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The talk was on May 26, 1984, and offered considerable detail on the life of one of the area's most well-known historical figures.
The text of the speech went as follows:
Thank you Mrs. Colvin, Mr. McGuire and members of Mandeville Horizons. I am delighted to have the opportunity to address this gathering of persons who share with me an abiding interest in the history of Mandeville.
Tonight, I shall speak about my famous, in some quarters, perhaps infamous ancestor, Bernard Marigny, and his role in the founding of Mandeville. While preparing this speech, I was reminded that 1984 marks the 150th anniversary of the first auction sale of lots in the Quartier de Mandeville by Marigny; and consequently, the sesquicentennial of the town of Mandeville. Hence, it seems rather appropriate that we should recall the memory of that remarkable individual who conceived the idea of Mandeville.
Before I begin to chronicle the life of Bernard Marigny, it is incumbent upon me to discuss his familial origin and ancestors in Louisiana, for they formed an integral part of his being. The Phillippes de Marigny were an ennobled family of Norman French origin. The surname of the family is Phillippe, the names Marigny and Mandeville are patrimonial; or the names of small estates near Bayeux which remained in the possession of the family until the French Revolution. Consequently, the progenitors of the Phillippe de Marigny family in Louisiana were the Phillippes of Marigny and of Mandeville, thus distinguishing them from other branches of the Phillippe family in Normandy.
The coat of arms of the Phillippe de Marigny family is emblazoned with the crown of a marquis; however, official documents establish that not one member of the family styled himself as "marquis" until Bernard Marigny in 1839. During that year Louis Phillippe, the last Bourbon monarch of France, confirmed the title of marquis and bestowed it on Bernard.
Bernard's great grandfather, François Phillippe du Hautmesnil de Marigny de Mandeville, was the first permanent resident of his family in Louisiana. Born in Ville Marie, Nouvelle France, now known as Montreal, Canada, he was the son of Jean Vincent Phillippe, a pioneer prominent in the early history of Montreal. Rue St. Vincent in Montreal is named in his honor.
François' mother, Catherine Lambert de Baussy, was a Norman French noblewoman. Through the marriage of Jean Vincent Phillippe's first cousin, Claude Elizabeth Souart to Charles Le Moyne, the eldest brother of the Sieurs Iberville and Bienville, the Phillippes de Marigny became allied with the Le Moyne family of Canada.
Thus, it was through this familial tie that Francois Phillippe and his elder brother Gabriel, the Sieur de St. Lambert, became associated with the Le Moyne brothers and settled in Louisiana.
François arrived in Louisiana in 1700 and was stationed at Fort Maurepas in Biloxi. He held important military positions in Biloxi and Mobile and commanded a company of troops at Dauphin Island. Soon after François' arrival in the colony, he earned the everlasting enmity of Bienville because of his vocal opposition to Bienville's administrative policies. In 1720, Francois returned to France and married Magdeleine Lemaire.
When he returned to Mobile with his wife, whose family was influential at court, Marigny's position had advanced dramatically. While in France, he had been made a Chevalier de St. Louis and appointed commandant of Fort Conde* where their first child, Antoine Phillippe de Marigny was born in 1721.
Later, he requested and received the prestigious post of Major de Place, or commander of troops, at New Orleans. In spite of the spirited opposition of Bienville, he reached the settlement in 1724 and assumed the duties of his new position.
After less than one year, Francois, who in Louisiana styled himself the Sieur de Mandeville, received one of the earliest land grants in St. Bernard Parish. The site of the concession is well known to most Louisianians today, for it forms a portion of the famous Chalmette Battlefield. François died in 1728 and was interred in the Parish Church of St. Louis.
His widow married the renowned architect-engineer of the French colonial period, Ignace Francois Broutin. The buildings he designed include the old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street.
Broutin, his wife and family divided their time between their home on Chartres Street and the "Habitation de Mandeville" below the city at Pointe St. Antoine, now Chalmette.
The Broutin children were three in number, two girls and one boy. Through the marriages of Antoine de Marigny1s Broutin half sisters, the Phillippe de Marigny family became allied with the families of Delfau de Pontalba, de Lino Chalmet and Denis de La Ronde.
