Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré (January 9, 1805 – February 11, 1895) was an American historian, attorney and politician born to a Spanish and French Creole planter's family in New Orleans, Louisiana. A historian and a writer of plays, essays, and novels, to which he devoted his life after the age of 29, he is chiefly remembered for his histories of Louisiana.
The grandson of Étienne de Boré, he was born at the Boré plantation, which was then outside the city limits of New Orleans. (It has long been incorporated into the city as Audubon Park.) After studying at the College d' Orléans he began in 1826 to study law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and three years later was admitted to the bar. In 1830 he was elected a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives; in 1831 was appointed deputy attorney general of his state; in 1833 he became presiding judge of the city court of New Orleans; and in 1834 he was elected as a Jackson Democrat to the United States Senate. On account of ill-health, however, he immediately resigned without taking his seat. For the next eight years, he traveled in Europe and collected historical material from the French and the Spanish. Some of the historical documents that he used were written by his ancestor, Esteban de Gayarré, a military officer who had arrived in Louisiana with Spanish Governor Antonio de Ulloa.
In 1844-1845 and in 1856-1857 he was elected again as a Democratic Party member of the state House of Representatives, and from 1845 to 1853 was appointed as Secretary of State of Louisiana. In 1853 he failed to be elected to the U.S. Congress, but remained active in Louisiana politics as an ally of John Slidell in the "Regular Democratic" movement. He supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, in which he lost a large fortune. In the postwar years, he lived chiefly by his pen. In 1863 he proposed that the slaves be emancipated and armed, provided that France and England recognized the Confederacy. He had a long-standing association with the Louisiana Historical Society, of which he was President from 1860 to 1888. He died in New Orleans on February 11, 1895.
He wrote Histoire de la Louisiane (1847); Romance of the History of Louisiana (1848); Louisiana: its Colonial History and Romance (1851), reprinted in A History of Louisiana; History of Louisiana: the Spanish Domination (1854); Philip II of Spain (1866); and A History of Louisiana (4 vols., 1866), the last collecting and adding to his earlier works in this field. The whole covered the history of Louisiana from its earliest discovery by Europeans to 1861. He wrote also several dramas and romances, the best of the latter being Fernando de Lemos (1872).
- Histoire de la Louisiane (1846)
- The History of Louisiana, successive portions under various titles 1847‑1854, then reprinted as a final comprehensive edition in 1866 (online here)
- Philip II of Spain (1866)
- Fernando de Lemos, Truth and Fiction (1872)
- Aubert Dubayet (1882)
- The School for Politics: A Dramatic Novel (1854)
- Dr. Bluff, a comedy in two acts
- Klugewicz, Stephen M. "'Unfit for the Age': Charles Gayarré, the Conservative as Satirist", The Imaginative Conservative, 2013.
- Lang, Herbert H. "Charles Gayarre and the Philosophy of Progress," Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 3, Summer, 1962.
- Phillips, Faye. "To 'Build upon the Foundation': Charles Gayarré's Vision for the Louisiana State Library," Libraries & the Cultural Record, Volume 43, Number 1, 2008.
- Phillips, Faye. "Writing Louisiana Colonial History in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: Charles Gayarré, Benjamin Franklin French, and the Louisiana Historical Society," Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 49, No. 2, Spring, 2008.
- Works by Charles Gayarré at Unz.org