Louisiana (New Spain)

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Government of Louisiana
Territory of New Spain

Flag Coat of arms
Cross of Burgundy Coat of arms
Location of New Spain
Territory of Louisiana (1762)
Capital Nueva Orleans
 -  Acquisition from France 1762
 -  Return to France 15 October 1802
Political subdivisions Upper Louisiana
Lower Louisiana
DeSoto claiming the Mississippi, as depicted in the United States Capitol rotunda

Louisiana (Spanish: Luisiana, French: La Louisiane) was the name of an administrative district of the Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1762 to 1802 that represented territory west of the Mississippi River basin, plus New Orleans. Spain acquired the territory from France, who had named it La Louisiane in honor of their king Louis XIV in 1682.


Spain was largely a benign absentee landlord administering it from Havana, Cuba, and contracting out governing to people from many nationalities as long as they swore allegiance to Spain. During the American War of Independence, the Spanish funneled their supplies to the American revolutionists through New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory beyond.

In keeping with being absentee landlords, Spanish efforts to turn Louisiana into a Spanish colony were usually fruitless. For instance, they succeeded in only making Spanish the official language of government, while the majority of the populace firmly continued to speak French. In fact the Louisianans forced the officials to speak French if they ever hoped to get anything accomplished.

Many today have been led to believe that the architecture of New Orleans' French Quarter is "Spanish," but the architects who designed and built it were French, and the style is more correctly called "Mediterranean", and can readily be found in the south of France and northern Italy, as well as Spain. Spanish control of the region did strengthen the Catholic influence that had begun with the French.

Upper and Lower[edit]

The Spanish divided Louisiana into Upper Louisiana and Lower Louisiana at 36° 35' North, at about the latitude of New Madrid.[1]

This was a higher latitude than the French, for whom Lower Louisiana was the area south of about 31° North (the current northern boundary of the State of Louisiana) or the area south of where the Arkansas River joined the Mississippi at about 33° 46' North latitude.


Spanish Exploration[edit]

French Control[edit]

Spanish Control[edit]

The Cabildo, next to the San Luis cathedral (See photo below.)
Calle de San Luis in the French Quarter of New Orleans
St. Louis (San Luis) Cathedral, on the former Plaza de las Armas

French Control[edit]

  • 1800 – In the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, Napoleon secretly acquired the territory, but Spain continued to administer it.
  • 1801 – The United States was permitted again to use the port of New Orleans.
  • 1803 – The purchase of Louisiana by the United States was announced.
  • 1803 – Spain refused Lewis and Clark permission to travel up the Missouri River, since the transfer from France to the United States had not been made official; they spent the winter in Illinois at Camp Dubois.
  • 1804 – France officially took control in November 1803, but word was not conveyed to St. Louis until 1804 on Three Flags Day.


  1. ^ Reasonover, John R.; Michelle M. Haas (2005). Reasonover's Land Measures. Copano Bay Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-9767799-0-2. 
  2. ^ Bradshaw, Jim (27 January 1998). "Broussard named for early settler Valsin Broussard". Lafayette Daily Advertiser. 

See also[edit]