Louisiana (New Spain)

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Province of Louisiana
Provincia de la Luisiana
Coat of Arms of the Province of Louisiana.svg
Coat of arms
Anthem:  Marcha Real
"Royal March"
Louisiana (1762) orthographic projection.svg
Spanish Louisiana in 1762
Capital Nueva Orleans [1]
Common languages Spanish (official)
Isleño Spanish
Louisiana French
Louisiana Creole
Catholicism (official)
West African Vodun
Louisiana Voodoo
23 November 1762
21 March 1801
Currency Spanish dollar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana (New France) Blank.png
Today part of Canada
United States
De Soto claiming the Mississippi, as depicted in the United States Capitol rotunda Discovery of the Mississippi.jpg
De Soto claiming the Mississippi, as depicted in the United States Capitol rotunda

Louisiana (Spanish: España, Spanish pronunciation:  [la Luisiana] ), [1] or the Province of Louisiana (Provincia de la Luisiana), was a province of New Spain from 1762 to 1801 primarily located in the center of North America encompassing the western basin of the Mississippi River plus New Orleans. The area had originally been claimed and controlled by France, which had named it La Louisiane in honor of King Louis XIV in 1682. Spain secretly acquired the territory from France near the end of the Seven Years' War by the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762). The actual transfer of authority was a slow process, and after Spain finally attempted to fully replace French authorities in New Orleans in 1767, French residents staged an uprising which the new Spanish colonial governor did not suppress until 1769. [2] Spain also took possession of the trading post of St. Louis and all of Upper Louisiana in the late 1760s, though there was little Spanish presence in the wide expanses of what they called the "Illinois Country".


New Orleans was the main port of entry for Spanish supplies sent to American forces during the American Revolution, and Spain and the new United States disputed the borders of Louisiana and navigation rights on the Mississippi River for the duration of Spain's rule in the colony. New Orleans was devastated by large fires in 1788 and 1794 which destroyed most of the original wooden buildings in what is today the French Quarter. New construction was done in the Spanish style with stone walls and slate roofs, and new public buildings constructed during the city's Spanish period include several still standing today such as the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Presbytere. [3]

Louisiana was later and briefly retroceded back to France under the terms of the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso (1800) and the Treaty of Aranjuez (1801). In 1802, King Charles IV of Spain published a royal bill on 14 October, effecting the transfer and outlining the conditions. Spain agreed to continue administering the colony until French officials arrived and formalized the transfer. After several delays, the official transfer of ownership took place at the Cabildo in New Orleans on 30 November 1803. Three weeks later on 20 December, another ceremony was held at the same location in which France transferred New Orleans and the surrounding area to the United States pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase. A transfer ceremony of Upper Louisiana to France and then to the United States took place on Three Flags Day in St. Louis. It encompassed a series of ceremonies held over two days: March 9–10, 1804. [4]


Spain administered the territory from Havana, Cuba, contracting out governing to people from many nationalities as long as they swore allegiance to Spain. During the American Revolutionary War, the Spanish funneled their supplies to the American revolutionists through New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory beyond.

Spanish efforts to turn Louisiana into a Spanish colony were usually fruitless. For instance, while Spanish officially was the only language of government, the majority of the populace firmly continued to speak French. Even official business conducted at the Cabildo often lapsed into French, requiring an interpreter to be on hand. [5]


When Alejandro O'Reilly re-established Spanish rule in 1769, he issued a decree on 7 December of that year which banned the trade of Native American slaves. [6] Although there was no movement toward abolition of the African slave trade, Spanish rule introduced a new law called coartación , which allowed slaves to buy their freedom and that of others. [7]

A group of maroons led by Jean Saint Malo resisted re-enslavement from their base in the swamps east of New Orleans between 1780 and 1784. [8]

Pointe Coupée conspiracy

On 4 May 1795, 57 enslaved people and 3 local white men were put on trial in Point Coupee following a failed slave revolt. At the end of the trial 23 of the enslaved people were hanged and an additional 31 received a sentence of flogging and hard labor. The three white men were deported, with two being sentenced to six years forced labor in Havana. [6]

