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Bonapartists in the Borderlands

French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815–1835

Bonapartists in the Borderlands by Rafe Blaufarb
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Bonapartists in the Borderlands recounts how Napoleonic exiles and French refugees from Europe and the Caribbean joined forces with Latin American insurgents, Gulf pirates, and international adventurers to seek their fortune in the Gulf borderlands.  The U.S. Congress welcomed the French to America and granted them a large tract of rich Black Belt land near Demopolis, Alabama, on the condition that they would establish a Mediterranean-style Vine and Olive colony.

This book debunks the standard account of the colony, which stresses the failure of the aristocratic, luxury-loving French to tame the wilderness.  Instead, it shows that the Napoleonic officers involved in the colony sold their land shares to speculators to finance an even more perilous adventure--invading the contested Texas borderlands between Spain and the U.S.  Their departure left the Vine and Olive colony in the hands of French refugees from the Haitian slave revolt.  While they soon abandoned vine cultivation, they successfully recast themselves as prosperous, slaveholding cotton growers and gradually fused into a new elite with newly arrived Anglo-American planters.

Rafe Blaufarb examines the underlying motivations and aims that inspired this endeavor and details the nitty-gritty politics, economics, and backroom bargaining that resulted in the settlement.  He employs a wide variety of local, national, and international resources:  from documents held by the Alabama State Archives, Marengo County court records, and French-language newspapers published in America to material from the War Ministry Archives at Vincennes, the Diplomatic Archives at the Quai d'Orasy, and the French National Archives.
University of Alabama Press; September 2009
325 pages; ISBN 9780817382612
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Title: Bonapartists in the Borderlands
Author: Rafe Blaufarb
 
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