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The Giquel-Brooks Affair - New Orleans - 1836


The following was written by Jerry Gandolfo:

The Giquel-Brooks Affair - New Orleans - 1836

Dueling is a highly stylized form of etiquette. It has its own ridged code, the Code Duello, and was a common practice in the early 19th century. It was also illegal. What was intended to be a means of settling an "affair d'honore" (a matter of honor), too often dissolved into a fatal confrontation.

Therefore, it was no small matter when, in 1834, a group of the New Orleans' most prominent Creoles gathered at the Orleans Ballroom of Mr. Davis on the Rue d'Orléans for an association to terminate the practice. It was also highly significant that Bernard Marigny was elected president of the Association Against Duels. Marigny was a Creole, and the wealthiest man in Louisiana (some would say all of the United States). As a young man, Marigny meet his wife, the daughter of the Spanish governor of Florida at a ball in Pensacola. Since there were seven other suitors who had requested her hand before the arrival of Marigny, he challenged all seven to duels. After disposing of the first two, the remaining five withdrew their proposals, (and Marigny became the Governor's son-in-law). Marigny also owned most of the land just below New Orleans, past Esplanade Avenue. This soon became the city's first suburb, called the Faubourg Marigny. Marigny, ever enamoured with the romanticism of his age, named the streets in his suburb such things as; Pleasure, Humanity, Music, Arts, Painters, Greatmen, Frenchmen, Spain, Good Children, Craps (named for the dice game), History, Peace, Love, Hope, Desire and even Duels. (One of the residents on Craps Street was Jean Baptiste Francois Giquel.) In September 1834, besides Marigny, another original signor to the anti-dueling declaration, according to the New Orleans Bee Newspaper, was Giquel.

Jean Baptiste Francois Giquel was a goldsmith, his shop was on the corner of Rue Royal and Rue Toulouse, (in the Vieux Carré or French Quarter), then the very center of the commercial activity in New Orleans. Somehow, Giquel had become in some way involved in some very unsatisfactory business dealings with an American named Brooks. At some point, in August 1836, the two exchanged harsh words, and Brooks being infuriated, withdrew, then sent a "second" (a personal representative in the formality of a duel), to demand a duel. Giquel, deferred answering, requesting a short pause and absence, to consider the challenge. Apparently, consistent with his earlier pledge in the Association Against Duels, rather than accept, Giquel reported Brooks illegal solicitation to the local Recorder (a Municipal Judge), and charges were filled.

This apparently only served to further inflame Brooks; with fatal consequences. At short time later, Brooks and Giquel encountered one another on the corner of Rue Royal and Rue St. Peter (one block from Giquel's business). A violent confrontation took place, the details of which are not known. The result, however is well known. Brooks was dead, shot through the heart. Giquel was taken to the Mayor's office, where he was released on bail.

Relations between Americans and Creoles in New Orleans where especially stained during this period and the death of Brooks became a cause for the Americans to react. Brooks was buried on the same day he died, and funeral was marked more by the accompaniment of angry America militia, then a grieving family. Brooks had been a member of the American, "Washington Guards," and they, attending his funeral, vowed over his grave that, "justice should be meted out at any, and every, cost."

When Giquel was returned before the court, probably due mostly to public pressure, his bail was revoked, he was imprisoned, and he was charged with murder.

On September 2, 1836 Giquel appeared in Parish Court before Judge Joachim Bermudez, (a Spanish Creole), to hear a writ of habeas corpus for his release on bail. There were open threats in the courtroom against both the defendant and the judge. Never-the-less, Burmundez, in scrupulous adherence to the law, freed Giquel on a $15,000.00 bond. Friends offered Bermudez personal protection from the hostile crowds, but he refused.

But more trouble was coming. On the night of the 5th, Bermundez was altered at his home by a friend, Toutant Beauregard, (probably a relative of Pierre Gustave Tountant Beauregard, the famous Confederate General),. Beauregard warned that a lynch mob was on its way to the judge's home. Bermundez reacted quietly, giving Beauregard a shot gun and arming himself with a broadsword and cavalry pistols. All together there were only five persons to defend the judge and his home (which was located on Hospital (Gov. Nichols) Street, between Rue Burgundy and Rampart. After a stress filled wait, the front doors of the judges home burst open and the assassins rushed in. Beauregard rushed forward to meet them with the shotgun, but was pushed aside by the judge's broadsword. But, it was not the judge with the sword, rather his wife who stood between the two groups and compelled the intruders to retreat in shame.