Upper and Lower, or the Louisianas

Spanish colonial officials divided Luisiana into Upper Louisiana (Alta Luisiana) and Lower Louisiana (Baja Luisiana) at 36° 35' North, about the latitude of New Madrid, Missouri. [9] This was a higher latitude than during the French administration, for whom Lower Louisiana was the area south of about 31° North (the current northern boundary of the state of Louisiana) or the area south of where the Arkansas River joined the Mississippi River at about 33° 46' North latitude.[ citation needed ]

In 1764, French fur trading interests founded St. Louis in what was then known as the Illinois Country. The Spanish referred to St. Louis as "the city of Illinois" and governed the region from St. Louis as the "District of Illinois". [10]

Spanish communities in Louisiana

Senora de Balderes and her baby, family native of Nueva Orleans, Spanish colonial Louisiana, by Jose Francisco Xavier de Salazar y Mendoza (painter born in Merida, Mexico), ca. 1790. The family lived on Royal Street in what is now called the "French Quarter". Louisiana State Museum Senora de Balderes and Her Daughter Nueva Orleans.jpg
Señora de Balderes and her baby, family native of Nueva Orleans, Spanish colonial Louisiana, by José Francisco Xavier de Salazar y Mendoza (painter born in Mérida, Mexico), ca. 1790. The family lived on Royal Street in what is now called the "French Quarter". Louisiana State Museum

To establish Spanish colonies in Louisiana, the Spanish military leader Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Louisiana at the time, recruited groups of Spanish-speaking Canary Islanders to emigrate to North America. [11] In 1778, several ships embarked for Louisiana with hundreds of settlers. The ships made stops in Havana and Venezuela, where half the settlers disembarked (300 Canarians remained in Venezuela). In the end, between 2,100 [12] and 2,736 [13] Canarians arrived in Louisiana and settled near New Orleans. They settled in Barataria and in what is today St. Bernard Parish. However, many settlers were relocated for various reasons. Barataria suffered hurricanes in 1779 and in 1780; it was abandoned and its population distributed in other areas of colonial Louisiana (although some of its settlers moved to West Florida). [14] In 1782, a splinter group of the Canarian settlers in Saint Bernard emigrated to Valenzuela. [13]

In 1779, another ship with 500 people from Málaga (in Andalusia, Spain), arrived in Spanish Louisiana. These colonists, led by Lt. Col. Francisco Bouligny, settled in New Iberia, where they intermarried with Acadian settlers. [15]

In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1779–83), Bernardo de Gálvez recruited men from the Canarian settlements of Louisiana and Galveston (in Spanish Texas, where Canarians had settled since 1779) to join his forces. They participated in three major military campaigns: the Baton Rouge, the Mobile, and the Pensacola, which ended the British presence in the Gulf Coast and West Florida. In 1790 settlers of mixed Canarian and Mexican origin from Galveston settled in Galveztown, Louisiana, to escape the annual flash floods and prolonged droughts of this area. [13]

Immigration from Saint-Domingue

Beginning in the 1790s, following the slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) that began in 1791, waves of refugees came to Louisiana. Over the next decade, thousands of migrants from the island landed there, including ethnic Europeans, free people of color, and African slaves, some of the latter brought in by the white elites. They greatly increased the French-speaking population in New Orleans and Louisiana, as well as the number of Africans, and the slaves reinforced African culture in the city. [16]


The Cabildo, next to the Saint-Louis Cathedral (See photo below.) New Orleans Cabildo.jpg
The Cabildo, next to the Saint-Louis Cathedral (See photo below.)
Calle de San Luis in the French Quarter of New Orleans StLouisStTilesSpanishFQ.jpg
Calle de San Luis in the French Quarter of New Orleans
1895 recreation of the St. Louis (San Luis) Cathedral of Nueva Orleans of when it was under Spanish rule; this facade was built by the Spaniards following the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. The cathedral was later rebuilt in the mid-19th century. Church St Louis 1794 New Orleans.jpg
1895 recreation of the St. Louis (San Luis) Cathedral of Nueva Orleans of when it was under Spanish rule; this façade was built by the Spaniards following the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. The cathedral was later rebuilt in the mid-19th century.

French control

The French established settlements in French Louisiana beginning in the 17th century. The French began exploring the region from French Canada.

