John Edward Bouligny

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John Edward Bouligny
John Edward Bouligny - Brady (crop).png
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 1st district
In office
December 5, 1859 – March 3, 1861
Preceded byGeorge Eustis Jr.
Succeeded byBenjamin Flanders (1862)
Personal details
Born(1824-02-05)February 5, 1824
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 1864(1864-02-20) (aged 40)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeCongressional Cemetery
Political partyAmerican
(m. 1860)
Alma materTransylvania University

John Edward Bouligny (February 5, 1824 – February 20, 1864) was an American politician who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the state of Louisiana. He served one term as a member of the Know Nothing movement's anti-immigrant American Party. During his term, Louisiana seceded from the Union, but Bouligny remained in Washington and refused to resign. He was the only member of Congress from Louisiana to not resign or vacate his seat after the state seceded.


Bouligny, who went by his middle name Edward, was born in New Orleans. He was son of Louisiana state Representative Louis Bouligny and Elizabeth Virginie D'Hauterive. His uncle, Charles Dominique Joseph Bouligny, had served one term as U.S. Senator from Louisiana in the 1820s and his grandfather, Francisco Bouligny, was a high-ranking colonial official and military governor of Spanish Louisiana in the late 18th century. Bouligny attended public schools in New Orleans before studying law and being admitted to the bar.[1][2] In 1852, he was appointed "assistant-appraiser of merchandize" for the U.S. Custom House in New Orleans by President Millard Fillmore.[3]

Bouligny became involved with Know Nothing politics in the 1850s and by 1855 was a party secretary in the state.[4] While the national American Party was firmly pro-Protestant, the Know Nothings found strong support in Louisiana, including in largely Catholic New Orleans.[5] In contrast to the national party, the Louisiana American Party refused to adopt a religious test for membership,[6] making it welcoming to pro-slavery, anti-immigrant former Whigs,[7] including Catholic Creoles like Bouligny.

Bouligny was elected recorder for the Fourth Municipal District of New Orleans in 1856,[8] making him responsible for trying and sentencing cases involving public nuisances and petty crimes.[9] The Fourth District was incorporated into New Orleans in 1852; prior to then it was Lafayette City, Jefferson Parish, and Bouligny's older brother, Francis, had served as its mayor.[10]


Bouligny's remarks on the secession of Louisiana

In 1859, in what was described as a "brisk, close and earnest" nomination contest, Bouligny was selected to run as the American Party candidate for Louisiana's 1st congressional district.[11] He defeated Judge T.G. Hunt Jr., an old-line Whig, and state Rep. Charles Didier Dreux. Bouligny edged Dreux by just two votes at the party convention.[12] Bouligny won the November election with plurality of 49.13% of the vote, defeating former Democratic representative Emile La Sére and States Rights candidate Charles Bienvenu.[13][14] During the 36th Congress, Bouligny sat on the House Committee on Private Land Claims.[15] According to GovTrack, Bouligny missed 197 of 433 roll call votes during his one term in Congress.[16]

In the 1860 presidential election, Bouligny publicly supported the Democratic candidate Stephen A. Douglas.[17]

Bouligny was strongly opposed to Louisiana's secession from the United States of America, stating in a speech before Congress on February 5, 1861, that he answered not to the Louisiana secession convention but to the people who elected him.[18] Bouligny went on to say that if his constituents called for him to step down, he would do so but would "remain a Union man."[19] Despite the rest of the Louisiana delegation resigning or vacating their seats after Louisiana withdrew from the Union on January 26, 1861, Bouligny remained in Congress until the expiry of his term on March 3, 1861.[20]

After secession[edit]

Bouligny returned to New Orleans and in November 1861 stood unsuccessfully for election as a justice of the peace.[21] Reportedly, Bouligny fought a number of duels (at least one per month between late 1861 and mid 1862)[22] due to his support for the Union. His left hand was shot through in a duel on December 29, 1861,[23] but he continued to duel into 1863 by which time his arm was also paralyzed.[24][25] He was referred to as "probably the most famous duelist in the State" by Confederate sailor James M. Morgan.[26]

In 1862, after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln engaged Bouligny to determine if Union-occupied New Orleans and other portions of Louisiana could hold early elections to send representatives to Congress.[27][28] Once elections were approved, Bouligny ran for reelection to his vacant seat in Congress, but was handily defeated by Benjamin Flanders who had the backing of the Union military governor of Louisiana, Benjamin Butler.[29] Bouligny won just 136 votes against Flanders's 2,184 votes.[30] Bouligny attributed his loss to interference by Butler in the election, which Butler denied,[31] and Bouligny was later (falsely) rumored to have shot Butler in a duel.[32] Although Lincoln had considered appointing Bouligny to a position at the Port of New Orleans after he left Congress, after Bouligny lost his bid for reelection Lincoln was less willing to find a patronage position for him.[33]