During the next nineteen years, from 1729 to 1748, Antoine de Marigny was reared under the tutelage of Broutin, who maintained and educated his stepson from the funds of his deceased father's estate.
The young Antoine was sent to France for his military education. Marigny returned to Louisiana in 1747 and married in 1748 Franjoise Delille, whose father, Pierre Delille Dupard, was one of the wealthiest colonists in early Louisiana.
The years proceeding their marriage saw Marigny de Mandeville undertake major improvements to the St. Bernard plantation he eventually inherited from his father. Both of his children, Pierre and Magdeleine, spent much of their childhood on this concession.
Along with his interest in his plantation, Marigny, an enterprising French officer, engaged in certain exploratory projects. He embarked on several expeditions at his own expense, making new discoveries in the Barataria area.
Antoine also surveyed portions of the southwestern coast of Louisiana, drafting an early chart of that region of our state. Unfortunately, Antoine is best remembered perhaps for the fierce political squabbles in which he engaged with Governor Kerlerec, leading to his imprisonment in the Bastille.
Eventually, he was totally exonerated and became one of those most responsible for Kerlerec's recall to France in total disgrace.
Meanwhile, Antoine Phillippe de Marigny"s son, Pierre, born in 1751, had followed in his father's footsteps; he had been educated in France and, according to family tradition, was received at the Court of Louis XV. Between 1765 and 1770, Pierre Marigny served in the French military in Guyana and as a royal musketeer in France.
He returned to New Orleans and married Jeanne Marie Destrehan in 1772. Hex father, Jean Baptiste Destrehan, was treasurer of the colony under the administrations of Governors Vaudreuil and Kerlerec. Her brother's widow, Felicite de St. Maxent, became the wife of Governor Bernardo de Galvez.
Pierre Marigny's father, Antoine, died November 6, 1779, after a lengthy illness. He was survived by his widow, his daughter who married Charles Honore Olivier de St. Maurice, and his son Pierre. During the Spanish Dominion, no Creole achieved greater prominence than Pierre Phillippe de Marigny, whom Governor Gayoso regarded as the "richest, most prominent and one of the persons most addicted to the Spanish cause in these provinces."
In accordance with the recommendation of Governor Galvez, Charles III, King of Spain, commissioned Pierre de Marigny to establish a group of Canary Islanders, or "Islenos," four leagues below the city of New Orleans on land Marigny had donated to the king for their colonization.
Marigny, a knight of the Royal Military Order of St. Louis, was appointed first commandant of the St. Bernard Post in 1780. He also participated in every campaign of the Galvez Expedition, finally serving as aide-de-camp to Bernardo de Galvez at Pensacola in 1781.
Once the Galvez Expedition was concluded victoriously. Lieutenant Pedro de Marigny returned to the "Islenos" at the St. Bernard Post, where he initiated highly successful administrative policies that earned great attention and respect for him.
Governor Carondelet appointed Marigny commander of a newly created militia regiment, "The Volunteers of the Mississippi," in 1792. This regiment was responsible for the defense of the "Lower Coast" below New Orleans, an area encompassing present day St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.
Marigny resigned as commandant of St. Bernard, appointing his first cousin, Pierre Denis de La Ronde, as his successor. The year 1798 saw Pierre Marigny promoted to the command of the Battalion of New Orleans with the rank of colonel. It was also during this year that he acquired in a property exchange with Laurent Sigur, that highly coveted plantation, adjacent to the lower ramparts of New Orleans, known today as the Faubourg Marigny.
On February 17, 1798, the due d'Orleans, later Louis Phillippe I, King of the French, and his two brothers arrived in New Orleans. For the duration of their visit in New Orleans, they were lodged with Governor Gayoso, who kept them under close surveillance during their sojourn in this region. They were lavishly entertained day and night by the most prominent citizens of the province who spared no expense in the preparation of the many balls, banquets and luncheons with which the "Royal Princes" were bombarded. Legend maintains that Marigny1s fetes surpassed those given by anyone else.
Myth also asserts that the princes borrowed a monumental sum of money from Pierre Marigny, without ever repaying their debt. Contrary to popular belief, the Duo d'Orleans borrowed 1,000 piastres-fortres from Marigny and reimbursed his son, Bernard, in 1813.
