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L’Anthologie  Louisianaise

Auguste Levasseur.
Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825;
or, Journal of a Voyage to the United States.


In returning his thanks to the orator and the citizens of Alabama, the general took a rapid survey of the struggles for liberty in which he had borne so important a part, and concluded by expressing his deep conviction of the necessity of the closest and most intimate union among the states.

The inhabitants of Mobile, hoping that the general would pass some days with them, had made great preparations for entertainments to him, but the most part were rendered useless. Limited in his time, he was obliged to yield to the solicitations of the deputation from New Orleans, who pressed him to depart the next morning. Nevertheless he accepted a public dinner, a ball and a masonic celebration; after which we went on board the vessel which was to take him to New Orleans, to obtain a few hours of that repose, which a day filled with so many pleasant emotions had rendered absolutely necessary.


Departure from Mobile — Gulf of Mexico — Passage of the Balize — Landing at the entrenchments near New Orleans — Entrance into the city — Entertainments and Public Ceremonies — Battle of New Orleans.

THE vessel on board of which we had retired, on leaving the ball, was the Natchez, an excellent and handsome steam boat, sent by the city of New Orleans to transport the general from Mobile to the shores of the Mississippi. An experienced captain, Mr. Davis, commanded her; she had on board the Louisiania deputation, at the head of which was Mr. Duplantier, an old friend and companion in arms of the general. At the break of day, cannon were heard, at which signal we weighed anchor. The general stationed on the deck, received the farewell of the citizens who pressed in crowds to the shore, and testified their sorrow by expressive gestures and a gloomy silence. In half an hour, the city of Mobile disappeared from the horizon, which enlarged around us, and in a short time the smoke of the artillery, tinged by the rays of the rising sun, also became invisible. When night returned, it found us in the Gulf of Mexico.

To reach New Orleans, we might choose between two routes; either behind Dauphin, Horn, Dog, Ship, or Cat islands, traversing lakes Borgne and Portchartrain, and disembarking a few miles in the rear of the city, or else boldly cross the gulf to the mouth of the Mississippi, pass the Balize and ascend the river. Our captain, confident of the solidity of his vessel, decided on the latter plan, which was not unattended with danger, but it gained us a whole day. We soon repented of his determination. A storm arose in a short time. The motion of the vessel become so disagreeable that we were obliged to lie down to avoid the sea sickness which attacked almost all of us. During the night, the wind greatly augmented, and the waves became so high, that several of them entering the ports, inundated the cabin and our beds. The noise of the wind, waves, and engine, with the creaking of the vessel, were so horrible, that we expected to founder every moment. At break of day I ascended to the deck, from whence I beheld the most imposing and awful spectacle; we arrived at the Balize. We could not avoid feeling a strong emotion at the sight of this magnificent river, whose rapid stream and prodigious breadth announced rather a conqueror than a tributary of the ocean. Its waves repelling, to a great distance, those of the sea, heaped on the low islands at its mouth, thousands of immense trunks of trees, which, after having flourished for ages under the polar circle, were now decaying under the burning sky of Mexico, and feeding a new vegetation with their remains. Enormous alligators of a sinister appearance and sluggish gait, attached to the floating trunks of trees, menaced the navigator, and seemed to dispute the entrance of the river with him. For a long time after we had entered the Mississippi we thought ourselves in another sea, so distant are its shores, and so tumultuous are its waves. It was not until after some hours that it became sufficiently narrow for us to perceive its muddy banks, or that the stream diminished in swiftness.

In the morning we passed Fort Plaquemine, from which we were saluted with thirteen guns, and night again surprised us before we could perceive the walls of New Orleans. No variety in the vegetation is perceptible for sixty miles from the Balize. Hitherto nothing was to be seen but cypresses covered with the sombre tillandsia, called by the natives of the country, Spanish beard. This parasitic plant, which forms a long and dense drapery on the trees, has a more melancholy appearance, from its only growing in countries subject to the yellow fever. It is said to afford food to those animals which seek a shelter in the woods during the winter. The inhabitants of Louisiana employ it to stuff matrasses and cushions; for these purposes, after having washed it in an alkaline solution, they beat it till the husk is detached; when it is dry it has the appearance of long black hair. It is so durable as to be considered incorruptible. It is employed with success in building, mixed with mortar or tenacious earth.

About midnight, I went on deck for a short time; the night was dark, the sky charged with thick clouds, and the air filled with a hoarse noise. The batteries at New Orleans were then firing a salute of a hundred guns, to announce that the day on which the guest of the nation would arrive, was commencing.

Next morning we awoke near those famous lines where twelve thousand picked English troops were overthrown by a few hundred men, the half of whom bore arms for the first time. Astonished at the cries of Vive la liberté, vive l’ami de l’Amerique! vive Lafayette! in the French language, we hastened on deck. What was our surprise on seeing the shore covered with French uniforms! For an instant we believed that we were transported back to the bosom of our country, once more freed, and our hearts beat with joy. General Lafayette disembarked in the midst of the thunder of artillery, and the acclamations of an immense multitude, who, regardless of the badness of the weather and the distance from the town, crowded the levee. He was received by a numerous escort of cavalry, and by the twelve marshals who had been appointed to direct the procession. Leaning on the arm of his ancient companion in arms, Mr. Duplantier, and of General Viller, he proceeded to the house of Montgomery, which had been Jackson’s head quarters on the day when he covered himself with glory by his admirable defence of his lines. The governor of the state there waited for him, and received him in the name of the people of Louisiana.

The speech of the governor, depicting Frenchmen enjoying a liberty which is still considered in France as problematical, made a deep impression on the general, and he replied to it with much emotion.

At the conclusion of his reply, every one that could force an entrance into the house were presented to him in turn. There were a great number of the veterans of the revolution, and among others, Colonel Bruian-Bruin, who had served at the siege of Quebec, where the brave General Montgomery perished; Judge Gerrard, who fought at Yorktown, Colonel Grenier, who, after having gloriously assisted in the three revolutions of America, France, and Colombia, still preserved at seventy years of age, all the courage and fire of youth. A great number of ladies also came down to meet the general, and offered him their congratulations through Mr. Marigny, on his safe arrival in Louisiana. After all the presentations had been gone through, the procession was formed, and, notwithstanding the violence of the rain, we took up the line of march to the city. We advanced but slowly, from the denseuess of the crowd, which, as we approached the city, blocked up both the road and the levee. When we arrived at the outskirts of the town we met with bodies of troops drawn up in two lines, through which we passed to the sound of martial music. Notwithstanding the badness of the weather, the general proceeded along these lines on foot, and before he again entered the carriage returned his thanks to the commanding officers. The procession again moved on, augmented by the troops falling into the rear, and, as it advanced, the crowd became still greater in spite of the continuance of the storm. This immense concourse of people, the view of the triple row of houses adorned with hangings, bordering the river side, the sound of the artillery and bells, and the prolonged acclamations of the whole population, produced a sensation which it is difficult to describe; at last, in the midst of these testimonies of strong affection, the general arrived at the barrier of the public square, and was conducted by the committee of arrangement under a triumphal arch of admirable architecture and excellent design. This monument was sixty feet in height, forty of which were below the springing of the arch, by fifty-eight in breadth; the arcade was twenty feet wide, and twenty five long; it rested on a socle imitating Sera-Veza marble; the base, forming a pedestal of green Italian marble, was decorated with colossal statues of Justice and Liberty. This allegorical basement supported an arch of the doric order, adorned with four coupled columns on each face. The key-stones were composed of twenty-four stones, each decorated with a gilt star, united by a fillet, on which was engraved the word, Constitution, thus representing the twenty-four states connected by one common tie. The pediment, in imitation of yellow Verona marble, supported two figures of Fame with trumpets, and carrying banners entwined with laurel, having on them the names of Lafayette and Washington; the whole was surmounted by the national eagle. The upper socle supported an entablature of seven feet, on which was inscribed, in English and French, “A grateful republic dedicates this monument to Lafayette.” On the top of the monument was a group representing Wisdom resting her hand on a bust of the immortal Franklin, and the four angles were decorated with rich national trophies. The names of the signers of the declaration of independence, and those of officers who had distinguished themselves during the war of the revolution, were inscribed on various parts of the arch. This beautiful edifice, designed by Mr. Pilié, and executed by Mr. Fogliardi, presented a striking appearance, and the reliefs had an admirable effect.

