Return to First Page---ARKANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY,
Volume 51 (Spring 1992), p. 70
- Sometimes, as an inducement, Arkansas commandants even sought and received
monopoly rights to the trade with certain native American tribes. Not infrequently,
the government expected in return that the commandant would make loans
to it to defray governmental expenses or even expenditures that would never
be reimbursed. It may be, for instance, that the fort begun on the Arkansas
River in 1751 was paid for by the private funds of Lieutenant Paul Augustin
de La Houssaye (2). It is certain, at any rate, that a number of Post commandants
found they had to pay the bills for the entertainment of visiting native
American dignitaries and sometimes even had to advance the salaries of
their soldiers out of their own pockets or their private stores. It is
therefore not an exaggeration to say that government in eighteenth-century
Arkansas was sometimes farmed out to private enterprise in exchange for
trading rights. Thus we need to think of the commandants not as government
officials who were coincidentally in business, but as businessmen who were
coincidentally in the government.
Many of these governmental entrepreneurs fared quite well financially
in the Arkansas country. Pierre-Joseph Favrot, for instance, a very well-educated
member of one of Louisiana's most prominent colonial families, vigorously,
though unsuccessfully, sought the Arkansas commandantcy in the 1790s, presumably
because he thought it quite
lucrative (3). Ignace Delino de Chalmette amassed such a trading fortune
in Arkansas and at Natchez that the New Orleans grandee the Baron de Pontalba
affected for a time to regard it as in some manner scandalous (4). Others,
of course, were not so lucky: Balthazar de Villiers, for instance, died
bankrupt because of trade losses, some of which he incurred when he outfitted
a band of refugees from the American Revolution who disappeared into the
woods never to return.
- When viewed in the fullness of their context, then, the governmental
activities of Arkansas' colonial gentry take on an interesting texture.
It is instructive, for instance, to see how often the self-interests of
the governing class corresponded with governmental interests.
- For example, commandants were expected to encourage immigration into
the bailiwick; and this was a duty that they could have been expected enthusiastically
to pursue, for a larger population would mean more business for them.
- 2. Stanley Faye, "The Arkansas Post of Louisiana: French Domination,"
- Quarterly 26 (July 1943): 635, 684.
- 3. Guillermo Nanez Falcon, ed., The Favrot Family Papers (3
vols., New Orleans, 1988),Il, 127,
- 129-130; III, 6.
- 4. Grace King, Creole Families of New Orleans (New York, 1921),