Friday, July 5, 2013

A Remonstrance Of The People Of Louisiana

Through the years there have been attempts to rewrite history and serve it up as a buffet where one is permitted (if not encouraged) to help oneself to all the mac and cheese one can shove down one's gullet and completely ignore the brussells sprouts and creamed spinach.  One of the more troublesome revisions in Louisiana history is the argument that Creole/American animosity was largely either a myth or an overstatement.  It perplexes me as to why “historians” would see the need to discount it when the evidence of its reality is stark and overwhelming.

The United States acquired a very different place with the purchase of Louisiana.  They purchased a people who spoke a different language, practiced a different law - a law, I might add, which was strongly influenced by and based upon a state religion, the concept of which was completely opposite to American principle - knew a different money system and lived a very different lifestyle.  And when they did, rather than teach the people of Louisiana how to be American and allow them to elect their own governor, their own representatives, their own mayor and be allowed to exercise control over their own affairs they instead appointed officials and sent them to govern with a “My way or the highway” kind of attitude.  The Feds adopted that attitude, but in appointing William C. C. Claiborne and sending him down to assume authority they chose a man who was sympathetic to the Creole need and bent over backwards to accommodate.

As far as the Creoles were concerned, Claiborne had no vested interest in Louisiana, couldn't speak the language and didn't know their law.  This, especially, was important in that there was justified concern in Common Law reversing much of what Civil Law had established.  But Claiborne tried, bless his heart.  He really did.  He became a property owner, which vested him with Louisiana interest, married a Creole, learned French and if the second line had existed at the time I'm sure he'd have thrown open an umbrella and lead the band.  In an effort to acquiesce to the Creoles and their needs he appointed a Creole mayor - Etienne deBore (Creole of Kaskaskia, Illinois, I might add) - who fought him tooth and nail and served for less than 6 months when he resigned, ostensibly to “look after private affairs.”  Truth be told deBore quickly grew disgusted with American change and wasn’t about to aid and abet them in Americanizing Creole society.  So Claiborne made a brilliant - BRILLIANT - move; he appointed James Pitot to succeed him.

Pitot was French, married to a Creole woman (Creole of Martinque) and became a naturalized American in Philadelphia before coming to New Orleans.  This man had French, Creole AND American sympathies and had lived in New Orleans 8 years before being appointed mayor.  But Pitot considered himself to be completely American and was appointed by an American - not elected by Creoles.  (As was deBore before him.)  And this was one of the things that formed the crux of Creole dissent.  One of the principles of American government is the right to elect representatives.  This was one of many rights denied to the people of Louisiana.

And so they petitioned Congress with a remonstrance (protest) which is probably the most respectful bunch of bald faced lies one will ever run across.  If ever there was diplomacy on paper, this is it!  Throughout this document the Creoles are unwavering in their admiration, love, joy and jubilation in becoming American when in fact they were dumbfounded and horror struck.  But why let Congress know?  It wouldn’t have furthered their cause or endeared them to the government in any way.  “...(We) passed under your jurisdiction with a joy bordering on enthusiasm,[1] submitted to the inconvenience of an intermediate dominion without a murmur,[2] and saw the last tie that attached us to our mother country severed with less regret.”[3]

Here is the document in its entirety from a book, the title of which escapes me.  Eventually, Thomas Paine (of COMMON SENSE fame) responded with a scathing rebuttal.  (See below.)  With Paine’s grossly disrespectful response to the Creoles' saccharinely respectful petition, the Creole/American animosity rears its ugly head in a way that even the cleverest of revisionists can no longer deny.

I want to draw particular attention to the final words of the document:

“Signed at St. Louis, the twenty-ninth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and four, and of the American Independence the twenty-ninth.

[Signed by Deputies of New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis and its dependencies, St. Charles and its dependencies.]”

Interesting that it came out of St. Louis, Missouri (the colonial capital of Upper Louisiana) and not from New Orleans.  Why?  Far away from Claiborne and Pitot, perhaps?  .......Interesting....

[1] Really?
[2] Without a murmur?  Of course not - THEY WERE SPEECHLESS!
[3]See note #1.

Special thanks to my friend, Adam Stevenson, for digging this up!

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