Manuel Gayoso de Lemos

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Manuel Gayoso de Lemos
Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Governor of Spanish Louisiana
8th Spanish colonial governor of Louisiana
In office
Preceded by Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet
Succeeded by Sebastián Calvo de la Puerta y O'Farrill
Personal details
Born Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos Amorín y Magallanes
May 30, 1747
Oporto, Portugal
Died July 18, 1799
New Orleans
Louisiana (New Spain)
Profession Governor-general of Spanish Louisiana

Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos Amorín y Magallanes (1747 – 1799) was the Spanish governor of Louisiana (New Spain) from 1797 until his death in 1799.


Early years and military career[edit]

Born in Oporto, Portugal, on May 30, 1747, to Spanish consul Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos y Sarmiento and Theresa Angélica de Amorín y Magallanes, he received his education in London, where his parents were living.

At age 23 Manuel Gayoso de Lemos joined the military, the Spanish Lisbon Regiment as a cadet (1771) and was commissioned ensign (sub-lieutenant) the following year. The Lisbon Regiment had been reassigned from Havana to New Orleans since the Spanish reentry under Field Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly in 1769. Throughout his life Gayoso de Lemos retained his military rank and he was a brigadier at the time of his death. He married three times. His first marriage was to Theresa Margarita Hopman y Pereira of Lisbon, with whom he had two children. In 1792 he married Elizabeth Watts of Philadelphia and Louisiana; she died three months later. He then married Elizabeth's sister, Margaret Cyrilla Watts, with whom he had one son.

On November 3, 1787, Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos assumed military and civil command of the fort and the newly organized District of Natchez (West Florida), having been appointed district governor by Governor-general Esteban Rodríguez Miró, governor of Louisiana and West Florida. On his arrival, Gayoso de Lemos established an informal cabildo (council) of landed planters which was formalized in 1792. Most of the council were of non-Spanish origin having come down from the Ohio River Valley settlements (especially Kentucky). Gayoso de Lemos continued to encourage American settlement on Spanish soil, especially by Catholics, notably the Irish and the Scots, and by those who brought significant property. He moved the administrative part of the town of Natchez from the waterfront up onto the bluff. One of the most troubling aspects during his civil administration was confusion in the land titles, with a number of inconsistent land grants. Unfortunately, Rodríguez Miró's successor, Governor-general Carondelet was not amenable to rectifying the problem.

While in Natchez, Gayoso de Lemos used the greed of a number of Americans, notably General James Wilkinson and Philip Nolan to help limit the growth of the United States. Also to this end, Gayoso de Lemos entered into alliances with the local Indian tribes and signed formal treaties with them in 1792, 1793 [1], and 1795. Under his direction the Spanish fortified the Mississippi at Nogales (later Walnut Hills, then later changed to Vicksburg) and Chickasaw Bluffs (later Memphis).[2] He was instrumental in acquiring the information from Wilkinson concerning the proposed U.S. attack on New Orleans in 1793 by General George Rogers Clark.

However, under the terms of Pinckney's Treaty promulgated in 1796, Spain agreed to relinquish the Natchez District to the United States. Thus Gayoso de Lemos oversaw the gradual Spanish withdrawal from the east side of the middle Mississippi River. In March 1797 the fort at Nogales was decommissioned, with the troops and stores being moved to St. Louis. Final evacuation of the district did not occur until 1798, at which time the U.S. established the Mississippi Territory.

Governor of Louisiana[edit]

Gayoso de Lemos succeeded Carondelet as Governor-General of Louisiana and West Florida on August 5, 1797. His first act was to issue his own Bando de Buen Gobierno (Edit of Good Government) and to send a list of instructions to commandants of all posts concerning land grants.

As governor, Gayoso de Lemos consolidated the military power of Spain in New Orleans, still fearing a possible thrust south by Britain and desiring to keep Spanish Louisiana a buffer between the U.S. (with its territory now extending to Natchez) and Spanish Texas. He was pragmatic and continued the unofficial policy of allowing Americans to bring their slaves with them from the north, although the importation of new slaves had been prohibited since 1792. However, he was dogmatic in other areas of government; in 1798, he issued a comprehensive edict concerning Catholicism as the state faith of the colony. In addition to increasing formal church membership, it attempted to coerce people to give up unnecessarily working on Sundays and holy days. In the edict Gayoso de Lemos condemned anyone who challenged the theology or social centrality of the Church. In 1798 he also instituted state-run garbage collection (a novel idea at the time), to prevent the spread of diseases and bad smells in the city.

Gayoso de Lemos died in New Orleans of yellow fever on July 18, 1799, and his remains were interred in the Saint Louis Cathedral. Colonel Francisco Bouligny became the acting military governor and Nicolas María Vidal the acting civil governor. Gayoso Bayou, a partially covered stream in Memphis, Tennessee, is named after Manuel Gayoso.


  1. ^ Archivo General de Indias , October 28, 1793 Tratado de Nogales con las naciones Indias.
  2. ^ Fort San Fernando de las Barrancas

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet
Spanish Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Francisco Bouligny (military)
Nicolás María Vidal (civil)