Louisiana Rebellion of 1768

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State historical marker in front of the New Orleans Mint

The Rebellion of 1768 was an unsuccessful attempt by Creole and German settlers around New Orleans, Louisiana to stop the handover of the French Louisiana Territory to Spain, as had been stipulated in the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau.

The rebellion aimed to force the new Spanish Louisiana Governor Antonio de Ulloa to leave New Orleans and return to Spain but his replacement Alejandro O'Reilly was able to crush the rebellion, execute five of its ringleaders and firmly establish Spanish law in the territory.


In the Treaty of Paris at the conclusion of the French and Indian War, France lost all of its territories on the North America continent including Canada, Illinois Country and Louisiana. It got to keep its French West Indies islands in the Caribbean and also the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Great Britain acquired Canada and all the land on the east bank of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. As compensation from losses elsewhere, France handed over control of New Orleans and all the land on the west bank of the Mississippi River and its tributaries to their Spanish allies.

Implementation of the turnover was slow in North America with the French continuing to expand its villages including founding St. Louis, Missouri. In April 1764 the first Spanish governor Jean-Jacques Blaise d'Abbadie, a French official who was administering Louisiana for the Spanish, took office and heard complaints from among the natives. d'Abbadie died from illness on February 4, 1765. The senior military officer in the colony Captain Charles Philippe Aubry, a French officer, assumed control.

A Merchant Jean Milhet sailed to France in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Louis XV to rescind the decision but the King did not grant him an audience.

Eviction of Ulloa[edit]

On March 5, 1766, the new Governor Ulloa arrived[1] but brought with him only 75 soldiers and did not even raise the Spanish flag over the Place d'Armes. Ulloa's superiors were in Cuba and were to virtually ignore his requests including replacing the French currency with peso. Although fluent in French, Ulloa was to exacerbate his problems by living outside of New Orleans at La Balize, Louisiana.

In the summer of 1768, Ulloa announced plans to crack down on Louisiana's smuggling operations by closing the mouth of the Mississippi to only one channel to improve on security. At the same time, he also announced that Louisiana would no longer trade with France or any of its colonies, consistent with a policy in other Spanish possessions.

In the fall of 1768, Denis-Nicolas Foucault, who was the Commissary for Louisiana under the French, and had continued the position under the Spanish during the transition, and Nicolas Chauvin de Lafreniere, who was the Louisiana attorney general under the French and also continuing under the Spanish, hatched a plot to force the governor out.

Joseph Milhet was sent to villages west of the Mississippi to stir insurrection. Joseph Villeré went to communities northwest of New Orleans. Pierre Marquis was declared leader of the Louisiana militia. Balthasar Masan went to British West Florida to seek help (which was not forthcoming).

In the process, the conspirators arrested the French military officer Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent on charges of collaborating with the enemy.

On October 28, as riots broke out in New Orleans, Aubry escorted the governor and his pregnant wife to a Spanish vessel. The Superior Council voted that the governor leave within three days. He complied, leaving on November 1.

With the governor out of Louisiana, Maxent was also released. Jean Milhet returned to France and again was refused an audience with Louis XV.

Spanish response[edit]

In May 1769, Maxent terminated his relationship with Pierre Laclede in St. Louis, which had become a haven for French refugees.

On July 19, 1769 O'Reilly returned to Louisiana with 2,000 Spanish soldiers. On July 27, O'Reilly had a "cordial" meeting (probably arranged by Maxent, who had been "agent" for the turnover, and Francisco Bouligny, a French-speaking Spanish officer under O'Reilly's command[2][3]) with the conspirators, who declared their respect for the Spanish king and noted no blood had been shed in the rebellion. On August 18, the French flag was formally lowered and the Spanish flag raised. On August 19, most of the plotters were invited to dinner with the governor, where they were arrested. The next day the governor said he would forgive the rest of the rioters if they took a loyalty oath.

The plotters were tried and five of them (La Freniere, Caresse, Marquis, Joseph Milhet and Noyan) were sentenced to death on October 25 and were executed by firing squad on October 26. Foucault, who was a French official, was sent back to France, where he was imprisoned for two years. Five other plotters were sent to prison in Cuba where they were released after two years. Their property was confiscated.

If Joseph Villeré was not executed with the others, he must have died in captivity. The article about his son, Governor Jacques Villeré, says that the Spanish government was responsible for his father's death.

O'Reilly abolished the Superior Council and formally replaced French law with Spanish colonial policy.


The territory remained in Spanish hands until 1800, when on paper it was returned to France, following the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. However, Spanish officials continued to administer the colony.

In April 1803, Napoleon sold La Louisiane to the United States via the Louisiana Purchase, in exchange for money and the cancellation of French debts.

Late in 1803 and in the spring of 1804, both of these transfers were formalized back-to-back, with the French flag being raised temporarily in New Orleans and again later in St. Louis. Then the French flag was lowered and the American flag raised. The 1804 ceremony, the one in St. Louis, was called Three Flags Day.

Elements of French law are still retained in the state of Louisiana.

See also[edit]


  • Fabio, Anthony W. "The Spanish Arrive in Louisiana: The Transformation from a French to a Spanish Colony". Historical Text Archive. Retrieved 2013-11-18.


  1. ^ Bolton, Herbert E. (1921). "Chapter IX: Louisiana". The Spanish Borderlands. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  2. ^ Martin, Fontaine (1990). A History of the Bouligny Family and Allied Families. Lafayette, Louisiana: The Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana. ISBN 0940984512.
  3. ^ Din, Gilbert C. (1993). Francisco Bouligny: A Bourbon Soldier in Spanish Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0807117951.