Today in French Quarter History, we explore the life of Daniel Clark. He passed away on August 13, 1813, and was interred in St. Louis Cemetery Number One. He was one of the most interesting figures in French Quarter history starting with his arrival in 1786. He made his home at 823 Royal Street in the Quarter, and the building still stands today.

US Vice Consul for New Orleans

Daniel Clark was born in Ireland but lived in Pennsylvania with his family. His uncle, who lived in Mississippi, suggested that he should move to New Orleans to go into business here. In his first year, Clark recorded 46 notarized business transactions. That was double all of the notarized transactions in the city the prior year. By 1790 he was entrenched as a businessman. By the mid-1790s, he became the unofficial Vice Consul of the United States. Clark had a big effect on politics in first Spanish, and later, American Louisiana.

Correspondence with President Jefferson about Spanish Louisiana

His rise seems to have begun when he answered a letter, dated June 24, 1798, from President Thomas Jefferson to Philip Nolan. Philip  was an Irish New Orleanian and a friend of Clark. Since Nolan was traveling, Clark answered the president’s letter on February 12, 1799. Jefferson longed to purchase a mustang for use as a saddle horse. Nolan had already brought at least a thousand mustangs into Spanish Louisiana from New Mexico. Jefferson was also very curious about the general state of affairs of Spanish Louisiana and New Mexico. The correspondence would continue throughout the period of the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson felt he could rely on Clark for important geographical and military intelligence.

The Americans’ right to navigate on the Mississippi River

Clark was in Paris in 1800 with Robert Livingston when Spain gave Louisiana back to France. The right of navigation on the Mississippi by Americans was always a grave concern for the US Government. Clark had previously successfully negotiated with the Spanish government to allow for free navigation by the rivermen of Kentucky. Livingston and Clark discussed the matter with the new French Captain General to no avail. Clark realized dealing with Napoleon’s generals would be much more difficult than dealing with the Spanish governor had been.

Clark’s plan to seize New Orleans for the US Government

Upon returning to New Orleans, Clark ventured to Natchez to meet Charles Claiborne, the governor of the Mississippi Territory. Clark wanted Claiborne to order General James Wilkinson to march on New Orleans before the arrival of Napoleon’s army. Clark’s plan was to seize the city for the Americans. Claiborne would have nothing of it. Clark wrote to then Secretary of State, James Madison about his plan to seize New Orleans. There was no way for Clark to know that James Monroe had already been dispatched to Paris. Monroe would succeed in purchasing Louisiana from the French!

Clark’s duel with Governor Claiborne

After the purchase, Clark was the first Delegate from the Territory of Orleans to Congress. Perhaps the memory of Claiborne’s refusal of Clark’s idea to seize New Orleans spurred Clark on to disparage Claiborne on the floor of the House in 1807. Claiborne took offense, and it all ended up with the two of them participating in a duel on Clark’s plantation, present day Houmas House. Clark seriously wounded Claiborne and the duel spelled the beginning of the end of Clark’s political career.

Another interesting aspect of Daniel Clark was his involvement in the Aaron Burr affair, but we’ll leave that for another installment of Today in French Quarter History! Did you enjoy reading about Daniel Clark in Today in French Quarter history? If so, won’t you please share this post on Social Media? If you are interested in taking the best French Quarter HIstory tour in New Orleans, please visit our Home Page for more information. Happy touring!

Today in French Quarter History