Don Juan Manuel de Salcedo, a Brigadier-General in the armies of Spain, arrived in Louisiana about the 15th of June, 1801, to act as governor of the provinces of Louisiana and West Florida; and his predecessor, the Marquis de Casa Calvo, who, it will be remembered, had entered on the duties of his office in the fall of 1799, sailed immediately for Havana.
The Americans, as neighbors, had always been considered as very unsafe for Louisiana, and one of Salcedo's first measures was directed to check what he thought to be the dangerous designs of some men belonging to that nation. Thus, in a despatch of the 13th of July, he informed his government that he had sent up to Natchitochesº all that was necessary to arm and equip the militia of that district,1 "with the view of counteracting the projects of the American bandit, Philip Nolan, who had introduced himself into the interior of the provinces of New Spain, with thirty-six armed men."
Although it had been the policy of the head of the French government to conceal from the public his transactions with the court of Madrid in relation to Louisiana, p448 still some knowledge of it had at last transpired, and Mr. Rufus King, the United States Minister at London (for they had none at the time at Paris), wrote the following despatch to the Secretary of State at Washington, on the 29th of March, 1801:
"In confirmation of the rumors of the day, Carnot's answer to Bailleul, published during the exile of the former, states the project which had been discussed in the Directory, to obtain from Spain a cession of Louisiana and the Floridas. A reference to that performance, copies of which I, at the time, sent to the department of State, will show the manner in which it was expected to obtain the consent of Spain, as well as afford a clue to the views of France in seeking this establishment. What was then meditated has, in all probability, since been executed. The cession of Tuscany to the Infant, Duke of Parma, by the treaty between France and Austria, forms a more compact and valuable compensation to this branch of the house of Spain than was formerly thought of; and adds very great credit to the opinion which, at this time, prevails both at Paris and London, that Spain has, in return, actually ceded Louisiana and the Floridas to France. There is reason to know that it is the opinion of certain influential persons in France, that nature has marked a line of separation between the people of the United States living upon the two sides of the range of mountains which divides their territory. Without discussing the considerations which are suggested in support of this opinion, or the false consequences, as I wish to believe them, deduced from it, I am apprehensive that this cession is intended to have, and may actually produce, effects injurious to the Union and consequent happiness of the people of the United States. Louisiana and the Floridas may be given to the French emigrants, as England once thought of p449 giving them to the American Tories: or they may constitute the reward of some of the armies which can be spared at the end of the war.
"I learn that General Collot, who was a few years ago in America, and a traveller in the Western country, and who, for some time, has been in disgrace and confinement in France, has been lately set at liberty; and that he, with a considerable number of disaffected and exiled Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, is soon to proceed from France to the United States. Whether their voyage has any relation to the cession of Louisiana is a matter of mere conjecture; but, having heard of it in connexion with that project, I think proper to mention it to you.
"What effect a plain and judicious representation upon this subject, made to the French government by a minister of talents and entitled to confidence, would be likely to have, is quite beyond any means of judging which I possess; but on this account, as well as on others of importance, it is a subject of regret that we have not such a character at this time at Paris."
On the 1st of June, Mr. King, resuming the same subject, said:
"On this occasion, among other topics of conversation, his Lordship (Hawkesbury) introduced the subject of Louisiana. He had, from different quarters, received information of its cession to France, and very unreservedly expressed the reluctance with which they should be led to acquiesce in a measure that might be followed by the most important consequences. The acquisition might enable France to extend her influence and perhaps her dominion up the Mississippi, and through the lakes, even to Canada. This would be realizing the plan, to prevent the accomplishment of which, the Seven Years' War took place; besides, the vicinity of the Floridas to the West Indies, and the facility with which the p450 trade of the latter might be interrupted, and the islands even invaded, should the transfer be made, were strong reasons why England must be unwilling that the territory should pass under the dominion of France. As I could not mistake his Lordship's object in speaking to me on this subject, I had no difficulty or reserve in expressing my private sentiments respecting it; taking for my text the observation of Montesquieu, 'that it is happy for trading powers, that God has permitted Turks and Spaniards to be in the world, since of all nations they are the most proper to possess a great empire with insignificance.' The purport of what I said was, that we are contented that the Floridas remain in the hands of Spain, but should not be willing to see them transferred, except to ourselves."
On the 9th of June, Mr. Madison, the Secretary of State, addressed Mr. Pinckney, the American Minister at Madrid, in these terms:
"On different occasions since the commencement of the French revolution, opinions and reports have prevailed, that some part of the Spanish possessions, including New Orleans and the mouth of the Mississippi, had been or was to be transferred to France. Of late, information has been received through several channels, making it probable that some arrangement for that purpose has been concerted. Neither the extent of the cession, however, nor the consideration on which it is made, is yet reduced to certainty and precision. The whole subject will deserve and engage your early and vigilant inquiries, and may require a very delicate and circumspect management."
Alarmed at the consequences of a cession of Louisiana by Spain to France, the government of the United States lost no time in sending a minister to France, and gave that important mission to Robert R. Livingston. On the 28th of September, 1801, the Secretary of State wrote p451 to him:
"From different sources information has been received that, by some transaction concluded, or contemplated, between France and Spain, the mouth of the Mississippi, with certain portions of adjacent territory, is to pass from the hands of the latter to the former nation. Such a change of our neighbors in that quarter is of too momentous concern not to have engaged the most serious attention of the Executive. It was accordingly made one of the subjects of instruction to Mr. Pinckney, our minister plenipotentiary at the Court of Madrid. You will find an extract of the passage hereto annexed, No. 1. A paragraph connected with the same subject, in a letter to Mr. King, is also extracted and annexed, No. 2. In these extracts you will see the ideas entertained by the Executive, and the general considerations which it is presumed will have most tendency to dissuade the parties from adhering to their object. As soon as you shall have prepared the way by the necessary inquiries at Paris, it will be proper for you to break the subject to the French Government, and to make the use of those considerations most likely to give them full weight."
When the anxieties of the United States Government were thus excited, preliminaries of peace were signed between France and England, on the 1st of October, 1801; and the former power was secretly preparing to avail itself of its treaty with Spain in relation to Louisiana, of the 1st of October, 1800, which had been renewed in all its dispositions on the 21st of March, 1801. Mr. King, the American Minister at London, succeeded in procuring a copy of that secret treaty, and forwarded it to Washington city, with the following note to the Secretary of State, dated on the 20th of November:
"If the annexed copy of the treaty2 between France and p452 Spain, respecting the establishment of the Prince of Parma in Tuscany, be genuine of which I have no reason to doubt, you will perceive the value which these powers seem to have placed upon Louisiana, the cession whereof to France is confirmed by the 7th article of this treaty.
"I am in hopes that I shall be able to obtain and send you a copy of the treaty ceding Louisiana to France. This would enable us to determine whether it includes New Orleans and the Floridas.
[. . .]
"It is not a little extraordinary that, during the whole negotiation between France and England, not a word was mentioned on either side respecting Louisiana, though this government was not ignorant of the views of France in this quarter."
