Do You Know How French Prisoners and Louisiana are Connected?
As you most likely already know, Louisiana has a rich and sometimes sordid history. That's what made our Louisiana Studies classes so much fun back in 8th grade! But do you know about the connection between French prisoners and the Bayou State? This part of our story wasn't necessarily appropriate for our middle school-aged ears!
This might be strange, but it's definitely true. In 1719, John Law, who was a Scottish monetary reformer and originator of the 'Mississippi scheme' according to Britannica, gave French prisoners an offer they couldn't refuse. If they were willing to marry a prostitute and move to Louisiana, they would be given their 'freedom.' It was a part of Law's plan to develop the French territories in America.
HistoryCollection.com says that the prisoners who accepted the deal were shackled until they boarded their ship to the Gulf Coast so they couldn't escape. In his efforts to populate the French territory, Law even raided hospitals for drunk and disorderly soldiers to send to 'Louisiana.'
You might wonder why I put Louisiana in quotes in the paragraph above. That's because many of the new 'citizens' were actually sent to what we know as Biloxi, Mississippi, but then it was known as part of 'Louisiana.' And not everyone had to be forced to head to our neck of the woods. Those who came to America of their own accord were offered land and goods. However, with so many criminals and ner do wells landing on the shores of Mississippi, the more upstanding immigrants started moving east to New Orleans.
Can you imagine arriving on the Gulf Coast in the early 1700s with little to no food or provisions and no shelter? It's kind of like, 'Here you go, good luck!' It's not like anyone was there to greet them with a welcome party or even a job. If these folks survived, they did it by their own strength of will. Crazy, right? It's kind of weird to know that if your family hails from the Gulf Coast anywhere from Biloxi to New Orleans, your family may have gotten its start in the new world thanks to criminals and prostitutes. And now you know the rest of the story.