Georg Michael Hahn Exhibit Narrative

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The main floor of the St. Charles Parish Courthouse has an exhibit about Gov. Hahn developed by the St. Charles Museum & Historical Association.  These items are contained in the exhibit. 

Georg Michael Hahn, 1830–86. Louisiana’s Constitution of 1864″…“drawn under Georg Michael Hahn’s active direction …Not only abolished slavery and provided for the eventual enfranchisement of blacks … opened the public schools to every child, black and white between the ages of six and eighteen; provided for a progressive income tax; established a minimum wage and a nine hour workday … Louisiana has not had so many honest, highly principled Governors that we can afford to forget the ones we have had… Michael Hahn was such a man…yet his memory has been all but totally obliterated…it is time to recognize this man.” Amos F. Simpson and Vaughan Burdin Baker.

“It is said the community was draped in black when he died.” (Original picture in possession of Mrs. Raymond Schoonmaker, New Orleans, Louisiana.)

Georg Michael Hahn: On the German Coast

Born in Bavaria, Germany, raised in the German community of New Orleans, Governor Hahn was probably most comfortable spending the last years of his life living among his German countrymen on the German Coast in St. Charles Parish. In 1872, Michael Hahn retired to his plantation in St. Charles Parish, established the Village of Hahnville and began publication of the St. Charles Herald. Hahn became a Public School Director, Police Juror, Representative to the Louisiana House of Representatives and a District Judge. “In his quiet country home, Hahn was looked up to with the confidence of a father. His advice was sought by all, and his decisions settled difficulties, smoothed asperities, and preserved oder.” (Memorials in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1886 on the Life & Character of Georg Michael Hahn.)

Hahn’s old home still stands today at 141 Elm Street, moved years ago from his property on River Road.

Georg Michael Hahn: Founder of Hahnville

  • Born in Klingenmnunster, Bavaria, 1830
  • Immigrated to United States as a child
  • Grew up in the German community, New Orleans
  • Admitted to the Bar in 1851 at age 21
  • Bitter opponent of secession and slavery
  • Member, New Orleans School Board at age 22
  • Representative, U.S. Congress, 1862-63
  • Established lifelong friendship with Abraham Lincoln
  • Owned/Edited several newspapers in New Orleans
  • Served as Governor of Louisiana 1864-1865
  • Elected to U.S. Senate in 1865
  • Moved to St.Charles Parish in 1872
  • Began publication of St. Charles Herald, 1872
  • Speaker, LA House of Representatives, 1872-76
  • State Registrar of Voters, 1876
  • Founded the Village of Hahnville, 1877
  • Superintendent, U.S. Mint, New Orleans, 1878-79
  • Served as Federal District Judge, 1879-85
  • Elected again to U.S. Congress, 1884
  • Died in Washington, D.C., 1886
  • Died a pauper

Visit the Georg Michael Hahn Exhibit at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse Lobby on River Road in Hahnville, LA. A blend of history and art using the works of historians Amos Simpson and Vaughan Baker, and folk artist Lorraine Gendron. (Sponsored by the St. Charles Historical Foundation and the St. Charles Parish Government)

Hahn, Bitter Opponent of Slavery & Secession

Hahn developed an extreme aversion to the planter government, which led the secessionist movement. Partly from his early association with the New Orleans Germans, the ethnic group that dominated the city’s trade and industry, he recognized the progressive influence of the middle classes on society. The political dominance of the elites excluded the urban middle classes from a significant role in government, and retarded the “spirit of improvement” he envisioned for American society. His determination to break the power of the planter “nobility” led him to mold an alliance of the merchant and laboring classes that formed the base of his later political support in New Orleans. Publicly, Hahn argued for a revision of the 1852 Constitution. Although it did not serve as the foundation of Louisiana slavery, it did provide the basis for the planter domination of politics.

