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Manuel Juan de Salcedo

Manual Juan de Salcedo, the last Spanish governor of Louisiana, served from July 14, 1801, until the transfer of Louisiana to the French on November 30, 1803.

Manuel Juan de Salcedo

Courtesy of Louisiana Secretary of State

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Manual Juan de Salcedo, the last Spanish governor of Louisiana, served from July 14, 1801, until the transfer of Louisiana to the French on November 30, 1803. King Charles IV appointed Salcedo in 1799, but poor health prevented him from taking office immediately. Like his predecessor, Sebastián Calvo de la Puerta Y O’Farrill, Marqués de Casa Calvo, Salcedo faced a shortage of funds and military troops that made it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out orders to protect Spanish Louisiana’s borders from American encroachments.  Unlike Casa Calvo, however, Salcedo faced charges of incompetence and corruption from his contemporaries, including the captain general of Cuba.

Little documentation of Salcedo’s early life exists, but historians believe he was born in Spain c. 1743 and entered the army around the age of sixteen. At the time he was appointed governor, Salcedo was serving as king’s lieutenant on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. His journey to Louisiana took from August 1800 to July 1801, during which time his wife died in Cuba.

On his arrival, Salcedo faced numerous problems and very limited resources, making it difficult for him to initiate change. He quarreled frequently with administrators in the Cabildo, the seat of Spanish colonial government, as well as with Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Howard, commandant of the Louisiana Regiment. His relationships with Intendant Juan Ventura Morales, lawyer Joseph Martínez de la Pedrera, and Prefect Pierre Clément, baron de Laussat were also marked by conflict.

Moreover, critics charged that Salcedo sought to profit from his post, acting with his son, Manuel María, and Lieutenant Governor Nicolas María Vidal.  He spent much of his time in Louisiana requesting promotions for himself and members of his family, as well as seeking a transfer back to the Canary Islands. As a result, many contemporaries regarded him as incompetent at best. For better or worse, Salcedo served as governor for two years, checked only by the captain general of Cuba, his immediate superior.

In May 1803, the Marqués de Casa Calvo (who had served as interim governor before Salcedo’s arrived) returned to New Orleans to assist Salcedo as he turned the colony over to France. When the United States assumed control of Louisiana later that year, Salcedo departed with the rank of brigadier, an annual pension of 3,000 pesos, and posts for himself and his sons in the Canary Islands. It is believed that he died there. One of his sons, Manuel María de Salcedo, served as governor of Spanish Texas from 1808 until 1813.

Adapted from Gilbert C. Din’s entry for the Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, a publication of the Louisiana Historical Association in cooperation with the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.

Sources: John Edward Harkins, “The Neglected Phase of Louisiana’s Colonial History: The New Orleans Cabildo, 1769-1803” (Ph. D. dissertation, Memphis State University, 1976); Spain. Archivo General de Indias, Papeles de Cuba, legajos 1553, 1554ab, 1555, 1556. http://www.lahistory.org/site36.php