New Orleans Public Library
|Administrations of the Mayors of New Orleans|
James Pitot (1784-1831)
James Pitot was born in Normandy in 1784, a descendant of a distinguished French family, the founder of which was Ti-Pitot, who commanded a squadron of cavalry in the Seventh Crusade.|
One of his ancestors, Antoine Pitot d’Aramon, in order to avoid the religious quarrels then in progress in certain parts of France, moved to Languedoc at the beginning of the sixteenth century and thereafter the family was identified with that province. The father of the new Mayor was born in Languedoc in 1695 and died in 1771. He was inspector in the Army of the famous Marshal de Saxe, distinguished himself as an engineer and scientist, and became a member of the French Academy.
James Pitot received his education at one of the best schools in Paris and at the outbreak of the French Revolution this young French nobleman was forced to flee. He was taken to Santo Domingo from where he moved to Philadelphia and finally to Norfolk, Virginia. He accompanied Roffignac to Louisiana and both became wealthy merchants in the city of their adoption as well as Mayors of New Orleans during the early days of the American Domination.
New Orleans, a provincial French and Spanish city already a century old before it became a part of the United States, received its first charter under the American regime from the legislature of the territory of Orleans in 1805. The city seal, much in its present design, dates from February 17, 1805, at which time the legislature council of the territory of Orleans authorized the Mayor of New Orleans to procure and use a seal on all official acts and documents.
In early manhood, James Pitot went into the cotton business in partnership with Daniel Clark, at the corner of Toulouse and Burgundy Streets. He built one of the first cotton presses in New Orleans.
Armand Pitot, his son, was a distinguished lawyer of the Louisiana Bar and became clerk of the Supreme Court in 1830. Born in New Orleans in 1803, he married a daughter of Montegut, “fils,” sister of the wife of Felix Grima. His career was as distinguished as his father’s. For thirty years or more he was the legal advisor of some of the most prominent banks in the city, notably the Citizens Bank. He died in 1885 at the age of 81 years.
Gustave Pitot, the great-grandson of James Pitot and the third generation of this name in New Orleans, was for many years manager of the Savings Department of the Citizens Bank, one of the oldest financial institutions in the city.
James Pitot was appointed the second mayor of New Orleans, serving from June 2, 1804 to July 26, 1805. In his message of resignation to the Governor he stated: “My affairs not allowing me to fulfill the function of Mayor, I am forced to tender herewith my resignation, appreciating all the marks of kindness and of confidence which I received at your hands, I beg you to accept my sincere appreciation.” In this graceful and ceremonious way such things were done in those days. A little later, however, Pitot was able to accept another, though less burdensome post when Governor Claiborne appointed him Judge of the first Probate Court of the territory. He remained on the bench until his death, November 4, 1831.
His career is signalized by the incorporation of the Municipal Council and the first steps taken towards substituting an elective magistracy for the appointive one.
On March 26, 1804, during Pitot’s administration, Congress divided the province of Louisiana into two parts, the upper being annexed to the Indiana territory, and the lower part, which corresponds in boundaries to what is now the State of Louisiana, was made into the territory of Orleans. New Orleans was made the port of entry and delivery.
On October 1st, the new government went into effect, Claiborne was retained as Governor. He took the oath before Mayor Pitot and then delivered an ovation in English, afterwards translated into flowery French. In early March, the Territorial Council furnished the city with a charter. With the adoption of its nineteen sections, determining the area of municipalities, the real history of New Orleans, distinguished from the remainder of the province, it said to have begun.
|Members of the Pitot Administration|
June 2, 1804-July 26, 1805
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