Louisiana: A History (States and the Nation)
Joe Gray Taylor
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From the earliest colonists through the latest Mardi Gras, Louisiana has had a history as exotic as that of any state. Even its political corruption--extending from French governors for whom office was exploitable property through the "Louisiana Hayride" following the death of Huey Long--seems to have had a glamorous side.
Handing the colony of Louisiana back and forth between their empires, the French and Spanish left a legacy that lives in such forms as the architecture of the Vieux Carre and a civil law deriving from the Napoleonic Code. Acadian refugees, German farmers, black slaves and free blacks, along with Italians, Irish, and the "Kaintucks" who helped Andrew Jackson win the Battle of New Orleans added to the state's distinctiveness. Made rich by sugar cane, cotton, and Mississippi River commerce before the Civil War, Louisiana faced poverty afterward. Battles between Bourbon Democrats and Reconstruction Republicans followed, ultimately involving the Custom House Ring and the Knights of the White Camelia. By methods that remain controversial, Huey Long ended "government by gentlemen" with economic transformations other had sought. Gas, oil, and industrialization have additionally "Americanized" the state.
Something of Louisiana's historic joie de vivre remains, however, to the gratification of residents and visitors alike; both will enjoy Joe Gray Taylor's telling of the story.
the early part of the antebellum period, many such blacks were able to save enough to buy first their own freedom and then that of their spouses and children. Those who remained slaves with no hope of emancipation were not docile automatons, but rather men and women who knew something of the world, and who knew that in large numbers they could assert a degree of independence that was impossible for one of them acting alone. In evaluating antebellum Louisiana society, it must be remembered that
insubordinate, the shirker, or the otherwise delinquent kept the other hands at work. The fictional Simon Legree was not a typical master; but human nature being what it is, slaveowners included some men who could be compared with him. A slave was helpless against the master whose love of inflicting pain took precedence over his respect for public opinion and his desire for profit; but against the planter whose primary concern was making money, the slave did have some recourse. He could do as
the most hated name in Louisiana history. Part of the reason was simply that he represented the conqueror. His appearance was against him, as well: he was corpulent; one of his eyes did not track with the other; and his disposition does not seem to have been a lovable one. Before he departed, there was an odor of corruption about his headquarters; whether Butler himself was implicated in trade with the enemy is still uncertain, but there is no doubt that his brother made a tidy fortune in such
Constitutional Convention of 1879, but it did not graduate its first student until 1887. As late as 1898 it had only ten students taking college-level courses, but in the twentieth century it became for a time the largest Negro state university in the United States. In the election of 1908, the Ring candidate, J. Y. Sanders, won the primary and demonstrated that the forces controlling Louisiana state politics for a generation under the convention system would not be automatically displaced by
had no more scruples about dishonesty in manipulating the electoral process than his nineteenth-century predecessors had. The men he had gathered around him, once his personal domination was removed, were revealed as a remarkably venal group, affording one of the juiciest series of scandals to be celebrated in the American press in this century. Huey Long was born in 1893, the next-to-the-youngest of the nine children of Huey Pierce Long, Sr., and Caledonia Tison Long. His birthplace was