Under this monument the general was received by the municipal body, at the head of whom was the mayor, Mr. Roffignac, who addressed him in the name of the citizens of New Orleans.

In expressing his thanks to Mr. Roffignac, the general did not permit such an occasion to escape him, of paying a tribute of esteem to the memory of the father of this worthy magistrate. “On my entrance into this capital,” said he, “I feel penetrated with gratitude for the reception 1 have met with from the people of New Orleans and its worthy mayor, whose name recalls to a cotemporary of his father’s, recollections of courage and loyalty.” Mr. Roffignac appeared extremely affected by this testimony of the general’s to the exalted character of his father, and the tears that escaped from his eyes proved the depth of his feelings.

After leaving the triumphal arch, the general was conducted, amidst the acclamations of an immense crowd, to the city hall, where he was complimented by Mr. Prieur in the name of the city council; from here we went to the hotel of the municipality, where our quarters had been prepared, and which the people of New Orleans designated by the name of the “Lafayette house.” After taking a few moments of repose, the general went out on a balcony to review the troops. All the detachments that passed were remarkable for the elegance of their uniform, and the exactness of their discipline. The grenadiers, the voltigeurs, Union guards, chasseurs, New Orleans guards, Lafayette guards, each in turn attracted the attention of the general. But when, in the rear of the riflemen, whose name recalls so many recollections of gallantry, he perceived a file of a hundred Choctaws, marching, according to the Indian custom, in a single line, he was much gratified to see, that, by a delicate attention, they had shown him that his name was familiar to the warriors of the most distant nations, and that they had admitted among their troops, these brave Indians, who had been the allies of the Americans in the Seminole war, and, who, for nearly a month past, had been encamped near the city, in order to see the “great warrior,” “the brother of their great father Washington.”

The next day, the general received the visits of the vice president of the house of representatives, and of those members of the legislature who were then in the capital, and immediately afterwards the gentlemen of the bar, headed by Mr. Derbigny, who had been chosen their orator, were presented to him. In a discoure filled with noble thoughts, and pronounced with a touching eloquence, Mr. Derbigny eulogised with delicacy and address, that rectitude of mind, and firmness of character, which, during political tempests, had always guided Lafayette in the path of justice, and preserved him from participating in the excesses of party.

In his reply, the general, carefully avoiding any allusion to the eulogies that had been heaped upon him, confined himself to the consideration of the general interests of Louisiana, and the individual exertions of those who complimented him; he felicitated the citizens of that state, after having been governed by the criminal laws of France and Spain, that they gradually ameliorated them, and were still occupied in perfecting this part of their code, to such a degree, that it might even serve as a guide to the rest of the United States, whose criminal laws are already so superior to those of every other people.

Being strongly urged to visit both the French and American theatres on the same evening, the general decided by lot which he would attend the first; chance was in favour of the American. We went there at seven o’clock, and was received with an enthusiasm that cannot be described; they gave an appropriate piece, of which neither he nor the audience could appreciate the merit, as every eye was attracted by the hero of York-town, who completely withdrew all attention from the representation of the Prisoner of Olmutz. He afterwards went to the French theatre, where they were impatiently expecting his appearance. When he entered, the violence of the plaudits, and the repeated cries of “Vive Lafayette,” suspended the representation. Every body rose; it was like Themistocles appearing at the Olympic games: at last, calm being re-established, the general took his seat in the box that had been prepared for him, and saw with pleasure the last act of that charming comedy, L’Ecole des Vieillards, which seemed to me to be as much relished by my former countrymen, the Americans of Louisiana, as by the inhabitants of Paris. Before he retired, the general heard an ode which was performed to his honour, all the allusions of which were applauded with enthusiasm.

In the course of Tuesday morning, a deputation of the Spanish emigrants and refugees presented themselves to compliment the general; and, above all, to testify their gratitude for the manner in which he opposed, in the Chamber of Deputies in France, the invasion of Spain, and the destruction of the liberal constitution.

The general, whose principles had led him to oppose, with all his energy, a measure disapproved of by France — a measure which had produced such disastrous results to Spain, and the heroic victims of which were now before him, was deeply affected by the expressions of gratitude now showered upon him; and, in an eloquent and impressive reply, paid his tribute of esteem, admiration, and regret, to the memory of the unfortunate Riego; he had already, on more than one occasion, openly expressed his opinion on the unhappy death of that generous martyr to liberty, and the whole American nation had partaken of the same feelings, for the consistent and courageous defender of the revolution in the peninsula.

On the following day, many other deputations waited on General Lafayette, and expressed to him their attachment, and devotion to his principles. Among them were those of the militia staff, of the medical society, of the clergy, and of the free blacks, who, in 1815, courageously assisted in the defence of the city; and our two last evenings were occupied, the one by a public ball, and the other by a masonic dinner. I will not attempt to describe these entertainments, which, from the beauty, elegance, and amiability of the ladies, the enthusiasm and frank cordiality of the citizens, the sedulous and delicate attentions of the magistrates, the richness and profusion of the details, equalled any thing we had ever met with.

Nevertheless, in the midst of the pleasures thus afforded him by the Louisianians, the general experienced moments of inquietude and sorrow. Sinister rumours reached him; he was told of a serious dispute between the staff and the officers of the militia, on the subject of certain prerogatives of the legion, denied by one, and insisted on by the others with equal warmth, which might produce bloody results after the departure of him whose presence was a curb even on the most headstrong. In so serious an affair he did not hesitate on using all his influence to reconcile citizens, whom a moment of error and a false point of honour had temporarily divided; he, therefore, invited all the officers of the different corps to meet at his house. When they arrived, he told them that they were, doubtless, aware of his reasons in thus bringing them together; that he was informed of what had passed, and the evil consequences that would ensue; he observed, that he felt that he was the cause, however unwillingly, and could he have foreseen such unpleasant circumstances, he should have written to decline their invitation. He begged them to consider the injurious reports it would occasion as regarded all parties, and concluded by begging that they would accept of him as a mediator.

