On Cultural Fire and Beauty in New Orleans

The L’Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orleans (The New Orleans Bee) newspaper debut in 1827 under the guidance of François Delaup. Delaup was a refugee from the St. Domingue colony (modern day Haiti) that was under slave insurrection. Delaup was one of over 10,000 refugees that migrated to New Orleans that started in 1809. Many of the refugees were educated, highly skilled, and French in culture. The expansion of the City was a hot topic in Delaup’s time and many of L’Abeille’s articles reflected that.

The L’Abeille published an editorial on February 5th, 1828. The news at the time dealt with fires that swept different parts of the City. They had a fire on Tchoupitoulas St. in the modern day Central Business District (Faubourg St. Marie at the time). The fire caused considerable damage and authorities were investigating a possible arson crime. They also referenced a fire that had occurred sometime earlier on Ursuline St. as well. Here is a translation of their editorial:
“It cannot be denied that here there are evil-doers who have found guilty hopes for the consequences of the conflagration. In vain, we have made known the many indications on which we base our presumption. And after seeing several attempts of this kind, we have awakened the attention on this scene that took place in the Faubourg Saint. Marie, in four islets of the Rue Tchapitoulas. . . There is doubtless a natural cause to justify the heap of fatty wood, cut in butts, and placed on smoky fountains which were found in the night of the Rue des Ursulines.”

The beginning of this editorial defended the administration at the time for putting public money into the “beautification” of the City. The context is unclear, but it’s safe to assume that residents were questioning the use of taxpayer money for what seemed to be risky projects at the time. The editorial did make clear that everyone knew expansion was necessary because the population was set to grow exponentially over a short period of time (and they were right). This public debate seems to be part of a continuing theme of what image New Orleans is supposed to portray to the world.

The public debate continues today over what monuments New Orleans is supposed to erect. It’s reasonable to believe that these fires in early 1828 caused public concern and passionate debate. In the name of necessity, the 1828 administration risked fires to create a more beautiful city. New Orleans did expand greatly, and we enjoy the beautification that these men and women put forth before our time. These embellishments are a unique landmark to our city. You can’t go anywhere else in the United States and find architecture like in New Orleans.

New Orleans architecture is one of the most attractive things about New Orleans, but residents in 1828 were not thinking about tourism in 2017. It was not only a great effort, but a great risk to strive to make the growing city more attractive for future residents. New Orleans made it this far in 1828 under two European empires and a growing American empire- perhaps residents new that New Orleans wasn’t going anywhere.

New Orleans has survived almost everything imaginable from foreign invaders to natural disasters. The 300th birthday of the City is approaching next May where reflection of its past, present, and future will likely be in the public discussion again. This discussion will include the recent tactics of Mayor Landrieu concerning the Southern Confederate monuments.

Mayor Landrieu has made himself part of this beautification discussion for the City. But for the Mayor, it’s more than just beautification. It’s a political and social identity of the City that he wants to rubber stamp on his legacy. Creating models of identity and beauty can be dangerous work in the world of urban development as we see with Mayor Landrieu. The Spanish legacy on New Orleans was controversial for a time, but incorporated parts of the culture to further the creole identity. The Louisiana Purchase was even more controversial with the influx of American migration into New Orleans. Tensions between the Anglo-Americans and the Creoles remained controversial for much of the 19th century, but New Orleans adopted some of the Anglo-American culture as part of its identity. The statue of Andrew Jackson in what is now “Jackson Square” is the finest example of American cultural identity in New Orleans.

These trying times in New Orleans are no longer controversial as it has been accepted as part of the story of New Orleans. But Mayor Landrieu and the cultural Marxists are obsessed with 4 years of American history: 1861-1865. This time period was the result of complex political and social factors that emerged into a full-scale war between North and South in the United States. It was a sad time in American history, but many lessons can be learned from it. It changed New Orleans and the rest of the nation forever so why try to forget it? The Mayor and the Marxists want to wipe out the entire history of the South during this 4-year period, but why not wipe out the arsonists of 1828? Why not wipe out American cultural identity that originally belong to just European and Caribbean creoles? Why not wipe our Spanish history in a city that remained culturally French in many ways? The Mayor has opened up a can that can result in complete cultural cleansing of New Orleans. In an attempt to put out fires, the Mayor has committed cultural arson on our history and there’s no telling when it will stop. It does strike curiosity to know what Delaup would write about the fires going on today.

 

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