Jean Baptiste le Moyne Bienville, sieur de

Bienville, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, sieur de (zhäN bätēstˈ lə mwän syör də byăNvēlˈ) [key], 1680–1768, colonizer and governor of Louisiana, b. Ville Marie (on the site of Montreal), Canada; son of Charles le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil, and brother of Pierre le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville. A midshipman in the royal navy, he served gallantly in Iberville's last expedition into the Hudson Bay region in 1697 and the next year accompanied Iberville's colonizing expedition to the mouth of the Mississippi. He was prominent in the preliminary explorations. Iberville, upon his departure, left Bienville at the Biloxi settlement as second in command to the sieur de Sauvole, and in 1701, when Sauvole died, Bienville became the leader of the settlement. He transferred the colony to Mobile Bay in 1702 and founded Mobile in 1710. After Iberville's death in 1706, only Bienville's heroic efforts kept the settlement alive in the face of famine, the hostility of Native Americans, the jealousy of Spain and Canada, and the neglect of France. In 1712, when Louisiana became a monopoly of the French merchant Antoine Crozat, Bienville was superseded as governor by Cadillac, but he regained his position in 1717. The colony grew rapidly in the next few years. New Orleans, which Bienville founded in 1718, succeeded Biloxi as Louisiana's capital in 1722. In 1719 he twice captured Pensacola from the Spanish. Fearing insurrections of black slaves, first brought to the colony under his direction, Bienville promulgated (1724) the Code Noir. Its provisions, completely regulating slave life, were humane for the times, and the code remained in force until Louisiana became part of the United States. An unsuccessful campaign in 1723 against the Natchez, whom he had previously defeated (1716), led to his recall (1725). Unsuccessful in defending his administration, he was relieved of the governorship. Upon Louisiana's subsequent decline, he was begged to return and was warmly received on his arrival in 1733. He led strenuous but indecisive expeditions (1736, 1739–40) against the Natchez and the Chickasaw. Worn out by his exertions, Bienville retired in 1743 and spent his remaining days in Paris.

See biography by G. King (1892).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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