One of the superior officers immediately advanced, and with an honourable frankness said to him, “General, I place my honour in your hands, and now agree to whatever you may dictate.” The eldest of the complainants then observed, “General, I also confide my honour, and that of my comrades, who freely agree with me, in your keeping.” The general took a hand of each of these brave men, and having united them, had the satisfaction of seeing the happiest concord established between men, who an instant before had renounced the pleasing title of brothers in arms. This interesting scene had many witnesses, who soon promulgated the details. The news of it was received with astonishing enthusiasm, as it was a sincere reconciliation between all that Louisiana cherished and revered.

General Lafayette had intended to visit the scene of the battle of the 8th of January, but the continuance of stormy weather, and the necessity for his complying in two or three days to all the kind invitations that were heaped upon him, obliged him to relinquish the idea. A colonel of the staff, who witnessed the chagrin this sacrifice occasioned me, had the goodness to propose that I should accompany him, whilst the general was paying some private visits. I accepted his invitation with eagerness, and we immediately set out in a carriage he sent for. On the way he informed me that he was born in France; that placed, from his birth, in the privileged class of society, he had, from his infancy, been brought up in the aristocratic prejudices of his caste ; and that, although very young at the epoch of the French revolution, he believed it his duty to defend the rights of a few against the natural and sacred rights of the many, and that he had joined the Vendeans. “Then,” said he, “I believed in the legitimacy of an absolute monarchy, and in the hereditary succession of virtue, with all the fervour of ignorance, and I at first fought for them, with all the courage and devotion of fanaticism; but the campaign had not terminated before my reason, bursting the bonds with which education had loaded it, taught me, that instead of combating, as I had believed, for justice and truth, I was merely the instrument of a few men, determined to sacrifice every thing, even their country, to their own private interests, and I sheathed my sword, which I ought never to have drawn in so unjust, so absurd a cause.” He went on to say, that he would have re-entered France, but was deterred by the scenes of bloodshed and confusion then so prevalent in that country. He, therefore, sought in other lands that happiness he was denied at home. After traversing all Europe, and every where finding the same criminal alliance of royalty, nobility, and clergy, against the welfare and interests of the people, he finally settled in the United States. He added, “I had only lived at New Orleans a short time, when, in 1815, the inveterate enemies of the liberty of others in both hemispheres presented themselves before that city. I flew to arms, happy in finding an occasion of proving my gratitude to my new country, and my sincere attachment to the principles which governed it, and I am happy in being able to say, that my presence was not wholly useless on the field of battle we are about to visit.”

My companion had scarcely uttered these words, when our carriage stopped, and we stept out near the extreme right of the lines. Before examining them, the colonel had the goodness to explain to me the operations that preceded and brought on the battle of the 8th. I understood, from these details, how difficult it had been for General Jackson, with the handful of men he had at his disposition, to oppose the landing and rapid progress of an army of 15,000 men, or quadruple his own.

The position chosen by the American general to wait for reinforcements, and to arrest the advance of so formidable an enemy, appeared to me to be very judicious. He threw up entrenchments about five miles below the city, along an old canal, the left of which was lost in the depths of a swampy wood, whilst the right rested on the river. The total length of this line was about eight hundred toises, but as three hundred toises of the left were unassailable, the enemy was confined in his attack to a front of about fire hundred toises, and obliged to advance in full view over a perfectly level plain. Nevertheless, whether from want of time, or want of reflection, General Jackson committed two serious errors; the first was in erecting his entrenchment in a straight line, and at right angles to the river, so that he not only deprived himself of the advantage of cross fires, but he also exposed himself, if the English, more skilful or fortunate, had sent a few vessels up the river in the rear of his lines; he exposed himself, I say, to the danger of having had his whole line enfiladed by the enemy’s artillery. The other fault was, erecting his second line at so great a distance from the first, that if this had been forced, he would never have been enabled to have gained the other, and his troops would have been cut to pieces in the interval. These two faults would have sufficed, as may readily be supposed, to compromise the safety of an army more numerous and better disciplined than that of General Jackson; but the destiny of American liberty, or rather the supernatural courage of the citizens, who, on that day, fought for the preservation of their independence, and the safety of their families, with the inflexible firmness of Jackson himself, shaded with the laurels of a most brilliant victory those faults which would have destroyed a less patriotic army.

I will record the details, which were given me with great clearness and precision, of all the operations that preceded that glorious day. I refer those who wish to study them to the excellent memoir of Mr. Lacarriere Latour, and to the equally distinguished accounts of Messrs. Brackenridge and Mac Fee; but I cannot resist the desire of now retracing some of the most brilliant acts which saved Louisiana, and immortalized its defenders.

Notwithstanding all his exertions, General Jackson was unable to collect for the defence of his entrenchments more than 3,200 men, and fourteen pieces of cannon of different calibers, pressed for time, he had been obliged to form the upper part of his works with bales of cotton, brought down from the city. He remained twenty-four hours in this position, expecting an attack every instant, when, on the 8th of January, at break of day, he perceived the English army, 12,000 strong, advancing on him in three columns, the most formidable of which menaced that part of his left wing, defended by the Tennessee and Kentucky militia. Each soldier, besides his arms, carried fascines or a scaling ladder, and marched in the most profound silence. The Americans permitted them to advance within half cannon shot, and then opened on them a terrible fire of artillery, to which the English replied by three cheers, and the flight of some Congreve rockets, and then hurried their march, closing their ranks as they were mowed down by the shot. This coolness and determination, which seemed as if it would ensure them a speedy victory, did not last long. The moment they arrived within musket shot, the Tennesseans and Kentuckians commenced a fire of small arms, which instantly broke their columns, and forced them to seek for shelter behind some thickets, which covered their right. It is true, that infantry never kept up so constant and destructive a fire, as that of these intrepid American militia. The men, arranged six deep, loaded the arms, and rapidly passed them to the front rank, composed of able marksmen, each of whose balls carried certain death to the enemy.

Whilst the English officers, with a courage worthy of a better cause and of a happier destiny, endeavoured to rally their scattered troops, to lead them to a fresh assault, an American artilleryman, in the battery commanded by Lieutenant Spotts, perceived in the plain, a group of officers, agitated and dismayed, carrying off some one with some difficulty. “It is perhaps the commander-in-chief and only wounded,” exclaimed he, “he must not escape so.” He levelled his piece against them, fired, and Packenham the English commander was killed in the arms of his friends. The desire for revenge now rallied the English; officers and soldiers pressed foward in a new column, led on with fury by Kean and Gibbs, the successors of Packenham. But the fire of the Americans redoubled in intensity and precision; Kean and Gibbs successively fell, the one mortally, the other dangerously wounded, and the column again broken, disappeared, leaving only its wreck on the plain.

