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New Orleans History

The colony of Louisiana, which encompassed all or part of 15 present U.S. States and two Canadian provinces and named for King Louis XIV of France, stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

It was founded in 1699 by two brothers from Montreal: Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and his younger brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. The latter was a teenager at the time of the colony’s founding.

New Orleans History – The Founding Years

New Orleans in its founding years.

New Orleans in its founding years.

In 1699 the two LeMoyne brothers took an expedition up the Mississippi and on March 3, Mardi Gras day, camped at a spot 60 miles below where New Orleans lies today and called it Point du Mardi Gras.

Iberville died in 1706 and Bienville took another expedition up the Mississippi River and on in May 1717 found a spot high and dry that he felt was safe from hurricanes and tidal surges at the crescent of the river with a natural levee where there was a Chitimacha Indian settlement. This tribe had been thriving in southern Louisiana for about 6000 years but around this time they had been decimated by disease and war with the French.

When in 1718 Bienville found himself governor of Louisiana for the second time he recommended to the Company of the Indies that a port city be founded in that spot he had discovered a year earlier.

Bienville named the new town La Nouvelle-Orleans after Philippe d’Orleans, Duke of Orleans, the prince regent of France.

Bienville not only claimed the land for France but took much of the land as his own with the realization that since this would be a port city he would make a lot of money from the sale of this land to its new inhabitants. Pretty smart.

The Company of the Indies, originally called the Mississippi Company, held a business monopoly on all French colonies in North America and the West Indies and was run by John Law. The Scottish economist and inveterate gambler entrenched himself in the French government, created the Banque Generale and became the first person ever to institute the use of paper money.

Using effective marketing practices Law exaggerated the true wealth of Louisiana (“the streets are lined with gold!”) and began issuing paper notes for profits on shares that were backed up by very little value. Eventually the whole thing came crashing down and actually caused total economic collapse in France. This has been called the Mississippi Bubble.

Ironically enough his failed economic policies are still being used today some 300 years later and are a major part of modern economic theorizing, resulting in the our current failed economic policies. Learn from history? Nah.

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