Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Spanish rule in Louisiana was bracketed by periods of unrest. Using the criteria for rebellion developed by political scientist Claude E. Welch Jr., in Anatomy of Rebellion to compare the 1768 rebellion under Governor Antonio de Ulloa, and demonstrations of discontent in the 1790’s under Baron Francisco Luis Carondelet, one is able to draw out similarities, contrasts, and continuities in factors causal to political unrest. The most powerful of these causal factors were the economic troubles, geographic marginality, ethnic tensions, weak authority, and unsuccessful attempts to reform the colony’s commercial system. Methods employed by the Spanish administrations to contain or mitigate the discontent largely failed, leading to episodes of violent popular political contention. The roots of Louisiana’s problems ran deep. By the arrival of the Spaniards, the colony had been largely neglected by the French crown. Suffering shortages of food, and economic strife, the colonial elite formed their own alternate, and often illegal, structures of power and support. The 1766 imposition of Spanish rule threatened those structures. In 1768, discontented members of the Louisiana Superior Council staged a coup, driving Spanish governor Antonio de Ulloa out of the colony. Lieutenant General Alejandro O’Reilly restored order to the colony in 1769. O’Reilly demonstrated effective means of control over a discontented populace, which stood in stark relief to the weaknesses, neglect and disorder of the previous Spanish administration. In the early 1790’s a number of factors sparked new fears of rebellion in Louisiana. Disruptions of trade caused by war with France, attempts to integrate Louisiana into the Spanish mercantile system, shifts in agriculture and a shortage of specie backed currency once again agitated the colonial elite. At the same time an influx of revolutionary propaganda from the French Republic threatened to spark old ethnic tensions while tales of the Haitian revolution brought fears of slave revolt in the colony. Baron Carondelet utilized an increased military presence, information control, incorporation of colonial leaders into his administrative structure, and the fear of slave revolt to contain demonstrations of popular discontent. While his administration saw an increase in political violence, Carondelet prevented widespread rebellion.



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Committee Chair

Hoffman, Paul E.



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