Whilst in the centre of the line the American troops were thus crushing their adversaries, without the loss of a single man, fortune seemed as if she wished to try them on the right by a reverse. Twelve hundred English, led by a daring chief, rapidly advanced along the river, and unexpectedly fell on a small redoubt, defended by a company of riflemen and one of the 7th regiment. The Americans, surprised at this point, at first retired in some disorder. General Jackson, whose vigilant eye let nothing escape, at this decisive moment perceived an English officer mounted on the entrenchments, brandishing in one hand his sabre, and with the other assisting his soldiers to scale the rampart. Jackson hastened to the spot, met the runaways, arrested their flight, and, in a terrible voice, demanded of their commander who had given him orders to retreat. “The enemy has forced our entrenchments,” replied the captain. “Well,” answered Jackson in a severe voice, “go back and with your bayonets force them out.” This order was immediately executed. In an instant the English, who at first thought themselves victors, fell under the blows of the Americans. Among the slain, was the intrepid Colonel Rennie, an ancient French emigrant who had entered the English service; the same that had been seen so boldly surmounting the rampart, aiding and encouraging his soldiers in the assault.

This battle, which decided the fate of New Orleans, and perhaps even of Louisiana, only lasted three hours, and cost the Americans but seven men killed and six wounded, whilst the English left near three thousand men and fourteen pieces of cannon on the field. General Lambert, the only one of the English generals in a state to command, ordered a retreat, and hastened to seek shelter for himself and the wreck of his army, on board Admiral Cochran’s fleet, who, the evening before, had said with his accustomed boasting, that if he were ordered to attack the American lines, he would carry them in less than half an hour, with two thousand sailors, sabre in hand.

Thus, a small army, composed of citizens hastily collected, and commanded by a general whose military career had just commenced, beheld an English army, which passed for one of the bravest and most experienced in Europe, and which boasted it had expelled the French from Spain, fall before its patriotic efforts.

When I returned to the city, I found General Lafayette surrounded by numbers of ladies and citizens of all ranks, who, knowing that he would leave them the next morning, mournfully came to bid him farewell, and once more to take him by the hand. In the crowd I remarked some ecclesiastics, and among them a capuchin, whose dress being new to me had attracted my attention on the day of our arrival. The account I heard of him interested me strongly, and may perhaps be equally so to my readers.

Father Anthony, for such is his name, is a venerable capuchin friar of the order of St. Francis, and has resided in Louisiana for many years. Animated by an ardent and sincere piety, Father Anthony prays in silence for all the world without asking prayers of any one. Placed in the midst of a population composed of different sects, he does not think it right to trouble their consciences by endeavours to gain proselytes. Sometimes, as being a capuchin, Father Anthony asks alms, but it is only when he has some good action in view, and his slender funds, exhausted by his constant charity, deny him the power of doing it himself. Every year, when the yellow fever, in stretching its murderous hand over New Orleans, drives the terrified inhabitants to the country, to seek an asylum against disease and death, the virtue of Father Anthony shows itself in all its brilliancy and force. During this time of dread and grief, how many unhappy wretches, abandoned by their friends or even by their relations, have owed their recovery and life to his exertions, his care, his piety. Of all those he has saved, (and there are many,) there is not one who can say, “before he lavished his care on me, he ask of what religion I was.” Liberty and charity, such is the moral code of Father Anthony; hence he is not in favour with the bishop. When he came to visit the general, he was dressed, according to the custom of his order, in a long brown robe, tied about his middle with a thick cord. The moment he perceived him, he threw himself into his arms, exclaiming, “O my son, I have found favour before the Lord, since he has thus permitted me to see and hear the worthiest apostle of liberty!” He then conversed a few moments with him in a tone of the most tender affection, complimented him on the glorious and well-merited reception he had met with from the Americans, and modestly retired into a corner of the room, apart from the crowd. I took advantage of this, to approach and salute him. How deeply was I touched by his conversation ! — what sweetness! what modesty! and at the same time what enthusiasm! Every time that he spoke of liberty his eyes sparkled with a sacred light, and his looks were fastened on him he termed his hero, on Lafayette. “How happy must he be,” said he, “how pure is the source of all his glory! with what transport he must contemplate the result of his labours and sacrifices! Twelve millions of men happy and free through him! Yes! this man is certainly beloved by God. He has done so much good to others.” He came again to see us the morning before our departure. When the crowd had quitted the room, and he was left alone with the general, he hastened to him, and pressing him with transport to his bosom, “Adieu, my son,” cried he, “adieu, best beloved general! Adieu! may the Lord attend you, and after the termination of your glorious journey, conduct you to the bosom of your beloved family, to enjoy in peace the recollection of your; good actions and of the friendship of the American people. O, my son, perhaps you are still reserved for new labours! Perhaps the Lord may make you the instrument of freeing other nations. Then, my son, think of poor Spain! Do not abandon my dear country, my unhappy country!” The tears flowing from his eyes, moistened his long beard, whitened by age; his voice was interrupted by sobs; and the venerable old man, leaning his forehead on the shoulder of Lafayette, remained in this attitude a few moments, still murmuring, “My son, my dear son, do something for my unhappy country.” It was not without deep emotion that the general tore himself from the arms of this pious patriot, who, before he retired, also bestowed his benediction on Mr. George Lafayette.

Perè Antoine

But the 15th being fixed for our departure, from the dawn of day the avenues to the general’s apartment were filled with even a greater assemblage than that of the evening before. There were present a great number of ladies, and particularly crowds of children brought by their parents, that they might contemplate the features of the benefactor of the country, the friend of the great Washington. The general left the house on foot. Cries of Vive Lafayette were heard on every side. In crossing the parade ground, on which were several companies of the legion and troops of the line, lining the avenues, he expressed his gratitude to all the officers whom he met; he again testified to Mr. Gally, the captain of artillery, how much he appreciated the merit of the fine corps he commanded; and, as he understood that this officer intended going to France in a short time, he begged him, in the most pressing manner, to have the goodness to carry news of him to his family at La Grange. He got into a carriage at the extremity of the parade ground, to proceed to the place of embarkation, where the steamboat that was to take him to Baton-Rouge now waited for him. The levee was crowded by an innumerable concourse of people. The balconies, roofs of the houses, all the shipping and steamboats which were near this spot, were filled with spectators; and, when he went on board, he was saluted by a prolonged acclamation, but it was not repeated, and more than ten thousand persons remained in a state of profound silence, until the Natchez was out of sight. The artillery only was heard at intervals, giving a solemnity to this separation that was profound and universal.

The governor and his staff, the mayor and municipal body, the committee of arangement, to whom we owed so many and great obligations, embarked with us to prolong for a few moments the pleasure of being with the general; but at two miles from the city, the most of them were obliged to leave us. It was not without profound regret that we separated from these worthy officers, whom we had only known for a few days, it is true, but yet sufficiently long to appreciate them fully.


History and Constitution of Louisiana — Baton Rouge — Natchez — State of Mississippi — Voyage to St. Louis — Reception of General Lafayette in that city.

FOR a long time after the French had founded large and prosperous establishments in Canada, they were ignorant of the existence of the Mississippi; when some of their traders learnt from the Indians with whom they trafficked, that to the westward of their country there was a great river, that communicated with the Gulf of Mexico. This was in the year 1660. Three years afterwards Mr. De Frontenac, governor of Canada, wishing to verify this assertion, sent a Jesuit missionary, father Marquette, at the head of a small detachment to discover this country. The Jesuit ascended Fox river to its source, from thence traversing the Wisconsin, he descended to the mouth of the Mississippi, and found that the account of the Indians was true.