Never-the-less, the violence continued outside, with the aggressors getting the worse of it. At least one fell mortally wounded just outside the house, while another was found nearby on Esplanade Avenue, also dead of his wounds. Several others escaped with less serious wounds. At least one of the dead was also identified as a member of the Washington Guards.

Perhaps only fear of a civil war, prevented a war at that moment. The Creoles had their own militia, the Louisiana Legion (Marigny was the commander), and the two militia factions had long been at odds. (Even requiring the intercession of the famous French American general and hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, to broker a truce between them in 1825.) The above story, as told by Henry Castellanos in 1895 in his book, New Orleans As It Was, does not continue with the fate of Giquel. However, based on Jean Baptiste Francois Giquel's future freedom and success, it may assumed, if this was the same Giquel, that the charges against him were dropped.

The troubles did not end here however. Later the offices of the Louisiana Courier, a newspaper sympathetic to the Creoles was ransacked, probably by members of the Washington Guards. It was probably no coincidence that the paper's editor, Joseph Charles de St. Romes, was the nephew of Giquel's second wife, Elisabeth Durand de St. Romes.

The Louisiana State Legislature recognizing the crisis in New Orleans, took action that year to split the city into three separate and autonomous districts. New Orleans would still have a single Mayor and city council, but the mayor would only be a figure head. Each district was in practice, autonomous, and administered exclusively by a Recorder (a combination mayor, municipal judge, and tax collector). The First District was the original city, or the Vieux Carré, a mainly commercial area, marginally dominated by the Creoles. The Second District was the old Faubourg St. Marie, above (up river of) Canal Street, and almost exclusively populated by Americans. The Third District was the old Faubourg Marigny, and almost exclusively Creole. Representing the Third District on the city council was Giquel, and acting as the district's tax collector was Francois Daubert (his son 0in-law). The city remained divided until 1852 when the State legislature, upset that the Third District was acting too autonomously, especially in it liberal attitudes towards free persons of color, forced a reunification of the city. Just prior to this event, the city annexed the heavily American town of Jefferson (further upriver), called it the Fourth District, and insured American political dominance in the city. Even to this day, however, as my grandmother, (of the Giquel-Daubert lineage), always taught, Canal Street was a border, beyond which was a foreign American people and culture. Also, to this day, the meridian on Canal Street (and, now, all streets in New Orleans), is called a "neutral ground," reflecting its perception as a boarder.

Jean Baptiste Francois Giquel, our common ancestor, had seen a great many things by the time he closed his eyes for the last time in 1841. Born in Saint Domingue (Haiti), he no doubt witnessed both slave revolts and the effects of the French Revolution. In Cuba, he was victimized by the ambitions of Napoleon. In New Orleans, he, and his wives and children, found a home and established a legacy, but not before having to face death and disaster at least one more time.

Note: Although we can not say for sure if the story that Castellanos tells is about out Jean Baptiste Francois Giquel, it all circumstances it would seem to be the same person. In 1834 when Giquel signed the agreement of the Association Against Dueling, he would have been about age 51. His sons, Jean Baptiste Thomas Giquel would have been only 23; Alexandre Giquel only 21; and Juan Bautista Giquel only 17. At the time of the "affair," each would have been only two years older. The clues however that Brooks and Giquel had business dealings, that the confrontation tool place one block from Giquel's goldsmith shop, and that as Castellanos represents Giquel as a man of substantial friends and influence, suggest he was an older member of the community. (Although, an explanation as to why so many of the Giquels returned to Cuba could be associated with this event if the dates of their return were known.) Perhaps one day, I, or someone, will locate the original records and be able to confirm Giquel's exact identity.

Jerry Gandolfo
New Orleans, Louisiana
July 10, 2001

Owner of originalJerry Gandolfo
Linked toJean Baptiste François Giquel

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