Friday, July 5, 2013

A Creole Defines The Word In 1831

From THE LOUISIANA COURIER, Oct. 28, 1831:

            “CREOLE.” -- A most singular, and we think preposterous and absurd definition of this word is contained in the Emporium of Wednesday last; namely, that none are creoles but such as are born of European parents.  I have always called, and so considered myself, a creole, notwithstanding my father and father’s father were called creoles.  We have also called the slaves born in the country creoles, -- the horses raised here are also termed creole horses -- nay, even the chickens the cane, the corn and rice of our own production, have so been called, and under that appellation, universally command a higher price in market, than similar articles, the product of other states or countries.  But it would seem that after the lapse of more than a century, we have discovered, in this age of discovery, that we know not the meaning of a word, which had its origin with us, which is alone used and known among us.  How kind and how modest is it in the literary and scientific editor of the Emporium, thus to inform us, that we, ourselves, know not the meaning of the word  by which we have ever been distinguised (sic) from those who have emigrated to the state.  The word creole is incorporated in our statute book; its meaning is there clearly defined.  Our historians have also used the word, to signify such as have been born in the country whether white, yellow or black; whether the children of French, Spanish, English or Dutch or of any other nation.  And yet, this modern lexicographer of our city, gravely informs us, that he has investigated the subject, and that the result of his labor proves that creoles are not the colored population, but such alone as have been born of European parents!
                                                                                        A  CREOLE.

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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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Shipbuilding in New Orleans, WWII

New Orleans was a center for shipbuilding - the most famous being the Higgins LCVP  - the boat that made D-Day possible and the reason the National WWII Museum is here.  Among the ship builders who manufactured U.S. military ships was the Delta Shipbuilders - they were located in the Industrial Canal.  They published a newsletter and I found a copy of one in an antique store a few months ago.
I thought I would post it here and remind the world that New Orleans plays a key role in the defense of our nation.  (Click on the image.)

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French Market Tourist Brochure, 1916

I am in a bit of a quandry and have thought long and hard about posting this.  Here's the deal:
Among the things I collect are vintage tourist brochures.  It's fun (and very interesting) to see tourism in New Orleans evolve from highly romanticized moonlit Creole jasmine to the Cajun myth the world has turned us into and from there to booze and beads, booze and food, booze and music, booze and booze...
This booklet from 1916 paints a very poetic picture of the French Market when it was still open-air and very much a place where butchers, poulterers, fishmongers, etc., etc had their shops, stalls and stands.  It was published by The New Orleans Coffee Company - makers of French Market Coffee. (As a matter of fact, the name of their product is peppered all over the booklet and the last page is their advertisement.  Furthermore, they are still around today!)  I think this is an important booklet because the city was marketing the unique history and romance and using it to attract visitors.  Much of this had to do with the threat of tearing down the French Quarter - which effort resulted in the Supreme Court Building, among others.  Publishing these French Quarter pamphlets and guide books was as much about raising awareness of the importance of the Vieux Carre as a world historical site as it was about courting the tourist dollar.
The booklet is also important because it reminds us (as if we need to be reminded) that New Orleans is, was and always will be a coffee capital of North America. (Sorry, Seattle - ours is older and better!!!)
But, here's the thing...
The "N" word rears its ugly head.
We have to remember that this booklet was written in an age when this vile word was in common usage.  So here's my dilemma - do I post this fascinating little document and share with everyone a romantic, early 20th Century look at New Orleans tourism - or do I censor it and *bleep* out the unpleasant parts - or do I just put it under the carpet and pretend that the mindset never existed?
After much painstaking consideration, I decided to go for it.  Whether we like it or not, this is the way it was back then and we cannot change it.  History isn't always pleasant and I don't like "buffet history" - meaning that we fill our plates with macaroni and cheese and don't take the creamed brussels sprouts.  If we're going to walk through the past we have to fight our way through a few thorny weeds.  So brace yourself - this particular weed stinks.
HOWEVER - the rest of the booklet is worth the read.  I hope, despite the use of a hateful racial epithet, you enjoy this look at New Orleans Tourism of 100 years ago...

French Market Coffee Brochure 1916

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