Louisiana 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.
Whereas the earliest settlers of Upper Louisiana mostly came from French Canada, 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. The establishment of a plantation economy and its demand of labor interned a large population of African slaves (nègre) and a smaller group of escaped slaves (marrons).
The Mississippi Company acquired the monopoly over the slave trade in the area and became its main supplier. It imported approximately 10,000 slaves from Africa between 1719 and 1743. The economy of Lower Louisiana consequently became slave-dependent. As in other French colonies, the treatment of the slaves was regulated by the Code Noir.
Although the Code Noir forbade interracial marriages, in practice interracial relationships were formed in New Orleans society. The mulattoes became an intermediate social caste between the whites and the blacks.
During the 18th century, the society of Louisiana became heavily creolized specifically in Lower Louisiana. Social mobility was easier in America than in France at the time. The seigneurial system was not imposed. There were few corporations treated on a hierarchical basis and strictly regulated. Tradesmen managed to build fortunes rather quickly. The large planters of Louisiana were attached to the French way of life.
Louisiana became an increasingly important colony in the early 18th century with the develop the plantation economy of Lower Louisiana. Jean-Baptiste Colbert's economic reforms specially favored Louisiana.
The Mississippi river is the main waterway of Louisiana, communicating Nouvelle-Orléans to the Great Lakes. Cotton, timber, wheat, corn, coffee, coal, cattle, and food come down the Mississippi to the ports of the river delta. The shops on the banks of the Mississippi also served as warehouses.
Despite having very few shipments from and to France Louisiana became an important commercial and agricultural hub (cotton, wood, rice, wheat and corn) to the Caribbean Sea. Exports of tobacco and indigo to the Metropolis became an important source of income.
Lower and Lower Mississippi evolved in two different societies and economies. The Lower Mississippi established a plantation system based on slave labor for the production cash for export such as of sugar, cotton, tobacco, coffee and indigo. The Upper Mississippi was devoted to grain and cereals agriculture, raising horses, cattle and pigs, and also grew a little tobacco, hemp, flax and grapes in which farmers practiced communal agriculture or cultivated the land with paid and slave laborers. Slavery only became important in mining activities.
Unlike Lower Mississippi, which primarily had been organized in separated homesteads along a river with long rectangular plots stretching back from the river (ribbon plots). The Lower Mississippi although marked with long-ribbon plots, did not reside on them. Instead, settlers resided together in farming villages, more like the farming villages of northern France. Also the main attraction was that colonizers, as in all French America, did not have to pay royal taxes and were free of the hated gabelle and enjoyed a warmer climate then Canada.
Louisiana is divided into regions. The government is led by a Governor-general (Gouverneur généraux), assisted by the Intendant for Louisiana. 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 Nouvelle-Orléans and Quebec, communications outside cities and forts were limited. The territories of Louisiana are a Governorship of the Viceroyalty since 1665.
However on the establishment of the Viceroyalty of New France (1665) Louisiana gained more autonomy in its administration until the reform of 1720. Louisiana is divided into the following regions:
- Lower Louisiana (Basse-Louisiane) capital Mobile
- Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane) which began north of the Arkansas River, capital Fort de Chartres
- Country of Illinois (Pays des Illinois) which began north of the Arkansas River (ceded to Canada).
- Arkansas Territory
- Missouri Territory
The Reform of 1720 clearly defined two generalities (généralités) divided in sub-delegations and territories. Each generality is in charge of a Commander-Governor and a Commissioner (commissaire-ordonnateur) both named and subject to the supervision of the General-General. The Commander-Governor is the head of the pays and was responsible military affairs, police and the defense of the territories under his administration and the Commissioner of civil, economical and judicial affairs. The Intendant of Louisiana named all sub-delegates of the sub-delegations and territories. General and Superior Councils serve as the main administrative and justice courts presided by the Commissioner and Intendant.
Generalities and Subdelegations:
- Lower Louisiana (Basse-Louisiane) capital Nouvelle-Orléans
- Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane) capital Fort de Chartres
- ↑ Applied in Saint-Domingue (1687), the rest of the French West Indies (1687), Guyana (1704), OTL Réunion (1723), and Louisiana (1724).