New Orleans & St. Louis. 1801/1805. pp. in French, p. blank. Folio. Old folds. Small legal certificate, mentioned in text, affixed to recto of first leaf. Old ink stain on all three pages of text, obliterating a few words, with some loss of paper due to lead corrosion. Still, in very good condition. In a cloth clamshell case, leather label. Item #WRCAM37425
A document written in New Orleans in 1801, while Louisiana was still under French control, concerning a petition made by Moses Austin to the supreme tribunal in New Orleans. The court was overseen by Nicolas Marie Vidal, lieutenant governor of the region, who served as the French government's representative overseeing the case. The petition concerns funds owed to Moses Austin's brother, Stephen, who received a bill of exchange from Pascal Detchemindy in June 1797 in Philadelphia. The funds were never repaid, although legal requests were submitted in Philadelphia, and then in the St. Genevieve district, where both Stephen Austin and Detchemindy were residents. The unresolved case was then directed to be reviewed by Vida, who decided that Detchemindy's objections to repaying Stephen Austin were unfounded, and ordered that restitution of funds be made immediately. Dated June 1, 1801, the decree by Vidal ordered that the payments be delivered in the city of New Orleans. Two additional legal statements in the document were signed in St. Louis four years later. This includes Auguste Chouteau's statement, signed as a judge in the district, in which he mentions the small stamp affixed to the bottom of the page which serves as a certificate of authenticity. The document also includes a statement signed in St. Louis on May 27, 1805, certifying [here in English translation] "that the translation done herewith for a petition presented by Mr. Austin to the supreme tribunal of New Orleans because of his lordship Don Nicolas Vidal's decree dated June 1, 1801, against Sr. Pascal Detchemindy of St. Genevieve, is as much conforms to the original that my knowledge of the Spanish language has allowed me." The Spanish translation is not included in the present document, but serves as a reminder of the various official languages and cultures present on the United States frontier at the beginning of the 19th century. Both Chouteau and Austin were active agents in the developing frontier and economy in the early history of the United States. Auguste Chouteau, born in New Orleans in 1749, was raised by his stepfather, Pierre Laclede, and his mother, Marie Therese Chouteau. He accompanied Laclede to the Illinois country in 1763 and the following year oversaw the initial stages of building and developing St. Louis. The founding occurred when the settlement was beginning to serve as the gateway to American, French, and Spanish commercial activity with Indians in the trans-Mississippi West. He became deeply involved in the fur trade there, and positive relations with the Osage allowed him to develop the business considerably; from 1794 to 1802 he held a monopoly on the Osage trade. Chouteau prospered as the village grew into a commercial hub, both under Spanish rule in the late 18th century and U.S. control beginning in 1804. Diversifying into banking and real estate as the fur trade declined, Chouteau was both a business and social leader in St. Louis. He was the first chairman of the board of trustees upon the town's incorporation in 1809. Moses Austin, with his brother, Stephen, gained control of Virginia's richest lead deposit circa 1790. Experienced miners and smelters from England were recruited to improve the operation, resulting in the founding of the American lead industry. He established Austinville at the lead mines in 1792. Looking westward to finance his enterprise further, he investigated rumored lead deposits in Spanish Upper Louisiana, and in 1798 he established the first Anglo-American settlement in Missouri. Austin continued to aggressively expand his wealth. "Using the efficient reverberatory furnace, the design of which he had learned from the English smelters, he soon controlled virtually all smelting in the region and amassed a wealth of $190,000. The second period in the history of the American lead industry is known as the Moses Austin period, and Austin's contributions characterized the lead industry until heavy machinery revolutionized mining and smelting after the Civil War" - ANB. Financial difficulties in the 1810s led Austin to develop a plan for creating an Anglo-American settlement in Spanish Texas. Although he didn't live to see this last plan to fruition, he did obtain permission to bring the colonists to the region, and his son, Stephen, was able to establish the colony in Texas. An early 19th-century document recording aspects of a legal case, under review both in New Orleans under the Spanish and in St. Louis as a part of the United States, involving two significant figures in the economic development and geographic expansion of the West. ANB 1, pp.766-67 (Austin).