Monday, April 30, 2012

Louisiana: Union, Justice, Confidence

The Louisiana Brown Pelican (Audobon)
Five times the flags of France and Spain have flown over Louisiana between 1682 (France) to 1803 (France again). 

In 1682 when the French explorer Sieur de La Salle claimed land in the New World for his king, Louis XIV, the flag he most likely carried with him is known as the Bourbon Banner, a white flag with golden fleur-de-lis upon it to represent the French Bourbon monarchy.

Many variations of this flag exist, some with only three fleur-de-lis and some with many fleur-de-lis. The simpler version with three fleur-de-lis, however, was more common as it was easier to make and, therefore, easier to fly.

France's Bourbon Banner c. 1682 under Louis XIV
It is this version of the Bourbon Banner that probably was the first French flag to fly over France's new territory in the New World, Lousiana.

In 1763, as part of the Treaty of Paris, the British Union Jack claimed its share of the vast territory named Louisiana. 

Five years later in 1768, King Carlos III of Spain must deal with rebellion in the form of French colonists concerned with the fairness of Spanish rule. In 1769, King Carlos has his territory and authority in Florida solidified under Spanish Governor Alejandro O'Reilly. 

The flag of Bourbon Spain, c. 1769
Alejandro O'Reilly (Alexander O'Reilly) was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1722. Being Irish and Catholic and, given England's history with Ireland at that time, it was common for Irish Catholic gentlemen to serve in foreign armies, hence O'Reilly's efforts on behalf of Carlos III. O'Reilly was the first official colonial administer for Spain after Spain acquired territory from France. For his work on Spain's behalf, he was made a Count. 

After French colonists in Florida rebelled against Spanish rule, O'Reilly "reformed" or reorganized local government, creating the Spanish parish system and, generally, making the French colonists more comfortable with Spanish government. This parish system, by the way, remained a part of local Florida government, persisting "as the primary county-level administrative unit under territorial and state governments" ( – even after Florida statehood. 
The 15 stars and 15 stripes of the Star-Spangled Banner

In 1803, the US buys the territory for $15 million from Napoleon (the Lousianna Purchase) and the 15 stars and 15 stripes of the flag that we will know as the Star-Spangled Banner becomes the first US flag to fly over Louisiana territory.

Louisiana becomes the 18th state in 1812 but secedes in 1861 and declares itself a sovereign nation. For two months is flies its own flag and then joins the Confederacy. Two Confederate flags fly over Louisiana during the Civil War, the Stars and Bars (1861-1863) and the Stainless Banner (1863-1865).

In 1902, the Brown Pelican becomes part of the Louisiana state seal although the bird has been part of Florida lore since colonists' early arrival. It is known for its parenting skills, so to speak: The Brown Pelican is a careful caretaker of its young, a trait that impressed the early Europeans. 

In the 1800s, the Brown Pelican began showing up on alternative versions of the state flag.  
Come 1912, but a dozen years into the new century, Louisiana makes the state bird, the Brown Pelican, the "star" of its new and official Louisiana state flag. The Brown Pelican, sitting atop its nest of young, flies over the state motto: Union, Justice and Confidence.

The Louisiana state flag
Happy statehood, Louisiana!

Let it fly!

partial list of sources:
Louisiana Secretary of State (
Southeastern Louisiana University (

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