Champ d'Asile

Although Champ d'Asile, a colony of Bonapartist refugees founded on the Trinity River in 1818, endured barely six months, its impact on the future of Texas was strong. The concern aroused among United States and Spanish diplomats over this intrusion into disputed territory caused two immediate results. United States pressure forced pirate Jean Laffite and his men, who had assisted the French colonists, to leave Galveston. And French presence at Champ d'Asile precipitated the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, which eliminated the Neutral Ground agreement and established the Sabine River as the Louisiana-Texas boundary and the border between the United States and New Spain. The body of thought, art, and literature evoked in Paris around Champ d'Asile also had important long-term effects on Texas. Bourbon Spain still ruled Mexico in 1818, and the Spanish army marched against the colony. In Restoration France, therefore, artists and the liberal press could represent the failure of Champ d'Asile as a Bourbon attack against the remains of France's imperial glory. A mythic Champ d'Asile stirred French attachment to Texas, intermittently rekindled by journalists, which two decades later resulted in France's becoming the first European power to recognize the Republic of Texas. Champ d'Asile, the Bonapartist refugees, and Laffite the pirate persist as themes in French literature.

The idea of an armed expedition of Frenchmen into Texas apparently took form during Baron Henri Dominique Lallemand's stay in New Orleans early in 1817 but was soon appropriated by his elder brother, Baron Charles François Antoine Lallemand, on his arrival in the United States later in the year. In Philadelphia Charles Lallemand obtained the presidency of a company that had received from Congress a grant of four townships of land in Alabama for the purpose of colonizing French emigrants who would cultivate grapes and olives. Lallemand succeeded in imposing more than sixty refugee officers on the society for the purpose of selling colonial allotments for the benefit of the expedition. The sale of most of the allotments in the early days of December enabled the first contingent, led by Baron Antoine Rigaud, to sail from Philadelphia aboard the schooner Huntress on December 17. Shortly afterward the Lallemand brothers, with more officers and munitions, left New York for New Orleans aboard the brig Actress. Charles Lallemand and his group went on to Galveston on February 19, 1818, leaving Henri Lallemand behind to coordinate the dispatch of supplies and recruits. At Galveston the Frenchmen were the guests of Pierre and Jean Laffite, special agents of the Spanish government. The Laffites provisioned and transported the filibusters while reporting their activities to the Spanish consul in New Orleans. On March 10, with the aid of their hosts, the French left for the Texas mainland in small boats and ascended the Trinity River to a locale now unknown, near the site of the present town of Liberty. There they built their fortress, Champ d'Asile.

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Kent Gardien, Betje Black Klier | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Champ d'Asile is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists

No

Place type

Champ d'Asile is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Liberty)

Location

Latitude: 30.07521490
Longitude: -94.81686800

Has Post Office

No

Is Incorporated

No