New Orleans in 1798...

Established: 1714
Established by: FRANCE

In 1718, the colony of Louisiana (New Orleans) was founded by Pierre d’Iberville and his brother Jean by authority of the Mississippi Company.  The colony was named for Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of France at the time—a regent is someone who looks after the throne until the young king grows to maturity.

Louisiana was strategically located on the Mississippi River—all of North America’s major lakes, rivers and waterways flowed south past Louisiana and flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.  Although France knew Louisiana was an important colony, in the beginning it was little more than a buffer wall to prevent English westward expansion.  Britain and the Thirteen Colonies rightly saw the new French colony as a challenge to their power.

New Orleans grew slowly over the first seventy years of its existence; it lacked the necessary investment and population to encourage growth.  Despite the colony’s meager beginnings, Thomas Jefferson (a future president) and others acknowledged that whoever controlled the port on the Gulf of Mexico controlled the economy of North America’s entire interior trade system.

The French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire in the Treaty of Paris (1763).  In 1801, France briefly gained control of the colony again; and by 1803 Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

Labor shortages in the area encouraged the inhabitants of New Orleans to import slaves.  By 1800 more than fifty percent of the colony’s population was originally from Africa.