In the prime of his career, Marigny suffered "an apoplectic fit" early in the morning of May 14, 1800 and expired later that day. He was interred promptly the following day in the St. Louis Cathedral with his wife, parents and grandparents under the Altar of St. Francis.
Succession records prove that Pierre Marigny possessed a phenomenal estate, consisting of elaborate furniture, silver, crystal, bronze and marble statuary and other movables, Marigny also owned more than 100 slaves, parcels of property in New Orleans, concessions below the city in Plaquemines Parish, above New Orleans at Kenner and a 1,200 arpent land grant in Baton Rouge which is now the site of an Exxon oil refinery.
Contrary to virtually every published historical account of Mandeville and the Phillippe de Marigny family, notarial, judicial and congressional records establish conclusively that Pierre Marigny never owned property in St. Tammany Parish and that his son, Bernard, did not begin to purchase property in St. Tammany until twenty-nine years after the death of Pierre Marigny.
Pierre de Marigny and Jeanne Marie Destrehan were the parents of five children. Only three survived to adulthood and their names were! Jean Baptiste, who was engaged to Acelie Delino Chalmet at the time of his demise; the principal subject known as Bernard Marigny, who married twice; and Marie Celeste, who married Francois Enoul de Livaudais.
Now we have reached Bernard de Marigny, the most famous member of the Phillippe de Marigny family, who was born in New Orleans on October 28, 1785. He was the godchild of Joseph Xavier Delfau de Pontalba and Felicite de St. Maxent, the Condessa de Galvez.
This Marigny, fourth of his name in Louisiana, was destined to have a more profound impact on the history of our state than any of his antecedants.
Apart from his superior intellect and natural ability, one of the principal reasons for his influence was his ancestry, for in Colonial Louisiana, family meant everything. In the preceding passages of this address, I have attempted to establish Bernard Marigny's descent from many of the families most influential in the founding and administration of Louisiana.
In the early nineteenth century, persons belonging to the elite of French and Spanish Colonial Louisiana were almost certainly assured of a place of social and political prestige, if not one of wealth. So it was in this way that Bernard had an extraordinary foundation for his colorful life and political career which thrust him into the position of preserving the rights and language of the ancien regime in Louisiana.
In many romantic accounts, Bernard Marigny is portrayed as a passionate, devil-may-care bon vivant, a sort of fool who laughed at the world while it engulfed him.
Then, there are those so-called "scholarly" treatises that depict Marigny as an ignorant, undisciplined, dissipated savage whose bare level of literacy caused him to squander a fortune. Both extremes are as humorous as they are far from the truth.
After his father's death, Bernard, who trained as a cadet in the Spanish militia, became the ward of Ignace Delino Chalmet, still another of Pierre Marigny's first cousins. Chalmet, according to family tradition, told Bernard "a man is not whole without education. I am sending you to William Panton in Pensacola, of the firm of Panton and Leslie, to study the art of Anglo-Saxon business making."
After his interlude in Pensacola, Marigny was shipped to London in April 1801. He returned to New Orleans in 1802, fluent in English and greatly matured, with all the preparation he would have to lead a long life of public service.
In 1800, as a result of the Machiavellian schemes of Napoleon, Louisiana was retroceeded to France. Pierre Clement Laussat was appointed Prefect Coloniale of Louisiana, arriving in New Orleans March 26, 1803. During his brief tenure in Louisiana, Laussat resided in the home of Bernard Marigny, who had vacated .the upper floor of his grand house and prepared it for the use of the Laussat family.
Laussat used the Marigny home as his official base of operations, from which he transacted all of his administrative duties. Marigny bade Laussat farewell in 1804, having shared many of the Prefect's most intimate confidences.
He then joined the United States Army as a volunteer aid to General James Wilkinson and married Mary Ann Jones, nicknamed "Pomponne" by her family and Bernard. She was the daughter of Evan Jones, a native of New York who migrated to Louisiana under the Spanish Regime.
Jones enjoyed a certain popularity with the Spaniards and as a result became an extremely wealthy merchant. Upon reflection, while Bernard was united in marriage to a pretty young lady, he was also married to a considerable fortune.
Little is known about the first wife of Bernard Marigny, yet we do have an insight into Mme. Marigny1s personality. Benjamin Latrobe records this interesting account in his Impressions Respecting New Orleans, in reference to women who abused their slaves:
"The first Madame Marigny was a beast of the same kind. I was a horrified witness, as I watched her strap a negro servant to a ladder, whipping him unconscious."
Realizing that the population of New Orleans would expand tremendously under the American Regime, Bernard contracted with Barthelemy Lafon in 1806 to subdivide his plantation adjacent to the city, thereby establishing a new suburb which he named Faubourg Marigny.
This first experiment in real estate speculation proved itself monetarily advantageous. Marigny implemented another similar venture nearly three decades later in St. Tammany Parish.
Bernard Marigny continued in the service of General Wilkinson until 1808, "being unable to follow the General to Washington...My first wife, Mary Jones was then on her death bed; she died, and with her my hopes of a brilliant military career vanished."
Despondent, Bernard left New Orleans in late 1808 for a visit to Pensacola, seat of the Spanish Government in Florida, where he fastened his eyes upon a youthful Ana Mathilde Martina de Morales Hidalgo- She was the daughter of Juan Buenaventura Morales, last Spanish Intendant of Louisiana, whose reputed wealth and political machinations distinguished him among Spain's master intriguers in the province.
Marigny married Morales in Pensacola early in 1809, binding himself to still another fortune. A few months after his marriage, Marigny was awarded several land grants by his father-in-law, in the vicinity of Pensacola, which amounted to thousands of arpents; however, these grants were never confirmed by the United States Congress.
Bernard began his colorful political career in 1810, when he was elected to the Louisiana Territorial Legislature. Always a zealous defender of the rights of the "ancien habitants" of our state, Marigny soon became the foe of the "Americains" who were flooding into Louisiana.
In 1812, Marigny was a member of the convention that drafted the first constitution of our state, "erecting the Territory of Orleans into the State of Louisiana." Bernard emerged as a powerful leader of the Creole population, exerting all his influence to preserve the civil code in this state.
During the waning days of his political career, Marigny would once again have a voice in the formulation of laws governing Louisianians in the state's second constitutional convention, held in 1844 and 1845.
Marigny acted as Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee of Defense during the Battle of New Orleans in 1814-1815.
He was instrumental in enlisting the services of Jean Lafitte and the Baratarians. Marigny recalled his role in one of his memoirs:
"I told the General that he had announced in his proclamation, issued at Mobile, that he would not accept the services of the inhabitants of Barataria, whom he had qualified as pirates; the General got excited, and told the Committee that those men were under the ban of the United states laws, and he declared that he could not enroll them under the American flag.
"Being aware of the violent and excitable temper of the General, I left him and called immediately on Judge Dominic Hall, of the U. S. Admiralty Court; I related to him the conversation held with General Jackson... The judge said that he would take the matter in hand, as it was within his province. He drafted some resolutions which he requested me to offer in the House of Representatives; the purport of those resolutions was, that the Judge was requested by the Legislature to suspend all proceedings against those men for the term of four months.
"As soon, said Hall, "as those resolutions are adopted, I shall order the U. S. District Attorney to suspend all proceedings against them; and if they assist our cause bravely and faithfully, I have no doubt that the U. S. Government will pardon them..." The resolutions were offered by me in the lower House and passed there, and in the Senate unanimously."
Those men behaved bravely and gallantly during the war...It is an incontrovertible, historical fact, that the artillery was most efficient in the memorable campaign of 1814 and 1815.
Bernard fumed as the Anglo-Saxons continued to make political inroads following the Battle of New Orleans. While he praised the industrious and courageous nature of the Americans, which he said was "characteristic of their race," he felt that "they want to take all and share nothing."
He became embroiled in the controversy involving the river-front batture of the Faubourg Ste. Marie. Marigny contended that the batture was public property, and that it had been from the inception of Louisiana. The battle against Edward Livingston and his partisans continued for many years, until the defection of men such as Pierre Derbigny and Joseph Roffignac to Livingston's cause.
The burning political ambition of Bernard Marigny was to become governor of the State of Louisiana. In three attempts during 1824, 1828 and 1830, Marigny employed every conceivable approach. He hired bands, dancers, singers and toured the state, staging elaborate shows to woo the electorate, all to no avail. Thus, Marigny1s 1822 prophecy almost materialized; "Virginia will exhaust herself before another Louisianian is made governor in his country."
