A lively report of travels in early nineteenth-century Texas and Louisiana and a fascinating account of the discovery, exploration, and settlement of those areas is presented in the work of this ebullient young French dramatist and journalist who traveled to Louisiana in 1837 and to Texas in 1839.
Frédéric Gaillardet, an alert and talented writer of the romantic school, was lured away for a decade from a successful career in Paris to satisfy his wanderlust and to seek inspiration on the American frontier. During that time he visited the American Southwest, and he talked with many personages there—men like Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Achille Murat. His character sketches of these men add zest to the book, as do the facets of Gaillardet's own personality and life displayed in these pages.
Gaillardet's reports of his travels were published in various French-language newspapers of the time; a few were incorporated into the author's posthumous memoirs. His opinions, as recorded in his writings, exerted undeniable influence in the French decision to recognize Texas; one of his theses was that the Republic of Texas might become a curb, rather than a stepping stone, to an expanding United States. Despite Gaillardet's historical importance, however, none of these chapters has ever appeared before in English translation.
This collection was gathered from several sources: the Journal des Débats, the Constitutionnel, the Courrier des États-Unis, and Gaillardet's memoirs, entitled L'Aristocratieen Amérique.
The latter chapters concentrate on the career of a prominent Louisiana lawyer, politician, and diplomat, Pierre Soulé, whose much maligned name Gaillardet repeatedly and stoutly defended. A less favorable treatment of Soulé, contained in Fanny Calderón de la Barca's Attaché in Madrid, is reprinted in the appendix to aid the reader in judging the accuracy of Gaillardet's analysis of this arresting figure.
Copious footnotes to clarify the text have been added by the translator. His introduction presents a biographical sketch of Gaillardet, together with a careful analysis of the book, which has been translated lucidly and vividly.