Tocqueville's Impressions of New Orleans


From the Tocqueville Site comes this report, or translation, or Tocqueville’s impression of the city, from January 1 -3, 1832:

Impressions of New Orleans
Arrival at New Orleans. Forest of ships. Mississippi 300 feet deep. External appearance of the town. Beautiful houses. Huts. Muddy, unpaved streets. Spanish architecture: flat roofs; English; bricks, little doors; French: massive carriage entrances. Population just as mixed. Faces with every shade of color. Language French, English, Spanish, Creole. General French look, but all the same notices and commercial announcements mostly in English. Industrial and commercial world American. Visit to Mr. Mazureau.
We fall into the midst of children, sweets and toys. To the theater in the evening. Le Macon. Strange scene presented by the auditorium: dress circle, white; upper circle grey. Colored women very pretty. White ones among them, but a trace of African blood. Gallery black. Stalls: we felt we were in France; noisy, blustering, bustling, gossiping, and a thousand leagues from the United States. We left at 10 o’clock. Ball of the quadroons. Strange sight: all the men white, all the women colored or at least with African blood.

Only link produced by immorality between the two races. A sort of bazaar. Colored women destined in a way by the law to concubinage. Incredible laxity of morals. Mothers, young children, children at the ball. Yet another fatal consequence of slavery. Multitude of colored people at New Orleans. Small number in the North. Why?

Why of all the European races in the New World is the English race the one that has most preserved the purity of its blood, and has mixed the least with the native peoples? Apart from the strong reasons depending on national character and temperament, there is special cause for the difference. Spanish America was peopled by adventurers drawn by thirst for gold, who, transplanted alone to the other side of the Atlantic, found themselves in some sort forced to contract unions with the women of the people of the land where they were living. The English colonies were peopled by men who escaped from their country from reasons of religious zeal, and whose object in coming to the New World was to live there cultivating the land. They came with their wives and children, and could form a complete society on the spot.

(Tocqueville, p.165)