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Louisiana (French: La Louisiane; La Louisiane française) or French Louisiana[1] was an administrative district of New France. Under French control 1682 to 1769 and 1801 (nominally) to 1803, the area was named in honor of King Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. It originally covered an expansive territory that included most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River and stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.

Louisiana included two regions, now known as Upper Louisiana (la Haute-Louisiane), which began north of the Arkansas River, and Lower Louisiana (la Basse-Louisiane). The U.S. state of Louisiana is named for the historical region, although it is only a small part of the vast lands claimed by France.[1]

French exploration of the area began during the reign of Louis XIV, but French Louisiana was not greatly developed, due to a lack of human and financial resources. As a result of its defeat in the Seven Years' War, France was forced to cede the east part of the territory in 1763 to the victorious British, and the west part to Spain as compensation for Spain losing Florida. France regained sovereignty of the western territory in the secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800. Strained by obligations in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, ending France's presence in Louisiana.

The United States ceded part of the Louisiana Purchase to the United Kingdom in the Treaty of 1818. This section lies above the 49th parallel north in a part of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Boundaries, settlement and geography

The Mississippi River basin and tributaries

In the 18th century, Louisiana included most of the Mississippi River basin (see drawing alongside) from what is now the Midwestern United States south to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Within this vast territory, only two areas saw substantial French settlement: Upper Louisiana (French: Haute-Louisiane), also known as the Illinois Country (French: Pays des Illinois), which consisted of settlements in what are now the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana; and Lower Louisiana, which comprised parts of the modern states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Both areas were dominated numerically by Native American tribes. At times, fewer than two hundred [French] soldiers were assigned to all of the colony, on both sides of the Mississippi. In the mid-1720s, Louisiana Indians numbered well over 35,000, forming a clear majority of the colony's population."[2]

Generally speaking, the French colony of Louisiana bordered the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan and Lake Erie towards the north; this region was the "Upper Country" of the French province of Canada. To the east was territory disputed with the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard; the French claim extended to the Appalachian Mountains. The Rocky Mountains marked the western extent of the French claim, while Louisiana's southern border was the Gulf of Mexico.

The general flatness of the land aided movement through the territory; its average elevation is less than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).[citation needed] The topography becomes more mountainous towards the west, with the notable exception of the Ozark Mountains, which are located in the mid-south.

Lower Louisiana (Basse-Louisiane)

Lower Louisiana in the white area – the pink represents Canada – part of Canada below the great lakes was ceded to Louisiana in 1717. Brown represents British colonies (map before 1736)

Lower Louisiana consisted of lands in the Lower Mississippi River watershed, including settlements in what are now the U.S. states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The French first explored it in the 1660s, and a few trading posts were established in the following years; serious attempt at settlement began with the establishment of Fort Maurepas, near modern Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1699. A colonial government soon emerged, with its capital originally at Mobile, later at Biloxi and finally at New Orleans (in 1722, four years after the city's founding). The government was led by a governor-general, and Louisiana became an increasingly important colony in the early 18th century.

The earliest settlers of Upper Louisiana mostly came from French Canada, while Lower Louisiana was colonized by people from all over the French colonial empire, with various waves coming from Canada, France, and the French West Indies.[3]

Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane)

A new map of the north parts of America claimed by France under the names of Louisiana in 1720 by Herman Moll

Upper Louisiana, also known as the Illinois Country, was the French territory in the upper Mississippi River Valley, including settlements and fortifications in what are now the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.[4] French exploration of the area began with the 1673 expedition of Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette, which charted the upper Mississippi. As noted above, Upper Louisiana was primarily settled by colonists from French Canada.[3] There was further substantial intermarriage and integration with the local Illinois peoples.[5] French settlers were attracted by the availability of arable farmland as well as by the forests, abundant with animals suitable for hunting and trapping.[6]

A map of Louisiana by Christoph Weigel, published in 1734

Between 1699 and 1760, six major settlements were established in Upper Louisiana: Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Upper Louisiana (la Haute-Louisiane), which began north of the Arkansas River, and Lower Louisiana (la Basse-Louisiane). The U.S. state of Louisiana is named for the historical region, although it is only a small part of the vast lands claimed by France.[1]

French exploration of the area began during the reign of Louis XIV, but French Louisiana was not greatly developed, due to a lack of human and financial resources. As a result of its defeat in the Seven Years' War, France was forced to cede the east part of the territory in 1763 to the victorious British, and the west part to Spain as compensation for Spain losing Florida. France regained sovereignty of the western territory in the secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800. Strained by obligations in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, ending France's presence in Louisiana.

The United States ceded part of the Louisiana Purchase to the United Kingdom in the Treaty of 1818. This section lies above the 49th parallel north in a part of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In the 18th century, Louisiana included most of the Mississippi River basin (see drawing alongside) from what is now the Midwestern United States south to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Within this vast territory, only two areas saw substantial French settlement: Upper Louisiana (French: Haute-Louisiane), also known as the Illinois Country (French: Pays des Illinois), which consisted of settlements in what are now the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana; and Lower Louisiana, which comprised parts of the modern states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Both areas were dominated numerically by Native American tribes. At times, fewer than two hundred [French] soldiers were assigned to all of the colony, on both sides of the Mississippi. In the mid-1720s, Louisiana Indians numbered well over 35,000, forming a clear majority of the colony's population."[2]

Generally speaking, the French colony of Louisiana bordered the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan and Lake Erie towards the north; this region was the "Upper Country" of the French province of Canada. To the east was territory disputed with the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard; the French claim extended to the Appalachian Mountains. The Rocky Mountains marked the western extent of the French claim, while Louisiana's southern border was the Gulf of Mexico.

The general flatness of the land aided movement through the territory; its average elevation is less than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).[citation needed] The topography becomes more mountainous towards the west, with the notable exception of the Ozark Mountains, which are located in the mid-south.

Lower Louisiana (Basse-Louisiane)

Lower Louisiana in the white area – the pink represents Canada – part of Canada below the great lakes was ceded to Louisiana in 1717. Brown represents British colonies (map before 1736)

Lower Louisiana consisted of lands in the Lower Mississippi River watershed, including settlements in what are now the U.S. states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The French first explored it in the 1660s, and a few trading posts were established in the following years; serious attempt at settlement began with the establishment of Fort Maurepas, near modern Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1699. A colonial government soon emerged, with its capital originally at Mobile, later at Biloxi and finally at New Orleans (in 1722, four years after the city's founding). The government was led by a governor-general, and Louisiana became an increasingly important colony in the early 18th century.

The earliest settlers of Upper Louisiana mostly came from French Canada, while Lower Louisiana was colonized by people from all over the French colonial empire, with various waves coming from Canada, France, and the French West Indies.[3]

Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane)

A new map of the north parts of America claimed by France under the names of Louisiana in 1720 by Herman Moll

Upper Louisiana, also known as the Illinois Country, was the French territory in the upper Mississippi River Valley, including settlements and fortifications in what are now the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.[4] French exploration of the area began wit

Generally speaking, the French colony of Louisiana bordered the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan and Lake Erie towards the north; this region was the "Upper Country" of the French province of Canada. To the east was territory disputed with the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard; the French claim extended to the Appalachian Mountains. The Rocky Mountains marked the western extent of the French claim, while Louisiana's southern border was the Gulf of Mexico.

The general flatness of the land aided movement through the territory; its average elevation is less than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).[citation needed] The topography becomes more mountainous towards the west, with the notable exception of the Ozark Mountains, which are located in the mid-south.

Lower Louisiana consisted of lands in the Lower Mississippi River watershed, including settlements in what are now the U.S. states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The French first explored it in the 1660s, and a few trading posts were established in the following years; serious attempt at settlement began with the establishment of Fort Maurepas, near modern Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1699. A colonial government soon emerged, with its capital originally at Mobile, later at Biloxi and finally at New Orleans (in 1722, four years after the city's founding). The government was led by a governor-general, and Louisiana became an increasingly important colony in the early 18th century.

The earliest settlers of Upper Louisiana mostly came from French Canada, while Lower Louisiana was colonized by people from all over the French colonial empire, with various waves coming from Canada, France, and the French West Indies.[3]

Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane)

The earliest settlers of Upper Louisiana mostly came from French Canada, while Lower Louisiana was colonized by people from all over the French colonial empire, with various waves coming from Canada, France, and the French West Indies.[3]

Upper Louisiana, also known as the Illinois Country, was the French territory in the upper Mississippi River Valley, including settlements and fortifications in what are now the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.[4] French exploration of the area began with the 1673 expedition of Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette, which charted the upper Mississippi. As noted above, Upper Louisiana was primarily settled by colonists from French Canada.[3] There was further substantial intermarriage and integration with the local Illinois peoples.[5] French settlers were attracted by the availability of arable farmland as well as by the forests, abundant with animals suitable for hunting and trapping.[6]