In 1822, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled that all proces-verbals of family meetings, written in French were null and void. But Bernard Marigny, elected that year to the presidency of the State Senate, sponsored legislation known as The French Bill.
This piece of legislation, permitting the continued use of French in legal documents, passed the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities. Marigny was proclaimed Defender of the French Language, and he never ceased to remind the citizenry of Louisiana of this accolade during his political campaigns.
In March 1822, Marigny resigned the presidency of the Senate to travel to France. Marigny was received at the court of Charles X and became acquainted with many of the most prominent citizens of France including the Marquis de Lafayette.
Purchases Land In St. Tammany
Marigny returned to Louisiana in 1823 and began, once again, the pursuit of his multifaceted career. When Lafayette visited Louisiana in 1824, Marigny assumed an important role in receiving the General.
Between 1829 and 1831, Marigny purchased 2,856.4 acres of land in St. Tammany Parish for $11,600. This property is now the site of Mandeville, Louisiana. I have not located correspondence that would document the reasoning behind the Mandeville development. Unfortunately, we can only rely on that most fickle of sources, family tradition, and a certain amount of conjecture, for now.
The tradition that has been transmitted over the generations is that Bernard, ever an enthusiast of hunting in the tradition of his Norman ancestors, had become intimately acquainted with the terrain of the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain while hunting on the plantation of his father's close friend, Louis de Reggio. Later, Reggio sold this property to Bernard's cousin, Pierre Denis de La Ronde.
Bernard admired the exquisite landscape and pleasant climate which has always been associated with St. Tammany Parish. Having succeeded rather handsomely in his real estate speculations in New Orleans, he decided to pursue a new development across the lake, but one with a different emphasis.
Here, encouraged by his close friend and business associate, entrepreneur John Davis, he planned to establish a resort community in close proximity to New Orleans, offering most of the amenities of the city without the clatter and filth associated with the Crescent City in the middle 19th century.
During the 1830s, the population and economy of New Orleans blossomed forth as never before. Undoubtedly, it must have seemed the most propitious moment for Bernard to launch such a venture.
In 1829, Marigny purchased three large tracts of land from the heirs of Morgan Edwards and another portion of land from William Bowman. He purchased additional property from the widow Zachariah Faircloth in 1830 and the heirs of Thomas Spell in 1831.
On January 1, 1834, Marigny published the following notice which appeared in L'Abeille de la Nouvelle Orleans:
Valuable Property for Sale Quartier de Mandeville
Will be sold at public auction at Hewlett's Exchange, as soon as the plan shall be made, the wide space of ground divided in large lots, laying in front of Lake Pontchartrain, opposite the Railroad and at seven leagues distance from New Orleans: situated between Casting Bayou and Judge Lewis' plantation; it measures 5,000 arpents; previously to the sale a prospectus shall be published, which will give some particulars of the advantages of the place and the beauty of the trees which overspread it, and in order that the purchaser may convince himself of the facts mentioned in my prospectus, he shall be allowed to refuse the sale within one month after the day of sale, provided he will go and visit the lot adjudicated to him and will declare to my agent on the premises that he does not accept the adjudication; the purchasers shall be afforded the facility of repairing to Quartier Mandeville, on appointed days, at the house of Mr. Coquillon, who is a resident there.
December 7th /s/ B. Marigny
Subsequently, an additional announcement was published in L'Abeille de la Nouvelle Orleans on February 5, 1834:
To The Public
The steamboat Black Hawk, Captain Hoffman, will leave the railroad, Sunday next, at 9 o'clock AM for Mandeville, and will on the same day leave Mandeville, at 4 o'clock PM. Persons desirous to visit the lots of ground offered for sale, are to repair to the railroad near the river at 8 o'clock AM--the departure will be at 8:30 AM. Steamboat expenses will be paid by the subscriber.
/s/ B. Marigny
Surveyor General Louis Bringier completed a plan for Marigny's Quartier de Mandeville, dated January 14, 1834 and on February 24, 25 and 26, 1834, auctioneers Mossy, Garidel and Dutillet sold, at public auction, the first lots in Mandeville.