Spanish control

French control

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louisiana Purchase</span> 1803 acquisition of large region of Middle America land by the U.S. from France

The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the territory of Louisiana by the United States from the French First Republic in 1803. In return for fifteen million dollars, or approximately eighteen dollars per square mile, the United States nominally acquired a total of 828,000 sq mi in Middle America. However, France only controlled a small fraction of this area, most of which was inhabited by Native Americans; effectively, for the majority of the area, the United States bought the "preemptive" right to obtain "Indian" lands by treaty or by conquest, to the exclusion of other colonial powers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">District of Louisiana</span> Territory of the USA between 1804-1805

The District of Louisiana, or Louisiana District, was an official and temporary United States government designation for the portion of the Louisiana Purchase that had not been organized into the Territory of Orleans or "Orleans Territory". The district officially existed from March 10, 1804, until July 4, 1805, when it was incorporated as the Louisiana Territory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Illinois Country</span> Historical French colony in what became the Midwestern United States

The Illinois Country —sometimes referred to as Upper Louisiana —was a vast region of New France claimed in the 1600s in what is now the Midwestern United States. While these names generally referred to the entire Upper Mississippi River watershed, French colonial settlement was concentrated along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in what is now the U.S. states of Illinois and Missouri, with outposts in Indiana. Explored in 1673 from Green Bay to the Arkansas River by the Canadien expedition of Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, the area was claimed by France. It was settled primarily from the Pays d'en Haut in the context of the fur trade, and in the establishment of missions by French Catholic religious orders. Over time, the fur trade took some French to the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains, especially along the branches of the broad Missouri River valley. The French name, Pays des Ilinois, means "Land of the Illinois [plural]" and is a reference to the Illinois Confederation, a group of related Algonquian native peoples.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louisiana (New France)</span> Administrative district of New France (1682–1803)

Louisiana or French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control from 1682 to 1769 and 1801 (nominally) to 1803, the area was named in honor of King Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. It originally covered an expansive territory that included most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River and stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Florida Controversy</span> Two border disputes that involved Spain and the United States

The West Florida Controversy included two border disputes that involved Spain and the United States in relation to the region known as West Florida over a period of 37 years. The first dispute commenced immediately after Spain received the colonies of West and East Florida from the Kingdom of Great Britain following the American Revolutionary War. Initial disagreements were settled with Pinckney's Treaty of 1795.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet</span> Governor of El Salvador, Louisiana and West Florida

Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet y Bosoist, 5th Baron of Carondelet, was a Spanish administrator of partial Burgundian descent in the employ of the Spanish Empire. He was a Knight of Malta.

Isleños are the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, and by extension the descendants of Canarian settlers and immigrants to present-day Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Texas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other parts of the Americas. In these places, the name isleño was applied to the Canary Islanders to distinguish them from Spanish mainlanders known as "peninsulars". Formerly used for the general category of people, it now refers to the specific cultural identity of Canary Islanders or their descendants throughout Latin America and in Louisiana, where they are still called isleños. Another name for Canary Islander in English is "Canarian." In Spanish, an alternative is canario or isleño canario.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louisiana Creole people</span> Ethnic group of Louisiana, USA

Louisiana Creoles are people descended from the inhabitants of colonial Louisiana before it became a part of the United States during the period of both French and Spanish rule. As an ethnic group, their ancestry is mainly of Louisiana French, West African, Spanish and Native American origin. Louisiana Creoles share cultural ties such as the traditional use of the French, Spanish, and Creole languages and predominant practice of Catholicism.

Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent was a French merchant and military officer who played a major role in the development of French and Spanish Louisiana.

Three Flags Day commemorates March 9, and 10, 1804, when Spain officially completed turning over the Louisiana colonial territory to France, who then officially turned over the same lands to the United States, in order to finalize the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian Reserve (1763)</span> Native North American Areas

"Indian Reserve" is a historical term for the largely uncolonized land in North America that was claimed by France, ceded to Great Britain through the Treaty of Paris (1763) at the end of the Seven Years' War—also known as the French and Indian War—and set aside for the First Nations in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The British government had contemplated establishing an Indian barrier state in the portion of the reserve west of the Appalachian Mountains, and bounded by the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Great Lakes. British officials aspired to establish such a state even after the region was assigned to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1783) ending the American Revolutionary War, but abandoned their efforts in 1814 after losing military control of the region during the War of 1812.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fort Rosalie</span> United States historic place in Mississippi

Fort Rosalie was built by the French in 1716 within the territory of the Natchez Native Americans and it was part of the French colonial empire in the present-day city of Natchez, Mississippi.