A map of Louisiana by Christoph Weigel, published in 1734

Between 1699 and 1760, six major settlements were established in Upper Louisiana: Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Fort de Chartres, Saint Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher, all on the east side of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois; and Ste. Genevieve across the river in today's Missouri.[7] The region was initially governed as part of Canada, but was declared to be part of Louisiana in 1712, with the grant of the Louisiana country to Antoine Crozat.Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Fort de Chartres, Saint Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher, all on the east side of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois; and Ste. Genevieve across the river in today's Missouri.[7] The region was initially governed as part of Canada, but was declared to be part of Louisiana in 1712, with the grant of the Louisiana country to Antoine Crozat.[8] By the 1720s a formal government infrastructure had formed; leaders of the towns reported to the commandant of Fort de Chartres, who in turn reported to the governor-general of Louisiana in New Orleans.[9]

The geographical limits of Upper Louisiana were never precisely defined, but the term gradually came to describe the country southwest of the Great Lakes. A royal ordinance of 1722 may have featured the broadest definition: all land claimed by France south of the Great Lakes and north of the mouth of the Ohio River, which would include the Missouri Valley as well as both banks of the Mississippi.[10]

A generation later, trade conflicts between Canada and Louisiana led to a defined boundary between the French colonies; in 1745, Louisiana governor general Vaudreuil set the northeastern

The geographical limits of Upper Louisiana were never precisely defined, but the term gradually came to describe the country southwest of the Great Lakes. A royal ordinance of 1722 may have featured the broadest definition: all land claimed by France south of the Great Lakes and north of the mouth of the Ohio River, which would include the Missouri Valley as well as both banks of the Mississippi.[10]

A generation later, trade conflicts between Canada and Louisiana led to a defined boundary between the French colonies; in 1745, Louisiana governor general Vaudreuil set the northeastern bounds of his domain as the Wabash valley up to the mouth of the Vermilion River (near present-day Danville, Illinois); from there, northwest to le Rocher on the Illinois River, and from there west to the mouth of the Rock River (at present-day Rock Island, Illinois).[10] Thus, Vincennes and Peoria were the limit of Louisiana's reach. The outposts at Ouiatenon (on the upper Wabash near present-day Lafayette, Indiana), Chicago, Fort Miamis (near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana), and Prairie du Chien operated as dependencies of Canada.[10]

This boundary remained in effect through the capitulation of French forces in Canada in 1760 until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, after which France surrendered its remaining territory east of the Mississippi to Great Britain. (Although British forces had occupied the "Canadian" posts in the Illinois and Wabash countries in 1761, they did not occupy Vincennes or the Mississippi River settlements at Cahokia and Kaskaskia until 1764, after the peace treaty was ratified.[11]) As part of a general report on conditions in the newly conquered Province of Canada, Gen. Thomas Gage (then commandant at Montreal) explained in 1762 that, although the boundary between Louisiana and Canada was not exact, it was understood that the upper Mississippi (above the mouth of the Illinois) was in Canadian trading territory.[12]

Following the transfer of power (at which time many of the French settlers on the east bank of the Mississippi crossed the river to what had become Spanish Louisiana) the eastern Illinois Country became part of the British Province of Quebec, and later the United States' Northwest Territory.[13] Those fleeing from British control founded outposts such as the important settlement of St. Louis (1764). This became a French fur-trading center, connected to trading posts on the Missouri and Upper Mississippi rivers, leading to later French settlement in that area.

In the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau, France ceded Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to Spain, its ally in the war, as compensation for the loss of Spanish Florida to Britain.[14] Even after France had lost its claim to Louisiana, settlement of Upper Louisiana by French-speakers continued for the next four decades. French explorers and frontiersmen, such as Pedro Vial, were often employed as guides and interpreters by the Spanish and later by the Americans. The Spanish lieutenant governors at St. Louis maintained the traditional "Illinois Country" nomenclature, using titles such as "commander in chief of the western part and districts of Illinois" and administrators commonly referred to their capital St. Louis "of the Ylinuses".[10]

In 1800 Spain returned its part of Louisiana to France in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, but France sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.[15] Through this time, but especially following the Louisiana Purchase, French Creoles, as they called themselves, began to move further into the Missouri Ozarks, where they formed mining communities such as Mine à Breton and La Vieille Mine (Old Mines).[7]

A unique dialect, known as Missouri French, developed in Upper Louisiana. It is distinguished from both Louisiana French and the various forms of Canadian French, such as Acadian. The dialect continued to be spoken around the Midwest, particularly in Missouri, through the 20th century. It is nearly extinct today, with only a few elderly speakers still able to use it.[3]

