William Charles Cole Claiborne 1812-1816
Born: 1775 in Sussex County, near Richmond, Virginia
Political Affiliation: Democratic-Republican
Religious Affiliation: Protestant
Education: Richmond Academy; William and Mary College
Career Prior to Term: Tennessee Congressman and Territorial Governor of Mississippi
How He Became Governor: Appointed by Thomas Jefferson as Territorial Governor; elected Governor of the state in 1812
Career after Term: United States Senator-Elect
Died: November 23, 1817 in New Orleans of a liver ailment
Thomas Jefferson sent Mississippi Territorial Governor William C. C. Claiborne to New Orleans to formally accept the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States. Claiborne was assisted by General James Wilkinson in administering the territory until the President named him the first Governor of the Territory of Orleans which is now the state of Louisiana. Claiborne held the office of Territorial Governor through the admission of Louisiana to the Union in 1812.
Before statehood, he presided over a Legislative Council which divided Louisiana into parishes, adopted a civil code and organized a public education system.
Claiborne's attempts to incorporate the Creole natives of Louisiana into a more democratic system included dividing juries between English-speaking and French-speaking people, conducting court in both English and French and publishing the civil code in each languages.
In 1811, Congress authorized Louisiana to draft a state constitution which was approved in 1812. Within weeks, the U.S. declared war on Great Britain. Claiborne organized the state militia and received information from Jean Lafitte about British plans to invade Louisiana. Claiborne and General Andrew Jackson worked together closely to prepare New Orleans,for British attack. After the Battle of Lake Borgne made Jackson aware of the British-position, he prepared a line of defense on the New Orleans side of the Chalmette Canal where the British were decisively defeated on January 8, 1815.
Claiborne had defeated Creole Jacques Villere to become the first elected governor of the State of Louisiana. He had to work all the harder to win the Creoles' allegiance to democratic government during the tough economic times caused by the British blockade of the Mississippi River. By the time Claiborne left office to secure a seat in the U.S. Senate, he had won the loyalty of the Creoles, including Villere. He died in 1817 at the age of 42.