Louisiana is the 18th State Admitted to the Union

The Territory of Orleans was established by the Act of March 26, 1804 and was effective October 1, 1804.

It remained a Territory until Louisiana was admitted as a State. The District of Louisiana was created by the Act of April 8, 1812, effective upon the admission of Louisiana as a State on April 30, 1812. The Single district was abolished by the Act of March 3, 1823. At that time the Eastern and Western Districts were created. The Act of February 13, 1845, consolidated the two districts into one district. The Act of March 3, 1849 established two districts again. The Act of July 27, 1866 created a single district. The Act of March 3, 1881 created the Eastern and Western Districts of Louisiana again. The Middle District of Louisiana was created by Public Law 92-208, and was effective April 16, 1972.


William Charles Cole Claiborne

A native of Sussex County, Virginia, William Claiborne was an intelligent diplomat who learned early in life that he had a flair for politics. The son of a colonel of militia during the American Revolution, Claiborne attended William and Mary College for a time and studied law in New York where he met many influential men, most notably Thomas Jefferson, who would later be important to the development of his career. Because of an overabundance of lawyers in his native Virginia, he relocated to the present day site of Sullivan County, Tennessee, where he began his legal practice and entered politics. From 1797 to 1801, he represented Tennessee in Congress. As a result of his strong support of Thomas Jefferson against Aaron Burr, he was made governor of the Mississippi Territory in 1801.

In 1803, immediately following the Louisiana Purchase, he was appointed governor of the Orleans Territory. Creole resentment of the American rule ran high, but Claiborne's honesty, congeniality, and his later marriages to women from good Louisiana families helped relieve any ill feelings that the Creoles may have harbored upon his arrival.

While serving as the territorial governor of Orleans, Claiborne successfully aided in the political organization of the territory. In addition, he brought to the people of Louisiana the experience of having a representative government, something that most of them had never known before but had to understand before Louisiana could gain statehood. On April 30, 1812, Louisiana became the eighteenth state of the United States.

In the state's first election for governor, Claiborne easily defeated Jacques Villere and served Louisiana from 1812 to 1816. In 1817, he was elected to the United States Senate but died in New Orleans of a diseased liver on November 23, before taking office. By the time of his death, Claiborne had already contributed the greatest gift to Louisianians that he could have bestowed on them: he gave them confidence in their new country and in themselves and guided the young state into the open arms of American liberty and true equality.

Territorial Law and Government

Closing the vast chasm that separated Anglo-American and European colonial political traditions posed the greatest challenge to Claiborne's leadership. The various European ethnic groups already in Louisiana, primarily those of French and Spanish descent (commonly known as creoles), united to resist United States imposition of Anglo-American political and cultural systems. During this time, Louisiana served as a laboratory in which United States officials experimented with various methods for establishing control of lands previously held by other nations.

Two political organizational units unique to Louisiana were implemented during this experimental period: the parish system and the police jury system. In 1807 the territorial legislature replaced the twelve counties created shortly after the Louisiana Purchase with nineteen civil parishes. They were modeled on the Catholic parishes that existed during French and Spanish rule. The parish, rather than the county, still constitutes the basic unit of local government in Louisiana.

Under the parish system, the parish judge, justices of the peace, and a group of twelve citizens carried out administrative duties on a local level. This twelve-person body came to be known as the police jury. The police jury system, modeled after the Spanish system of syndics, was roughly equivalent to most states' county court systems.

Territorial officials had to merge English common law, familiar to most Americans, with French and Spanish civil law procedures long practiced in Louisiana. Common law placed greater reliance on the judiciary as the source of new law, whereas civil law looked to other agencies and placed more emphasis on weighing the interests of various groups than on protecting the rights of individuals. A partial remedy to the legal mayhem was the Civil Code of 1808, which drew upon French and Spanish colonial law and the Napoleonic Code. Its drafters represented both Anglo-American and European factions, and it instituted some unique aspects of Louisiana law.

In 1811 the United States Congress authorized the calling of a state convention to draw up a constitution for Louisiana. According to the 1810 census, more than 76,000 people, about half black and half white, resided in the Territory of Orleans, which constituted the present state of Louisiana, minus the parishes east of the Mississippi River. This number exceeded the minimum population of 60,000 specified for statehood. The convention of forty-three delegates, half Anglo and half of French descent, deliberated in a New Orleans coffeehouse, presided over by prominent planter and politician Julien Poydras.

Louisiana's 1812 constitution, conservative for the time, was modeled after that of Kentucky, providing for a two-house legislature, limited suffrage, and extensive executive powers. Only adult white males who paid taxes could vote, disqualifying two-thirds of the adult white male population and all nonwhites and women. Age, property, and residency requirements restricted those who could hold office.

Unlike most states, Louisiana's governor had the authority, with senate approval, to appoint all judges and local officials. This policy of a strong head of state accorded with Louisiana's French and Spanish colonial tradition of powerful governors.

On April 30, 1812, exactly nine years after the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, Congress admitted Louisiana as the eighteenth state in the Union. The convention requested that Congress add the Florida parishes to the new state, and Congress honored this request. In late June 1812, Louisianians elected William Claiborne their first state governor.