In the meantime, Mr. Livingston had arrived in Paris, where his presence was so much wanted, and on the 12th of December, said in a despatch to Mr. Madison: "In addition to what I wrote yesterday, I have only to mention, that I am more and more confirmed, notwithstanding what I there say of the minister's assurance, that Louisiana is a favorite object, and that they will be unwilling to part with it on the condition I mentioned. Speaking of the means of paying their debts to one of their ministers, yesterday, I hinted at this. His answer was: 'None but spendthrifts satisfy their debts by selling their lands;' adding, however, after a short pause, 'but it is not ours to give.' "
On the 30th of the same month, Mr. Livingston communicated his views to Mr. Rufus King at London, on the important subject which so keenly excited the attention of the government of the United States:
"I took occasion," said he, "on my first private audience of the Minister of Exterior Relations, to press him directly upon the subject, taking the common reports as a foundation p453 to my inquiry. He explicitly denied that anything had been concluded, but admitted that it had been a subject of conversation. I know, however, from a variety of channels, that it is not a mere matter of conversation, but that the exchange has actually been agreed upon; that the armament destined, in the first instance, for Hispaniola, is to proceed to Louisiana, provided Toussaint makes no opposition. General Collot, whom you may have seen in America, was originally intended for governor of the province, but he is, apparently, out of favor. I think it probable the minister will justify his concealment to me, by its not having been definitely closed with Spain, as this, though determined between the two governments, may form an article in the general treaty. His absence (being at Lyons) prevents my coming to something more explicit with him. That Spain has made this cession (which contravenes all her former maxims of policy), cannot be doubted: but she is no longer a free agent.
"I wish to know from you in what light this is seen by England. It will certainly, in its consequences, be extremely dangerous to her, as it will give an almost unbounded power to her rival.
"It puts Spain in a perpetual state of pupilage, since she must always tremble for the safety of her colonies, in case of rupture. To avoid this evil, she must grant every commercial and political advantage to France. Her manufactures will find their way, through this channel, into every part of the Spanish territory, to the exclusion of those of Britain. Our Western territory may be rendered so dependent upon them as to promote their political views, while the interest they have always nurtured with the Indians, and the natural character of the peasantry of Canada, may render the possessions of Britain very precarious, to say nothing of the danger p454 which must threaten her islands, in case a respectable establishment should be made by France in Louisiana, which will not fail to be the case, as the territory is uncommonly fine, and produces sugar, and every article now cultivated in the islands.
"I suggest these hints, that they, with many others which may occur to you, may be made use of with the British ministry, to induce them to throw all the obstacles in their power in the way of a final settlement of this business, if it is not already too late. You know, however, the importance of not appearing yourself, or permitting me to appear much opposed to it, if you find the thing concluded, since it might be made use of to embroil us with France, and Britain will have sufficient address to endeavor to keep up a mutual jealousy, if possible, between us."
On the following day (31st of December), he wrote to Mr. Madison: "The business of Louisiana is very disagreeable to Spain, as far as I can learn. If it should be equally so to Britain, perhaps it may meet with some obstacles. It is a favorite measure here. Marbois told me yesterday it was considered important to have an outlet for their turbulent spirits; yet would not explicitly acknowledge that the business had been concluded."
In the fall of this year, the Intendant of Louisiana, Don Ramon de Lopez y Angullo, surrendered his office into the hands of Don Juan Ventura Morales, the comptroller, who was to fulfil his functions ad interim, and prepared to depart for Spain. But, in settling his accounts, it seems that he got into serious difficulties with his successor, who brought some accusation against him before the Spanish ministry. In answer to it, Lopez complained bitterly of Morales, who, he said, threw3 in p455 his way interminable delays and litigation on the clearest and most insignificant points, and on grounds which were unfounded and unjust. "Wherefore," continued he, "considering that the crafty and intense malignity of Morales and of his satellite, the assessor (Serano) who is also my mortal enemy, know no bounds, I again beg your excellency (the minister in Spain) to suspend your decision until," &c. &c.
Governor Salcedo seems not to have been very well pleased with the spirit which prevailed in the colony; for, in a despatch of the 2d of March, 1802, he violently complained of the choice made by the Cabildo, or city council of New Orleans, of one Jose Martinez de la Pedrera, as their assessor, and he even begged leave to drive him out of the colony. He represented that this individual, ever since his arrival from Bayamo, had busied himself in raising up parties, in fomenting dissensions and in breathing the fire of discord into the breasts of the principal members of the community, and had treated with proud contempt the only two men learned in the law who were to be found in the province. He added: "It is important to repress4 the pen and tongue of the said Pedrera, who is a bold man, and a dangerous character among a population, the larger portion of which is composed of foreigners, disagreeing in their religious opinions and customs, whose natural dispositions are opposed to a prudent and gentle submission to the laws, and who are anxious to introduce innovations harmonizing with the maxims of liberty which favor, as they p456 imagine, their tastes and caprices." The Governor probably alluded in this despatch to the Americans, whose number was daily increasing in New Orleans.
The fact is, that rumors of the cession of Louisiana to France had reached that province, and had produced a deep sensation and a variety of feelings among its motley population. The Americans were not the least excited, and showed themselves very hostile to the contemplated measure. That class of the population had always been looked upon with a suspicious eye by the Spanish Government, which now became more averse than ever to permitting their number to increase, particularly on account of the critical situation in which Louisiana was placed; for this reason, the Baron de Bastrop having ceded to Moorhouse,5 a citizen of the United States, a part of the large grant he had obtained from the Baron de Carondelet, in 1796, on the Ouachita, the king disapproved of this arrangement, and, by a royal decree of the 18th of July, 1802, forbade the grant of any land in Louisiana to a citizen of the United States.
Acting under the influence of the same policy, and in order to prevent the afflux of Americans to New Orleans at a time which involved particular difficulties, the intendant Morales issued an order suspending the right of deposit at that town, by a proclamation of the 16th of October, 1802. This measure was extremely prejudicial to New Orleans, where it almost produced a famine by stopping the supplies of flour and other Western produce necessary for the daily sustenance of its population.
When this news reached the Western people, they were fired with indignation at an act which suspended their commerce with New Orleans, and deprived them of an outlet without which they could hardly exist. p457 Numerous appeals, petitions, and even violent threats were addressed to the general government on the subject, and the protracted embarrassments of the West were exposed to the whole people of the United States in so impressive a manner, as to command their deep attention and to force the government into immediate and energetic action. Here is a specimen of the language used on the occasion: "The Mississippi," said the Western people, "is ours6 by the law of nature; it belongs to us by our numbers, and by the labor which we have bestowed on those spots which, before our arrival, were desert and barren. Our innumerable rivers swell it, and flow with it into the Gulf of Mexico. Its mouth is the only issue which nature has given to our waters, and we wish to use it for our vessels. No power in the world shall deprive us of this right. We do not prevent the Spaniards and French from ascending the river to our towns and villages. We study in our turn to descend it without any interruption to its mouth, to ascend it again, and exercise our privilege of trading on it and navigating it at our pleasure. If our most entire liberty in this matter is disputed, nothing shall prevent our taking possession of the capital, and, when we are once masters of it, we shall know how to maintain ourselves there. If Congress refuses us effectual protection, if it forsakes us, we will adopt the measures which our safety requires, even if they endanger the peace of the Union and our connection with the other States. No protection, no allegiance."a
Serano, the assessor of the intendancy, having died on the 1st of December, 1802, Morales, in consequence of this event, says Judge Martin in his History of Louisiana, closed the tribunal of affairs and causes relating to p458 the grants of royal lands and the compositions thereto appertaining, because the ordinance for the intendants of New Spain provided that, for conducting the affairs of that tribunal and substantiating its acts, there should be the concurrence of such a character. This measure also produced no small inconvenience to the public.
