France Relinquishes Louisiana to Spain

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Source: Phase II National Register Testing of 3 Archaeological Sites on the Northwest Shore – St. Charles Parish, Louisiana
Courtesy of St. Charles Parish Planning and Zoning Department

But if conditions in St Charles continued to improve, events of the French and Indian War suggested France’s American empire as a whole was on the verge of collapse. The British army, better supplied than the French, conquered Canada by 1760, and most of Louisiana east of the Mississippi by 1763. In 1762, largely to keep the remainder of the colony from the British, France relinquished Louisiana to Spain. For the colonists, including those of St Charles, the switch came without warning, which generated a certain amount of resentment and tension.

Indeed, in 1768, 400 residents of the German Coast, possibly upset over Spain’s failure to pay for a grain shipment, marched on New Orleans in protest. There, in company with Frenchmen, they forced the first Spanish governor, Antonio de Ulloa, to flee. However, Spain regained control installing a new chief executive, Alejandro O’Reilly, and, after dispatching the leaders of the 1768 riot, he began winning the colonists’ favor by instituting sorely-needed reforms and improvements. During O’Reilly’s tenure, colonial officials mandated road, bridge and ditch construction, ordered fencing, and requested property surveys (Blue 1990: 102-103). They instructed landowners to build levees fifteen feet at the base and six feet high (Blume 1990: 111). They lavished gifts on Indian tribes in order to improve relations, arrested economic inflation, and encouraged settlement by offering land and supplies to prospective colonists.