Instruments of Empire: Colonial Elites and U.S. Governance in Early National Louisiana, 1803-1820
Beauchamp, Michael Kelly
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The United States confronted new problems of territorial expansion with the Louisiana Purchase, as it involved, for the first time, the transfer in sovereignty of a territory that contained a population who by birth, language and religion differed substantially from the inhabitants of the United States, but who had been guaranteed the rights of full citizens. A series of other colonial powers faced these same problems on the North American continent, notably the Spanish in Louisiana. As with those earlier powers, ultimately the United States pursued processes that both brought Louisiana government and law into line with its institutions, and allowed for continued local control. County and parish officeholders through their interactions with U.S. authorities prove especially useful for an examination of the processes that gradually integrated the Territory of Orleans into the United States. Neither a study of high political figures in Washington nor marginalized groups in Louisiana can accurately demonstrate how this process of accommodation worked. Local elites and U.S. officials served as the middlemen who oversaw the implementation of new policy and therefore were in a position to obstruct these policies if they so chose. Native-born Louisiana elites confronted significant challenges in dealing with a U.S. administration that in some areas chose to accommodate them, but in many others chose to implement policies through Anglo- American or foreign French newcomers to the territory. The change in sovereignty to the United States offered many individuals from local elites new pathways to power in the territorial legislature, and later in a stronger state legislature. Local governance played a central role in the success of U.S. sovereignty within Louisiana.