Bouligny later returned to Washington where he died at his father-in-law's house in February 1864.[34] He was interred in a Parker family plot at Congressional Cemetery.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Bouligny was multilingual. French and Spanish were used in his family home and in correspondence with cousins in Europe, while he used English in letters with his wife.[36] In Congress, he conducted business in English, although during the debate over the election of a speaker for the 36th Congress, Bouligny responded to a quip from Emerson Etheridge, who had said he called "every man my friend who wears an honest face, speaks the English language, swears by the Holy Bible, and does not spell Constitution with a 'K,'" by asking if he was excluded from the remarks "because I do not speak the English language."[15]

Bouligny arrived in Washington as a bachelor, but on May 1, 1860, he married Mary Elizabeth Parker, the daughter of Washington merchant George Parker.[37] The wedding was considered "perhaps the most brilliant wedding that has ever taken place in the Federal metropolis."[38] The event was attended by President James Buchanan, several cabinet secretaries, and numerous members of Congress. Years later, the wedding was misidentified as where Buchanan learned of South Carolina's secession; however, that did not happen until December 1860.[39]

The couple had two daughters, Corrine and Felicie.[2] Felicie's daughter, Odette Le Fontenay, was an opera singer in the 20th century.[40]

In 1867, as part of settling a long-standing property dispute, the 39th Congress passed an act, awarding one-sixth of the land granted to Jean Antoine Bernard D'Autrive in 1765 to Bouligny's widow, Mary Elizabeth, and their two daughters in recognition of his loyalty to the Union.[41] As the land was already deeded to others, however, the Bouligny heirs were entitled to claim 75,840 acres (30,690 ha) of public lands elsewhere in the country at a price of $1.25 per acre. The following year, the 40th Congress passed a joint resolution suspending the act.[42] When Mary Elizabeth, now married to George Levey, sought to claim the promised land in 1888, her petition was rejected by the Department of the Interior, a decision that was a year later affirmed by the Supreme Court.[43] During the 1876 presidential election, the Democratic Party noted that Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes's only speech before the House as a member of Congress was in support of revoking the act.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BOULIGNY, John Edward (1824–1864)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774–Present. Archived from the original on October 26, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Fontaine (1990). A History of the Bouligny Family and Allied Families. Lafayette, Louisiana: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana. pp. 297–303. ISBN 978-0-940984-51-6. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  3. ^ "Appointments". The New York Times. April 28, 1852. p. 2. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  4. ^ "Speech of Randell Hunt". The South-Western. Shreveport, Louisiana. September 5, 1855. Retrieved September 14, 2020 – via
  5. ^ Hall, Ryan M. (2015). A Glorious Assemblage: The Rise of the Know-Nothing Party in Louisiana (MA). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Archived from the original on March 18, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  6. ^ "American Convention". The South-Western. Shreveport, Louisiana. September 5, 1855. p. 1. Archived from the original on October 21, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020 – via That while we resist all encroachments of spiritual power upon our political rights, we disclaim the calumnious charge of our own opponents that we require a religious test to qualify native born citizens to hold office or enjoy the full rights of citizenship.
  7. ^ Tarver, Jerry L. (1964). A Rhetorical Analysis of Selected Ante-Bellum Speeches by Randell Hunt (PhD). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University. Archived from the original on June 19, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  8. ^ Martin, Fontaine (1988). "BOULIGNY, John Edward, congressman". In Conrad, Glenn R. (ed.). Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  9. ^ Norton, Francis (2021). "A Brief History of the Recorder's Courts of New Orleans". New Orleans, Louisiana: The Law Library of Louisiana. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  10. ^ Samuel, Martha Ann Brett; Samuel, Joseph Raymond (1961). The Great Days of the Garden District and the Old City of Lafayette. New Orleans, Louisiana: Parent's League of the Louise S. McGehee School. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  11. ^ The 1st District spanned "The parishes of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and that portion of the parish of Orleans which lies on the right bank of the Mississippi, and the said parish on the left bank below Canal street in the city of New Orleans, including said city below said street." — Wineberger, J.A., ed. (1861). Congressional Directory for the Second Session of the Thirty-Sixth Congress. Washington, D.C.: C. Bohn. p. 32. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  12. ^ "Nominations and City Politics". The Daily Delta. New Orleans, Louisiana. August 20, 1859. Retrieved September 14, 2020 – via
  13. ^ Greeley, Horace; Cleveland, John F. (1860). A Political Text-Book for 1860. New York, New York: The Tribune Association. p. 243. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  14. ^ "The Election in the First District". The Daily Delta. November 23, 1859. Retrieved September 14, 2020 – via