Twenty years afterwards, Count Robert de la Salle not only proved the existence of this river, but ascertained that it offered an easy communication with the ocean. He descended it from the river Illinois to the Mexican gulf, whilst father Hennepin, a franciscan, ascended it as far as the falls of St. Anthony, situated three hundred miles above that river. Count Robert took possession, in the name of the king of France, his master, of the whole course of the river with the adjacent country, and erected some forts for the protection of the settlers, which, as the soil appeared very rich, he expected to see arrive in great numbers. Nevertheless, it was not until 1699,thatthe first settlement was made at Biloxi, by a celebrated French naval officer, Lemoine d’Iberville, who was the first to enter the Mississippi from the sea, and ascended the river as far as Natchez, which he chose for the capital of Louisiana, calling it Rosalie, in honour of the name of Chancellor Pontchartrain’s lady. To people this new capital, some young girls and well selected soldiers were sent from France. These last were married to the girls and exempted from military duty. Each colonist was allowed some acres of land, a cow and calf, cock and hens, a gun; half a pound of powder and two pounds of lead, with a month’s provisions, were distributed to them monthly. Next came missionaries, which, instead of improving the land by the labour of their hands, or developing the resources of the colonists by their wisdom and councils, began to preach to the neighbouring Indians, in order to convert them to the catholic faith. The fruits of these labours soon began to appear; that is to say, the Indians pretended to listen to the new doctrines which were spread before them, and became hypocrites for the sake of obtaining brandy. This liquor, which was the first reward of their conversion, exasperated all the passions to which they were unfortunately predisposed; and from this time they became the most dangerous and cruel enemies of the settlement, instead of the useful neighbours which they would doubtless have been, if, without interfering with the manner in which they worshipped God, their friendly alliance only had been sought. Nevertheless, in the course of a few years, the cordiality and gentleness of the French character counteracted the unhappy influence of the missionaries, and almost all the savage tribes with the exception of the Chickasaws, made peace with the colonists and rendered them important services. Mr. de Bienville, the brother of Iberville, and at that time governor of Louisiana, yielding to his ardour for research, explored the greater part of the rivers tributary to the Mississippi, and laid the foundations of some new settlements on its banks. But none of these succeeded. The number of colonists had considerably diminished, when, in 1712, Antony Crozat, who by the Indian trade, had amassed a fortune of forty millions, purchased the grant to the whole of Louisiana, with the exclusive right of its trade for six years. His letters patent included all the rivers emptying into the Mississippi and all the lands, coasts and islands situated upon the gulf of Mexico, between Carolina on the east and Mexico on the west. But Crozat was not long in discovering how much the expectations he had founded upon this country were exaggerated, and hastened to renounce his contract for the purpose of obtaining another for the period of twenty-five years, in favour of the Mississippi Commercial Company, of which the celebrated Law was the projector. But this company was not more fortunate than Crozat. Instead of enticing into the colony such settlers as would have added to its prosperity, he received only rich and avaricious adventurers, who were attracted by the report of the mines of gold and silver, with which the country was said to abound, and, disappointed in their hopes, quickly returned to Europe. In spite of the efforts of the government instituted by the commercial company, the proprietaries were soon reduced to despair, and established military posts, where they defended themselves until reinforcements were received. The first expedition that arrived was composed of criminals and women of abandoned character, sent out by the French government. The company were justly indignant at this, and declared, that in future they would not suffer the colony to be thus morally and physically polluted.

In 1718, New Orleans, consisting of a few cabins built by Illinois traders, and thus named in honour of the regent Duke of Orleans, passed under the jurisdiction of the governor-general, M. de Bienville, and received a considerable number of new settjers. Two villages were built in its vicinity by Germans, under the command of Arensburg, a Swedish captain, who, in 1709, had fought by the side of Charles XII. at the battle of Pultowa. The colony now began really to prosper, and in 1723 swarms of capuchins, missionaries, Jesuits, and pious ursulines, began to arrive from all directions. These last at least were good for something. They were entrusted with the education of orphan girls, and the superintendance of the military hospital, with a pension of fifty thousand crowns per annum. Intolerance, the inseparable accompaniment of all privileges, and especially those of religion, began to show itself in the colony, as soon as the capuchins, jesuits, &c. made their appearance. In 1724, a royal edict expelled the Jews, as declared enemies to the Christian name, and they were ordered to disappear in the course of three months, under penalty of imprisonment and confiscation of property. It was thus that the throne and church watched then, as it did before, and has done since, to dry up the most abundant sources of public prosperity. In 1729, the intrigues of England raised the Indians against the colony, and thus gave a sad blow to its prosperity. The war then carried on by General Perrier de Salvert, had a fortunate termination. Meanwhile it was only through the attachment of some Indian women to a few French officers, that the garrison escaped being totally massacred one night; which would have led to the entire destruction of the colony. In consequence of these late hostilities, and the base intrigues carried on in the metropolis, the colonists lost their time together with the fruits of their labours. The company, disgusted and deceived in their hopes of gain, abandoned the country, which, in 1731, returned under the dominion of the king, without being any better governed. In 1759, its financial affairs were in such disorder, that the treasury owed more than seven millions of francs, although the French government had expended for various services in Louisiana, nearly double the amount it had derived from it. Louis XV., at the close of a war badly conceived, and, in 1763, as badly terminated, having lost Canada, was upon the point of having Louisiana taken from him. But his ministers, assisted by Madame Pompadour, his mistress, obtained fifteen millions from the court of Madrid, and this colony was ceded to Spain with such secrecy and despatch, that the governor of Louisiana had not yet received information of the affair when the Spanish ships of war arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi, with the officers appointed to take possession of this immense territory. The governor and inhabitants of Louisiana refused to recognise the Spanish authority, so that the commissioners were obliged to return to Europe. Three or four years passed in negotiating with the colonists, who persisted in continuing under the dominion of France. At length, in 1769, Spain becoming provoked, sent out General Reilly with considerable forces. Arrived before New Orleans, Reilly manifested the most conciliatory disposition. His proclamations only spoke of oblivion for the past, and were completely successful. The commotions ceased, and the Louisianians surrendered themselves. As a sign of reconciliation, Reilly gave a grand entertainment on board his fleet, to which he invited the chief officers of the colony, and principal inhabitants. These accepted the invitation with confidence, but at the moment when they were about to leave the table, Reilly caused them to be seized by his soldiers and shot. One of these, M. De Villere, had his life spared, but was put on board a frigate to be transported to the prisons of Navarre. His wife and children, informed of the fate that threatened him, wished to go and petition his highness, or at least to receive his farewell. They were already near the frigate, from which he stretched out his arms to them, when the unhappy man fell within their sight, pierced by the bayonets of the villains whom the traitor Reilly had appointed to guard him.

After this horrible execution, the Spaniards, with four thousand troops of the line, and a considerable train of artillery, entered New Orleans, the inhabitants of which were struck dumb. The English protestants, and a few Jews, who had escaped the force of the royal decree of 1724, were soon banished by the new authorities. All commerce with the colony was prohibited except with Spain and her possessions. A court martial was established, and its iniquitous decisions struck at all the French officers who remained. Of these, five were shot, and seven others thrown, for ten years, into the prisons of Havana. The infamous Reilly, having for a whole year gorged himself with blood and plunder, at length set sail, carrying with him the scorn and hatred of the whole population. His successors in the government had great difficulty in doing away the effects of his crimes, and it is due them to say that they succeeded. During thirty-three years of Spanish dominion, the colony enjoyed peace and prosperity, and to this very day, the names of Don Unsuga, Don Martin Navarro, and Don Galvar, are remembered there with veneration.

