Pierre Soulé

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Pierre Soulé
PSoule.jpg
United States Minister to Spain
In office
April 7, 1853 – February 1, 1855
PresidentZachary Taylor
Preceded byRomulus M. Saunders
Succeeded byJohn C. Breckinridge
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
March 3, 1849 – April 11, 1853
Preceded byHenry Johnson
Succeeded byJohn Slidell
In office
January 21, 1847 – March 3, 1847
Preceded byAlexander Barrow
Succeeded bySolomon W. Downs
Personal details
Born(1801-08-31)August 31, 1801
Castillon-en-Couserans, France
DiedMarch 26, 1870(1870-03-26) (aged 68)
New Orleans, Louisiana, US
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Henrietta Armantine Mercier
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer

Pierre Soulé (August 31, 1801 – March 26, 1870) was a Franco-American attorney, politician, and diplomat during the mid-19th century. Serving as a United States Senator from Louisiana from 1849 to 1853, he was nominated that year as U.S. Minister to Spain, a post he held until 1855.

He is likely best known for his role in writing the 1854 Ostend Manifesto, part of an attempt by Southern slaveholders to gain support for the US to annex Cuba to the United States. Some Southern planters wanted to expand their territory to the Caribbean and into Central America. The Manifesto was roundly denounced, especially by anti-slavery elements, and Soulé was personally criticized for violating his diplomatic role.

Born and raised in southwest France, Soulé was exiled for revolutionary activities. He moved to Great Britain and then the United States, where he settled in New Orleans and became an attorney, later entering politics.

Early life and education[edit]

Pierre Soulé was born in 1801 Castillon-en-Couserans, a village in the French Pyrénées. His father was a prominent justice of the peace, and he was born into an educated family. He studied at a Jesuit college in Toulouse, and at a Bordeaux academy. An anti-Royalist in favor of freedom of conscience and secularism, he was exiled as a youth in 1816 to Navarre.[1]

Soulé was later able to go to Paris to study law. After completing his studies, he passed the bar and began to practice law in the capital. He became involved in some secret societies working on civil rights. He published a newspaper, Le Nouveau nain jaune (The New Yellow Dwarf, referring to a French fairy tale). Convicted of opposition to the government, he was sentenced to three years in prison, but managed to escape.[1]

Emigration to the US[edit]

Pierre Soulé

In 1825 Soulé fled France, going first to Great Britain, then briefly to Haiti (formerly the French colony of Saint-Domingue). He was impressed by the new republic but had learned of the widespread massacres during the Haitian Revolution.

Soulé reached the U.S. at about age 25 and settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, the center of another former French colony. It still had a large ethnic French population, who commonly used the French language. There he became a lawyer, married and had at least one son. After getting established, he became a naturalized citizen and founded a bank. But there was a financial panic that disrupted the bank, so he returned to work about 1839 as an attorney for cotton planters and brokers.[1]

Political career[edit]

Soulé joined the Democratic Party and began to become active in politics. In 1844 he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention, and in 1846 he won election to the Louisiana State Senate.

In 1847, Soulé served briefly in the United States Senate as a Democrat elected by the state legislature to fill a vacancy in a special election. He was returned to the Senate for a full term, serving from 1849 to 1853.

He resigned to take an appointment as U.S. Minister to Spain, a post he held until 1855. During this period, Soulé became known for writing the 1854 Ostend Manifesto, part of an attempt by Southern slaveholders of the planter class to gain support to annex Cuba to the United States. Worried about being bounded by free states to the north and west, some prominent Southerners wanted to expand their territory to the Caribbean and into Central America. Cuba still had legal slavery at the time. The Manifesto was roundly denounced in the U.S., especially by anti-slavery elements. Soulé was personally criticized for violating his role as a diplomat and Minister to Spain, which still controlled Cuba.[2]

Pierre Soulé with son, 1853

In late 1852, while in Washington, D.C., Soulé had provided some support and assistance to the agent responsible for rescuing Solomon Northup, a free black from Saratoga Springs, New York, who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was held as a slave for twelve years by planters in the Red River region in Louisiana.[3]

Soulé opposed Southern secession before the American Civil War, but supported his state of Louisiana in the Confederacy after the war began. In 1861, he supported organizing the Allen Rifles and gave an impassioned speech at a big barbecue in Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish.[4]

On May 18, 1861, Soulé was captured by federal troops, charged with "plotting treason against the United States government," and imprisoned in Fort Warren, Massachusetts.[5] Soulé escaped from the prison and was able to return to Confederate territory.

After the war ended in 1865, he went into exile in Havana, Cuba. Soulé later returned, and he died in New Orleans.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "La vie de Pierre Soulé par Catherine Chancerel", La Dépêche, 28 Mai 2015 (in French); accessed 24 March 2019
  2. ^ Jennifer R. Green and Patrick M. Kirkwood, "Reframing the Antebellum Democratic Mainstream: Transatlantic Diplomacy and the Career of Pierre Soulé", Civil War History 61, No. 3 (September 2015): 238
  3. ^ Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave, Darby and Miller, Buffalo, 1854, p. 196.
  4. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, p. 76
  5. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, p. 133
General
  • Chancerel, Catherine. L'HOMME DU GRAND FLEUVE (The Man of the Great River), Paris: éditions du CNRS, 2014 (biography in French)
  • Green, Jennifer R. and Patrick M. Kirkwood, "Reframing the Antebellum Democratic Mainstream: Transatlantic Diplomacy and the Career of Pierre Soulé," Civil War History 61, No. 3 (September 2015): 212–251.
  • Moore, J. Preston. "Pierre Soule: Southern Expansionist and Promoter," Journal of Southern History, May 1955, Vol. 21 Issue 2, pp 203–223 doi:10.2307/2955118

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Alexander Barrow
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Louisiana
January 21, 1847 – March 3, 1847
Served alongside: Henry Johnson
Succeeded by
Solomon W. Downs
Preceded by
Henry Johnson
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
March 3, 1849 – April 11, 1853
Served alongside: Solomon W. Downs and Judah P. Benjamin
Succeeded by
John Slidell
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Daniel M. Barringer
United States Ambassador to Spain
April 7, 1853 – February 1, 1855
Succeeded by
Augustus C. Dodge