Le Page du Pratz Antoine-Simon - The history of Louisiana


Author : Le Page du Pratz Antoine-Simon
Title : The history of Louisiana Or the Western parts of Virginia and Carolina : containing a description of the countries that lie on both sides of the River Missisippi : with an account of the settlements, inhabitants, soil, climate, and products
Year : 1758

Link download : Le_Page_du_Pratz_Antoine-Simon_-_The_history_of_Louisiana.zip

Foreword. Antoine Simon Le Page Du Pratz was a Dutchman, as his birth in Holland about 1695 apparently proves. He died in 1775, just where available records do not tell us, but the probabilities are that he died in France, for it is said he entered the French Army, serving with the Dragoons, and saw service in Germany. While there is some speculation about all the foregoing, there can be no speculation about the statement that on May 25, 1718 he left La Rochelle, France, in one of three ships bound for a place called Louisiana. For M. Le Page tells us about this in a three-volume work he wrote called, Histoire de la Louisiane, recognized as the authority to be consulted by all who have written on the early history of New Orleans and the Louisiana province. Le Page, who arrived in Louisiana August 25, 1718, three months after leaving La Rochelle, spent four months at Dauphin Island before he and his men made their way to Bayou St. John where he set up a plantation. He had at last reached New Orleans, which he correctly states, "existed only in name," and had to occupy an old lodge once used by an Acolapissa Indian. The young settler, he was only about 23 at the time, after arranging his shelter tells us: "A few days afterwards I purchased from a neighbour a native female slave, so as to have a woman to cook for us. My slave and I could not speak each other's language; but I made myself understood by means of signs." This slave, a girl of the Chitimacha tribe, remained with Le Page for years, and one draws the inference that she was possessed of a vigorous personality, and was not devoid of charm or bravery. Le Page writes that when frightened by an alligator approaching his camp fire, he ran to the lodge for his gun. However, the Indian girl calmly picked up a stick and hammered the 'gator so lustily on its nose that it retreated. As Le Page arrived with his gun, ready to shoot "the monster," he tells us: "She began to smile, and said many things which I did not comprehend, but she made me understand by signs, that there was no occasion for a gun to kill such a beast." It is unfortunate, for the purpose of sociological study, that this Indian girl appears so infrequently in the many accounts Le Page has left us in his highly interesting studies of early Louisiana and its original inhabitants. He does not even tell us the Indian girl's name. We are told that after living on the banks of Bayou St. John for about two years, he left for the bluff lands of the Natchez country. His Indian girl decided she would go with him, as she had relatives there. Hearing of her plan, her old father offered to buy her back from Le Page. The Chitimacha girl, however, refused to leave her master, whereupon, the Indian father performed a rite of his tribe, which made her the ward of the white man - a simple ceremony of joining hands. Le Page spent eight years among the Natchez and what he wrote about them - their lives, their customs, their ceremonials - has been acknowledged to be the best and most accurate accounts we have of these original inhabitants of Louisiana. He has left us, in his splendid history, much information on the other Indian tribes of the lower Mississippi River country. Antoine Simon Le Page Du Pratz tells us he spent sixteen years in Louisiana before returning to France in 1734. They were years well spent - to judge by what he wrote. As it was written and published in the French language, Le Page's history proved in many instances to be a tantalizing casket of historical treasure that could not be opened by those who had not mastered French. The original edition, published in Paris in 1758, a score of years after the author landed in New Orleans, was followed in 1763 by a two-volume edition in English, and eleven years later in 1774, by a one-volume edition in English, entitled: "The History of Louisiana, or of the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina." The texts in the English editions are identical. Fortunately, early historians who could not read the French edition, were now able to read M. Le Page's accounts of his adventures in the New World. Unfortunately, especially for present day historians, the English editions have become increasingly rare - many libraries do not have them on their shelves. Therefore, the present re-publication fills a long-felt want. The English translation, with its added matter, is reproduced exactly as it was printed for T. Becket to be sold in his shop at the corner of the Adelphi in the Strand, London, 1774. Errors of grammar and spelling are not corrected. The only change is the modernizing of the old _s_'s which look like _f_'s. The present edition is really two works in one, for the English translation did not include any of the original edition's many illustrations. The London books did have two folding maps, one of the Louisiana province, the other of the country about the mouths of the Mississippi River. Not only are these maps reproduced in the present work, but in addition, all the other illustrations, including the rare map of New Orleans, appearing in the original French edition, are included. These quaint engravings of the birds, the beasts, the flowers, the shrubs, the trees, fish, the deer and buffalo hunts, and the habits and customs of the Natchez Indians, add much to the value of the present re-publication. I have captioned them with present-day names of the flora and fauna. ...

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