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El Cazador... the Shipwreck that Changed the Course of History

A Shipwreck, the Louisiana Purchase… 
and a Guy Named “Al”

El Cazador Shipwreck Treasure Coins Spanish Reales Americas First Silver DollarFor over 300 years the Spanish ruled most of the Americas. In the mid-to-late 1700s, wars raged all over the world, many of them for control of the North American territories. The Seven Years’ War (between Great Britain, France and Spain) began in 1754, and was known as the French and Indian War in North America (if it sounds familiar, it’s because this is when “The Last of the Mohicans” is set).

NOLA Harpers RookeryBritain won the war in 1763, and Spain and Britain divided a vast area of New Wold land that had that belonged to France… a territory that ran from the Gulf Coast into Canada. The French called these lands Upper and Lower Louisiana.

Spanish LouisianaThe new territory of Spanish Louisiana, then inhabited by approximately 50,000 European settlers, extended from the Gulf of Mexico and the present day U.S. state of Louisiana, up to the Canadian border and encompassed over 800,000 square miles. During the American Revolutionary War the Spanish funneled supplies to the American rebels through New Orleans and the sprawling Louisiana territory beyond.

El Cazador Shipwreck Spanish Treasure Coin 1761 2 Reale Pillar Dollar 18K Gold and Sterling PendantAnd so the story goes…

that in the 1770s the territory’s economy was failing, and so Charles III of Spain ordered captain Gabriel de Campos y Pineda to sail the Spanish brig of war, El Cazador (The Hunter), to Veracruz, New Spain (present day Mexico), on 20 October 1783. There she was to be loaded with the prized silver Spanish “Pieces of Eight,” or, more properly, Reales. Most of the shinning silver coins were eight reales – the biggest of the Spanish Pieces of Eight – the size of a silver dollar, that were to be used to bolster Spanish Louisiana’s economy. On 11 January 1784, El Cazador set sail for New Orleans and was never heard from again.

El Cazador Shipwreck Spanish Treasure Coin JewelryOn a side note: The Spanish 8 Reale – or “Piece of Eight” was America’s first silver dollar. In fact, when it came time for the U.S. to mint their own silver dollars, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and others proposed the new coins be based on the world standard: the Spanish 8 Reale milled silver dollar. That’s why back in the day the U.S. was minting silver dollars, they were the same size as the legendary Piece of 8!

Discover what became of El Cazador and her shinning silver treasure here>>>

See our exclusive collection of El Cazador treasure coins from the salvage master’s collection here>>>

Nouvelle Orleans 1728 MapBut, back to our story…

In New Orleans, without the precious silver, the economy continued to fail, and in 1801, Spain gave the territory back to France in a secret treaty. Spain’s prime minister, Don Manuel Francisco Domingo de Godoy (di Bassano) y Álvarez de Faria, de los Ríos y Sánchez-Zarzosa (his friends called him Al), who signed the secret treaty, wrote about Louisiana: “...because of our lack of means to provide it with an increase at the same level of the other Spanish dominions of both Americas, not yielding much to our treasury, nor to our trade, and generating sizable expenses in money and soldiers without profit, and receiving other states in exchange of it, the return of the colony can be deemed as a gain, instead of a sacrifice.”

New Orleans ArchitectureSome historians speculate that had El Cazador made it to New Orleans, and its treasure been used to bolster the economy, Spain might not have given the territory back to France in 1801. And, in turn, the United States would not have been able to acquire it for 15 million dollars in 1803 (60 million francs) from the French.

Napoleon at St HeleneRemember, Napoleon was “the Man” in France in 1803 (The Napoleonic Wars raged from 1803-15), and the 60 million francs the U.S. paid him were supposed to be used for the construction of five new canals in France. Instead, Bonaparte spent the whole amount on his planned invasion of the United Kingdom (Great Britain became the United Kingdom in 1801), which, by the way, in case you missed it, was eventually scrapped.

New Orleans ResidenceAn interesting historical note… Those lovely historic buildings in the French Quarter? Yep, you guessed it! The majority of New Orleans’ oft-admired architectural style comes from Spain’s ownership of the city. And, in turn, the architecture displays touches of Moorish influence, but that is a story for another day.

New Orleans ViewSee our exclusive collection of El Cazador treasure coins from the salvage master’s collection here>>>

El Cazador Shipwreck Spanish Treasure Coin 1767 2 Reale Pillar Dollar 18K Gold and Sterling Pendant

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