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Louisiana ceded to France in 1800 — Excitement in the United States on the subject — Jefferson's letter to living ston — The Americans prohibited from New Orleans as a place of deposit — Great agitation in the west — Meeting of Congress in December — President's message — Action in Congress — Resolution calling for papers — Resolutions adopted by the House — Jefferson's opinion as to the object of the federalists — Monroe appointed minister plenipotentiary to France — Letter to Monroe — Great changes in affairs from apparently trivial eauBea — Napoleon's purpose in sending a military colony to Louisiana — How altered — Sudden and propitious turn in the tide of events—The American envoys — Letter from the president to De Nemours in Paris—Motions in Congress for calling out troops — Money voted—Livingston's labors in Paris — Arrival of Monroe — Rapid progress of negotiations — Final arrangements — England's acquiescence in this sale—Substance of the treaty — Importance of this transaction—Jefferson's gratulations — His views as to the course to be pursued in Congress — Letter to Breckenridge—Tucker's opinions — The treaty ratified in October — Jefferson's letter to Lincoln on the constitutional question — Complaints of Spain—Meeting of Congress in October — The message—Movements in the House — Large majority in favor of the treaty — Purchase money voted — Claiborne and Wilkiunn American commissioners —Monette's account of the final transfer, in December, to the United States — Views oi the federalists as given by Dr. Sullivan — J. Q. Adams on this whole subject.

By a secret treaty, in the year 1800, Spain had ceded the province of Louisiana to France. So soon as this fact became known in the United States, • which was in the spring of 1802, it excited immediate anxiety and alarm. For the possession of the port of New Orleans, and the ri$?ht to the

1802* . • ....

navigation of the Mississippi, were indispensable to the prosperity, and even the quiet of the great west. It was perceived, too, at once, that the substitution of France for Spain, in a position so vitally momentous to the United States, could not be regarded with indifference, and that some steps must speedily be taken in respect to the existing condition of affairs. Collision would be certain to occur at no distant day, if the question should not be amiVol. III.—5

cably settled in the mean time ; and so lively and general were the apprehensions of the power and activity of France, that, it is believed, the American people would have been willing to incur the certain evils of war at once, rather than run the risk of the dangers which they apprehended. It was well for our country and her interests, that by a remarkable and wholly unlookedfor change of policy on the part of Napoleon, Mr. Jefferson was enabled to avail himself of the opening to settle this disputed question.

On the 18th of April, 1802, the president Wrote a long letter to Mr. Livingston in Paris, on the subject of the cession of Louisiana to France, in which, with his usual perspicacity, he pointed out the new attitude which

France would henceforth assume towards the United States; and he enlarged upon the inevitable consequences that must ensue, should France persist in what would appear to be her present policy, viz., an alliance between the United States and Great Britain. "Every eye in the United States," he says, in concluding his letter, "is now fixed on the affairs of Louisiana. Perhaps nothing since the Revolutionary War, has produced more uneasy sensations through the body of the nation, and in spite of our temporary bickerings with France, she still has a strong hold on our affections*

At a later date, in a letter to the same gentleman, the president adverted to the fact, that the French government acted in a way which plainly showed their feelings to be decidedly unfriendly. Cautioning Livingston as to the line of conduct to be pursued, so as not to commit the country in the disputes between France and England, he directed him to "give all his communications to the French government a very mild, complaisant, and

* Mr. Jefferson was excessively annoyed by the abuse heaped upon him by a fellow named Callender, who, from abusing his opponents, turned upon Jefferson himself, and poured out upon him the full measure of his vindictive fury, because the president would not bestow upon him the postmastcrship of Richmond. "You will have seen by our newspapers," Jefferson wrote to Livingston, "that, with the aid of a lying rcnegado from republicanism, the federalists have opened all their sluices of calumny. They say, we lied them out of power, and openly avow they will do the same by us. But it was not lies, or arguments, on our part which dethroned them, but their own foolish acts, alien laws, taxes, extravagances, and heresies." Tucker's "Life of Jefferson" voL ii., pp. 119 121.

even friendly connection, but always independent."

