THE THREE MUNICIPALITIES


The strife between the American and the Creole had, during all that time, continued to call forth exhortations from the governors against jealousies and party spirit with reference to the accidental circumstance of language and birth. These prejudices culminated in 1836, when the legislature, principally in response to the appeals of the American section in New Orleans, repealed the charter of the city and provided for an entirely new municipal organization, the like of which has never been seen in the country, save, perhaps, in the charter of (Greater) New York. The latter is very similar, in some respects, to that of New Orleans in 1836. To prevent racial ill feeling the city was divided into three municipalities, each with a separate government of its own and independent power, but with a mayor and a general council (composed of the councils of the three municipalities) over the whole city.

The old town, the "city proper," as it is called in the charter (and what is now the second municipal district), formed the first municipality, the bulk of its population being Creoles or French.

The Faubourg St. Marie, what is now the first municipal district and above the city proper, formed the second municipality.

The Faubourg Marigny, what is now the third municipal district and below the city, formed the third municipality.

The first municipality composed the first, second, third, and fourth wards of New Orleans as it existed in 1836; the second municipality, the sixth and seventh wards; and the third municipality, the fifth ward. Each of the municipalities was governed by a recorder and a council of aldermen elected by wards. The councils were composed as follows: First municipality — 12 aldermen, 3 from each of its four wards; second municipality — first ward, Canal to Poydras, 4 aldermen; second ward, Poydras to Calliope, 2 aldermen; third ward, Calliope to upper end of city, 2 aldermen; total 8 aldermen; third municipality — first ward, Esplanade to Marigny, 2 aldermen; second ward, Marigny to Enghien, 2 aldermen; third ward, Enghien to Lafayette, 2 aldermen; fourth ward, below Lafayette, 1 alderman; total, 7 aldermen.

The municipalities had complete control of all their local affairs, paving, improvements, etc.; they could fix taxes and issue bonds, which they did quite actively.

The recorders of the several municipalities performed all the duties of magistrates, and were conservators of the peace.

Once a year, on the first of May, the general council, which was composed of the aldermen from the several municipalities, met in the City Hall of the city proper on Jackson Square, and attended to such matters as belonged to the city as a whole, that is, to all the municipalities. The division of powers between the general council and the separate municipal councils, was on much the same lines as that between the Federal and the State governments. The general council enjoyed only such powers as were specially delegated to it; all other municipal powers belonged to the several municipalities. The general council, for instance, had control of all matters relating to wharfage rates, charges and dues, and all licenses. It had the care and control of the police and supervision over all incorporated companies, and it was its duty to provide for the salary of the mayor.

The parish prison, which was situated in the city proper, was the property equally of all the municipalities, who could use it on paying pro rata for its maintenance. The revenues derived from the licenses on drays were to be divided among the several municipalities in proportion to the amount of revenue collected by each. The old debt was similarly divided, that is, the share which each municipality was to assume was estimated on the bases of its revenues.

A further provision was that all rules and ordinances of the old city should continue in force in all the municipalities until repealed by any of them.

The division of the city into three municipalities seemed to give an impetus to public improvement, the three councils competing with each other to see which could make the most progress. The next few years, therefore, chronicle a great advance in all respects. The city was provided with water-works and gas. The year 1837 saw the completion of the new canal, which gave the second municipality (the American city) connection with Lake Pontchartrain, the construction of the Merchant's Exchange, St. Charles Hotel, St. Louis Hotel and a number of large and influential banks. The progress was slightly checked soon after by the big panic of 1837.

The division of New Orleans into three cities continued until 1852, when the animosities between the Creoles and Americans had disappeared, The necessity for union had, by that time, become apparent. The city finances, for instance, had been badly managed and a large debt created, confusion prevailed in nearly all branches, and, as the report of the commissioners declared, "the people were disheartened."

— STANDARD HISTORY OF NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
    MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT, By Norman Walker
    MUNICIPAL AND MILITARY HISTORY
    EDITED BY HENRY RIGHTOR
    THE LEWIS PUBLISHING COMPANY CHICAGO, 1900
    As Written


Storyville, New Orleans Red-Light District
1897-1917


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