1. Q: When did Jean come to the United States?
A: The earliest record of Jean Laffite in the United States is found in the federal district court documents relating to his arrest for smuggling in mid-November, 1812. Pierre Laffite's name appears somewhat earlier in notarial records, which suggests intermittent visits to Louisiana before 1812.
Some writers have suggested that the Laffites first arrived in Louisiana on board the French armed schooner La Soeur Cherie, which touched at New Orleans in April, 1804. However the identity of “Captain Lafette” is by no means clear: this may have been Louis-Joseph Laffitte, a notorious corsair in his own right (and not connected to the Baratarians). New Orleans newspapers and civil records contain a few references to a Pierre Lafitte who operated a blacksmith shop between 1802 and 1804--doubtless, this is the germ that grew into the legend of the “Laffite blacksmith shop” on Bourbon Street. This Pierre Lafitte, who was a native of Bayonne, later married Adelaide Maselari and lived quietly in New Orleans for many years--[Vogel.]
[Jack Ramsay, Jr., in Jean Laffite Prince of Pirates, states a belief that Pierre and Jean were in New Orleans when the transfer of the territory to the United States was made in 1803; that they spent a large part of their youth there having arrived in the 1780s. See the answer to question 2 above.
Stanley Faye in Privateers of the Gulf said that Jean was in New Orleans earlier. He referred to the Laffite blacksmith shop in 1805 (p.22), said Jean went to Barataria in 1807 (p. 25), and asserted that Barataria was flourishing in 1810 (pp. 37-8. Again, this is an area needing more careful research.--Ed.]
2. Q: How many slaves is Laffite responsible for bringing into the United States?
A: No tally has ever been attempted, but it is likely that several thousand Africans were illegally imported into Louisiana during the period between 1807 and 1821. Some, but by no means all, were smuggled in or sold by the Laffite brothers. A particularly large slave sale took place in January, 1814, when the Laffite brothers auctioned off 415 Africans at the “Temple” near modern Lake Salvador--[Vogel.]
3. Q: What was the Laffite brothers involvement with Champ d'Asile?
A: The Champ d'Asile affair took place while the Laffite brothers were in control of Galveston Island. The lead elements of this Napoleonic refugee expedition arrived in January, 1818, and set out to build a settlement on the Trinity River in early March. The Laffite brothers worked clandestinely with other Spanish secret agents to break up the military colony, which was viewed by the Spanish government as a potentially serious threat to the territorial integrity of New Spain - the United States government showed its concern by dispatching a secret agent, George Graham, to interview the Lallemand brothers and the Laffites. As things worked out, the Champ d'Asile project failed due to bad weather, poor logistical planning, and Spanish intervention. The Laffite brothers were unable to exploit the situation to their advantage--they were never reimbursed the $18,889 they claimed as out-of-pocket expenses. The Lallemand colonists evacuated Champ d'Asile in the Fall of 1818, and most of them were back in Louisiana by the end of the year--[Vogel.]
4. Q: Did the Laffites plan to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena?
A: There is no credible evidence to suggest that the Laffite brothers were personally involved in any scheme to rescue the Emperor from St. Helena, where he died on May 5, 1821 (the news reached New Orleans on August 15). Dominique You is rumored to have been involved with the scheme to outfit the schooner La Seraphine for a rescue mission--[Vogel.]