In 1660, France started a policy of expansion into the interior of North America from what is now eastern Canada. The objectives were to locate a Northwest Passage to China; to exploit the territory's natural resources, such as fur and mineral ores; and to convert the native population to Catholicism. Fur traders began exploring the pays d'en haut (upper country around the Great Lakes) at the time. In 1659, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Groseilliers reached the western end of Lake Superior. Priests founded missions, such as the Mission of Sault Sainte Marie in 1668. On May 17, 1673, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette began the exploration of the Mississippi River, which they called the Sioux Tongo (the large river) or Michissipi. They reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, and then returned upstream, having learned that the great river ran toward the Gulf of Mexico, not toward the Pacific Ocean as they had presumed. In 1675, Marquette founded a mission in the Native American village of Kaskaskias on the Illinois River. A permanent settlement was made by 1690.

In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier and the Italian Henri de Tonti descended to the Mississippi River Delta. They left Fort Crèvecoeur on the Illinois River, accompanied by 23 Frenchmen and 18 Indians. They built Fort Prud'homme (later the city of Memphis) and claimed French sovereignty on the whole of the valley, which they called Louisiane in honor of the French king, Louis XIV. They sealed alliances with the Quapaw Indians. In April 1682, they arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi. Cavelier eventually returned to Versailles, where he convinced the Minister of the Marine to grant the command of Louisiana to him. He claimed that Louisiana was close to New Spain by drawing a map showing the Mississippi as much farther west than it really was.

With four ships and 320 emigrants, Cavelier set sail for Louisiana. Cavelier did not find the river's mouth in the Mississippi River Delta and tried to establish a colony on the Texas coast. Cavelier was assassinated in 1687 by members of his exploration party, reportedly near what is now Navasota, Texas.

Summary chronology

Jean-Baptiste Colbert

If the leaders of Ancien Régime took control of, and sometimes encouraged, the colonization of New France, it was for many reasons. The reign of Henry IV gave an important impetus to the colonisation of New France. Henry IV, the first Bourbon king, was personally interested in foreign affairs. In the 17th century, the ministers Richelieu and later Colbert advanced colonial politics. Louis XIV and his ministers were worried about the size of the kingdom, over which they constantly competed with other European nations. European rivalry and a game of political alliances greatly marked the history of Louisiana, in direct and indirect ways. Within those shifting conditions, the French desire to limit British influence in the New World was a constant in royal politics.

Louis XIV took care to limit the appearance of intermediary bodies and countervailing powers in North America. He did not want an assembly of notables or parliament. In the 1660s, the colony was royal property. In 1685, Louis XIV banned all publishing in New France. Between 1712 and 1731, the French possession came under the control of Antoine Crozat, a rich businessman, then under that of the Mississippi Company (created by John Law), which recruited immigrants to settle the colony. In 1731, Louisiana reverted to royal rule.

In contrast to Metropolitan France, the government applied a single unified law of the land: the Custom of Paris for civil law (rather egalitarian for the time); the "Code Louis", consisting of the 1667 ordinance on civil procedure[18] and 1670 ordinance on criminal procedure; the 1673 "Code Savary" for trade; and the 1685 Code noir for slavery.[19] This served as an equaliser for a while; riots and revolts against authority were rare. But, the centralised government had difficulty maintaining communications over the long distance and sailing time that separated France from Louisiana. Toward the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th, the colonists on the Gulf of Mexico were left almost completely to fend for themselves; they counted far more on the assistance of the Native Americans than on France. The distance had its advantages: the colonists smuggled goods into the colony with impunity.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's Minister of the Navy and Trade, was eager to stuff the coffers of the Crown. He dissolved the trading companies and took care to increase the production of the country and the colonies. Being a mercantilist, he believed it was necessary to sell as much as possible and to reduce reliance on imports. He imposed a French monopoly on trade. Colbert wanted to reduce the expenditure of the monarchy. It was, however, necessary to invest much money and to mobilize important human resources retain the American colony. Much work was done on the economic infrastructure (factories, ports) in metropolitan France, but the investment was not enough in Louisiana. No plan to facilitate the movement of goods or men was ever carried out. The French budget was exhausted because of the wars in Europe, but the colonists in Louisiana did not have to pay royal taxes and were free of the hated gabelle.

