cabildo with direct appeal to the Council of the Indies instead of to the Audiencia of Santo Domingo. Louisiana was put under a governor, the first incumbent being Luis de Unzaga y Amezaga. Each of the principal subdistricts was put under a Lieutenant-governor, Pedro Piernas going to St. Louis, Villiers to the Arkansas Post (now Fort Carlos III), and Athanase De Mézières at Natchitoches. Until 1771 Louisiana was an independent gobierno directly dependent on the Council of the Indies. In 1771 it was attached for military purposes to the captaincy-general of Havana, and for judicial matters to the Audiencia of Santo Domingo. In 1795 it was attached to the Audiencia of Havana. After 1783 West Florida and Louisiana were put under one governor. Later the province was divided into Upper and Lower Louisiana.
Unzaga and Gálvez.—Unzaga ruled till 1776, and proved popular, particularly since he shut his eyes to English smuggling in the lower Mississippi River. Unzaga's successor, Bernardo de Gálvez, nephew of the visitor, son of the viceroy, and himself a viceroy later, was a remarkable man. He too, was popular; he married a French wife, and stimulated tobacco raising by pledging himself to buy each year eight hundred pounds of tobacco.
Encouragement of commerce.—Trade regulations, as promulgated by Ulloa in 1766, restricted all trade to Spanish vessels, and certain specified Spanish ports. Under these conditions English smugglers very soon monopolized the trade of the lower Mississippi, and made their way among the tribes of the Gulf coast. This contraband Unzaga tacitly permitted for the good of the colony. In 1776 an agreement was made with France by which Louisiana was permitted to trade with the French West Indies, under the supervision of two French commissioners resident in New Orleans. Gálvez now promptly seized eleven English vessels and the commerce of the colony passed largely into the hands of the French. In 1778 the produce of the colony was admitted to any of the ports of France or the United States, and to any of the ports of Spain to which the commerce of any of the colonies was admitted. The exportation of furs was encouraged by exemption from duty for a period of ten years. English trade in Louisiana was now completely ruined. Under Spanish rule population grew steadily and by 1803 had reached about 50,000. After the American Revolution efforts were made to counter-colonize against the American advance.
The Spanish Frontier in the Later Eighteenth Century.
The English danger.—The principal military problems of the new government were to keep the English out and to keep the Indians quiet. Already English traders were entering the tribes west of the Mississippi, ascending the Missouri and the Arkansas, and reaching the borders of Texas overland, or ascending its rivers from the Gulf of Mexico. Trade in Pawnee and Spanish horses extended to the English seaboard colonies, Governor Patrick Henry being among the purchasers of thoroughbred Spanish stock. To keep out the English, defence was concentrated on the Mississippi and efforts made to control the Indian tribes.
Eastern Texas abandoned.—On the other hand, since Louisiana belonged to Spain, the defences of eastern Texas, and the weak missions which they protected, were now withdrawn. At the same time the few settlers, some five hundred in number, who lived on the border, were evicted and taken to San Antonio. But they demurred, sent their Creole leader Gil Ybarbo to Mexico to represent them, and were allowed in 1774 to settle on the Trinity River. Five years later, taking advantage of a flood and Indian raids, and led by Ybarbo, they moved to Nacogdoches (1779), and from there scattered eastward toward their former homes.
The fur trade continued.—Louisiana was Spain's first colony previously occupied by Europeans, and in it many departures were made from her traditional system. As a means of controlling the Indians of Louisiana, Spain utilized the corps of French traders already among the tribes, instead of attempting to use the mission as a means of control, as was being done at the same time in California. A regular system of licensed traders was installed, vagabonds and unlicensed persons were driven from the tribes, presents were annually distributed, and medals of merit were given to friendly chiefs. St. Louis, the Arkansas post, and Natchitoches became important centers for the fur trade and for distributing presents. To St Louis tribes went to receive presents from the Illinois country, the upper Mississippi, and the upper Missouri. To remove them from English influence, tribes were induced to cross the Mississippi to settle.
De Mézières.—One of the most difficult problems which confronted Spain was the control of the Red River tribes, which had been friendly to the French but hostile to the Spaniards. It was now necessary to win them over to Spanish allegiance. This was accomplished by Athanase de Mézières, lieutenant-governor at Natchitoches. He installed French traders, drove out vagabonds, expelled English intruders, called in the hostile Red River tribes to make treaties, and himself made a series of notable tours among them. In 1770 he held a great council at the Cadodacho post, where the Cadodacho chief Tin-hi-ou-en was mediator. Two years later he made an expedition through the Asinai, Tonkawa, and Wichita tribes, reaching the upper Brazos River, and going thence to San Antonio. His excellent report first made northern Texas well known to Spanish officials.
Croix's plans for a war on the Apaches.—It was in 1776 that the northern provinces of New Spain were put under a comandante general with his capital at Chihuahua. The first comandante, Teodoro de Croix, arrived at the frontier in 177 7. As his first great task he set about checking Indian hostilities, particularly those of the Apaches on the Texas-Coahuila frontier. The essence of his plan was to unite the Red River and the eastern Texas tribes (the Nations of the North) and chasseurs from Louisiana, commanded by Gálvez, with the soldiery of the Interior Provinces, commanded by Croix, in a joint war of extermination against the eastern Apaches.
Set aside by the American Revolution.—To consider the matter Croix held a council of war at San Antonio in January, 1778. The arrangement of details with the Indians was left to De Mézières. In 1778 he made a tour of the upper Red River, and in the following year again visited the Texas tribes. Spain soon afterward entered the American war, Gálvez was unable to leave Louisiana, and the conduct of the Apache War was left for the time being to Juan de Ugalde, governor of Coahuila.
Communication with Santa Fé and the Upper Missouri.—The explorations of De Mézières were soon followed by the opening of routes from Santa Fé to San Antonio, Natchitoches, and St. Louis. In this work the chief pathfinder was Pedro Vial. Just as the American Pike in his southwestern exploration (1807) was preceded by Vial and his associates, so Lewis and Clark, in their ascent of the Missouri River (1804), were anticipated by the agents of Glamorgan's fur trading and exploring company, who operated from St. Louis to the country of the Mandans (1794-1797).
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