Louisiana Bicentennial Shows Issues Resurfacing
As Louisiana begins marking its 200th anniversary of statehood, the Historic New Orleans Collection is planning events to highlight milestones, including a series of lectures to set the stage for reviewing Louisiana history while looking to the future.
Historians began a weekend seminar with a look at how Louisiana’s past could be repeating. Jessica Lepler of the University of New Hampshire reviewed the economic panic of 1837. New Orleans cotton contracts sent through New York banks to London financial markets had operated smoothly. But when US lawmakers began in-fighting on financial policies – London raised interest rates.
“Americans began to blame the crisis on politics. And they used the word ‘panic’ to imply that political manipulations of the financial system had caused the crisis. This explanation shifted blame from individuals to partisanships.”
And in the political theater, Louisiana contributed a major player in the 1920s and 30s in Huey Long. But Edward Haas of Wright State University says ideas Long made famous as governor and senator came much earlier locally.
“On March 1st, 1918, a year before Long first ran for public office, New Orleans Item printed a letter from him under the heading, ‘Thinks Wealth Should Be More Evenly Distributed.’ I’ve heard that somewhere, I’m not sure where.”
Coastal restoration debates also repeat. Tyler Priest of the University of Houston cites objections to Louisiana present-day plans to designate 80 percent of BP oil spill fines to affected coastal states.
“The argument that they made was ‘This money belongs to the nation, not just to Louisiana and not just to the Gulf Coast states.’ And this is reminiscent of the very same arguments at the very beginning of the tidelands controversy.”
He traces the major national battle over offshore oil to the Truman administration. The Historic New Orleans Collection plans several exhibits throughout the state bicentennial.