The commercialization of Louisiana by the French

Lookin' Back

By John Jackson
Posted 2/23/17

Due to myriad circumstances the French moved their settlement at 27 Mile Bluff to its present site of Mobile. At about this same time the French government began to experiment with various means that …

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The commercialization of Louisiana by the French

Lookin' Back

Posted

Due to myriad circumstances the French moved their settlement at 27 Mile Bluff to its present site of Mobile. At about this same time the French government began to experiment with various means that would enhance the economic strength of their Louisiana colony. The French state sought out opportunities to lease the territory to private companies that could operate the colony as a private entity with the hopes of turning a profit and creating a tax base that would benefit the French Crown. And the French government certainly needed a revenue stream that could offset the persistent drain on its treasury resultant from its ongoing global conflict with the British.

Initially France leased the colony to Antoine Crozat after the fighting with the British eased during Queen Anne’s War. The war was the second in a series of French and Indian wars fought in North America for control of the continent. In Europe it involved the Spanish succession to their throne. In 1713 the fighting was over, for the time being, and the French sought a means to improve their financial situation. Crozat thought he had the answer in expanding trade with Indians along the frontier. In the changeover long-time governor Bienville was removed in favor of Crozat’s business partner Antoine de la Mothe, squire, Sieur de Cadillac. Fort Tolouse was established by Cadillac in order to expand trade with Indian allies of the French and to block expansion by the British beyond their settlements along the Atlantic Coast. Fort Tolouse was established at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, a site which can still be visited today.

Crozat’s attempt in Louisiana failed by 1717 and the colony reverted back to the French government. Immediately afterwards the Crown sought another opportunity to lease the territory and collect on what they hoped would be a fortune. From 1717 until its demise in 1732 the Mississippi Company sought to take advantage of the ample arable land in the Louisiana Territory to create an agricultural center. Scotsman John Law assembled the company and had the French state establish a national bank that would issue paper money based on potential future profits from his company. The French government agreed in hopes of paying off the enormous national debt left by Louis XIV.

Law’s goal was to import large numbers of slaves and French planters in an effort to grow cash crops that would back the money already printed. The ploy known as the “Mississippi Bubble” failed miserably after the promised wealth never materialized. The French Crown then regained control of the colony and held it until all was lost to England in 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War with England.

Ultimately the French were removed from North America at the end of the French and Indian War even though enough of their citizens remained behind to have a lasting impact on Canada. The British far outlasted the French in North America but even they too were removed at least from the future United States within 25 years. Many historians have argued that the economic model used by the French kept them from being successful in their colonization efforts in North America. And, indeed, they are probably correct. The French never settled in the numbers that the English did and they remained, despite the efforts of men like Law, tied to the Indian trade as their economic foundation. Nevertheless they left behind a rich legacy that thrives to this day.

John A. Jackson is director of the Foley Public Library. Contact him at jjackson@cityoffoley.org or call 251-943-1032.