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French Legation Museum, Austin

July 23, 2014 7 Comments

There is only one foreign diplomatic residence in the United States outside of Washington, DC. It was the home of the French government’s embassy to the Republic of Texas.  The Republic only existed between 1836 and 1846.  The city of Austin was a town of about 800 people, including slaves.  The French wanted to trade with the Republic because they built ships and wanted the wood in Texas.  They believed the Texans, with a long shoreline, needed ships. They also thought the people on the frontier would buy French wine.  They sent a young man in the diplomatic corps from Washington, DC to Galveston to do a study to determine the feasibility of setting up a relationship with Texas.  This man was Alphonse DuBois.  He came back with  glowing report, and landed the job of charge d’affaires to the Republic of Texas for himself.   His diplomatic skills, or his ability to adjust to life on the frontier, were lacking.  He bought a giant piece of land above the town and built a grand Creole style home for himself.  He got into a serious altercation with a local about some pigs who broke into his corn.  This became the Pig War, and was the downfall of Mr DuBois.  He left for New Orleans, supposedly for his health, but when he returned to Austin Sam Houston was carrying on most of the Republic’s business in Travis County.  His career was never the same after that.  He was eventually recalled to France.

A visit to the French Legation Museum is well worth the time.  The guided tour, which is done very professionally, is only $5, which hardly pays for the air conditioning while you are there.  On the second and fourth Sundays of the month real French people show up to play pantenque and have a potluck.  The public is invited to participate.  The park’s outdoor spaces are open to the public.  They have an agreement with a group of sculptors who maintain a high quality display of local artists’ work on the grounds.  It is a very special place to visit. The front porch has a protected view of the capital building, which is pretty sweet.  Nobody can build anything that blocks the view.

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