Notes – Russell Guerin
Unidentified document from HCHS states Pirate House was called Blake House by local residents. Because of the similarity of names, I wondered whether Blake was indeed Blanque. Not so, as history of ownership of Pirate House does include Blake, but not until latter part of 19th century.
Who built Pirate House?
Legend, oral history, WPA: It was said that it was once “the plantation home of a famous pirate – or an associate of pirates – who gave signal aid to Gen Jackson during War of 1812,” and that house was built by man suspected of being an “over-lord” of all pirates that plied the Gulf waters in early 1800’s; house built 1804. Owner was said to be man who organized pirates for battle of NO, including Lafitte brothers, “whipping them into an army of loyal Americans.”
There are many mentions of this successful lawyer, legislator, businessman, politician and leading citizen but no bio that I can find. I know where he lived, whom he married, what causes he supported and some he did not, but he is still a mystery. When he arrived in NO he must have already been wealthy, and he came in good company on the voyage to NO. One thing that I keep thinking about is that, not being born here, he might have had little allegiance. (This was true for a few other leading figures, Latour and Wilkinson certainly. Also, JFH Claiborne born here but whose cotton was more important than the cause for which his son gave his life.)
Numerous passages are in Davis’ new Lafitte book regarding how Blanque was important merchant who dealt with pirates and that he was intercession between Jean Lafitte and Claiborne. “NO merchants such as Jean Blanque engaged sailors who plied both sides of the law…An immigrant to NO in 1803, the same year Pierre arrived, Blanque was a merchant, onetime slave dealer, and banker who had held successful offices in the territorial government, and at the moment sat in the legislature….was also an investor in more than one privateer, which likely led to an acquaintance with the Lafittes…is regarded as one of the persons financially interested in the pirates of Barataria, which he openly protects….also recently been admitted to practice before the federal district court.” “Blanque appeared at Claiborne’s quarters asking for an audience. When they met, Blanque handed the governor the packet of correspondence he had received from Lafitte, and immediately tried to disassociate himself from the Baratarians by protesting curiosity as to why Lafitte had sent it to him when he had ‘no acquaintance with Lafitte.’ … likely thinking he might need it later to establish that he was only an intermediary. [On balance, most important to contemplate that Claiborne and Jackson were not easily given to accept offer of LaFittes. (Jackson, I believe, once referred to them a “hellish banditti.”) Blanque must have had the confidence of LaFittes or else they would have chosen someone else; moreover, Blanque must have been held in some esteem by Claiborne and Jackson.
Jackson bio: Blanque owned number of ships used by pirates
Latour archives – Blanque was “senator from state of Louisiana”
Arthur – Old New Orleans
…merchant, lawyer, banker, legislator, and – “this was told in whispers” – the man “higher up” in certain transactions relative to the importation of “black ivory” and goods upon which custom duty was not collected. M. Blanque earned this distinction…before the battle of New Orleans. He came to NO on the frigate Surveillant, March 26, 1803, with Pierre Clement de Laussat. He soon won a position of importance …and married Delphine Macarty [the future Madame Lalaurie]
Laussat – Memoirs
Laussat describes a conflict with one Burthe who before moving away from Louisiana wrote a public document criticizing both Laussat and Blanque, the latter being called “commissioner of war” by Laussat. Blanque and Laussat had served in the same army in France. Laussat does not record what criticism was made of Blanque, but Blanque did write a rejoinder, which I cannot find. Laussat on leaving Louisiana, was accompanied by high-ranking officials, one of them being Blanque, “my faithful friend.” (The criticism of Blanque is curious. I wonder whether it was in any similar to the charges of his possible disloyalty at battle of NO. After all, he may have been less American than French. In 1803, I think this probable. The question is whether his lack of loyalty continued to 1814-15 and beyond, and whether it allowed him to do illegal things for profit.)
Scharff – Mississippi’s Gain…
Lafitte established depots and appointed agents at a number of strategic locations along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to the Sabine River…. [Source appears to be R. Thompson, Centennial edition of the Eagle, articles not necessarily reliable.]
On Dec. 17, two American commissioners asked to see Laussat. He agreed, and sent Blanque to meet Claiborne and Wilkinson. The commissioners came to Laussat’s house with 30 Mississippi horse volunteers. (NB: this may be the same time that Laussat met with Favre. I must see my Laussat book in BSL, as this could possible be a connection to Miss Coast.) 1812 – Convention committee to plan a constitution consisted of 7 members, including Blanque. Suggestion that preamble include ff: “That the limits of the State may be so enlarged as to embrace that portion of the country situated south of Mississippi Territory and east of the Perdido, known as West Florida….and it may be convenient to the gov. of the US to annex it.” Rejected by 24 to 14. Among nays was Blanque. 1814 – Committee of nine elected to draft statement of cooperation in defense of NO included Blanque. Others, all of high standing: Livingston, Morgan, Bouligny Destrehan, Macarty, Ogden, de la Croix, Foucher. “It is not known why Blanque…one of the leading members of the legislature, did not sign this address.” 1814: Pierre Lafitte added a note to Jean’s letters to Blanque: “I am persuaded he could not have made a better choice than in making you the depository of the papers that were sent to us.” [Relates to invitation by Capt. Lockyer to join British.] 1815: Col. Declouet was in critical situation in testimony before the Committee of Investigation. He had accused to Jackson that the legislature was treasonous, in that there were several members who wished to surrender the country to the enemy, and that its Leaders were Guichard, Blanque, Marigny, and others who always sided with Blanque, “a very influential member of the House.” At conclusion, Declouet admitted he had no positive proof and said that he had not really accused Blanque and others. Gayarre says unable to find anything treasonable, and that Blanque acted “with undeviating patriotism,” showing his colors on Dec. 15 by a call to arms of the citizens of Louisiana.
A note about Barthelemy Lafon
The reason that I have been searching for info about Blanque is to see if I could find any connection with the Pirate House in Waveland, MS. I have not, but he is still my primary suspect. The only other person who might fit the description passed down over the years and described above, was Barthelemy Lafon. Lafon was once one of the leading citizens of NO: “architect, engineer, geographer, surveyor, cartographer, scholar, politician and pirate.” [Tulane Master’s Thesis, Harriet Bos, 1977] Lafon’s maps of the area have remained treasures over the years for any historian or researcher interested in our area from before and after the purchase. He was also a leading citizen during the battle of NO, but tragically, it was after that event when his fortunes floundered. He was almost unable to get contracts from the city any longer and his massive real estate holdings proved to be less than assets. It was then that he went to pirating, with no less a personage than Jean Lafitte, but his activities seem to be centered around the operation at Galveston. I had harbored one hope, based on a single clue, that being the mention of a French corsair named Lafon. He shows up in some Spanish documents we have in the HCHS. Specifically, the year was 1805, which is too early for Barthelemy’s pirating. As stated in the master’s thesis, one Bernardo Lafon was found guilty in 1814 of piracy; it was probably Bernardo mentioned in the Spanish document, and there is no evidence that the two were related. In short, I have given up thinking that he may have been the “over-lord of all pirates” that plied the Gulf waters.