Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Detroit!

On this date in history 1701, Detroit –variously pronounced “Dee-troy-yet” by hockey announcers and “Day-twah” by Francophiles –was founded by Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac. Per the Encyclopedia Britannica (emphasis added):

Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac was a French colonizer, administrator, and fur trader who founded Detroit. He also served as governor of the French colony of Louisiana.

Cadillac was born Antoine Laumet in Gascony, France. He falsely claimed to belong to the nobility, and he awarded himself a coat of arms and the title "de Lamothe Cadillac." In 1683, Cadillac arrived in Nova Scotia, where he served on a privateer (private warship) and traded for furs. From 1694 to 1697, he commanded Fort Michilimackinac (in what is now Michigan), the most important French outpost in the West.

In 1701, Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain at the site of present-day Detroit. He served as commandant there until 1710, when he was dismissed for incompetence and corruption. Cadillac was governor of Louisiana from 1711 until 1716, when he was recalled to France.

Sigh. Even after 308 years some things never change.

Cadillac went on to New Orleans. Kwame went to Dallas. Detroit to Dallas: watch your flanks, folks, and it would be wise to accept only cash.

For the record, the original Fort Pontchartrain stood on the Detroit River, at the foot of modern day Shelby, approximately where the Veteran’s Memorial Building is today. Here’s an interesting history of Cadillac’s founding of Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit. It covers all of the recurring human themes of power, wealth, corruption, and - in the case of the French - capitulation.