On the 16th of October, Morales, the Spanish intendant of the province of Louisiana, issued a proclamation, prohibiting the Americans from further use of New Orleans as a place of deposit. This measure produced great excitement throughout the west. The governor of Kentucky wrote to the president, on the 30th of November, informing him of the alarm and agitation in that state; and on the 1st of December the legislature memorialized Congress on the subject. These circumstances added to Mr. Jefferson's desire to obtain the cession of New Orleans to the United States.

The second session of the seventh Congress commenced some days later than usual, no quorum being present on the 6th of December. On the 15th the president sent in his mes


sage, which was chiefly occupied with the relations of the Union with other nations. It also referred to the dealings of the state of Georgia with the Indians; and to Indian affairs in other parts of the long western border line. It congratulated them on the prosperous state of the federal finances and suggested one of the president's schemes about the navy. Opening with congratulations, and remarking, "with special satisfaction, those pleasing circumstances which, under the smiles of Providence, result from the skill, industry, and order of our citizens, managing their own affairs, in their own way, and for their own use; unembarrassed by too much regulation, unoppressed by fiscal exactions;"—it closed in a Ch. II.]

similar vein, with an enumeration of "the land-marks by which we are to guide ourselves in all our proceedings," amongst which is specified as one,— '• to keep in all things within the pale of our constitutional powers, and cherish the federal Union, as the only rock of safety." The message met with some sharp criticism from the federalists, and the president's ideas on the subject of dry docks for the navy, afforded a fine opportunity to indulge in ridicule and witticism.

It was, however, the closing of the port of New Orleans that engrossed the minds of all men; and they looked, with natural anxiety, to Congress for some elucidation of the affair. On the l7th of December, the House of Representatives called on the president for information on the subject of the supposed violation, on the part of Spain, of the twenty-second article of the treaty of 1795. On the 22d, the fact that the Mississippi was virtually closed to American trade, was formally notified to Congress, by the president, in reply.

On the 5th of January, Mr. Griswold, of Connecticut, moved, that the president be called upon to lay before the House such official documents as he possessed, announcing the cession of Louisiana to France; together with a report explaining the stipulations, circumstances, and conditions, under which the province was to be given up ; "with the usual reservation," adds Mr. Tucker, "as to what the president should think it improper to communicate. This resolution, being deemed by the republican party likely


to embarrass the pending negotiation, and probably it was so intended by its supporters, was opposed, and finally rejected. Mr. Griswold, at the same time, offered other resolutions, asserting the right of the people of the United States to the navigation of the Mississippi, its recent obstruction by Spain, and proposing an inquiry imo the measures proper to be taken for the maintenance of this right. The majority refused to consider the resolutions, but afterwards agreed with closed doors to the following substitute," (7 th January.)

"Hesolved,—That this House receive, with great sensibility, the information of a disposition in certain officers of the Spanish government, at New Orleans, to obstruct the navigation of the River Mississippi, as secured to the United States by the most solemn stipulations :—

"That, adhering to that humane and wise policy, which ought ever to characterize a free people, and by which the United States have always preferred to be governed; willing, at the same time, to ascribe this breach of compact to the unauthorized misconduct of certain individuals, rather than to a want of good faith on the part of His Catholic Majesty; and relying, with perfect confidence, on the vigilance and wisdom of the executive, they will wait the issue of such measures as that department of the government shall have pursued, for asserting the rights and vindicating the injuries of the United States;—holding it to be their duty, at the same time, to express their unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries, and the rights of navigation and commerce, through the River Mississippi, as established by existing treaties."*


Mr. Jefferson, whose suspicions of the federalists were never at rest, seemed to think, that the obiect of the opposition was, to force the country into a war with Spain, "in order to derange our finances," or if that could not be done, "to attach the western country to them, as their best Mends, and thus get again into power." Which latter supposition may have some show of reason; although other and nobler motives, we think, might account for their actions in the matter. With a view of carrying his pacific policy into effect, the president, on the 10th of January, appointed Mr. Monroe (whose term of office, as Governor of Virginia, had recently ended) minister plenipotentiary to France, to act with Mr. Livingston, in the purchase of New Orleans and the Floridas; for, as he observed, in writing to Monroe, upon the appointment, "the measures previously pursued by the administration, being invisible, did not satisfy the minds of the western people; consequently, something sensible had become necessary."

The president was very earnest in urging Mr. Monroe to accept this appointment. "On the event of this mission," he wrote, "depend the future destinies of this republic. If we cannot, by a purchase of the country, insure to ourselves a course of perpetual peace, and friendship with all nations, then

» Fucker's "Life of Jefferson," voL ii., p. 125.

as war cannot be distant, [as the rupture of the peace of Amiens Sood showed,] it behoves us immediately tc be preparing for that course, without, however, hastening it; and it may be necessary (on your failure on the continent) to cross the channel. We shall get entangled in European politics, and, figuring more, be much less happy and prosperous. This can only be prevented by a successful issue to your present mission."

There can be no doubt, that Napoleon purposed to take possession of Louisiana, and one part of the fleet which he despatched under Le Clerc to reduce St. Domingo, was destined for this service. And there can be as little doubt, that had that object been accomplished, before the end of the next year, it would have been con quered by Great Britain; and the whole course of subsequent history must have been quite different from what it was.

How singular are the changes produced in the history of the world by what aeem.to be very slight and insufficient causes! The military colony of twenty thousand men was on the eve of embarkation, and Napoleon had resolved to make this colony, in the centre of the western hemisphere, the stand for a lever to wield at his pleasure the destinies of the globe. A petty squabble with England about the Island of Malta, deranged his plans, and he formed another resolve, viz., to rival his great prototype, Julius Csesar, by the invasion and conquest of England. In order to do this, he could not spare his veterans to run the risk of a voyage across the Atlantic; for England waa

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mistress of the seas, and would certainly have wrested Louisiana from him without fail. Napoleon therefore abandoned his projects of conquest and glory in America, and, -as money was in demand to enable him to carry forward his vast schemes of ambition and dominion, he suddenly resolved to offer the colony of Louisiana for sale to the United States.

"Never in the fortunes of mankind," as John Quincy Adams forcibly says, "was there a more sudden, complete, and propitious turn in the tide of events than this change in the purposes of Napoleon proved to the administration of Mr. Jefferson. The wrangling altercation with Spain for the navigation of the Mississippi, had been adjusted during the administration of Washington, by a treaty which had conceded to them the right, and stipulated to make the enjoyment effective, of deposit at New Orleans. In repurchasing from Spain the colony of Louisiana, Napoleon, to disencumber himself from the burden of this stipulation, and to hold in his hand a rod over the western section of the Union, had compelled the dastardly and imbecile monarch of Spain to commit an act of perfidy, by withdrawing from the people of the United States this stipulated right of deposit, before delivering the possession of the colony to France. The great artery of the commerce of the Union was thus choked in its circulation. The sentiment of surprise, of alarm, of indignation, was instantaneous and universal among the people, (as has been pointed out on a previous page.) The hardy and enterprizing settlers of

the western country could hardly be restrained from pouring down the swelling floods of their population, to take possession of New Orleans itself by the immediate exercise of the rights of war. A war with Spain must have been immediately followed by a war with France; which, however just the cause of the United States would have been, must necessarily give a direction to public affairs adverse to the whole system of Mr. Jefferson's policy, and in all probability, prove fatal to the success of his administration. Instigations to immediate war were at once attempted in Congress (p. 35,) and were strongly countenanced by the excited temper of the people."*

The president, as we have noted on a previous page, appointed Mr. Monroe minister plenipotentiary to France. With him he joined Mr. Livingston, already on the ground, and they both were commissioned to treat with Spain as well as France, remonstrating against the withdrawal of the right of deposit, and proposing anew the purchase of the Island of New Orleans. Besides the two envoys, ordinary and extraordinary, Mr. Jefferson relied on the good offices of M. Dupont de Nemours, whose residence in America, and whose standing in his own country, gave him peculiar advantages for acting as a mediator in a case that required some delicacy of treatment; and upon the issue of which so much hung. To this gentleman he addressed a letter, in which he endeavored to possess him with the opinions which he thought might be

* Adams's "Life of James Madison," pp. 81-82.

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