Georg Michael Hahn’s Career Review of Accomplishments

… One man, a governor of our State (Louisiana), rose above partisan politics and dedicated his efforts to healing the wounds of war, and to establishing a better State for all citizens. Louisiana has not had so many honest, highly principled governors that we can afford to forget the ones we have had. Although thus far denied that recognition, Michael Hahn was such a man.

Michael Hahn: Steady Patriot
Amos E. Simpson & Vaughan Baker

Hahn Residence

The original residence of Governor Hahn was moved from its original location along River Road in Hahnville to its present location on Elm Street. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Ledoux presently own the house. This nail from the original Hahn residence was donated to the exhibit by the Ledoux Family and the lumber from the original Hahn residence was donated to the exhibit by Gail Oubre of Hahnville.

The Constitutional Convention of 1864

As Governor, Michael Hahn routinely faced staggering problems. The most immediate and pressing of his problems was not routine. Revision of the Constitution became his priority. On March 28, 1864, delegates were elected for a Constitutional Convention. All the delegates elected favored the abolition of slavery. The Louisiana Constitution of 1864, drawn under Governor Michael Hahn’s active direction as a liberal document, abolished slavery and provided for the eventual enfranchisement of the former slaves. It also revised the basis of representation exactly as Hahn had wished. It opened the public schools to every child, black and white, between the ages of six and eighteen; provided for a progressive income tax; and established a minimum wage and a nine-hour working day. Hahn personally delivered a copy to his friend, President Abraham Lincoln. Louisiana voters ratified the Constitution in September 1864. Under pressure from Hahn, the legislature abolished the antebellum Black Code, ratified the Thirteenth Amendment and struck out all reference to slavery in the Civil Code. The Constitution of 1864 was published in newspapers in German, English, & French.

Lincoln’s Letter to Hahn – 1864

In this private letter, which would later become famous, Lincoln congratulated Hahn and wrote the only direct statement he would send on the question of Negro suffrage. After Lincoln’s assassination, Hahn published the letter and felt it had an influence on the action of the 1864 Constitutional Convention. Encouraged in his efforts by his friend, the President of the United States, Hahn tried to give the vote to the blacks.

Copies of these letters were donated by the great-great-great niece of Hahn.

Mrs. H.R. (Marilyn) Santa Cruz of LaPlace. The original Lincoln letter is in the possession of a cousin of Ms. Santa Cruz, Mrs. Raymond Schoonmaker of her heirs of New Orleans. According to Mrs. Santa Cruz, family members were ashamed of Hahn’s action; her grandmother remembered her mother putting his portrait in the trash.

Lincoln’s Assassination

In his last public speech before his assassination, Lincoln spoke of the benefits to be derived from the developments in Louisiana. After Lincoln was assassinated, Congress refused to seat any Representatives or Senators from the South. Hahn returned to New Orleans and called for a convention to revise the Constitution of 1864 to include black suffrage. He began to publish and edit the New Orleans Republican. Hahn was nearly murdered at a New Orleans Police riot. Although his injury was not serious, he walked with a limp the rest of his life. Lincoln’s son Robert came to Louisiana to visit Hahn after his father’s death.

Examples of Hahn’s Kindness and Generosity

1874- a donation of property at the corner of Hahn and Dostie Streets by Michael Hahn to Fanny Woods Scott, of Hahnville, “made in consideration of his appreciation…of the fidelity and faithfulness of said Donee”

1874- a donation of property on Roselius Street by Michael Hahn to James Chapel, a religious Corporation, to be used”… for no other purpose than the ministry of and membership of said Methodist Episcopal Church…”

Hahn’s Liberalism

Despite the political turmoil which characterized the State during Hahn’s tenure as Governor, Louisiana not only re-established civil government, but made liberal and democratic advances which, had they been permitted to stand, would have put the State in the vanguard of the Nation. Hahn’s concern for economic freedom and growth, his sincere dedication to principles of civil liberty, his interest in education, his commitment to rationalism as the basis for action and his dominating nationalism firmly establish him in the Western liberal tradition.