Colonial administration

Map of North America during the 17th century

Under the Ancien Régime, Louisiana formed part of a larger colonial unit, French American territory—New France (Nouvelle France), which included a large part of modern-day Canada. New France was initially ruled by a viceroy in 1625, the Duke of Ventadour. The colony was then given a government like the Bourbons' other possessions. Its capital was Quebec City until 1759. A governor-general, assisted by a single intendant, was charged with ruling this vast region. In theory, Louisiana was subordinate to Canada, and so it was explored and settled chiefly by French-Canadians rather than colonists from France. Given the enormous distance between New Orleans and Quebec, communications outside cities and forts were limited.

French settlements were widely dispersed, which afforded them de facto autonomy. The government decided to break up governance of the vast varied colony of New France into five smaller provinces, including Louisiana. The Illinois Country, south of the Great Lakes, was added to Louisiana in 1717 and became known as Upper Louisiana. Mobile served as French Louisiana's first "capital". The seat of government moved to Biloxi in 1720, and then to New Orleans in 1722, where the governor lived. While the office of governor general was the most eminent, it was not the most powerful. His was a military position that required him to lead the troops and maintain diplomatic relations. The second provincial authority was the commissaire-ordonnateur. His was a civil post with similar functions as that of the intendants in France: the king's administrator and representative, he oversaw justice, the police force, and finances. He managed the budget, set prices, presided the Superior Council (Conseil supérieur—the court of justice), and organized the census. Appointed by the king, Louisiana's commissaire-ordonnateur had broad powers that sometimes conflicted with those of the governor general. The military outposts of the hinterland were directed by commanders.

Religious establishment

Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

The French possessions of North America were under the authority of a sin

If the leaders of Ancien Régime took control of, and sometimes encouraged, the colonization of New France, it was for many reasons. The reign of Henry IV gave an important impetus to the colonisation of New France. Henry IV, the first Bourbon king, was personally interested in foreign affairs. In the 17th century, the ministers Richelieu and later Colbert advanced colonial politics. Louis XIV and his ministers were worried about the size of the kingdom, over which they constantly competed with other European nations. European rivalry and a game of political alliances greatly marked the history of Louisiana, in direct and indirect ways. Within those shifting conditions, the French desire to limit British influence in the New World was a constant in royal politics.

Louis XIV took care to limit the appearance of intermediary bodies and countervailing powers in North America. He did not want an assembly of notables or parliament. In the 1660s, the colony was royal property. In 1685, Louis XIV banned all publishing in New France. Between 1712 and 1731, the French possession came under the control of Antoine Crozat, a rich businessman, then under that of the Mississippi Company (created by John Law), which recruited immigrants to settle the colony. In 1731, Louisiana reverted to royal rule.

In contrast to Metropolitan France, the government applied a single unified law of the land: the assembly of notables or parliament. In the 1660s, the colony was royal property. In 1685, Louis XIV banned all publishing in New France. Between 1712 and 1731, the French possession came under the control of Antoine Crozat, a rich businessman, then under that of the Mississippi Company (created by John Law), which recruited immigrants to settle the colony. In 1731, Louisiana reverted to royal rule.

In contrast to Metropolitan France, the government applied a single unified law of the land: the Custom of Paris for civil law (rather egalitarian for the time); the "Code Louis", consisting of the 1667 ordinance on civil procedure[18] and 1670 ordinance on criminal procedure; the 1673 "Code Savary" for trade; and the 1685 Code noir for slavery.[19] This served as an equaliser for a while; riots and revolts against authority were rare. But, the centralised government had difficulty maintaining communications over the long distance and sailing time that separated France from Louisiana. Toward the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th, the colonists on the Gulf of Mexico were left almost completely to fend for themselves; they counted far more on the assistance of the Native Americans than on France. The distance had its advantages: the colonists smuggled goods into the colony with impunity.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's Minister of the Navy and Trade, was eager to stuff the coffers of the Crown. He dissolved the trading companies and took care to increase the production of the country and the colonies. Being a mercantilist, he believed it was necessary to sell as much as possible and to reduce reliance on imports. He imposed a French monopoly on trade. Colbert wanted to reduce the expenditure of the monarchy. It was, however, necessary to invest much money and to mobilize important human resources retain the American colony. Much work was done on the economic infrastructure (factories, ports) in metropolitan France, but the investment was not enough in Louisiana. No plan to facilitate the movement of goods or men was ever carried out. The French budget was exhausted because of the wars in Europe, but the colonists in Louisiana did not have to pay royal taxes and were free of the hated gabelle.