Marigny attached several conditions to the sale preserving the right of public domain over the beach front in Mandeville in perpetuity, and requiring that all streets have a width of fifty feet with the exception of Marigny and Jackson streets, which were to be one hundred feet in width and Lake Street which was to be sixty feet in width.
He also prohibited the obstruction of "Little Bayou Castaing" and the destruction of the shell ravines which apparently lined the banks of the bayou. Additionally, Bernard obligated himself to complete a wharf extending into Lake Pontchartrain and to construct a bridge over Bayou Castaing, but stipulated that future maintenance of these structures would be the responsibility of the property owners in Mandeville. Marigny realized a $69,000 profit from his initial investment during the three day auction sale in 1834 alone.
The list of persons purchasing lots in Mandeville in 18 34 reveals that many residents of the Faubourg Marigny were among the first to purchase property there. I recognize the names of many free people of color residing at that time in Marigny1s New Orleans faubourg and of several notables including Jacques de Pouilly, the famous nineteenth century architect who virtually rebuilt the St. Louis Cathedral in 1848, Ferdinand Percy, a prominent jurist and Edouard Crozat, a respected planter and merchant.
While Marigny was busy acquiring and consolidating property into his Quartier de Mandeville, he was purchasing large tracts of property adjoining his real estate development. These tracts became Marigny's celebrated Fontainebleau Estate.
In May 1829, Bernard purchased the Denis de La Ronde family's St. Tammany plantation, containing 1,600 arpents, from the succession of Pierre Denis de La Ronde. One month later, in June 1829, he purchased the Antoine Bonnabel plantation, consisting of 4,024 arpents, from Bonnabel's heirs. Included in the sale was one master residence, other buildings and dependencies. It was there at Fontainebleau that Marigny spent much of his leisure time, engaged in many of the pastimes that have earned him a somewhat notorious reputation.
Ironically, Marigny introduced a bill in 1833 in the State Legislature to incorporate the Citizens Bank of Louisiana. Marigny, with the stroke of a pen, had created the monster that later claimed most of his fortune in mortgages.
The panic of 1837 dealt a hard blow to many Louisiana planters including Bernard Marigny. Upon his departure for France in 18 39, Marigny had an appraisement prepared of all his property. The whole estate, including property as far away as Natchez, Mississippi, was valued at $915,000; his indebtedness amounted to $320,000, most of which was due on stock in the Citizens Bank.
Economic conditions continued to decline and in 1842, the Citizens Bank, along with other banking institutions, stopped specie payments. The result was over $150,000,000 of bankruptcies and failures; landed property and slaves declined fifty per cent in value. From that day, Bernard was nearly ruined.
Marigny requested and received a prolongation of time on the terms of his mortgages, believing that he could retrieve his fortune. Bernard owned Paturelle, a choice sugar plantation in Plaquemines Parish, and a brick yard at his Fountainebleau estate in St. Tammany Parish. Tragically, the price of bricks fell drastically during the extension period. The Fortier Crevasse, followed by the Gardanne Crevasse in 1851, totally devastated his Plaquemines property.
The Citizens Bank and the Bank of Louisiana compelled Marigny to liquidate the majority of his estate in 1852.
Bernard remarked several years later:
"But many persons say, 'Mr. Marigny, instead of being worth half a million in 1839, ought to have had a million. Then those individuals refer to A. B. and C, who are men of wealth, but they do not reflect that those persons referred to are men who have never used their wealth to any useful purpose, and that they will achieve in death what they have achieved in life."
At the age of fifty-nine, while a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1845, Marigny again asserted his leadership. He had, by this date, developed the appearance of an elder statesman. Rather portly with a great shock of white and silver gray waving hair, he cut an impressive figure.
During that convention, he emerged as one of the leading proponents of the public school system in Louisiana. He also introduced a clause which protected the French Language, requiring the secretary of the Senate, and the clerk of the House of Representatives, to be familiar with the French and English languages; and another clause allowing members of both houses the privilege of addressing those deliberative bodies in French or English.
