Saturday, May 07, 2016

The history book has lost its binding

Three years ago, the mayor and the tourism boards with the help of several media outlets began pushing May 7 as the city's "birthday."

The mayor included the hashtag #nolalove which was the style at the time. People who can remember that far back in time will recall that the pronouncement generated a minor controversy on the internet which is a thing that happens sometimes. The result of this controversy was everyone eventually agreed that nobody actually agrees on what the particular founding date of the city even is.
There is much uncertainty as to the date at which New Orleans came into existence. We know that as soon as Law's Mississippi Company got control of Louisiana, Bienville was made commander of the forces. His commission was received February 9, 1718. In the following June he was able to write: "We are working at New Orleans with as much zeal as the shortage of workingmen will permit. I have myself conveyed over the spot to select the place where it will be best to locate the settlement. I remained ten days to hasten the works." Somewhere, then, between these two dates he had laid the foundation of the city by sending, or leading, a detachment of "twenty-five carpenters and as many convicts" from Biloxi to the new site, making a clearing and erecting a few scattered huts. We seek in vain for more precise information. Both Martin and Gayarré are vague as to the point. The latter says that "the first act of his (Bienville's) administration was to seek a favorable settlement upon the Mississippi upon which to put his principal establishment." Martin merely says: "Bienville visited the banks of the Mississippi to seek a spot for the principal settlement of the Province. He chose the site upon which the City of New Orleans now stands, and left there fifty men to clear the ground and erect barracks." Some light is thrown upon the problem by De La Harpe, the diarist, whose "Journal Historique," penned at a time very near the event, says under the date of February, 1718: "At this time M. de Bienville sought a fitting place on the banks of the Mississippi upon which to establish his capital. He chose one since named New Orleans, situated •thirty leagues from the sea, on the river, on account of its communicating with it by Lake Pontchartrain and the Bayou St. Jean. He left there fifty persons, carpenters and convicts, to clear the land and build a few shelters."a On the other hand, Penicaut, also a contemporary, puts the date of the founding of the city at 1717. A recent writer, after carefully testing the data, is of the opinion that the initial steps to establish New Orleans were taken between April 15 and May 15, 1718; and this date is probably as near the truth as it is possible now to get. The settlement received its name about the same time, probably from Bienville, in honor of the then regent of France, that Duc d'Orleans, of whom his mother said that the fairies had given him every gift except that of making use of them.
So any time this month is probably it. But not necessarily May 7 no matter how hard some of us keep trying to make it that. 

 Most likely they need to pick a date for their.. whatever gaudy and pompous speechifying thing they are going to do on Tricentennial Day two years from now. So they may as well ret-con this in as soon as they can. I just think, if they knew what they were doing, they would have picked Sinkhole de Mayo.

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