But let us return to Europe and see what was passing there in relation to Louisiana. The American ministers had not been sleeping at their posts, and Mr. Livingston had, on the 13th of January, 1803, thus addressed the Secretary of State at Washington: "My former letters left you little doubt on the subject of the cession of Louisiana. By the inclosed copy of the late treaty between France and Spain, you will find that it is a transaction of pretty long standing.
"The absence of the minister prevents my applying to him for the former treaty, which he will hardly know how to give me after absolutely denying that any had been formed on the subject. By the secrecy and duplicity practised relative to this subject, it is clear to me that they apprehend some opposition on the part of America to their plans."
Two days after, Mr. King communicated also his views on the subject to Mr. Madison: "I have before mentioned to you that the cession of Louisiana (of which it seems to me we can have no doubt, notwithstanding what may be said to amuse us) was not once a topic of inquiry or discussion in the negotiation of the preliminaries;7 and, for the same reason that it was not heard of on that occasion, Lord Hawkesbury has recently informed me that it had not been, and would not be, mentioned at Amiens.8 It is impossible for me to suppose p459 collusion in this affair, and my persuasion, after the most careful attention, is, that England abstains from mixing herself in it, precisely from those considerations which have led her to acquiesce in others of great importance to the balance of Europe, as well as her own repose, and upon which she has been altogether silent."
The studied reserve of the Spanish and French governments, and the mystery with which they had shrouded this late transaction, were but too well calculated to excite the anxieties of the American Ministers at Paris, Madrid, and London, and they were exceedingly desirous of ascertaining whether the treaty of cession between France and Spain included not only Louisiana but also the two Floridas. On the 20th of February, Mr. Livingston addressed to the Minister of Exterior Relations the following note:
"The undersigned, &c., [. . .] has seen, with some concern, the reserve of the French government, with respect to the cession they have received from Spain of Louisiana.
"He had hoped that they would have found a propriety in making such frank and open communications to him, as would have enabled him to satisfy the government of the United States, that neither their boundary, nor the navigation of the Mississippi, secured by their treaties with Spain, would be, in any way, affected by the measure. It would also have been very satisfactory to him to have taken such arrangements with the Minister of Exterior Relations as would have had a tendency to dissipate the alarms the people of the Western territory of the United States will not fail to feel, on the arrival of a large body of French troops in their vicinity; alarms which will be increased by the exertions of those powers that are interested in keeping the two Republics from cementing their connexion. The policy of the former government of France led it to avoid all ground of controversy with p460 the United States, not only by declining to possess any territory in their neighborhood, but also by stipulating never to hold any. The undersigned does not, by this reference to the 6th article of the treaty of 1778, mean to claim any rights under it, since by the convention of Paris, September 30th, 1800, it is understood to be revoked; but merely to lead the French government to reflect, how far a regard to the same policy might render it conducive to the mutual interest of both nations to cover, by a natural barrier, their possessions in America, as France has invariably sought to do in Europe.
"The undersigned prays the Minister of Exterior Relations (if the request is not inconsistent with the views of the government), to inform him whether East and West Florida, or either of them, are included in the treaty made between France and Spain; and to afford him such assistance, with respect to the limits of their territory and the navigation of the Mississippi, heretofore agreed on between Spain and the United States, as may prove satisfactory to the latter.
"If the territories of East and West Florida be included within the limits of the cession obtained by France, the undersigned desires to be informed how far it would be practicable to make such arrangements between their respective governments as would, at the same time, aid the financial operations of France, and remove, by a strong natural boundary, all future causes of discontent between her and the United States."
On the 26th of the same month, Mr. Livingston informed Mr. Madison that he had received no reply to the above note; that he had discovered, however, that the projected establishment in Louisiana was disapproved by every statesman in France, as one that would occasion a great waste of men and money, excite enmities with the United States, and produce no possible advantage to p461 the French nation. But he added that it was a scheme to which the French consul was extremely attached; and therefore, that those about him felt themselves compelled to support it; and that General Bernadotte was understood to be designed for the command of the new colony, and to have asked ten thousand troops.
Notwithstanding all his exertions, the American minister continued to remain in the dark in relation to the designs of France on Louisiana and the Floridas, as appears by a communication which he addressed on the 24th of March, to the Secretary of State at Washington:
"On the business of Louisiana," said he, "they have, as yet, not thought it proper to give me any explanations, though I have omitted no opportunity to press the subject in conversation, and ultimately by the note sent you on the 26th of February, with the copy of another note enforcing the above, to which I have as yet received no answer.
"The fact is, they believe us to be certainly hostile to the measure, and they mean to take possession of Louisiana as early as possible, and with as little notice to us as they can.
"They are made to believe this is one of the most fertile and important countries in the world; that they have a much greater interest with the Indians than any other people; that New Orleans must command the trade of our whole Western country; and, of course, that they will have a leading interest in its politics. It is a darling object with the first consul, who sees in it a means to gratify his friends, and to dispose of his armies. There is a man here, who calls himself a Frenchman, by the name of Francis Tatergem, who pretends to have great interest with the Creek nations. He has been advanced to the rank of a general of division. He persuades them that the Indians are extremely attached to p462 France, and hate the Americans; that they can raise twenty thousand warriors; that the country is a paradise, &c. I believe him to be a mere adventurer; but he is listened to, and was first taken up by the old directors."
On the 24th of April, although another month had elapsed, Mr. Livingston had gained no ground, and again repeated to Mr. Madison: "The business most interesting to us, that of Louisiana, still remains in the state it was. The minister will give no answer to any inquiries I make on that subject. He will not say what their boundaries are, what are their intentions, and when they are to take possession."
In the meantime, however, a definitive treaty of peace between Spain, France, and Great Britain, had been signed at Amiens on the 25th of March, and this circumstance, which opened the ocean to Bonaparte's contemplated expedition in relation to Louisiana, keenly increased the anxieties of the United States, and they began to assume a tone which shows the deep feeling of the country on the subject. On the 1st of May, Mr. Madison wrote the following despatch to Mr. Livingston:
"The conduct of the French Government in paying so little attention to its obligations under the treaty, in neglecting its debts to our citizens, in giving no answers to your complaints and expostulations, which you say is the case with those of other foreign ministers also, and particularly in its reserve as to Louisiana, which tacitly contradicts the language first held to you by the Minister of Foreign Relations — gives tokens as little auspicious to the true interests of France herself, as to the rights and just objects of the United States.
