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Champ d'Asile-Index

French Exiles in Texas 1818
The Colony Le Champ D'Asile


From The Papers of Mirabeau Lamar No. 92. CHAMP D'ASILE IN TEXAS. LOUIS PIERRE ANQUETIL 1819

"The cession of the Floridas naturally leads me to speak of the famous "champ d'asile," or "land of refuge," which at one time created so much interest in France. I give below the most reasonable accounts I have found upon the subject, among the many fabulous and exaggerated statements which were published at the time in relation to this ephemeral colony.

"It has always been the policy of the Govt of the United States, says M. Lesur in his "Universal Annals," to encourage immigration, and the troubles in Europe have but too often favored its views. A large number of French went, during the Course of the revolution, to seek another country on the banks of the Ohio and Mississippi. The events of 1814, and particularly the catastrophe of 1815 made more exiles. An Act of Congress the 5th of March 1817 had granted them 92,000 acres of Land in the territory of Alabama upon the Mobile and Tombigbee, at the price of two francs per acre payable in fourteen years without interest, for the purpose of forming a colony to cultivate the vine & olive. But either because they could not regulate the distribution of their lands, or because the first outlays exceeded their means, or a distrust with their present system and a hope to find a better one, most of them relinquished the plan of their establishment, and sold their grant of lands to a company of speculators, who it is said with considerable profit from the operation. sdct

This sale having been effected, some of the unhappy fugitives went to went to Galveston, where, Genl Humbert had established himself; others to the number of from two to three hundred, went at the beginning of April under the direction of General Lallemant, to found a purely french colony ten or twelve leagues west of Galveston between tile rivers Note (Neches?) and the Trinity in a deserted part of the province of Tejas, the possession of which remained disputed by the Spaniards the Indians and the Americans. The proceeds of the sale of their Alabama lands and some advances made by the Chiefs of the enterprise enabled them to defray the expense of fitting out the expedition and forming an establishment.

Arrived at this territory which they named the "Land of Refuge," the exiles established a military form of Government, distributed themselves into bonds each of which had a captain, and into which they could admit none but Frenchmen, or persons who had served in the Army of France. They made a division of Lands among themselves and each officer was allowed twenty (arpents) with all that was needed to commence the cultivation. A few days after their establishment they published a manifesto, in which declaring themselves an Indepen[den]t State, they announced that they would respect the laws of the nations, neighboring to them, but that they would defend themselves at the peril of their lives, against all unjust aggressions. This manifesto drew to them companions in misfortune.

The fertility of the soil, the mildness of the climate, and the vicinity of the river were favorable to the duration of their colony, but they had no women; they were also but little accustomed to the labour of opening their lands. A hundred slaves which they had purchased ran away to the Indians, Despondency seized upon the new colonists. Besides, their arrival had excited, especially among the Spaniards in the neighborhood, some uneasiness which their manifesto was not calculated to dissipate. A rumor prevailed that the Texian refugees held correspondence with the malcontents, in Mexico, with a design of penetrating there some day to establish a sovereignty of which the new colony was but the advance guard. The viceroy of Mexico, Apodaca, determined to destroy this establishment like that of Galveston which served as an as asylum for pirates which had come in large numbers from Saint Domingo. Six or Seven hundred Spaniards, conducted by General Castenada presented themselves before Galveston, which was evacuated.   sdct

The colonists of Texas, still poorly established, divided, already discouraged, and besides, being disturbed by the Indians, abandoned the "Champ d'Asile" which thus existed for only about eight months. Several Frenchmen who were there returned to Alabama , where they established themselves with the permission of the United States in the fertile country of Tombigbee.  It is to remarked that the Spanish General charged with conduct of this expedition had declared that he did not intend to commit hostilities against the United States, a very strange proceeding similar to that of General Jackson, and also strange that the Govt of the United States on its part did not manifest what were its ultimate sentiments nor designs upon the existence of this establishment, founded upon a territory which it claimed as making part of Louisiana. Such is the history of the famous Champ d'Asile, which is taken from a work worthy of credence in all respects----The fate of the "proscribed reuniteds," in the Land of Refuge, had so vividly excited the interest of France, and principally that of the soldiers and liberals, that it was made a party affair---poets sang of the "land of refuge"; engravers delineated the rising town; at last when it was known to what persecutions the exile's had been subjected even in Texas, a national subscription was opened, the proceeds of which being a considerable sum was sent to them, I ought to add that having myself questioned one of the officers who made a part of the Colony (the Champ d'asile) upon the object which they proposed, he assured me that it was their intention not to settle definitively (or finally) in Texas: that they intended to collect many Frenchmen, and chiefly the old Soldiers, in order to make an attempt to rescue Napoleon from St Helena. Their dispersion caused this scheme to vanish, and it will doubtless appear to have been no more than a dream."

Translated from the 4th volume of the "History of France" by Anquitel, continued by Leonard Gallois. H. J. JEWETT. [Endorsed:] L'Alaman's settlement in Texas

[Compiler footnote:  Anquétil, Louis Pierre, Histoire de France depuis les Gaulois jusq'a a la
mort de Louis XVI.  Continuée depuis la revolution de 1789, par Leonard Gallois.   Nouv. e., Paris, 5 vols. sdct]

© 1997-2002, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved