| At the corner of Hospital and St. Claude Streets, you will find the old St. Augustine's Church. The site was formerly a stretch of land, upon which stood the historic College d'Orleans. One of the first acts after the American acquisition in 1803, was to appropriate, by act of legislature, "an English college" for the education of the Creole youth, and to obviate the necessity of sending young men to Paris for higher study, as heretofore. Latin, Greek and French were fundamental studies in the institution.
A tradition of the Old Quarter is the memory of Monsieur D'Avezac, who was the first president of the College. He was a great classical scholar and was noted for his translation of Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion" into French. Scott wrote back a beautiful letter telling how pleased he was with the "perfect translation." This letter is religiously preserved by the descendants of Monsieur D'Avezac in New Orleans. Monsieur D'Avezac was so polished in Latin and Greek, and so famous for his ponderous quotations from these languages, that his young collegians used to call him "Titus."
Monsieur Rochefort, another professor, was noted for his graceful translation of "Horace" into French. It was the boast of the Faubourg that his "boys" used to walk the Quarter faithfully quoting the odes. Racine and Cornielle and the Greek tragedies (translated into beautiful French) were served with breakfast in the French Quarter in the first decade and a half of the nineteenth century.
The college had a day school for children who were unable to pay board and a free or charity department, the pupils of which were chosen by the trustees.
The Creole mothers of New Orleans broke up the College d' Orleans.
In 1818, Joseph Lakanal, a member of the French Institute, whom Napoleon had appointed President of the Bonaparte Lyceum, came as a refugee to New Orleans and was called to fill a vacancy in the college directorate. Lakanal was an ex-priest and an atheist. The fact became known and the first public women's meeting resulted.
The pious Creole mothers of New Orleans declared that they "would have no anti-Christ teach their boys; that the trustees of an institution who could appoint such a man were unfit to be entrusted with the education of youth." A mass meeting of citizens was held as a sequel to the meeting of women; and the demand was made that the trustees rescind their action. These gentlemen persisted and the next day the great majority of the best-paying pupils were withdrawn; in fact, as the old Creoles were proud afterwards of declaring, "There were not sufficient pupils left to pay the salary of even one director." The day school was, also, obliged to close its doors, and, as for the "charity contingent," the mothers of these boys, also, met and sent word to the directors that "they might be poor, but they were too honest to allow their sons to meet on the same ground as Monsieur Lakanal."
So perished the old College d'Orleans, at which the historian Gayarre and all the most cultured gentlemen of the early American domination were educated. All that remains today is a remnant of the long, old-fashioned dormitory, now used as a tenement row.
"Joseph Lakanal, le Canaille Directeur" is a fragment of an old Creole chanson composed in derision of the College d'Orleans at the time it fell into disfavor. Lakanal was given a famous charavari and, finding his presence so odious to New Orleans, he left the city. A new verse commemorating his departure was added to the old song.
Upon the site of the College there arose a few years later St. Augustine's Church, the second oldest in the Old Quarter. It is very quaint and beautiful and remaining just as when erected.
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|The Story of the College d'Orleans
How the Mothers of New Orleans Shut Down a University
|The College d'Orleans was founded in 1811; it was the first institution of higher learning in Louisiana. Its demise was brought about by the mothers of New Orleans and the first public women's meeting of protest recorded in Louisiana history. In this excerpt from the book, "The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans," published in 1903, we learn how the Creole mothers of the city shut down a college:|