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New Orleans is described as the 'inevitable city on an impossible site' The
North America interior is drained by a single river system--the Mississippi.
>From the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Rockies to the
Appalachians, the Mississippi with its tributaries, provide a natural
waterway for moving the people and goods of North America down the
Mississippi to its outlet on the Gulf.
A city at the mouth of so splendid a transportation system. so
strategically situated could control the trade between the vast interior of
North America and the rest of the world; and a city in so strange a
situation might even determine the political future of North America. These
facts were as obvious to seventeenth century French as they were to Thomas
Jefferson, who said of New Orleans: "There is one spot on the globe, the
possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans."
The French controlled in the northern part of North America (Canada) in the
mid-seventeenth century by securing control of the St. Lawrence.. France
endeavoured to confine the English to the eastern coast of the continent by
claiming the Mississippi and its tributaries, gaining control of the
interior of North America. Control access to the mouth on the Gulf of
Mexico. You control middle America French explorers hit a snag. From the
mouth of the Mississippi to a point about 300 kilometres upstream (Baton
Rouge), there was no ground high enough to provide a natural site for a
city. A great river demands a ravishing port city, but where?
The Mississippi is different from most North American rivers. It has a
large delta and is not embayed,, the sea does not enter and flood the
river's mouth. Rivers that are embayed provide sites for great cities.
London, New York, Hamburg and Quebec City are all located at a narrow inland
passage of an estuary, the first site where ships could go no further and
where land traffic could cross the river.
The Mississippi, however, lacks any such well defined navigation head before
Minneapolis. Because of the swampy terrain, most of the nearby areas of
south Louisiana were unpopulated, leaving New Orleans without an adjacent
hinterland. A sparse population lived on the natural levees that run
parallel to one another and the Mississippi, separated by swamps that made
transportation and communication overland and by water difficult. New
Orleans was for a long time a city better connected to the outside world by
the river than to its immediate hinterland. Silting up, making navigation
hazardous. The city is also open to hurricanes that periodically roar out of
the Gulf, driving high tides ahead of them. The areas several feet above sea
level are safe, but most of modern, especially suburban, New Orleans is
below sea level. Finally, New Orleans is built on land that is gradually, in
some cases even rapidly, sinking.
The French could not make it work, they gave it to the Spaniards. The
Spaniards gave it back to the French. The French sold it, by trickery, to
the Americans before the British could take it from them. American genius
built and maintains inevitable city on an impossible site.
The French spent the money on a War that ended on the Waterloo plain. In
curious French thinking they won the battle. They call Waterloo the Battle
of the Mound an wonder why the English call a railroad station after the
Battle of Waterloo.
There is a monument at the Waterloo calling the names of Captains John
Sinclair, Neil Campbell, Donald Cameron of the Royal Highlanders who lost
their live ' In testimony of their valour the tablet is raised by the
remaining Officers of the regiment.'
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