During all the changes experienced by Louisiana, its boundaries had never been determined with accuracy. In 1795, the government of the United States made a treaty with Spain, in virtue of which the limits were traced, and the free navigation of the Mississippi secured to the two contracting parties. But notwithstanding this treaty the owners of privateers, and crews of vessels of war, made spoliations upon the commerce of the United States. Free navigation of the Mississippi, and permission of landing at New Orleans, were refused the Americans. President Adams, therefore, immediately took measures to obtain redress. Twelve regiments were raised, and an expedition fitted out upon the Ohio to descend to Louisiana. But some changes occurring in American politics caused this project to be abandoned for the moment. The next year, Mr. Jefferson, then president of the United States, re-demanded of Spain the fulfilment of the treaty. This power, sensible of its weakness, and fearing to be compelled to cede the colony, secretly sold it to the French Republic on the 21st of March, 1801. Upon hearing of this cession the American government were justly alarmed. It foresaw, that the activity and intelligence of the French, applied to so rich and productive a soil, would make them more formidable than the Spaniards; that their new neighbours might be able to close the navigation of the Mississippi against them, and {possess themselves of the commerce of the Gulf of Mexico and Antilles. It immediately formed the project of forcibly opposing the occupation of Louisiana by France, and joined England against her. But this plan was overthrown by the treaty of Amiens. At peace with England, France feared no further obstacles to her projects, and an expedition was fitted out by her to take possession of Louisiana, and at the same time support her wavering authority in St. Domingo. The American government immediately had recourse to negotiations for the purpose of purchasing Louisiana. Affairs, at that time, changed with such rapidity, that the situation of France had again altered before these propositions reached her. Threatened with a new war by England, wearied with the struggle to defend St. Domingo, loaded with a considerable debt due the United States, the first consul thought that the sale of Louisiana would prove a good operation, the opportunity of effecting which might relieve him from one difficulty, at least. He accordingly sold it. The United States agreed to pay him fifteen millions of dollars, on condition that three millions seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars of this sum, should be retained for the purpose of paying the claims held by the American merchants against France, for the spoliations they had suffered. This treaty, signed at Paris the 30th of April, 1803, by Messrs. Livingston and Monroe on the part of the United States, and Mr. Barbe Marbois for France, was ratified in the month of October, and the transfer of the colony to the American commissioners took place on the 20th of December in the same year.

All the parties interested in this bargain had reason to be satisfied with its conclusion. France, freeing herself from the trouble of a distant government, more burthensome than profitable, received sixty millions of francs, which she needed to carry on the war, and, without expending a cent, discharged a debt due the American merchants of nearly twenty millions. The United States strengthened their independence, acquired new frontiers more secure than the old ones, established her commercial preponderance in the Gulf of Mexico and Antilles, and, by the free navigation of the Mississippi, increased an hundred fold the value of the products of the states west of the Allegany. In fine, Louisiana herself, by entering into the great federal compact, secured an honourable and independent existence as a body politic, and soon saw her industry and prosperity freed from the cunning schemes of a capricious master.

Louisiana was immediately erected into a territorial government, by the congress of the United States, which appointed Mr. Clayborne its governor. In 1811, it was admitted a member of the Union, and left to form its own government and institutions. The representatives of the people, freely elected and assembled at New Orleans, framed and signed a constitution, which was laid before, and sanctioned by congress. This constitution was in conformity with, and very similar to those of the other states, except that the Louisianians believed it their duty to adopt every possible precaution against corruption and abuse of power. Thus, for example, it was decided that every person, convicted of having given or offered presents to public functionaries, should be declared incapable of serving as governor, senator, or representative.

If I thought it necessary to seek fresh proofs of the superiority of an independent over a colonial government, whether this last proceed from a monarchy or republic, it would suffice to point out Louisiana, at first a colony for nearly a century, without advancing beyond the stage of infancy, incessantly taken and retaken, sometimes by the Spaniards, at others by the French, and always incapable of resisting either the one or the other, after an expense to its metropolis of one hundred and eighty-seven thousand dollars per annum; and, in fine, after the numerous emigrations from Europe, exhibiting but a meagre population of about forty thousand souls, spread over a vast and rich territory. I would next show this same Louisiana, after twenty years of independent republican government, having more than trebled its population, defeating under the walls of its rich capital, an army composed of the chosen troops of England; receiving into its ports annually more than four hundred ships to exchange its valuable products for those of all parts of the habitable globe; and, in its cities, offering all the resources, all the enjoyments that can contribute to the happiness of life, and which are ordinarily the products of a long period of civilization.

The state of Louisiana, enclosed within its new limits, is situated between 29� and 33� n. l. and 12� and 17� of longitude. It is bounded on the north by Arkansas territory, east by the Mississippi, south by the Mexican gulf, and west by the Mexican provinces of Texas. It contains forty-eight thousand square miles, divided into twenty-six parishes or counties. It has a population of 153,500 souls, among which, unfortunately, nearly 70,000 slaves are enumerated. The capital of this state is New Orleans, a city admirably situated in a commercial point of view, regularly laid out, ornamented with fine buildings, and containing twenty-eight thousand inhabitants. The greatest inconvenience which New Orleans labours under, is its situation upon the alluvial shores of the Mississippi, by whose floods it is often inundated. This is perhaps the principal cause of the yellow fever which is experienced there almost every autumn. The impossibility of finding a single stone in all this alluvial ground, shows why the principal streets have been left unpaved, so that during the rainy season it is difficult to go about on foot. The walks made in front of the houses scarcely serve to keep foot passengers from the mud, and do not prevent the carriages from sinking sometimes to their axles. The authorities, however, have at length begun to procure paving stone from up the Mississippi, which the vessels bring as ballast. This plan, though tedious and expensive, is the only one practicable.

The greater number of travellers who have visited New Orleans, pretend that the manners of the city are strongly influenced by the presence of the numerous emigrants from St. Domingo. These have the reputation of loving pleasure to licentiousness, and of treating their slaves badly. The love of gambling, and the duels so often occasioned by this passion, give rise, it is said, to much disorder among them. To confirm or disprove this opinion by my own observation, would be, in me, culpable arrogance. My too short stay in this city did not permit me to study the character of its society, and I could only be struck with the patriotic spirit, the freedom and hospitality, displayed with enthusiasm in the presence of General Lafayette.

