Louisiana History

Lesson Ideas

1750 - 1800

A Play Comparing Revolutionary War and Ulloa / O'Reilly Affair

Note: This play was written as part of a class assignment for the 1998 McNeese Summer Institute - Revolutionary Documents.

They Did What?

A Louisiana play comparing the American Declaration of Independence and the occupation of General Don Alejandro O'Reilly

Cast: Five male parts, one male or female part
  • Males:
    • Julien Arceneaux: (R-sin-no) a local carpenter, mid forties, widower - 5 lines
    • Charles Du Ru: (Do-Rue) a carpenter's apprentice, age 16 - 5 lines
    • Henry Poulet: (Pool-lay) carpenter, forties, family man - 5 lines
    • Francis Roman: (Row-mon) carpenter, single, early twenties - 6 lines
    • Pierre Bossier: (Bo-see-a) French Canadian trapper - 14 lines
  • Male or female
    • Narrator: - 3 lines

Narrator: September 6th, 1776. A group of carpenters working on the remodeling of the Parish Church of St. Louis near the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

Julien Arceneaux: I'll sure be glad to finish this job and get back my other work.

Charles Du Ru: Yeah, we still have those two houses over on Esplanade to finish before Christmas.

Henry Poulet: I'll just be glad to get this church reopened. My family hates going to church over in that old damp King's Warehouse. My wife says it's not Godly.

Francis Roman: Well, if we're ever going to get this church finished, we'll need their prayers, no matter where the are praying at ---- unGodly or not.

Arceneaux: I'm not sure prayers will help if we don't get back to work, we only have a couple of hours of daylight...

Narrator: Suddenly a bearded man in well-worn buckskins walks over to the group.

Pierre Bossier: Henry, old man! I've been looking all over for you. I brought you a paper from those English colonies like you asked--- it's from Philadelphia. You won't believe what's been happening with those Englishmen.

Poulet: What? They're losing their fight with the British?

Bossier: Not yet, I guess. But they're telling the British that they want to be independent. Get that! They are TELLING the king. It's amazing, the whole colony is crawling with red-coats and they're DEMANDING to be free, Look at this!

Narrator: The men climb down off their ladders to look at the ragged paper Bossier is holding. It was in English and only Bossier can read it so he begins to tell what is going on.

Bossier: It says here that these men came from all over the colonies and met in Philadelphia. They wrote up this paper to send to the king of England. It says here that they are declaring themselves no longer connected to Great Britain. It says that they have a right to separate.

Roman: Wait! What? Start at the beginning. They losing the fight with the British, there's troops are all over the colony and they are saying they want Britain to leave them alone? That makes no sense. And didn't we just try that with Ulloa a few years back? Look what it got us. And Spain is not as powerful as England.

Bossier: Yes, but listen to this, it gets better. They said they have ---- lets see here, something about a king's, oh here it is, "...the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government..."

Du Ru: They're going to start a new government?

Bossier: Yes Son, that's what it says.

Du Ru: But why?

Bossier: They have a whole long list of complaints here. They said the king is keeping troops in their colonies and they don't want them.

Roman: Look at all the troops O'Reilly came with. And he still has most of them here. I for one am not about to try to fight those troops. I've seen their weapons.

Arceneaux: Those Englishmen should have learned from us. We ran out one governor and Spain came back with even more Spanish. Those Americans can't beat the Brits. Heck, if Spain can't and our own mother country couldn't, how do they think they can?

Bossier: These foolish American's are also complaining about paying taxes without their consent...

Poulet: Wait! I don't remember anyone asking me if I wanted to be taxed!

Bossier: They must have two dozen complains here. They're mad because their houses of representative were closed...

Poulet: It happened to us! O'Reilly came in and did away with OUR Superior Council, then he set up that Cabildo. And I don't remember HIM asking! I guess those 2,000 Spanish soldiers may have helped, right?

Bossier: Look. The paper goes on to say that England has cut off their trade with other countries. It hasn't seemed to stop those Americans here in New Orleans. When I came in this morning --- heck, I've never seen so much business along the docks.

Roman: It's that American Pollock, he's buying up everything he can get his hands on, legally and not so legally. He says he's helping those colonist.

Arceneaux: He must be 'cause he's sending lots of goods, I've even spent time building barges for him.

Bossier: Well, If these colonists are serious they'll need a lot of help. They say the king is stopping them from making their own laws. And he's doing away with their legislative bodies, and taking those being tried for wrong doing all the way to England.

Du Ru: O'Reilly didn't do that when caught those rebels. He just shot 'em. No long trial. Just shot 'em. My mom's uncle was on of them.

Bossier: These colonist seem to be asking for more trouble. They even say they are the UNITED States of America.

Arceneaux: Well, we'll see just how united they are when the king sends in even more soldiers. We thought we were pretty good too until O'Reilly sailed in with those 24 ships and his huge army. We weren't so brave after that. I may be French but I know when to keep my mouth shut.

Bossier: Well we were just one colony against Spain. They are 13. And they say they're united in this.

Roman: Like Julien said, we'll see how united they are when several thousand red-coats show up.

Bossier: Those men wrote they wanted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hope they enjoy what little they have now 'cause in a few months they won't have any left. Not when England gets through with those upstarts.

Poulet: How long ago was that paper written?

Bossier: Let's see --- July. It's been a couple of months since I got this up near Canada. Wonder if King George got his copy yet?

Du Ru: You can bet it will make interesting reading at HIS dinner table.

Roman: Speaking of dinner, we can finish talking about this over a good meal. Let's go over to that place on Royal St. It's only a couple of blocks. We'll worry about this wall tomorrow.

The End

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