LaHISTORY: Louisiana’s First Senators

For the first four months after it entered statehood, Louisiana didn’t have any representation in the U.S. Senate in Washington. But that changed with the election of Jean Noel Destréhan and Allan B. Magruder.

Both men took office on Sept. 3, 1812. (That, of course, means we are less than three weeks away from the 205th anniversary of Louisiana sending representatives to the nation’s upper chamber.)

Destréhan had actually wanted to be the governor as Louisiana inched toward statehood. He even mounted a campaign against our first governor, C.C. Claiborne, but placed a distant third.

In an odd twist Destréhan served just one month in office before resigning his U.S. Senate seat. That in turn created the state’s first ever vacancy in the U.S. Senate, which lasted just seven days before a replacement was appointment.

There doesn’t seem to be much written about Destréhan’s decision to step down, but it’s a fairly simply matter to speculate that his failed bid for governor was a driving force.

After abandoning one of the highest offices in the United States, Destréhan voluntarily chose to become a member of the Louisiana Senate and served there for five years while preparing to once again run for governor. He made his second and final bid for the premier post in 1820 — and performed worse on the ballot than he did during his first run.

But his name lives on today. The city of Destrehan, as you may have guessed, was named in honor of his family.

Magruder’s paper trail is much thinner than his counterpart’s. Born in Kentucky, he was likewise a member of the state Legislature, in the House, and practiced law in Opelousas, where he eventually died.

Both men were members of the Democratic-Republican party, which was created by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Destréhan was actually close with the two American legends and received high-profile appointments from each.

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