Texas Rarity

Le Champ-D'Asile, Tableau Topographique et Historique du Texas.

Paris: Ladvocat, 1819.

Price: $9,500.00

About the item

First edition, first issue. viii, 247. Half-title. 8vo. Texas Rarity. Contemporary tree calf, spine gilt with red morocco lettering piece, marbled endpapers, some wear to extremities. Streeter Texas 1072; Howes L329, "b" (incorrectly calling for [24]pp. of prelims); Sabin 95072; Monaghan 990; Raines, p.109; Graff 2487; Decker 39:378.

Item #365696

An important early Texas work recording the abortive colony of exiled Napoleonic loyalists established on the Trinity River in 1818, here in original, unsophisticated condition. Along with accounts by Hartmann & Millard and the anonymous "C.D.," this work comprises one of the three chief publications on the colony.

The French group, under Gen. C.F.A. Lallemand and his brother, left New Orleans and landed at Galveston in January 1818 and attempted to establish a colony about twelve to fifteen miles from the mouth of the Trinity River, where the French loyalists claimed they were attempting to cultivate grapes and olives. The Spanish under Mexico's final colonial governor Antonio Maria Martinez feared (apparently with good reason) that the French had more military than agricultural designs for the colony, and began to mobilize troops towards Champ-d'Asile. Armed conflict was never to arise however, and when food became scarce and news of the nearby Spanish troops came to Lallemand, the remainder of the starving colonists retreated to New Orleans.

Despite its short life, the colony was the center of an important episode in the maneuvering for control of Texas between Spain, the United States, and the not yet independent state of Mexico. The French settlers dreamed of establishing a new Napoleonic empire in the New World, and with more support they might have succeeded. The idealized story of the ultimately short-lived effort nonetheless inspired the French people in Europe, and their fondness for Texas was borne out twenty years later when France became the first European nation to recognize Texan independence.

L'Héritier's work contains important contemporary details on the soil and climate of southern Texas, with extracts of documents, proclamations, and other official acts. The colony's manifesto is confident and defiant, beginning (translated from the French): "Reunited by a series of seeming calamities which have separated us from our hearths and dispersed us suddenly throughout diverse counties, we have resolved to find an asylum where we might recall our misfortunes, so that we may take from them useful lessons. A vast land lays itself before us, but it is one void of civilized men....In this adversity which rather than batter down our determination lifts it up, we will exercise the first right given to man by the author of nature by establishing ourselves on this land, fertilizing it through our efforts, and taking those fruits which she never refuses to those who persevere." The volume also includes information on the original founders, ending with their letters back home to compatriots.

The author, Louis François L'Héritier, was a French soldier and writer, who wrote numerous plays and also worked as an editor for various liberal journals in Paris. "The book is a fanciful and idealized account of the Champ d'Asile...Chapter XII gives an extensive account of the laws said to have been adopted by the colonists, and at pages 44-47 is the text of the MANIFESTO of May 11, 1818. Chapters II-IX, pages 25-149 are mostly an account of Texas..." - Streeter. An important early Texas item, in very rare original condition.