A Wilderness So Immense

A Wilderness So Immense by Jon Kukla

Book: A Wilderness So Immense by Jon Kukla Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jon Kukla
situation terrified Carondelet. He quietly packed up his baroness, María de la Concepción Castaños y Aragorri, and their two small children, Luis Angel and María Felipa Cayetana, and shipped them off to the safety of Havana. Then he turned his attention to the presumed Jacobins of New Orleans, many of whom seem to have been newly arrived “businessmen,” including two that he described as “talented men, very astute, and the wealthiest men in the capital.” 37
    Never one to underestimate the dangers at hand, the new governor was suspicious but also gullible, and he was temperamentally inclined toward dramatic, expensive, and contradictory measures. When it came to handling a crisis, the contrast between Carondelet and Miró could not have been more stark.
    In June 1791, for example, the summer before Carondelet arrived, five fires were started deliberately in various parts of New Orleans (two of them “on the fence of the very same house”) and a sixth at the suburban home of Lorenzo Sigur. Having witnessed the great conflagration of 1788, Miró was all too familiar with the threat of fire, but his response was measured and effective. Without indulging in alarmist rhetoric about the possibility of Jacobin saboteurs, Miró increased the number of nightly patrols as a precautionary measure, and then (like a Neighborhood Watch program) he appealed for assistance to the city’s merchants and traders, asking them to “keep watch with their friends … either walking or on horseback.” Each evening, Miró gathered a group of municipal and colonial officials to ride with him “in the night on horseback with [the] dragoons,” visibly reassuring the populace while also raising the morale of his patrols. The culprits were believed to be three prison escapees, “among whom is a real bad one … seen in the woods nearby,” so Miró sent search parties into the woods, initiated random patrols outside the city after dark, and offered “two prisoners of goodfaith who had never committed a serious crime”—trusties, in modern parlance—“their freedom if they should catch the main one.” 38
    While Miró calmly monitored the danger, he described the situation to Luis de Las Casas, the captain-general at Havana, “so that Your Excellency may not have any extra worries … because things are always exaggerated as they travel from one to another.” By the end of August Miró could report “the apprehension of the suspected negro, whose trial is now being prepared,” and assure his superior that “fears that the city might be set on fire are gradually ceasing.” 39
    A year later, Governor Carondelet reacted very differently to reports of “seditious people” in the colony. He deported Jean Dupuy a French trader, “for having made remarks suggestive of a revolution in this province,” as he did a man named Bujeac, “one of the most fanatical of all the partisans of the revolution.” Carondelet complained that Bujeac, despite his warnings and threats of banishment, was “always on the lookout for dangerous news which he was spreading with the greatest effrontery in the most public places against the monarchical government.” On another occasion Carondelet banished a free black tailor, newly arrived from St. Domingue, because he was “a native of that part of Santo Domingo that belongs to the French and is mixed up in all the intrigues and harassments of the French colony, besides being ungovernable and audacious. Having such a character around under the present circumstances,” Carondelet explained, “might produce bad results.” 40
    Oblivious to the fact that deportations were as likely to arouse as to curb seditious talk, Carondelet eventually banished sixty-eight men to Cuba. Some of them were heads of families, and all of them were people whom the governor regarded as having “no respect for anyone, nor any law nor duty.” The captain-general of Havana, Luis de Las Casas (who was Carondelet’s

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