Twenty-four hours after leaving New Orleans, we arrived at Duncan’s Point, where the citizens of Baton-Rouge, a town situated eight miles above, had previously sent a deputation to General Lafayette, to request him to stop a short time amongst them. The general accepted the invitation with gratitude, and two hours afterwards we landed below the amphitheatre upon which the town of Baton-Rouge stands. The beach was crowded with citizens, at the head of whom marched the municipal authorities, and the first regiment of the Union came to form itself in line under the same star-spangled banner, which, in defiance of the greatest dangers, had but lately been planted upon the ruins of Spanish despotism, by the inhabitants of these parishes. Accompanied by the people and magistrates, the general proceeded to the room prepared for his reception, in which he found the busts of Washington and Jackson crowned with flowers and laurel. There he received the expressions of kindness from all the citizens, with whom he went to the fort, the garrison of which received him with a salute of twenty-four guns, and afterwards defiled before him. We then entered the main building to examine the interior of the barracks, but what was our surprise, on entering into the first apartment, to tind in the place of beds, arms, and warlike equipments, a numerous assemblage of elegantly dressed and beautiful ladies, who surrounded the general and offered him refreshments and flowers. The general was sensibly touched by this agreeable surprise, and passed some delightful moments in the midst of this seducing garrison. On our return to town, we found a great number of citizens met to offer the general a public dinner, among whom the frank cordiality of the American, and the amenity of the French characters prevailed.

It was almost night when we returned on board the Natchez to continue our voyage. On leaving Baton-Rouge, we had the mortification to part again with some of those who had accompanied us from New Orleans, and among others, with Mr. Duplantier, senior, whose active and tender friendship, as well as that of his son, had been of great service to the general.

Baton-Rouge stands upon the left bank of the river, one hundred and thirty-seven miles above New Orleans. In this passage, the navigation of the river is very interesting. For several miles after leaving New Orleans, the eye reposes agreeably upon the shores, enriched with fine cotton and sugar plantations, and embellished with clusters of orange trees, from the midst of which rise the white and showy dwellings of the planters. By degrees the gardens and houses become more rare; but all the way to Baton-Rouge one continues to see fine and well cultivated lands. These plantations spread along the river, sometimes extending nearly a mile back to the thick forests, which serve as their limits. The soil is entirely formed of the fertile sediments deposited by the ancient inundations of the Mississippi, now confined to its channel by artificial banks. A special law enjoins it upon each river proprietor to keep up with care that portion of dike opposite his property, so that one every where sees the slaves continually engaged in driving down stakes, interlacing the branches of trees, and heaping earth here and there where there is danger that the river will force a passage. But notwithstanding all precautions, the water often rushes furiously over these obstacles, and spreads devastation and death. Not a year passes without some proprietor having the misfortune to see snatched from him in a few minutes the fruits of long and laborious exertions. All the lands which border the Mississippi, from its outlet to six hundred miles above, are subject to inundations. Nevertheless, on leaving Baton-Rouge, the left shore appears sufficiently elevated above the surface of the water to be free from these accidents.

The distance between Baton-Rouge and Natchez, is two hundred and sixty miles. This we ran in thirty-two hours, having had a pleasant passage, in the course of which we met a great many boats of all forms and sizes, laden with all sorts of productions from the most distant points of the Union. Those which more particularly attracted our attention were large and of a square form, without either masts, sails, or oars. They floated down the river at the mercy of the current, and bore more resemblance to enormous boxes than to boats. They are called arks, and are commonly manned by Kentuckians, who go in this way to New Orleans, to dispose of their grain, poultry, and cattle. There, after receiving pay for their produce, they sell also the planks of their arks, which cannot ascend the river, and return to their homes on foot, across the forests of the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. More than fifteen hundred persons, it is said, travel thus, every summer, seventeen hundred miles by water, and afterwards, in returning, eleven hundred on foot.

On Monday, the 18th of April, some distant discharges of cannon, which we heard at dawn, announced our approach to a city. Some minutes afterwards, the first rays of the sun gilding the shores of the Mississippi, which, in this place, rose a hundred and fifty feet above the surface of the water, showed us the tops of the houses in Natchez. Our steam-boat stopped a little while previous to arriving opposite the town, and we went on shore at Bacon’s landing, where the citizens, with a calash and four horses, and an escort of cavalry and volunteer infantry, were waiting for the general. We might have landed a little higher up and entered the city by a more direct road, but the members of the committee of arrangement had the address to conduct us by a devious road, along which our eyes were presented with all the beauties of the country. In proportion as we advanced, the escort increased. It consisted of citizens on horseback, militia on foot, ladies in carriages, and nearly the whole population, who came in a crowd to see their beloved and long expected guest. Two addresses were made to the general; one by the president of the committee of arrangement, on entering the city ; the other by the mayor, on one of the most elevated spots on the banks of the Mississippi, within view of the town and the river, its source of prosperity. At the moment the general finished his reply, a man suddenly emerged from the crowd, approached the calash, waving his hat in the air, and cried out, “Honour to the commander of the Parisian national guard! I was under your orders in ’91, my general, in one of the battalions of the Filles-Saint-Thomas. 1 still love liberty as I loved it then: Live, Lafayette!” The general was agreeably surprised to meet, on the shores of a distant country, one of his old citizen-soldiers, who recalled to him in so touching a manner the happy times when he could rationally think of the happiness and liberty of his country. He affectionately offered him his hand, and expressed to him the pleasure he felt in thus meeting him in a land of liberty and hospitality.

At the moment we were preparing to enter our hotel, we observed a long procession of children of both sexes approaching us. They were led by Colonel Marshall, who requested of the general for them, and in their name, permission to shake hands with him. The general willingly complied with this wish of the children of Natchez, who marched in order before him, placing successively one of their little hands in that which had fought for the liberty of their fathers. The parents, spectators of this scene, contemplated it with silence and emotion. On its termination, I heard them congratulate each other on the happy influence which this day would have upon the future characters of their children. “When they have grown up,” said they, “and come to read their country’s history, they will find the name of Lafayette intimately connected with all the events which led to the freedom of their fathers, they will recall the gentleness of his manners, the mildness of his voice, when he received them in their infancy, and will feel an increased love for a liberty won by such a man.”

The inhabitants of Natchez neglected nothing which could contribute to the pleasure of their guest during the twenty-four hours he remained with them. The public dinner concluded with toasts, To the Nation’s Guest — The triumph of Yorktown — France fighting for the liberty of the world — The victory of New Orleans — in fact to all glorious and patriotic American recollections. It was not until after the ball which closed about daybreak, that the general could think of embarking. The ladies employed all the charms of mind and person to retain him as long as possible, but our minutes were counted; and six o’clock in the morning found us again on board our vessel.

At the moment when the general was about to leave the shore, an old revolutionary soldier presented himself, and uncovering his breast marked with scars, “these wounds,” said he, “are my pride. I received them fighting by your side for the independence of my country. Your blood, my general, flowed the same day at the battle of Brandywine, where we were so unfortunate.” “It was indeed a rough day,” said the general to him, “but have we not since been amply indemnified?” — “Oh! that is very true,” replied the veteran, “at present we are happy beyond our furthest wishes. You receive the blessings of ten millions of freemen, and I press the hand of my brave general! virtue always has its reward!” Every one applauded the enthusiasm and frankness of the old soldier, whom the general cordially greeted.

On leaving Natchez, we parted from the worthy Mr. Johnson, governor of Louisiana, who would not consent to leave the general whilst within his own state. He now placed us under the care of the state of Mississippi, and left with us, for the purpose of doing the honours of Louisiana as far as St. Louis, Messrs. Prieur, recorder of the councils of New Orleans, Caire, his private secretary, and Morse and Ducros, his aides-de-camp. In taking leave of the governor, General Lafayette evinced the most sincere affection, and desired him to express in his name all the gratitude with which he was penetrated by his cordial reception in Louisiana.

