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Jean Charles de Pradel, a younger son of a provincial robe family of Limousin, France, resided in Louisiana for most of the period the colony was under French control. De Pradel's initial encounter with Louisiana was in 1714 when he was assigned to the colony on his first tour of duty in the military. At that time, Louisiana was struggling for its existence against the natural enemies of disease, famine and starvation as well as against the growing threats of conflict with the Spanish in near-by Pensacola and from the English to the north. This colony on the Mississippi offered little prospect to the Ensign de Pradel for a brilliant military career or for fortune.

Unable to obtain a new commission while on leave in France in 1720, de Pradel returned to Louisiana in late 1721 or 1722, determined to make the fortune which the law of Old Regime France had denied him. In the face of impossible conditions for survival much less for profit, de Pradel became a successful entrepreneur on a frontier. He began working toward his fortune, first as a trader at military posts, then as a businessman in New Orleans, and finally, as a landed gentleman who sold his lumber, indigo and wax produced from his land to France and the Islands. By his death in 1764, Louisiana was in a financial crisis stemming from the moratorium declared on the colony's letters of exchange, causing the collapse of de Pradel's fortune.

The chief sources consulted in the research of this thesis were A. Baillardel and A. Prioult's compilation of de Pradel's Letters, Le Chevalier de Pradel, Vie d'un Colon en Louisiane au XVIII Siecle, manuscript documents from the Archives des Colonies, Dunbar Rowland and Albert Sanders, editors, Mississippi Provincial Archives, published documents of government correspondence.