  15. ^ a b "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates: Bills and Resolutions, House of Representatives, 36th Congress". American Memory. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  16. ^ "Rep. John Bouligny". Civic Impulse LLC. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  17. ^ "Letter from J.E. Bouligny". Sugar Planter. West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. March 17, 1860. p. 1. Archived from the original on October 1, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  18. ^ Bouligny, John Edward (February 5, 1861). Remarks of Hon. J.E. Bouligny, on the Secession of Louisiana (Speech). House of Representatives. Washington, D.C. Retrieved May 9, 2021. I was not elected by that body, and I have nothing to do with it, or it with me.
  19. ^ Currie, David P. (2007). The Constitution in Congress: Descent into the Maelstrom, 1829-1861. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-226-13116-0. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  20. ^ "The National Troubles ... Withdrawal of Louisiana Members". The New York Times. February 2, 1861. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 6, 2023. The Louisiana delegation, except Mr. BOULIGNY, retire from Congress on Monday next, whether a certified copy of the ordinance be received or not. Mr. BOULIGNY says he wont withdraw until his District instructs him to do so.
  21. ^ "Candidate for Third Justice of the Peace". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana. October 31, 1861. p. 3. Archived from the original on October 27, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  22. ^ "Hon. J.E. Bouligny". Cleveland Daily Leader. Cleveland, Ohio. June 9, 1862. p. 1. Archived from the original on September 17, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  23. ^ "Duel". Le Meschacébé (in French). Vol. X, no. 1. Lucy, Louisiana. January 4, 1862. p. 2. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  24. ^ "Correspondence of the Courier". The Charleston Daily Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. January 8, 1862. p. 1. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  25. ^ "Late from New Orleans". Natchez Daily Courier. Natchez, Mississippi. January 14, 1863. p. 1. Archived from the original on September 17, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  26. ^ Morgan, James Morris (2003). Recollections of a Rebel Reefer. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books. p. 41. ISBN 0-7884-2306-1. OCLC 53447578.
  27. ^ Lincoln, Abraham (1894). "October 14, 1862 — Letter to General B.F. Butler and Others". In J.G. Nicolay & J. Hay (ed.). Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works, Comprising His Speeches, Letters, State Papers, and Miscellaneous Writings (Vol. 2). New York, New York: The Century Co. p. 247. Archived from the original on February 15, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  28. ^ McCrary, Peyton (1979). "War And Social Change: Benjamin F. Butler and the Assertion of Federal Power". Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction: The Louisiana Experiment. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 95. doi:10.1515/9781400870196-006. ISBN 978-1-4008-7019-6.
  29. ^ McCrary 1979, pp. 98–99.
  30. ^ "Election of Congressmen in New Orleans". The Lancaster Examiner. Lancaster, Pennsylvania. December 17, 1862. p. 2. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  31. ^ "From Washington: Gen. Butler to Return to New Orleans". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. January 24, 1863. p. 1. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  32. ^ "Reported Shooting of Gen. Butler". The Daily Delta. New Orleans, Louisiana. February 13, 1863. p. 2. Retrieved September 15, 2020 – via
  33. ^ Carman, Harry James; Luthin, Reinhard Henry (1964). Lincoln and the Patronage. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith. pp. 218–219. ISBN 978-0-8446-1101-3. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  34. ^ "Hon. John E. Bouligny". The Evening Star. Washington City, D.C. February 22, 1864. p. 2. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  35. ^ "Bouligney [sic], John Edward". Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  36. ^ Thomas, Jenelle Katherine (2017). "Vous êtes hombre de bien": A study of bilingual family letters to and from colonial Louisiana, 1748-1867 (PhD). Berkeley, California: University of California, Berkeley. Archived from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  37. ^ "A Marriage in Fashionable Life". The New York Times. May 2, 1860. p. 5. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  38. ^ "Marriage in High Life", Harper's Weekly, Harper's Magazine Company, May 12, 1860, p. 296, archived from the original on October 27, 2020, retrieved September 15, 2020
  39. ^ Boulard, Garry (2015). The Worst President—The Story of James Buchanan. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse. pp. 11–15. ISBN 978-1-4917-5962-2. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  40. ^ Pencalet, Hervé (March 26, 2016). "Odette Le Flaguais et Odette Le Fontenay sont la même personne" [Odette Le Flaguais and Odette Le Fontenay are the same person]. La généalogie d'Hervé (in French). Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  41. ^ Gates, Paul Wallace (1956). "Private Land Claims in the South". The Journal of Southern History. 22 (2): 183–204. doi:10.2307/2954238. ISSN 0022-4642. JSTOR 2954238.
  42. ^ Hunt, Gaillard (1925). Israel, Elihu and Cadwallader Washburn: A Chapter in American Biography. New York City, New York: The Macmillan Co. p. 365.
  43. ^ United States ex Rel. Levey v. Stockslager, 129 U.S. 470 (U.S. 1889).
  44. ^ Democratic National Committee (1876). "R. B. Hayes's Record". Why the People Want Change — The Republican Party Reviewed: Its Sins of Commission and Omission. New York: Democratic National Committee. pp. 60–62. Retrieved April 26, 2021.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
(Vacant 1861–1862)
Benjamin Flanders