Under the Ancien Régime, Louisiana formed part of a larger colonial unit, French American territory—New France (Nouvelle France), which included a large part of modern-day Canada. New France was initially ruled by a viceroy in 1625, the Duke of Ventadour. The colony was then given a government like the Bourbons' other possessions. Its capital was Quebec City until 1759. A governor-general, assisted by a single intendant, was charged with ruling this vast region. In theory, Louisiana was subordinate to Canada, and so it was explored and settled chiefly by French-Canadians rather than colonists from France. Given the enormous distance between New Orleans and Quebec, communications outside cities and forts were limited.

French settlements were widely dispersed, which afforded them de facto autonomy. The government decided to break up governance of the vast varied colony of New France into five smaller provinces, including Louisiana. The Illinois Country, south of the Great Lakes, was added to Louisiana in 1717 and became known as Upper Louisiana. Mobile served as French Louisiana's first "capital". The seat of government moved to Biloxi in 1720, and then to New Orleans in 1722, where the governor lived. While the office of governor general was the most eminent, it was not the most powerful. His was a military position that required him to lead the troops and maintain diplomatic relations. The second provincial authority was the commissaire-ordonnateur. His was a civil post with similar functions as that of the intendants in France: the king's administrator and representative, he oversaw justice, the police force, and finances. He managed the budget, set prices, presided the Superior Council (Conseil supérieur—the court of justice), and organized the census. Appointed by the king, Louisiana's commissaire-ordonnateur had broad powers that sometimes conflicted with those of the governor general. The military outposts of the hinterland were directed by

French settlements were widely dispersed, which afforded them de facto autonomy. The government decided to break up governance of the vast varied colony of New France into five smaller provinces, including Louisiana. The Illinois Country, south of the Great Lakes, was added to Louisiana in 1717 and became known as Upper Louisiana. Mobile served as French Louisiana's first "capital". The seat of government moved to Biloxi in 1720, and then to New Orleans in 1722, where the governor lived. While the office of governor general was the most eminent, it was not the most powerful. His was a military position that required him to lead the troops and maintain diplomatic relations. The second provincial authority was the commissaire-ordonnateur. His was a civil post with similar functions as that of the intendants in France: the king's administrator and representative, he oversaw justice, the police force, and finances. He managed the budget, set prices, presided the Superior Council (Conseil supérieur—the court of justice), and organized the census. Appointed by the king, Louisiana's commissaire-ordonnateur had broad powers that sometimes conflicted with those of the governor general. The military outposts of the hinterland were directed by commanders.

The French possessions of North America were under the authority of a single Catholic diocese, whose seat was in Quebec. The archbishop, named and paid by the king, was spiritual head of all New France. With loose religious supervision, the fervor of the population was very weak; Louisianans tended to practice their faith much less than did their counterparts in France and Canada. The tithe, a tax by the clergy on the congregations, produced less revenue than in France.

The Church nevertheless played an important part in the exploration of French Louisiana; it sent missions, primarily carried out by Jesuits, to convert Native Americans. It also founded schools and hospitals: By 1720, the Ursulines were operating a hospital in New Orleans. The church and its missionaries established contact with the numerous Amerindian tribes. Certain priests, such as Father Marquette in the 17th century, took part in exploratory missions. The Jesuits translated collections of prayers into numerous Amerindian languages to convert the Native Americans. They also looked for ways to relate Indian practices to Christian worship, and helped show the Natives how these were related. A syncretic religion developed among new Christians. Sincere and permanent conversions were limited in number; many who received missionary instruction tended to assimilate the Holy Trinity into their belie

The Church nevertheless played an important part in the exploration of French Louisiana; it sent missions, primarily carried out by Jesuits, to convert Native Americans. It also founded schools and hospitals: By 1720, the Ursulines were operating a hospital in New Orleans. The church and its missionaries established contact with the numerous Amerindian tribes. Certain priests, such as Father Marquette in the 17th century, took part in exploratory missions. The Jesuits translated collections of prayers into numerous Amerindian languages to convert the Native Americans. They also looked for ways to relate Indian practices to Christian worship, and helped show the Natives how these were related. A syncretic religion developed among new Christians. Sincere and permanent conversions were limited in number; many who received missionary instruction tended to assimilate the Holy Trinity into their belief of "spirits", or rejected the concept outright.

It is difficult to estimate the total population of France's colonies in North America. While historians have relatively precise sources regarding the colonists and enslaved Africans, estimates of Native American peoples is difficult. During the 18th century, the society of Louisiana became quite creolized.

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