"The cession of Louisiana to France becomes daily more and more a source of painful apprehensions. Notwithstanding the treaty of March, 1801, and notwithstanding the general belief in France on the subject, and p463 the accounts from St. Domingo that part of the armament sent to that island was eventually destined for Louisiana, a hope was still drawn from your early conversations with Mr. Talleyrand, that the French Government did not mean to pursue the object. Since the receipt of your last communications, no hope remains but from the accumulating difficulties of going through with the undertaking, and from the conviction you may be able to impress, that it must have an instant and powerful effect in changing the relations between France and the United States. The change is obvious; and the more it can be developed in candid and friendly appeals to the reflections of the French Government, the more it will urge it to revise and abandon the project. A mere neighborhood could not be friendly to the harmony which both countries have so much an interest in cherishing; but if a possession of the mouth of the Mississippi is to be added to the other causes of discord, the worst events are to be apprehended. You will consequently spare no efforts, that will consist with prudence and dignity, to lead the councils of France to proper views of this subject, and to an abandonment of her present purpose. You will also pursue, by prudent means, the inquiry into the extent of the cession — particularly whether it includes the Floridas as well as New Orleans — and endeavor to ascertain the price at which these, if included in the cession, would be yielded to the United States. I cannot, in the present state of things, be more particular on this head than to observe that, in every view, it would be a most precious acquisition, and that, as far as the terms could be satisfied by charging on the acquisition the restitutions and other debts to American citizens, great liberality would doubtless be indulged by this government."
In England, Mr. King had not been inactive and had p464 written a note to Lord Hawkesbury, inquiring whether the British government had received from the governments of France and Spain any communication relating to the cession of Louisiana, and whether his Britannic Majesty had, in any manner, acquiesced in, or sanctioned the same, so as to impair or affect the stipulations concerning the free navigation of the Mississippi. "In a word," said Mr. King, "I entreat your Lordship to open yourself on this occasion, with that freedom which, in matters of weighty concern, is due from one friendly nation to another, and which, in the present instance, will have the effect to do away all those misconceptions that may otherwise prevail in respect to the privity of Great Britain to the cession in question."
To this communication Lord Hawkesbury gave the following answer, on the 7th of May:
"It is impossible that so important an event as the cession of Louisiana by Spain to France should be regarded by the King in any other light than as highly interesting to his Majesty and to the United States, and should not render it more necessary than ever that there should subsist between the two governments that spirit of confidence which is become so essential to the security of their respective territories and possessions.
"With regard to the free navigation of the Mississippi, I conceive that it is perfectly clear, according to the law of nations, that, in the event of the district of Louisiana being ceded to France, that country would come into possession of it, subject to all the engagements which appertained to it at the time of cession; and that the French government could consequently allege no colorable pretext for excluding his Majesty's subjects, or the citizens of the United States, from the navigation of the river Mississippi.
"With regard to the second question in your letter, I p465 can have no difficulty in informing you that no communication whatever has been received by his Majesty from the government of France or Spain, relative to any convention or treaty for the cession of Louisiana, or the Floridas; I can, at the same time, most truly assure you that his Majesty has not in any manner, directly or indirectly, acquiesced in or sanctioned the cession.
"In making this communication to you, for the government of the United States, I think it right to acquaint you that his Majesty will be anxious to learn their sentiments on every part of this subject, and the line of policy which they will be inclined to adopt, in the event of this arrangement being carried into effect."
It seems by a despatch of Mr. Livingston, of the 20th of May, that the French government was still continuing to hold the same conduct with respect to his inquiries in relation to its designs on Louisiana, and would not acknowledge that it had formed any specific plan with regard to that province, or that any troops were going out; but assurances were given to him, in general terms, that nothing should be done that could afford any just ground of complaint to the United States, and that, on the contrary, the vicinity of the French would promote mutual friendship between them and the Americans.
At last, on the 28th of May, Mr. Livingston felt authorized to write to Mr. Madison that he had acquired information on which he could depend, in relation to the intention of the French government with respect to Louisiana. "Bernadotte," said he, "is to command, Collot, second in command; Adet is to be prefect; but the expedition is delayed until about September, on account (as Talleyrand expressed himself to Bernadotte) of some difficulty which he did not explain: but which, p466 I have no doubt, has arisen from the different apprehensions of France and Spain relative to the meaning of the term Louisiana, which has been understood by France to include the Floridas, but probably by Spain to have been confined to the strict meaning of the term. This is why I could never get an answer to my questions relative to the extent of the cession; and upon which the French government had probably no doubt, till we started it. Believing, if this conjecture as to the cause of the delay of the expedition was right, that no time should be lost in throwing obstructions in the way of its conclusion, I wrote a note of which the inclosed is a copy, with the double purpose of alarming Spain, and furnishing her statesmen with arguments, arising from the good faith owed us, against giving their cession the construction France would wish." The note to which Mr. King alludes here was addressed by him to Chevalier D'Azara, ambassador of His Catholic Majesty at Paris.
On the 30th of July, Mr. Livingston informed the Secretary of State at Washington, that he was earnestly engaged in preparing a lengthy memorial on the subject of the mutual interest of France and the United States relative to Louisiana, by which he hoped to convince France that, both in commercial and political view, the possession of it would be disadvantageous to her.
"In my last," said he, "I hinted to you my suspicions that France and Spain did not understand each other on the subject of Louisiana, and communicated to you my letters to the Spanish ambassador, calculated to sound this business and interpose some difficulties to its execution. His answer confirmed my opinion. I have since received, verbally, his explicit assurance that the Floridas are not included in the cession; and I have been applied to, by one of the ministers here, to know what we understand, p467 in America, by Louisiana. You can easily conceive my answer.
[. . .]
"The French, you know, have always extended it to South Carolina and all the country on the Ohio. Since the possession of the Floridas by Britain, and the treaty of 1763, I think there can be no doubt as to the precise meaning of the terms.
[. . .]
"In the present state of things, until the point is settled, I think it probable the expedition to Louisiana will be postponed. In the meantime, all that can be done here will be to endeavor to obtain a cession of New Orleans, either by purchase, or by offering to make it a port of entry to France, on such terms as shall promise advantages to her commerce, and give her hopes of introducing her manufactures and wines into our Western country. An arrangement of this sort, if they listen to it, would certainly be beneficial to both countries, and only hurtful to Britain."
On the 10th of August, he said:
"Our own affairs have advanced but little, since the whole attention of those in power is turned to objects nearer home. I have had several conferences on the subject of Louisiana, but can get nothing more from them than I have already communicated. I have thought it best, by conversation and by writing, to pave the way, prior to my application, till I know better to what object to point. For this purpose, I have written the inclosed essay, which I have translated, and of which I have struck off twenty copies; I have placed some of them in such hands as I think will best serve our purposes. Talleyrand has promised me to give it an attentive perusal; after which, when I find how it works, I will come forward with some proposition. I am very much at a loss, however, p468 as to what terms you would consider it as allowable to offer, if they can be brought to sale of the Floridas, either with or without New Orleans; which last place will be of little consequence, if we possess the Floridas, because a much better passage may be formed on the east side of the river. I may, perhaps, carry my estimate of them too high; but, when I consider, first, the expense it will save us in guards and garrisons, the risk of war, the value of duties, and next what may be raised by the sale of lands, I should think them a cheap purchase. I trust, however, that you will give me some directions on this head, and not leave the responsibility of offering too much or too little, entirely at my door. I speak, in all this business, as if the affair of the Floridas was arranged with Spain; which, I believe, is not yet the case."
It seems that Spain was desirous that the Duchy of Parma should be annexed to Tuscany, which had been erected into the kingdom of Etruria in favor of one of her princes; that she might, for such a consideration, have been willing to let the Floridas go with Louisiana; and that some negotiation to that effect was on foot at that time.
