James Pitot

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Pitot in 1802

James Pitot (1761–1831) was the second Mayor of New Orleans.

Born Jacques-François Pitot in Normandy and educated in Paris, Pitot's family was of the nobility of France and fled that nation during the French Revolution. At first, Pitot settled in Philadelphia, where he became an American citizen. After his 1796 arrival in New Orleans, he prospered as a merchant and became a member of the city council.

The James Pitot House
Tomb of Jacques Pitot
Jacques Pitot grave marker

After the resignation of Etienne de Boré, Pitot was appointed mayor by Governor William C. C. Claiborne. He served from 2 June 1804 to 26 July 1805. During his administration the first city charter of New Orleans was enacted.

He later served as a judge. He was President of the New Orleans Navigation Company, which was granted the right to operate a toll canal extending from Bayou St. John into the Tremé neighborhood, terminating in the 'turning basin' which eventually gave its name to Basin Street. This route saved shippers many expensive days and risks of navigating the winding Mississippi River below New Orleans, in the age of sail. (Bayou St. John connects to Lake Pontchartrain, which in turn leads to the Gulf of Mexico.[1]

Pitot's home alongside Bayou St. John still stands, now a museum, the Pitot House. The home is near the "bayou bridge" which Governor Claiborne ordered the military "to permit no Negroes to pass or repass the same," during the event known as the 1811 slave uprising.[2][3]

Battle of New Orleans[edit]

Jacques Pitot is not properly remembered for his role as president of the Orleans Parish police jury (akin to a "county commission" elsewhere) when, January 31, 1814, he authorized the re-enlisting of free people of color into the local militia.[4][5] This was a bold move, coming less than seven years after Governor Claiborne had been wounded in a duel with his nemesis, Daniel Clark, June 8, 1807, which was prompted by Claiborne's recognition of the militia battalion of free men of color in 1804, shortly after the United States took possession of Louisiana.

Pitot's action built upon the long-standing network of kinship, economic ties, trade, and cultural ties free blacks had, not only up and down the Mississippi River from New Orleans with both slave-holding whites and with slaves, but also throughout the Caribbean and Gulf trade region, including Jamaica, where the British launched their attack against New Orleans in December 1814. British efforts to lure away both slaves and free blacks to their side of the conflict were not as successful as they had hoped. Pitot's volunteer militia, including the free men of color, joined other units of free men of color, as well as numerous slaves, who were central to the defense of New Orleans under the unified command of General Andrew Jackson.


  1. ^ Eaton, Fernin, http://www.academia.edu/1910804/Gov._Claiborne_in_his_own_words--a_salon_publique_at_Pitot_House_Bayou_St._John
  2. ^ Eaton, ibid
  3. ^ Rowland, Dunbar, Official Letter Books of Gov. W.C.C.Claiborne, vol. V, p. 93
  4. ^ Pitot, Henry Clement, "James Pitot, 1761-1831; a documentary study"
  5. ^ Eaton, Fernin, http://www.academia.edu/1910804/Gov._Claiborne_in_his_own_words--a_salon_publique_at_Pitot_House_Bayou_St._John

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Etienne de Boré
Mayor of New Orleans
June 2, 1804 – July 26, 1805
Succeeded by
John Watkins