Yale College

Above: Buckingham House in Saybrook, Connecticut, where Yale University held its first commencement, Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Old Capitol Building and Church, Williamsburg, Unknown original source. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.


Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1700s


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  • 1718 Detail

    May 7, 1718 - French colonists under the governor of the French colony of Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, with the French Mississippi Company found the City of New Orleans, named after the regent of France, Philip II, the Duke of Orleans. It is located on the lands of the Chitimacha tribe.

    New Orleans 1726

    Yes, it had been awhile since the 1698 journey of Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville and his brother, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, the leader of the New France expedition to colonize Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. d'Iberville had always wanted to create a colony on the Mississippi River, in Louisiana, that could rival Montreal, but no suitable location had been found while he was alive. They had colonies spread throughout the region, at Biloxi, and at Mobile, plus other forts, including Fort de la Boulaye on the Mississippi. But it would be up to his brother, the Sieur de Bienville, Governor of Louisiana and leader of this New France region to found that city.

    The colony strugged during the next two decades; its population of two hundred and eighty-one in 1708 diminished to one hundred and seventy-eight in 1710 as disease ravaged the forts and towns. In between, a great flood overwhelmed the Fort Louis de la Mobile, which was north of today's town; in 1711 he moved the town to its present site and built Fort Louis. The colony began to grow again, four hundred by 1712, and Bienville was replaced as governor soon after. France had decided to wash its hand somewhat by giving a fifteen year commercial monopoly to financier Anthony Crozat. He failed in five. During that time, Bienville moved west and established Fort Rosalie on the site of today's Natchez, Mississippi. Saint-Denis established Natchidoches along the Red River, and La Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Toulouse and Fort Tombecbe in Alabama. So the colony was growing, or in essence spreading, despite any defined plan. And the new governors, yes, multiple, were not very good at their jobs, and several times in the next few years, Bienville had to step into the governor's office.

    Establishing New Orleans

    The area was known as Balbancha by the indigenous people of the delta, including the Houma, Bayougoula, Biloxi, Choctaw, Quinapisa, Acolapissa, Chitimacha, and Pascagoula, who lived between the mouth of the river and Lake Pontchartrain. It had been claimed by the French, LaSalle, in 1682, but the area around the crescent of the Mississippi River ninety-five miles from the mouth of the delta was not chosen by d'Iberville when first passed in the early years of the century. He had instructed his brother in 1700 to build a blockhouse, Fort de Mississippi, Boulaye, near today's Phoenix, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. It failed by 1707.

    A financier in France, John Law, had been succeeding in ventures of backing paper money with gold to help the French economy, and even though overprinted, the Regent of France, Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, pleased with that success, agreed to Law's next venture. He would devise a system where paper money was backed by commercial wealth, not gold, using the riches of Louisiana under private management. Stock would be sold. Six thousand colonists recruited, and three thousand slaves used as labor on tobacco farms.

    On September 6, 1717, John Law, under the Company of the West (French Mississippi Company), got a twenty-five year monopoly to develop Louisiana. Its charters would state, "... resolved to establish, thirty leagues up the river, a burg which should be calle La Nouvelle Orléans, where landing would be possible from either the river or Lake Pontchartrain."

    By 1718, news had reached Bienville in Mobile of Law's charter and idea. He immediately prepared six vessels with supplies and forty-three laborers to sail to that location. This occured in late March to May, when Bienville selected the site for La Nouvelle Orléans on May 7, 1718. It should be noted that those dates are uncertain. He thought the banks there, slightly elevated, would be a suitable location for the capital city per John Law's directive.

    The Construction of New Orleans

    At first, the city of New Orleans was barely an outpost, with Bienville cutting the first cane near the upper French Quarter and thirty convicts cutting a swath for the town near 500-600 Decatur Street. Not all were pleased with his suggestion, both from the company and the French government. They thought the area of Baton Rouge might be better, or perhaps retreating to Mobile or Biloxi more prudent.

    In 1719, the Mississippi River flooded the city and the first slaves arrived to work on the Company Plantation at Algiers Point. Company headquarters moved back to New Biloxi. Despite the move, the Company was not doing well and investors were jumping ship. The Mississippi Bubble occurred in 1721, and the entire enterprise underwent a restructure, now called the Company of the Indies.

    Biloxi became a fortified town under the direction of Chief Engineer Le Blond de la Tour. New Orleans, under the supervision of assistant engineer Adrien de Pauger, did the same for the demoted town, his plan actually elevating it back to capital on December 23, 1721. Bienville was pleased. The haphazard structures built during the early years were destroyed by a hurricane in 1722, thus allowing de Pauger to implement his plan in full. By 1723, a grid of streets had been laid out surrounding a Place d'Armes, today's Jackson Square, Old Square, with the area around it, an eleven by seven block square, to be known as the French Quarter. With those constructions completed, Bienville named the city the capital of the French colony of Louisiana.

    Image above: Drawing of the City of New Orleans in 1726, 1726, Jean-Pierre Lassus. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Image Below: Montage (left) Painting of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, unknown date or author. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons; (right) painting of John Law, unknown date, Casimir Balthazar. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info Source: neworleans.com; "What Led to the Founding of New Orleans in 1918," 2018, Richard Campanella, Presevation Resource Center of New Orleans; Wikipedia Commons.

    de Bienville and John Law

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