LaHistory: From France To Spain

Last week marked the 253rd anniversary (September 30, 1764) of France’s decision to officially unload the Louisiana territory to Spain.

It was a real secret squirrel kind of a deal, with French officials keeping the colonists in the dark for two years. When France sent representatives to Louisiana to begin the process in 1762 they found a government that was described as understaffed and corrupt. The treasury, in fact, was nearly empty at the time.

In LOUISIANA: THE LAND AND ITS PEOPLE, author Manie Culbertson explains that Spain wasn’t in a big hurry to claim its prize:

The Louisiana colony went through a period when it was treated as though it belonged to no one. Neither country — France nor Spain — felt responsible for the colony. The Spanish had a policy of mañana [Spanish for “tomorrow”], that they would take the colony over when they got around to it.

Spain, of course, did eventually take ownership and it was up to French Governor Jean Jacques d’Abbadie to break the news to the locals. It didn’t go over too well, according to Culbertson:

On September 30, 1764, d’Abbadie received official word from France that the colony belonged to Spain. He was ordered to make the transfer. This was nearly two years after the secret treaty ceded the colony to Spain. It was not until d’Abbadie posted an announcement on the door of the church, in the custom of the times, that the Louisiana people learned of the transfer.

The people reacted in horror to the news. They were French! They did not want to lose their mother country that they loved so dearly. The idea of changing their flag, laws, language, and customs made them furious. They were angry that the king had given them to Spain. Louisianians were also fearful. For a long time stories had circulated about treatment by the Spanish in Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies.

The colony was in a sad state. France was no longer concerned. Even though Spain owned the colony, there was no sign of the Spanish. Louisiana colonists had to manage for themselves.

The colonial haters didn’t have to spend too much time under that flag, though. By 1803 Louisiana was back in French hands — for a few weeks, at least, before it was transferred to the United States.

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