In 1768 the colonists of Louisiana rose up in a bloodless rebellion against the Spanish royal governor. Though almost totally ignored by historians of early America and the Atlantic world, the Louisiana uprising demonstrates the complex relationship between avant-garde philosophy and popular resistance in the eighteenth century. The rebel leaders produced a series of pamphlets justifying their actions, which deployed arguments drawn from the French legal tradition, Renaissance humanism, and Enlightenment radicalism. These arguments not only aimed to persuade audiences abroad, but helped cement a popular coalition within Louisiana society. This popular coalition broke down when, in the absence of imperial authority, colonists openly discussed the notion of founding an independent republic. A comparison between the Louisiana rebellion and the American Revolution illustrates the ways in which the latter event was not unique—and more specifically, how Enlightenment universalism could help paper over class divisions within colonial society, which civic republicanism then reopened.


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pp. 68-92
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