The Melting Pot History of Louisiana
Louisiana was founded in 1682 by the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (also known as Robert de La Salle) and named in honor of King Louis XIV. New Orleans, originally named La Nouvelle-Orleans, was founded May 7, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, and named after Philippe II, Duke of Orleans.
In 1722 immigrants began coming in from all over Europe, most of them were French. The wave of immigrants included a group of women (around 50) from “houses of correction” (a place for “women and girls of bad lives who cause a public scandal” (1) to be housed). They were the only women in town at that time.
November 13, 1762 King Louis the XV of France, made a secret agreement with King Charles III of Spain in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which cites the relinquish of “the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the island in which the city is situated” (1).
Along with the Spanish came Acadians who were descendants of French colonists residing in present day French Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The Acadians were persecuted there and went into the bayous and back rivers of New Orleans. Their name, Acadians, was eventually shorten to Cajuns. By the middle 1700s they were settled throughout the bayous of Louisiana around New Orleans.
The Spanish had a very open immigration policy, which attracted immigrants from various lands. In 1791, the slave uprising in Saint-Domingue, what is now called Haiti, caused a lot of people to come into New Orleans who brought along voodoo.
The mingling of cultures in South Louisiana is called "creolization." Creole, originating from the Portuguese word crioulo (meaning native to a region), originally referred to the European French/Spanish colonial population in South Louisiana and the Caribbean region. Today, Creole commonly refers to people of mingled Black, Spanish, French, and Indian descent.
When Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor of France, he decided he wanted Louisiana back from the Spanish in hopes to recapture the valuable sugar colony of Saint-Domingue from a slave rebellion and use Louisiana as the storeroom for his empire. He regained ownership of Louisiana in 1800 through the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso and took possession in 1802. Napoleon was unable to succeed in his attempt to overtake Saint-Domingue which made Louisiana strategically undesirable and decided to sell Louisiana to the United State. Under Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, The Louisiana Purchase was signed on April 30, 1803 for a total of 15 million dollars which declared the United States pay 11.25 million dollars to France and forgive 3.75 million dollars of French debt to American citizens.
On March 26, 1804, Congress voted to divide the Louisiana Purchase into two parts which were the Territory of Orleans, present day Louisiana, and the District of Louisiana, later called the Missouri Territory. In March 1810, a petition to accept the Territory of Orleans into the Union was presented to the Senate. However, “controversies over race, religion, law, language and culture not only delayed Louisiana’s statehood until 1812, they worked like the rumbling of an earthquake along the vulnerable fault lines of the 19th-century American society and government.” (3) However, arguments for the Territory of Orleans’s statehood prevailed and the Territory of Orleans was admitted to the Union as the State of Louisiana on April 30, 1812.
(1) Spear, Jennifer M. Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans.
(2) Herbermann, Charles. 'Louisiana' The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church.
(3) Huhla, Jon. A Wilderness So Immense.