Natchez was formerly the capital of the state of Mississippi, but has ceased to be so in consequence of not being in a central situation. Its population is nearly three thousand, and its port is the place of rest and provisioning for vessels passing between New Orleans and the western states, which gives it a great deal of activity. This city was founded in 1717, by some French soldiers and workmen who had been in the garrison of Fort Rosalie, and who, finding the situation good, established themselves upon it after obtaining their discharge. The most of them bought their lands from the Indians, who lived at some distance from the river, where they had five villages situated very near each other. That which they called the Great Village, where the principal chief of the nation resided, stood on a small stream called White River. It was to the west of this village that the Frenchmen, led by Hubert and Lepage, had erected Fort Rosalie.

When one has viewed the environs of Natchez, it is easy to conceive how readily the first settlers renounced their own country to fix themselves in these then savage wilds. It is difficult to find a more fertile soil, a more vigorous vegetation, or more agreeable and varied situations. The valleys afford fertile pastures, the hills are crowned with sassafras, catalpas, tulip-trees, and the superb magnolia grandiflora, the tops of which rise more than one hundred feet high, while their large white flowers deliciously perfume the air. Nevertheless, one cannot exclude the thought, that these verdant meadows, cool groves, and cheerful and vigorous nature, are sometimes visited and rendered melancholy by the yellow fever.

Natchez is the only town in Mississippi which we visited, so that I have little to say relative to this state. I shall only mention, that for a long time, with Alexandria, it formed a part of the state of Georgia, from which it was separated in 1800; that in 1817 it took its place in the Union as an independent body politic, and framed for itself a constitution. The fertility of its soil, and facilities of sending its productions to market, have contributed, in a singular degree, to the increase of its population. In 1800, it had only six thousand eight hundred and fifty inhabitants, while it now contains seventy-six thousand. If in this number, about thirty-thousand slaves are included, its prosperity must still be regarded as very great. Many large fortunes are found in this state, where it is not uncommon to meet with planters having incomes of seven or eight thousand dollars. The staple products are cotton and Indian corn.

The state of Mississippi is situated between the 30th and 35th degrees of north latitude, and the 11th and 14lh degrees of west longitude from Washington. Its surface contains forty-five thousand three hundred and fifty square miles. It is bounded on the north by the state of Tennessee, east by Alabama, south by Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, and west by Louisiana and Arkansas. Although the population is very much scattered, the land bears a considerable price, being on the banks of the river from fifty to sixty dollars per acre. The price lessens in proportion to the distance which the products have to be transported.

In leaving Natchez, we parted as it were from the civilized world. From this town to St. Louis, we did not meet with a single assemblage of houses that deserved the name of town or even village. The banks of the Mississippi again became flat, and presented nothing but grounds overflown and covered with thick forests, impenetrable to the rays of the sun. The swarms of musquitoes which rose out of it and settled in thick clouds upon travellers, rendered the voyage almost insupportable, especially during the night, if we had not taken the precaution to provide musquito curtains. The only habitations we met with were large cabins, situated upon places a little elevated above the level of the river. These were inhabited temporarily by hardy speculators from the north, who, always abandoning the good in hopes of finding better, retreat incessantly before the advance of civilization, and seek their fortunes in the wilderness. The dangers of the navigation increase with the monotony of the shores. Every moment presents some evidence of recent disaster. Here, one beholds the ravages of a hurricane which has crossed the river, and, in its devastation, has on both shores uprooted and carried off, as if they had been weak reeds, thousands of trees, which by their prodigious size were the pride of the forest There, our captain showed us a snag or sawyer, the inclined point of which had pierced the bottom of a boat, immediately afterwards swallowed up by the flood. Further on, the wood-choppers, in giving us the necessary supplies of wood, told us of the explosion of a boiler which occasioned the death of near forty passengers; and it was not long before we ourselves saw the bank covered with travellers, who were impatiently waiting until their boat which had been pierced by a snag, should be repaired so as to be in a condition again to brave the danger from which they had so narrowly escaped.

These snags and sawyers, so formidable to the navigator, are very numerous all along the river. Snags are thrown into the stream by high floods, and, having floated some time, become fixed to the bottom of the river, with their tops either above or below the surface according to their length, but always inclining in the direction of the current. The sawyers differ from snags only in being firmly stuck in the bed of the river, and in this situation the current keeps them in constant vibration, alternately raising and depressing their summits. As their position often changes, it is difficult to avoid them; and, if vessels in ascending the river are so unfortunate as to strike against them, their destruction is almost inevitable, for they are pierced in such a manner, that the water pours through the opening, and sinks them, sometimes in a few minutes.

But persons are little disposed to be uneasy on account of these dangers, when, as in our case, they are on board a vessel skilfully managed, with all the delicacies of life, and inexhaustible resources afforded by the society of good and agreeable travelling companions. The committee of New Orleans were joined by two gentlemen from Natchez, as representatives of the state of Mississippi, near the person of General Lafayette. To the attentions and gaiety of the members of both these deputations, we were indebted for not having known a moment of tediousness or inquietude, during our long voyage. After having sailed for five days, with the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri, on our left, and the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, on our right, we arrived at the mouth of Ohio, without any delays but those necessary to take in wood. This fuel was sometimes supplied us by the woodmen on the borders of the river, who live by the unlimited forests which surround them. When we could find no woodmen we often supplied ourselves. In this case, our captain, after having made his men take in the necessary quantity, left in exchange a note nailed to a tree, upon which was inscribed the number of cords he had taken, the name of his boat, his place of residence, date of his passage, and signature. This kind of commerce with the Mississippi woodmen is very common, and I have heard it said that there never has been known an example of bad faith on the part of the purchasers, who always show themselves most scrupulous in paying their accounts, which are often presented months afterwards at Natchez and New Orleans.

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  1. Father Anthony. Antonio de Sedella, commonly called Père Antoine. After initially failing in an attempt to bring the Spanish Inquisition to Louisiana, he returned to be the pastor of the Church of St. Louis and became beloved for his dedication in helping the people of New Orleans.
  2. General Lafayette. In speaking of the morals of New Orleans, it is but just to discriminate between its permanent and fluctuating population. Being the only mart to a vast extent of country, and the most frequented port on the Gulf of Mexico, it always contains a large number of individuals of the rudest and most licentious class, who can scarcely be said to belong to any country, are certainly of no religion, and are of every shade of colour. It is therefore by no means surprising, that gamblers, brawlers, and stabbers, should be numerous where such a class abounds, more especially, as New Orleans tolerates, by license granted, numerous establishments openly devoted to gambling and all its consequences. — T.
  3. On foot. Since the establishment of steam navigation, boatmen rarely return by land. They pay a trifle for a deck passage; find their own provisions, and aid the crew to bring wood, &c. on board, at the stopping places — T.


Levasseur, Auguste. Lafayette in America, in 1824 and 1825. New York: Sleight & Robinson Printers, 1829. Google Books. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http:// books. google. com/books?id= g3A9AAAAYAAJ& printsec= frontcover& source= gbs_atb#v= onepage&q&f= false>.

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