Trade between the Indians of Mexico and the French at the Port of Mississippi


In the 18th century, French Louisiana covered territory comprising some 20 present-day U.S. states. Explored and named by Robert Cavelier de La Salle in 1682, it was colonized beginning in 1699. In that year, King Louis XIV and his minister, Pontchartrain, ordered Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, assisted by his brother, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, to form a permanent settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi in order to counter possible British encroachments. A fort was raised at Biloxi in 1699, then a post at Mobile in 1702. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–13), the little military post at Mobile, barely populated with 200 colonists and poorly provisioned, was on the verge of abandonment. Between 1712 and 1731 the king placed the colony under the control of private interests. From 1712 to 1717 the royal monopoly was granted to the financier Antoine Crozat, who hoped to find and exploit gold and silver mines near Mexico. During this period, Louisiana’s zone of influence extended into the interior of the country, thanks to the construction of numerous forts: Fort Rosalie, in the Natchez Country (1716); the Natchitoches outpost on the Red River (1716); and Fort Toulouse, near the tribe known as the Alibamons (1717). No precious metals were discovered and, after five years, there were only 550 colonists. Crozat decided to withdraw in 1717. At the initiative of John Law, the Scottish financier and adventurer, the administration of Louisiana was taken over by the Compagnie d’Occident (Company of the West). This print, published by Parisian print dealer François-Gérard‏ Jollain in 1717 or soon thereafter, most likely was produced by the Company of the West to promote settlement in the colony. The engraving and accompanying text praise the virtues and richness of the “Kingdom of Louisiana.” All the elements needed to attract colonists, missionaries, and investors are said to be present: fertile land; gold, silver, copper, and lead mines; well-dispositioned natives open to trade and to Christianity; and a capital at New Orleans, endowed with a magnificent port on the Mississippi River.

Last updated: January 8, 2018