The history of St. Louis, Missouri from 1763 to 1803 was marked by the transfer of French Louisiana to Spanish control, the founding of the city of St. Louis, its slow growth and role in the American Revolution under the rule of the Spanish, the transfer of the area to American control in the Louisiana Purchase, and its steady growth and prominence since then.

North African Americans are Americans with origins in the region of North Africa. This group includes Americans of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francisco Bouligny</span> Spanish colonial political and military leader (1736–1800)

Francisco Domingo Joseph Bouligny y Paret was a high-ranking Spanish military and political figure in Spanish Louisiana. As a francophone in Spanish service, he was a bridge between Creole and French Louisiana and Spain following the transfer of the territory from France to Spain. Bouligny served as lieutenant governor under Bernardo de Gálvez, founded the city of New Iberia in 1779, and served as acting military governor in 1799.

Isleños are a Spanish ethnic group living in the state of Louisiana in the United States, consisting of people primarily from the Canary Islands. Isleños are descendants of colonists who settled in Spanish Louisiana between 1778 and 1783 and intermarried with other communities such as Frenchmen, Acadians, Creoles, Hispanic Americans, Filipinos, and other groups, mainly through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Canarian Americans are Americans whose ancestors came from the Canary Islands, Spain. They can trace their ancestry to settlers and immigrants who have emigrated since the 16th century to the present-day United States. Most of them are descendants of settlers who immigrated to Spanish colonies in the South of the modern US during the 18th century. The Canarians were among the first settlers of the modern United States; the first Canarians migrated to modern Florida in 1569, and were followed by others coming to La Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

Juan Manuel de Salcedo was the 11th and final governor of Spanish Louisiana, from 1801–1803. He was governor at the time of the cession of the Louisiana territory to France in fulfillment of the terms of the Treaty of San Ildefonso.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">French Louisianians</span> Ethnic group

The French Louisianians, also known as Louisiana Frenchmen, are Latin French people native to the states that were established out of French Louisiana. They are commonly referred to as French Creoles. Today, the most famous Louisiana French groups are the Alabama Creoles, Louisiana Creoles, and the Missouri French.


  1. 1 2 José Presas y Marull (1828). Juicio imparcial sobre las principales causas de la revolución de la América Española y acerca de las poderosas razones que tiene la metrópoli para reconocer su absoluta independencia. (original document) [Fair judgment about the main causes of the revolution of Spanish America and about the powerful reasons that the metropolis has for recognizing its absolute independence]. Burdeaux: Imprenta de D. Pedro Beaume. pp. 22, 23.
  2. Chambers, Henry E. (May 1898). West Florida and its relation to the historical cartography of the United States. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins Press. p. 48.
  3. "French Quarter Fire and Flood". FrenchQuarter.com. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  4. "March 9–10: Three Flags Day". Florida Center for Instructional Technology. FCIT. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
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  6. 1 2 Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo (1995). Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN   978-0807119990.
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  10. Ekberg, Carl (2000). French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times. Urbana and Chicago, Ill.: University of Illinois Press. pp. 32–33. ISBN   9780252069246.
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  12. Armistead, Samuel G. (2007), La Tradición Hispano–Canaria en Luisiana: La Literatura Tradicional de los Isleños [The Hispanic–Canarian Tradition in Louisiana: Traditional Literature of the Isleños] (in Spanish), Madrid: Celesa, pp. 51–61, ISBN   978-84-96887-08-4
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  15. Din, Gilbert C. (Spring 1976). "Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Bouligny and the Malagueño Settlement at New Iberia, 1779". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 17 (2): 187–202. JSTOR   4231587.
  16. "The Slave Rebellion of 1791". Library of Congress Country Studies.
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Coordinates: 29°46′19″N89°58′08″W / 29.772°N 89.969°W / 29.772; -89.969