Perhaps most importantly, Marigny advocated equal political rights for naturalized, as well as native citizens. During the course of the convention, Bernard publicly rebuked Convention President Judah P. Benjamin for an attack he levied against Pierre Soule, one of Louisiana's foremost statesmen and orators who happened to be a Gascon Frenchman by birth, and a naturalised citizen of our nation. I have quoted his remarks here in part:
Sir, contrary to all parliamentary usage you call upon the other distinguished member from New Orleans, Mr. Soule, and ask him, 'Sir, suppose you had been placed at the head of an army to meet in deadly combat your own countrymen, could you, would you, have done so?' Sir, I tell you that you have inflicted upon him unjust provocation, and give you to distinctly understand that I take up the glove in his behalf, and Sir, I trust that you will not complain of my not being a native of the country, since I descend from those ancient warriors who conquered the country.
But, Sir, I ask you by what right do you expect to disfranchise in 1845 those who have rights guaranteed them in 1812. Sir, I tell you...that you are, after all, nothing but the servant of the people, nothing more, nothing less; presume upon your authority and they will soon bring you to a just appreciation of their power over you,..The laws of the country recognize no distinction between one class of citizen and another. Is there any principle of free government, any principle of republicanism, to sanction such a pretension?
You say a naturalized citizen is not to be entrusted with the powers we confer upon our Governor. What, Sir, is the power of that Governor, compared with the power we are administering now?
Ana Mathilde Morales, after a long and unhappy marriage to Bernard filed for a separation of property in 1852 which was granted to her in 1853. Morales Marigny, as she always signed herself, died in the home of Bernard Marigny in 1859. For the remainder of her life, she occupied the lower floor of the Marigny house, while her husband occupied the upper story, without ever exchanging one word in conversation. Bernard fed and clothed his estranged wife, paying all of her medical expenses until the day of her death.
Throughout all his problems, Bernard maintained the facade of the gentleman of his age. Cyprien Dufour, the famous 19th century author and jurist, penned this sketch in 1847:
The present founder of the family has had the rare privilege of growing up with his country, and appears to us to be the representative of a forgotten society. ..Today, when he is doubly burdened with an accumulation of years and reverses of fortune, he still has so much animation, is so merry, so indifferent, that many young men would exhaust their budgets before getting to the bottom of his affair.
He is a man of the finest manners and of the greatest courteousness; and yet, be it affectation or eccentricity, he, at times, falls into those excesses which are furthest removed from the varnish of good family. These odd contrasts are very frequent, and are to be found with him again and again from whatever point of view you may regard him.
He always seems to be full of business; and yet, he has not much to do so far as I know. To behold him silently stalking along our streets, one would take him for the peasant of the Danube, and a stranger would never surmise that he beheld in him one of society's most amiable and brilliant conversationalists. M. Marigny has, for a long while, been one of our orators who is most loved by the public. His voice is admirably suited to the exigencies of the oratorical art. His gestures are graceful, confident and plentiful.
With all these trappings of the orator, it is really regretable that he did not aspire more seriously to the glories of the rostrum. He already possessed the instincts of the art; with a little more study, a little more reflexion, a little more method in fathoming matters, he would have had a career worthy of being envied...I can scarcely complete this sketch of Mr. Marigny without telling you about his puns. He certainly is in luck. He lets them fly at random, and without much difficulty, I assure you. He makes so many that one is sometimes at a loss for an answer.
Bernard Marigny lived nine years after his wife's death, remaining active in the civic and social life of New Orleans. Every year, from 1816 to 1868, he presided over commemorative celebrations held in Jackson Square in observance of the Battle of New Orleans.
Marigny also maintained a cottage in Mandeville facing Lake Pontchartrain in the square bounded by Lake, Gerard, Claiborne and Lafitte streets. Edmond, a former slave of the Marigny family, lived in Mandeville and was caretaker for Bernard 1st property there.
It was in this cottage, surrounded by mementos of better days, that Bernard spent many of his happiest moments during the final years of his life. It was always with the greatest satisfaction and hospitality that Bernard Marigny received his family, friends and remaining contemporaries in Mandeville. Bernard last visited his home in Mandeville less than six weeks before his death.
Bernard Marigny lived long enough to see his plans for Mandeville come to fruition, for his idyllic community evolved into one of the most popular resorts in 19th century Louisiana. In August, 1855, a reporter for the New Orleans Daily Picayune recorded this account of his jaunt to Mandeville:
Those of our good citizens who have not visited this charming village, know not what a pleasant retreat it is, nor how delightful and invigorating is the trip across Lake Pontchartrain.
