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The French Quarter

New Orleans (If you want to sound like a native, it's N'Awlins, dawlin'). Just the name is enough to make you think of hot summer nights, magnolias blooming, and deliciously spicy foods. And the music - jazz, zydeco, blues. So many wonderful things.

This is a city rich in history and tradition. In the 17th century, a man named Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle decided to come down from Canada to trace the mouth of the Mississippi river. In 1682, when he came to the Gulf of Mexico, he claimed all of the territory, where the Mississippi drained, for France and named it Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV (the Sun King). At this point, Louisiana was nothing more than a lot of mud and palmetto trees.

By the time that Cavalier claimed Louisiana, the Sun King had died and in his place, his great-grandson, Louis XV (the child-king), was on the throne. He was advised by a Regent named Philippe, Duc d'Orleans. There was a Scotsman named John Law who had manipulated his way into the French court. He was a financier and real estate operator who was, shall we say, not very honest about his dealings. In 1717, he managed to convince the Crown to grant him a 25 year charter to settle the Louisiana Territory.

Two brothers, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur D'Iberville, and his younger sibling, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur De Bienville, were sent over to Louisiana to set things up for the people coming to settle there. In 1718, on Law's instructions, Jean-Baptiste established the new settlement called La Nouvelle Orleans after the Duke.

Law sent out broadsides (early day flyers) to tell people that there was fabulous wealth to be found in New Orleans (entirely untrue, but honesty wasn't his strong point) and people paid large sums of money to be shipped to the new settlement. What they found was nothing more than palmetto shacks, mud, mosquitos and hostile indians (the Choctaw and Chickasaw lived in this region). Originally, only men settled there, but in 1727, 87 women were freed from a notorious prison in France and sent to New Orleans to become brides.

It took a lot of hard work and simply surviving, but in 1727, New Orleans became a Crown colony and the people started emulating the French court.

In 1765, the British exiled the people of New Acadia (Nova Scotia) from their home and in a mass migration, more than 10,000 people moved to Louisiana. The word Acadia was corrupted to become Cajun. The Cajuns "lived along the bayous and amid the swamps of South Louisiana for two centuries, isolated, clannish, devoutly Catholic, French speaking and happily removed from mannered city society. They were hunters and trappers and fishermen, farmers, boat builders, breeders of quarterhorses who worked hard weekdays and weekends celebrating life with their fais do-do's. "Laissez les bons temps rouler" (Let the good times roll) has always been a part of their basic philosophy. Lacking formal education, they lived close to the land, intermarried, and proudly retained their customs, their religion and their own provincial form of the French language. This patois is a form of provincial French passed down orally for three centuries. It dates back to their ancestral home in Brittany and Normandy. Quite different from both the written Parisian (and Creole) French, "Cajun French" has virtually disappeared. But their distinctively accented English, and Cajun idioms prevail as do their music and food, their fetes, and their strong sense of family bonding."

In 1762, the secret Treaty of Fountainbleau and the later Treaty of Paris transferred ownership of New Orleans to the Spanish. News of this didn't filter down to the colonists until 1764 when Don Antonio d'Ulloa arrived to take command. The people didn't take this well and decided to rebel. The revolution didn't last very long and in 1769, with the arrival of 24 Spanish warships and 2,000 troops, the fighting stopped. With the city secured, Don Alexandro O'Reilly took command as Governor.

The people of New Orleans were nothing if not pratical and soon settled down to living under Spanish rule. They had a new name now, Creole, people who were of French and Spanish descent and not born in Europe. "Thus, New Orleans was in the hands of the Spanish at the time the New England colonies revolted against King George III. In 1776, the Spanish governor of New Orleans was Bernardo de Galvez. Largely due to the efforts of New Orleanian Oliver Pollack, member of the Continental Congress and one of the unsung heroes of the American Revolution, New Orleans sided with Spain. De Galvez sent 20 of his largest ships, loaded with supplies and ammunition, up the east coast to New York. In 1779, Great Britain declared war on Spain. De Galvez proceeded to wipe out the British Colonies in Mobile, Baton Rouge, Pensacola and Natchez."

On October 1, 1800, with the secret Treaty of Il defonso, Napolean Bonaparte talked the Spanish government into turning Louisiana back over to him. He planned on taking control of the Louisiana Territory and especially, New Orleans. This made President Thomas Jefferson more than a little nervous. So he sent Robert Livingston to Paris to buy New Orleans from Napolean. Due to the fact that Napolean had suffered some severe defeats, Livingston was able to purchase not only New Orleans, but the whole Lousiana Territory for a mere 15 million dollars! On December 20, 1803, the Louisiana Territory became the property of the United States. In 1805, New Orleans was incorporated as a city and in 1812, was admitted to the Union.

"That very year, the British launched a series of attempts to seize New Orleans as part of the War of 1812. In 1815 General Andrew Jackson was sent to the rescue. In the last battle of the last war ever fought between the United States and Great Britain, Jackson's ramshackle mix of Tennessee volunteers, Kaintucks, free blacks, Creole French and Chocktaw Indians prevailed. The Battle of New Orleans cost the British more than 2,000 men. It cost Jackson 71."

With the invention of the steamboat and the rising prices for cotton and tobacco, New Orleans became a wealthy city. By 1840, it was the 4th largest city in the United States and the 2nd wealthiest (only New York was wealthier). It also had the biggest population of free people of color.

"The War Between the States erupted in 1861, and the following year New Orleans was occupied by Union forces. They remained until 1877, when Reconstruction ended and New Orleans began to move forward again. In 1915, disaster struck in the form of a severe hurricane, and in 1918, 35,000 New Orleanians died during the devastating flu epidemic that swept the country. The city not only survived, it flourished."

Two of the more popular areas to visit in New Orleans are the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. The French Quarter is where the Creoles isolated themselves. They couldn't understand why anyone would want to cross Canal Street and Uptown was dismissed as "American" territory (which they weren't, of course). "In 1722, the capital for the "New World" was moved from Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans. French Engineer Adrien de Pauger laid out the master plan for the city and Bourbon Street became one of the La Nouvelle Orleans first streets. It was named to honor the great ruling dynasty of the time, The Bourbons" (King Louis XIV). It has grown into one of the biggest and most successful retailing areas of the world.

In spite of all the modern innovations, New Orleans still retains an Old World flavor. You can feel the history, the excitement, taste its variety, and hear its rich musical heritage. So, to all who visit "The City That Care Forgot" I say...........


(Sources Used - Say What? A Lesson In New Orleansese, A History of New Orleans, New Orleans History, The Cajuns and The Creoles, Bourbon Street - New Orleans History, Origins of New Orleans)

Recipes Of Louisiana