On the 1st of September, Mr. Livingston resumed the interesting topic, in a despatch to Mr. Madison, in which he said: "I yesterday made several propositions to the minister on the subject of Louisiana. He told me frankly that every offer was premature; that the French government had determined to take possession first; so that you must consider the business as absolutely determined on. The armament is what I have already mentioned, and will be ready in about six weeks. I have every reason to believe the Floridas are not included. They will, for the present at least, remain in the hands of Spain. There never was a government in which less p469 could be done by negotiation than here. There is no people, no legislature, no counsellors. One man is everything. He seldom asks advice, and never hears it unasked. His ministers are mere clerks; and his legislature and counsellors parade officers. Though the sense of every reflecting man about him is against this wild expedition, no one dares tell him so. Were it not for the uneasiness it excites at home, it would give me none; for I am persuaded that the whole will end in a relinquishment of the country, and transfer of the capital to the United States." Subsequent events showed, shortly after, that Mr. Livingston had proved a true prophet on this occasion.
On the 28th of October, he wrote to the President of the United States: "I had, two days ago, a very interesting conversation with Joseph Bonaparte, having put into his hands a copy of the memoir on Louisiana, which I sent the Secretary of State. I took occasion to tell him that the interest he had taken in settling the differences between our respective countries had entitled him to our confidence, and that I should take the liberty to ask him his advice in matters that were likely to disturb the harmony that subsisted between our respective republics. He seemed pleased at the compliment, and told me he would receive with pleasure any communication I could make, but, as he would not wish to interfere with the minister, he begged my communication might be informal and unsigned — exactly what I wished, because I should act with less danger of committing myself, and of course, with more freedom. He added, "you must not, however, suppose my power to serve you greater than it actually is; my brother is his own counsellor; but we are good brothers; he hears me with pleasure, and as I have access to him at all times, I have an opportunity of turning his attention to a particular p470 subject that might otherwise be passed over." I then asked him whether he had read my notes on Louisiana. He told me that he had, and that he had conversed upon the subject with the First Consul, who, he found, had read them with attention, and that his brother had told him that he had nothing more at heart than to be upon the best terms with the United States. I expressed to him my apprehensions of the jealousies that would naturally be excited from their vicinity, and the impossibility of preventing abuses in a military government established at so great a distance from home.
"Wishing to know whether the Floridas were included (which, however, I had pretty well ascertained before), I told him that the only cause of difference that might arise between us, being the debt and Louisiana, I conceived that both might be happily and easily removed by making an exchange with Spain, returning them Louisiana, retaining New Orleans, and giving the latter and the Floridas for our debt.
"He asked me whether we should prefer the Floridas to Louisiana? I told him that there was no comparison in their value, but that we had no wish to extend our boundary across the Mississippi, or give color to the doubts that had been entertained of the moderation of our views; that all we sought was security, and not extension of territory. He replied, that he believed any new cession on the part of Spain would be extremely difficult; that Spain had parted with Trinidad and Louisiana with great reluctance."
On the 11th of November, Mr. Livingston hastened to write to Mr. Madison:
"France has cut the knot. The difficulty relative to Parma and Placentia,º that stopped the expedition to Louisiana, has ended by their taking possession of the first, as you see by the enclosed paper. Orders are given for the immediate embarkation p471 of troops (two demi-brigades) for Louisiana; they will sail in about twenty days from Holland. The government here will give no answer to my notes on the subject. They will say nothing on that of our limits, or of our right under the Spanish treaty. Clarke has been presented to General Victor as a merchant from Louisiana. The General did not probably conceal his views, which are nothing short of taking exactly what they find convenient. When asked what they meant to do as to our right of entrepôt, he spoke of the treaty as waste paper; and the Prefect did not know that we had any such right, though it had been the subject of many conversations with the Minister, and of three different notes. The sum voted for this service is two millions and a half of francs ($500,000); as to the rest, they expect to compel the people to support the expenses of the government, which will be very heavy, as the number of officers, civil and military, with their suite, is great; and they are empowered to draw; so that the first act of the new government will be the oppression of this people and our commerce. I believe you may add to this an early attempt to corrupt our people, and, if I may judge by the temper which the General will carry with him, an early attempt upon the Natchez, which they consider as the rival of New Orleans. If you look back to some of my letters on this subject, you will see my opinion of the necessity of strengthening ourselves by friendships at home, and by alliance abroad. No prudence will, I fear, prevent hostilities ere long; and perhaps, the sooner their plans develop themselves the better."
On the very same day he went on saying:
"After writing mine of this date, I called on the Minister and insisted on some positive answer to my notes. He told me that he was expressly instructed by the First Consul to give me the most positive assurances that the treaties p472 we had entered into with Spain or them, relative to Louisiana, should be strictly observed. When I expressed my surprise that their officers should not be informed on that head, though on the eve of departing, he assured me that they would be furnished with copies of the treaties, and directed to conform strictly to them. I asked why these assurances were not given to me in the usual form, by replying to my notes? He said that he hoped that there would be no difficulty on that head, when the consul should arrive (he is now absent). I have stated this that you might, by comparing this conversation with the contents of the letter, and the information derived from Clarke's conversation with the general, draw your own inferences. I shall endeavor today to see Joseph Bonaparte, though he has all along assured me that it was the Consul's intention to cultivate our friendship, and by no means to do anything that might endanger it. It will, however, be well to be on our guard, and, above all, to reinforce the Natchez, and to give it every possible commercial advantage. If we can put ourselves in a situation to prevent the danger of hostility, I think we may hope that the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants, the disappointment of the officers, and the drain of money which the establishment will occasion, will facilitate our views after a short time."
On the 27th of November, Mr. Madison addressed the American minister at Madrid in relation to the proclamation of Morales which prohibited the deposit at New Orleans of American effects, as stipulated by the treaty of 1795, and closed the Mississippi to the external commerce of the United States from that port. He observed that this proceeding was so direct and palpable a violation of that treaty, that, in candor, he could not but impute it rather to the Intendant solely than to the instructions of his government. He added, that the p473 Spanish Minister at Washington took pains to impress this belief, and that it was favored by private accounts from New Orleans, mentioning that the Governor did not concur with the Intendant;
"but," said Mr. Madison, "from whatever source the measure may have proceeded, the President expects that the Spanish government will neither lose a moment in countermanding it, nor hesitate to repair every damage which may result from it. You are aware of the sensibility of our Western citizens to such an occurrence. This sensibility is justified by the interest they have at stake. The Mississippi to them is every thing. It is the Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and all the navigable rivers of the Atlantic states, formed into one stream. The produce exported through that channel, last year, amounted to one million six hundred and twenty-two thousand six hundred and seventy-two dollars from the districts of Kentucky and Mississippi only, and will probably be fifty per cent more this year, from the whole Western country. Kentucky alone has exported, for the first half of this year, five hundred and ninety-one thousand four hundred and thirty-two dollars in value, a great part of which is now, or will shortly be, afloat for New Orleans, and consequently exposed to the effects of this extraordinary exercise of power. Whilst you presume, therefore, in your representations to the Spanish government, that the conduct of its officer is no less contrary to its intentions than it is to its good faith, you will take care to express the strongest confidence that the breach of the treaty will be repaired in every way which justice and a regard for a friendly neighborhood may require.
[. . .]
"In the meantime," continued Mr. Madison, "it is to be hoped that the Intendant will be led to see the error which he has committed, and to correct it before a very p474 great share of its mischief will have happened. Should he prove as obstinate as he has been ignorant or wicked, nothing can temper the irritation and indignation of the West country but a persuasion that the energy of their government will obtain from the justice of that of Spain the most ample redress.
"It has long been manifest that, whilst the injuries to the United States, so frequently occurring from the colonial officers scattered over our hemisphere, and in our neighborhood can only be repaired by a resort to their respective sovereigns in Europe, it will be impossible to guard against their most serious inconveniences. The instance before us strikes with peculiar force, and presents an occasion on which you may advantageously suggest to the Spanish government the expediency of placing in their minister on the spot, an authority to control or correct the mischievous proceedings of their colonial officers towards our citizens; without which any one of fifteen or twenty individuals, not always among either the wisest or best of men, may, at any time, threaten the good understanding of the two countries. The distance between the United States and the old continent, and the mortifying delay of explanations and negotiations across the Atlantic on emergencies in our neighborhood, render such a provision indispensable, and it cannot be long before all the governments of Europe, having American colonies, must see the policy of making it."
It is evident that there was a march of events which, if not checked, would soon have brought on a crisis of the most serious nature. Mr. Livingston had now been twelve months in Paris, and had not been so fortunate as to receive a conclusive answer in any one of the affairs that he had had to transact with the Minister of Exterior Relations. This state of things was becoming intolerable, and was certainly offensive to the dignity of p475 a nation which, though comparatively weak at the time, still had the consciousness of its growing strength and of its proud destinies. In relation to the unjustifiable delays and mysterious reserves on the part of France, Mr. Livingston, on the 24th of December, thus wrote to a French statesman: "Congress are now in session; they will infer from every paper submitted to them by the President, that the French government are disposed to show them but little attention. The obscurity that covers the designs of France on Louisiana (for not the least light can I, officially, obtain on the subject) will double their apprehensions; this, added to the clamors of ruined creditors, and the extreme severity with which some of their citizens have been treated in St. Domingo, and the extraordinary decisions of the Council of Prizes, &c., will leave a fair field for the intrigues of the enemies of France, and even enlist the best patriots of America on their side."
A few days before (15th December) the President of the United States, in a message to Congress, had thus expressed his sentiments to that body on this interesting subject: "The cession of the Spanish province of Louisiana to France, which took place in the course of the late war, will, if carried into effect, make a change in the aspect of our foreign relations, which will doubtless have just weight in any deliberations of the Legislature connected with that subject." Such language was sufficiently significant, and was abundantly justified by existing circumstances.
Let us now avert our eyes from the diplomatic circles of Europe, and turn them to the legislative halls of Congress in Washington. On the 23d of December, 1802, the President sent to the House of Representatives a message, in which he said in relation to the subject which engrossed public attention: "That he was aware p476 of the obligations to maintain in all cases the rights of the nation, and to employ for that purpose those just and honorable means which belong to the character of the United States;" — to which that body, shortly after, replied: "That relying, with perfect confidence, on the wisdom and vigilance of the Executive, they would wait the issue of such measures as that department of the government should have pursued for asserting the rights 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."
Before the gathering of the storm, which already darkened the horizon, it became the pilot who held the helm of the State to look round for all the resources he had at hand, and, on the 10th of January, 1803, the President wrote to Mr. Monroe: "I have but a moment to inform you, that the fever into which the Western mind is thrown by the affair at New Orleans, stimulated by the mercantile and generally the federal interest, threatens to overbear our peace. In this situation, we are obliged to call on you for a temporary sacrifice of yourself, to prevent this greatest of evils in the present prosperous tide of affairs. I shall to‑morrow nominate you to the Senate, for an extraordinary mission to France, and the circumstances are such as to render it impossible to decline; because the whole public hope will be rested on you."
The Senate having sanctioned the nomination, Mr. Jefferson again wrote, on the 13th, to the distinguished man in whom he reposed such implicit confidence: "All eyes are now fixed on you; and were you to decline, the chagrin would be great, and would shake under your feet the high ground on which you stand p477 with the public. Indeed I know nothing which would produce such a shock; for on the event of this mission depend the future destinies of this Republic. If we cannot, by a purchase of the country, ensure to ourselves a course of perpetual peace and friendship with all nations, then, as war cannot be far distant, it behoves us immediately to 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. I am sensible, after measures you have taken for getting into a different line of business, that it will be a great sacrifice on your part, and that it presents, from the season and other circumstances, serious difficulties. But some men are born for the public. Nature, by fitting them for the service of the human race on a broad scale, has stamped them with the evidences of their destination and their duty."9
On the 14th of February (1803) Mr. Ross, from Pennsylvania, said in the Senate:
"He was fully aware that the Executive of the United States had acted; that he had sent an Envoy Extraordinary to Europe. This was the peculiar province, and, perhaps, the duty of the President. He would not say that it was unwise in this state of our affairs to prepare for remonstrance and negotiation, much less was he then about to propose any measure that would thwart negotiation or embarrass the President. On the other hand, he was convinced that more than negotiation was absolutely necessary, that more power and more means ought to be given to the President, in order to render his negotiations efficacious. p478 Could the President proceed further even if he thought more vigorous measures proper and expedient? Was it in his power to repeal and punish the indignity put upon the nation? Could he use the public force to redress our wrongs? Certainly not. This must be the act of Congress. They are now to judge of ulterior measures; they must give the power, and vote the means to vindicate, in a becoming manner, the wounded honor and the best interests of the country.
"To the free navigation of the Mississippi, we had an undoubted right from nature, and from the position of our western country. This right and the right of deposit in the island of New Orleans, had been solemnly acknowledged and fixed by treaty in 1795. That treaty had been in actual operation and execution for many years; and now, without any pretence of abuse or violation on our part, the officers of the Spanish Government deny that right, refuse the place of deposit, and add the most offensive of all insults, by forbidding us from landing on any part of their territory, and shutting us out as a common nuisance.
"By whom has this outrage been offered? By those who have constantly acknowledged our right, and now tell us that they are no longer owners of the country! They have given it away, and, because they have no longer a right themselves, therefore, they turn us out, who have an undoubted right. Fortunately for this country, there could be no doubt in the present case; our national right had been acknowledged, and solemnly secured by treaty. It was violated and denied without provocation or apology. The treaty then was no security. This evident right was one, the security of which ought not to be precarious; it was indispensable that the enjoyment of it should be placed beyond doubt. He declared it, therefore, to be his firm and mature opinion, p479 that so important a right would never be secure, while the mouth of the Mississippi was exclusively in the hands of Spaniards. Caprice and enmity occasion constant interruption. From the very position of our country, from its geographical shape, from motives of complete independence, the command of the navigation of the river ought to be in our hands.
"We are now wantonly provoked to take it. Hostility in its most offensive shape has been offered by those who disclaim all right to the soil and the sovereignty of that country — an hostility fatal to the happiness of the Western World. Why not seize then what is so essential to us as a nation? Why not expel the wrongdoers? Wrongdoers by their own confession, to whom by seizure we are doing no injury. Paper contracts, or treaties, have proved too feeble. Plant yourself on the river, fortify the banks, invite those who have an interest at stake to defend it; do justice to yourself when your adversaries deny it; and leave the event to Him who controls the fate of nations.
"Why submit to a tardy, uncertain negotiation, as the only means of regaining what you have lost — a negotiation with those who have wronged you; with those who declare they have no right, at the moment they deprive you of yours? When in possession, you will negotiate with more advantage. You will then be in the condition to keep others out. You will be in the actual exercise of jurisdiction over all your claims; your people will have the benefits of a lawful commerce. When your determination is known, you will make an easy and an honorable accommodation with any other claimant. The present possessors have no pretence to complain, for they have no right to the country by their own confession. The Western people will discover that you are making every effort they could desire for their protection. They p480 will ardent support you in the contest, if a contest becomes necessary. Their all will be at stake, and neither their zeal nor their courage need be doubted.
"But after negotiation shall have failed, after a powerful, ambitious nation shall have taken possession of the key of your Western country, and fortified it; after the garrisons are filled by the veterans who have conquered the East, will you have it in your power to awaken the generous spirit of that country and dispossess them? No; their confidence in such rulers will be gone; they will be disheartened, divided, and will place no further dependence upon you. They must abandon those who lost the precious moment of seizing, and for ever securing their sole hope of subsistence and prosperity; they must then, from necessity, make the best bargain they can with the conqueror."
On the 15th, a confidential message was brought from the House of Representatives to the Senate, transmitting to that body a bill which had passed the House, "to enable the President of the United States to commence with more effect a negotiation with the French and Spanish governments, relative to the purchase of the island of New Orleans, and the provinces of East and West Florida." This bill placed two millions of dollars at the disposal of the President, and the impression got abroad that this sum was to be used to secure the assistance of some powerful personages in Paris and Madrid in the negotiation which was to be opened with France and Spain.
On the 16th, Mr. Ross again took the floor, and continued to urge that the American people should take redress into their own hands, without loss of time.
"I know," said he, "that some gentlemen think there is a mode of accomplishing our object, of which, by a most p481 extraordinary proceeding,10 I am forbidden to speak on this occasion; I will not, therefore, touch it. But I will ask honorable gentlemen, especially those from the Western country, what they will say, on their return home, to a people pressed by the heavy hand of this calamity, when they inquire: What has been done? What are our hopes? How long will this obstruction continue? You answer: We have provided a remedy, but it is a secret! We are not allowed to speak of it there, much less here; it was only communicated to confidential men in whispers, with closed doors; but, by and by, you will see it operate by enchantment; it is a sovereign balsam which will heal your wounded honor; it is a potent spell, or a kind of patent medicine, which will extinguish and for ever put at rest the devouring spirit which has desolated so many nations of Europe. You never can know exactly what it is: nor can we tell you precisely the time it will begin to operate; but operate it certainly will, and effectually too! You will see strange things by and by; wait patiently, and place full faith in us, for we cannot be mistaken! — This idle tale may amuse children. But the men of that country will not be satisfied. They will tell you that they expected better things of you, that their confidence has been misplaced, and that they will not wait the operation of your newly invented drugs; they will go and redress themselves."
Then Mr. Ross read the following series of Resolutions:
"Resolved, That the United States have an indisputable right to the free navigation of the river Mississippi, and to a convenient place of deposit for their produce and merchandise in the island of New Orleans.
"That the late infraction of such their unquestionable right is an aggression hostile to their honor and interest.
"That it materially concerns such of the American citizens as dwell on the Western waters, and is essential to the used to, strength and prosperity of these States, that they obtain complete security for the full and peaceable enjoyment of such their absolute right.
"That the President be authorized to take immediate possession of such place or places, in the same island, or the adjacent territories, as he may deem fit and convenient for the purposes aforesaid; and to adopt such other measures for obtaining that complete security as to him in his wisdom shall seem meet.
"That he be authorized to call into actual service any number of the militia of the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, or the Mississippi territory, which he may think proper, not exceeding fifty thousand, and to employ them, together with the military and naval forces of the Union, for effecting the objects above mentioned.
"That the sum of five millions of dollars be appropriated to the carrying into effect of the foregoing resolutions, and that the whole or any part of that sum be paid or applied, or warrants drawn in pursuance of such directions as the President may, from time to time, think proper to give to the Secretary of the Treasury."
These resolutions were seconded by Mr. Wells, from the State of Delaware. They were taken up on the 23d of February, and Mr. White, from the same State, supported them to their fullest extent.
"As to the closing of the port of New Orleans against our citizens," said he, "the man who can now doubt, after viewing all the accompanying circumstances, that it was the deliberate act of the Spanish or French government, must have p483 locked up his mind against truth and conviction, and be determined to discredit even the evidence of his own senses. But, Sir, it is not only the depriving us of our right of deposit by which we have been aggrieved; it is by a system of measures pursued antecedent and subsequent to that event, equally hostile and even more insulting. I have in my hand a paper, signed by a Spanish officer, which, with the indulgence of the chair, I will read to the Senate.
"These are the measures that have been adopted by the Spaniards — excluding us from their shores for the distance of •two hundred and seventy miles — treating us like a nation of pirates, or banditti, whom they feared to trust in their country. Spain has dared us to the trial, and now bids us defiance; she is yet in possession of that country; it is at this moment within your reach and within your power; it offers a sure and easy conquest; we should have to encounter there only a weak, p484 inactive and unenterprising people; but how may a few months vary this scene, and darken our prospects! Though not officially informed, we know that the Spanish provinces on the Mississippi have been ceded to the French, and that they will as soon as possible take possession of them. What may we then expect? When, in the last extremity, we shall be drawn to arms in defence of our indisputable rights, where now slumbers on his post with folded arms the sluggish Spaniard, we shall be hailed by the vigilant and alert French grenadier, and in the defenceless garrison that would now surrender at our approach, we shall see unfurled the standards that have waved triumphant in Italy, surrounded by impregnable ramparts, and defended by the disciplined veterans of Egypt.
"I am willing to attribute to honorable gentlemen the best of motives; I am sure they do not wish to involve this country in a war, and, God knows, I deprecate its horrors as much as any man; but this business can never be adjusted abroad; it will ultimately have to be settled upon the banks of the Mississippi; and the longer you delay, the more time you waste in tedious negotiations, the greater sacrifices you make to protract a temporary and hollow peace, the greater will be your embarrassments when the war comes on; and it is inevitable, unless honorable gentlemen, opposed to us, are prepared to yield up the best interest and honor of the nation. I believe the only question now in our power to decide, is whether it shall be the bloodless war of a few months, or the carnage of years.
"These observations are urged upon the supposition that it is in the power of the government to restrain the impetuosity of the Western people, and to prevent their do any justice to themselves, which, by the by, I beg to be understood as not believing, but expressly the contrary. p485 They know their own strength; they know the feebleness of the enemy; they know the infinite importance of the stake, and they feel, permit me to say, sir, with more than mere sensibility, the insults and injuries they have received, and I believe will not submit, even for the approaching season, to their present ruinous and humiliating situation. You had as well pretend to dam up the mouth of the Mississippi, and say to its restless waves, ye shall cease here, and never mingle with the ocean, as to expect they will be prevented from descending it. Without the free use of the river, and the necessary advantages of deposit below our line, their fertile country is not worth possession, their produce must be wasted in the fields or rot in their granaries. These are rights not only guaranteed to them by treaty, but also given to them by the God of nature, and they will enforce them, with or without the authority of government; and let me ask, whether it is more dignified for the government to lead or follow in the path of honor? One it must do, or give up that Western country."