A day or two since we found ourselves, with a small party of particular friends, on board the good steamboat Lenora, Captain Dunica, at the lake end of the Pontchartrain Railroad, and in some two hours and a half were safely landed on the picturesque beach at Mandeville.
Although the boat was crowded, the trip was most agreeable, the morning breeze being just fresh and cool enough to make one feel like nodding, and forget the heat of the city. There was also a capital fish breakfast on board, at which all varieties of the "finy tribe," and cooked in every style, were bountifully served out.
Arrived at Mandeville, our little party took up its march for the hospitable mansion of one of our fellow citizens, which was christened "Free-and-Easy-Hall," and where the day was passed only as days should be passed in this hot weather, in lounging with coats, vests and cravats off, reading, bathing, fishing, sailing, eating and drinking.
We had the blessing of a charming breeze all the while, and there was not a fly or mosquito near to "disturb or make us afraid."
Ample justice was done to our host's fine oysters, courtbouillon, shrimps, fried croakers, trout and red fish, omelettes, spring chickens and delicious fresh butter, all of which were well washed down with the purest of old sauterne.
There was another dish of fish, not enumerated above, because it deserves separate mention, and a most capital dish it was. The reader may not start when we say it was sturgeon. We vouch for the truth of what we say, and there are scores of witnesses to support us.
His sturgeonship was taken by the seine in front of Mr. W. A. Nott's premises, and we saw him dragged from the water alive and fluttering. His length was four feet nine inches and a half. How this stranger got into Lake Pontchartrain, or where he came from, we cannot conjecture. We only know he was there, and probably 'his mother don't know he was out.1 He was served up in two ways--by boiling and broiling—and it is long since we have eaten anything more delicious in the fish line.
We met with another curiosity at Mandeville in the person of a Choctaw Indian - a regular 'native;' not that a Choctaw Indian is a curiosity, but this fellow"s intelligence— not to say accomplishments--makes him one. He speaks English, French and Spanish, besides his own vernacular, and as a matter of course drinks 'whiskey heap.'
The case of this 'child of the forest' proves that much can be done by tutoring the savage mind.
Mandeville has grown up very considerably within a year or two past, and now boasts a number of inhabitants, much increased just now by many of our most refined Creole families, who are passing the summer there.
Having passed several hours in the most agreeable manner with our friends at Mandeville, the Lenora returned to the wharf from Madisonville, we placed ourselves once more on board, and by 8 o'clock PM, were comfortably walking up Royal Street, greatly refreshed and invigorated by a trip on and over beautiful Pontchartrain.
Marigny died suddenly February 3, 1868 at the age of eighty-two years. Many writers have stated that Bernard Marigny died a "pauper," living the final years of his life in 'Abject poverty." Yet upon a careful examination of records, we learn that Bernard left an estate valued at slightly over $20,000, including $5,000 cash in the Citizens Bank and unimproved property in New Orleans and Mandeville.
It has been said that Bernard Marigny bore a name that was "co-existent with civilization in Louisiana." He has oft times been misrepresented by historians just as he was by his contemporaries during his lifetime.
Marigny knew every governor of Louisiana from the late 18th century until his death. He was a friend of Louis Phillippe, Lafayette, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and many other leaders, artists and scholars, too numerous to mention here.
He was either loved and admired or indescribably detested by those who knew him. He was generous, at times extravagant, and yet much more practical than he has been portrayed.
To Bernard Marigny, nothing was more important than the preservation of Louisiana's cultural legacy, the very legacy that distinguishes Louisiana from her sister states in the Union. He grew old striving to achieve this goal, and I feel that he succeeded in large part.
Unwittingly, Cyprien Dufour composed what I consider an appropriate epitaph for Bernard de Marigny at the close of his 1847 pen portrait:
"Mr. Marigny, who has grown old in the public service, has achieved the great intellectual attainments of an accomplished man. Well may he permit himself to say to the world: Honni soit qui mal y pense [Evil be unto him who evil thinkethj."
. To view the text of the speech, in PDF format, click here.
From a 1909 Louisiana Encyclopedia: