‘Remember Lafitte!’: Piracy and the Incorporation of Louisiana in The Memoirs of Lafitte (1826)

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The anonymously authored novella The Memoirs of Lafitte, or, The Barritarian Pirate. A Narrative Founded on Fact was the first extended fictional narrative in which Jean Lafitte, the famous New Orleans pirate, was the central character. First published in 1826, it suggests that the legendary French pirate is in fact a fictional identity assumed by an Anglophone, Anglo-Saxon merchant from New York. This article provides the first critical discussion of this text, arguing that a nexus of factors contribute to its meaning: the unique postcolonial status of New Orleans in the early nineteenth-century United States; the political and economic need to incorporate Louisiana into the United States; Lafitte's ambivalent status as pirate hero; the emergent ideology of separate public and private spheres; the eclipse in Jacksonian America of classical republicanism by a commercial republicanism valuing industry and labor over aristocratic leisure; and the celebration of masculine fraternity as a means of preserving American virtue in the face of these social pressures. While linked directly to the political context of its original publication and the presidential ambitions of Andrew Jackson, this short novella tells us much about the broader ideological function of the historical romance in antebellum America. It reveals to us how a "national" literature can appropriate and repackage a figure like Lafitte, whose folkloric appeal derives from regional, local affiliations, laundering his subversive elements to return him to the public sphere as a unifying, unified national hero.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-751
Number of pages36
JournalEarly American Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020


  • Andrew Jackson
  • Historical romance
  • Incorporation of Louisiana
  • Jean Lafitte
  • Nationalism
  • New Orleans
  • Piracy


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