Those who were opposed to these Resolutions urged that it was necessary to exhaust every means of negotiation before adopting measures which would lead to hostilities, and that it was indispensable, before doing any thing, to ascertain whether the King of Spain would sanction the act of his Intendant at New Orleans. Among those who took a prominent part against these "Resolutions," was Mr. Jackson of Georgia.
"What is the course," said he, "which we have to pursue? Is it to go immediately to war, without asking for redress? By the law of nations, and the doctrines of all writers on them, you are not justified, until you have tried every possible method of obtaining redress in a peaceable manner: it is only in the last extremity, when you have no other expedient left, that a recourse to arms is p486 lawful and just; and I hope the United States will never forfeit their character for justice by any hasty or rash steps, which they may, too late, have to repent of, — when they can have recourse to another method which may procure a redress of the wrong complained of.
"I am, myself, of opinion that New Orleans must belong to the United States; it must come to us in the course of human events, although not at the present day; for I do not wish to use force to obtain it, if we can get a redress of the injury done to us; yet it will naturally fall into our hands by gradual but inevitable causes, as sure and certain as manufactures arise from increased population and the plentiful products of agriculture and commerce. But let it be noticed that, if New Orleans, by a refusal of justice, falls into our hands by force, the Floridas, as sure as fate, fall with it. Good faith forbids encroachment on a pacific ally; but if hostility shows itself against us, interest demands it; Georgia in such case would not do without it. God and nature have destined New Orleans and the Floridas to belong to this great and rising empire. As natural bounds to the South, are the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mississippi, and the world at some future day cannot hold them from us.
"Sir, we have been told much by the gentleman from Delaware of Bonaparte; that he is the hero of France, the conqueror of Italy, and the tyrant of Germany, and that his legions are invincible. We have been told that we must hasten to take possession of New Orleans whilst in the hands of the sluggish Spaniards, and not wait until it is in the iron grasp of the Caesar of modern times. But much as I respect the fame and exploits of that extraordinary man, I believe we should have little more to fear from him, should it be necessary in the end to contend with him for the possession of New Orleans, than p487 from the sluggish Spaniards. Bonaparte, Sir, in our Southern country, would be lost, with all his martial talents; his hollow squares and horse artillery would be of little service to him in the midst of our morasses and woods, where he would meet, not with the champaign country of Italy — with the little rivulets commanded by his cannon, which he could pass at leisure — not with fortified cities which command surrounding districts — but with rivers miles wide, and swamps, mortal or impenetrable to Europeans. With a body of only ten thousand of our expert riflemen around him, his laurels would be torn from his brow, and he would heartily wish himself once more safe on the plains of Italy.
"What, Sir, would be forty or fifty thousand French, in those impenetrable forests, to the hosts which would be poured down the Mississippi? But should Bonaparte send an army of forty thousand men here, and should they not be destroyed by our troops, they would, within twenty years, become Americans, and join our arms; they would form connexions with our females, intermarry with them, and insensibly change their habits, their manners, and their language. No other people can long exist in the vicinity of those of the United States, without intermixing and ultimately joining with them.
"The sacred name of Washington has been unnecessarily appealed to, on this as on many other occasions, and we have been boastingly told that, in his time, no nation dared to insult us. Much, Sir, as I revere his memory, acknowledging him among the fathers of his country — was this the fact? Was he not insulted — was not the nation insulted under his administration? How came the posts to be detained after the definitive treaty with Great Britain? What dictated that inhuman deed to stir up horror and destruction among us — Lord Dorchester's p488 insolent and savage speech to the hordes of Indians on our frontiers, to massacre our inhabitants without distinction? Were those not insults? Or have we tamely forgotten them? Yet, Sir, did Washington go to war? He did not; he preferred negotiation and sent an envoy to Britain; peace was obtained by a treaty with that nation — I shall not inquire at what price — but these were the steps taken by him. Shall we then not negotiate? Shall we not follow the leading figure of our national policy? I hope we shall, and by doing so, we shall become unanimous. We are all actuated, I hope, by one view, but we differ on the means; let us do justice by requiring our neighbor to do justice to us, by a restoration of our rights; let us show the nations of the earth we are not anxious for war, that scourge of mankind; that we bear patiently our injuries, in hopes of redress, and that nothing but absolute denial of justice, which will be additional insult, shall induce us to it. But, Sir, if forced to war, contrary to our policy and wishes, let us unsheathe the sword and fling away the scabbard, until our enemies be brought to a sense of justice, and our wrongs are redressed."
Mr. Cocke, from Tennessee, rose also to advocate peaceful measures:
"When the gentleman from Pennsylvania" (Mr. Ross), said he, "opened his war project, his resentment appeared to be wholly confined to Spain; his sole object, the securing of the navigation of the Mississippi and of our right to a convenient place of deposit on that river. We were told by that gentleman that we are bound to go to war for this right which God and nature had given the Western people. What are we to understand by this right given by God and nature? Surely not the right of deposit, for that was given by treaty; and, as to the right of navigation, that has been neither suspended nor brought into question. p489 But we are told by the same gentleman, that the possession of New Orleans is necessary to our complete security. Leaving to the gentleman's own conscience to settle the question as to the morality of taking that place, because it would be convenient, I beg to inform him that the possession of it would not give us complete security. The island of Cuba, from its position and the excellence of its harbors, commands the Gulf of Mexico as completely as New Orleans does the river Mississippi, and, to give that complete security he requires of the President, the island of Cuba must likewise be taken possession of."b
Mr. Morris, of New York, maintained the doctrine that Spain had justified the United States in seizing upon New Orleans, by her having made the cession of it without their consent.
"Had Spain," said he, "the right to make this cession without our consent? Gentlemen have taken it for granted that she had. But I deny the position. No nation has a right to give to another a dangerous neighbor without her consent. This is not like the case of private citizens; for there, when a man is injured, he can resort to the tribunals for redress; and yet, even there, to dispose of property to one who is a bad neighbor is always considered as an act of unkindness. But as between nations, who can redress themselves only by war, such transfer is in itself an aggression. He who renders me insecure; he who hazards my peace, and exposes me to imminent danger, commits an act of hostility against me, and gives me the rights consequent on that act. Suppose Great Britain should give to Algiers one of the Bahamas, and contribute thereby to establish a nest of pirates near your coasts, would you not consider it as an aggression?c Suppose, during the late war, you had conveyed to France a tract of land along the Hudson's river and the northern p490 route by the lakes into Canada, would not Britain have considered and treated it as an act of direct hostility? It is among the first limitations to the exercise of the rights of property, that we must so use our own as not to injure another; and it is under the immediate sense of this restriction that nations are bound to act towards each other."
He further said that the possession of Louisiana by the ambitious ruler of France would give him in the new world the preponderance he had already obtained in the old; that it became the United States to show that they did not fear him who was the terror of all; and that it specially behoved this young and growing republic to interpose, in order to revive the energy and resistance of the half conquered nations of Europe, and to save the expiring liberties of mankind. To this his colleague, Mr. Clinton, replied in the following strain:
"Sublime as these speculations may appear to the eyes of some, and high sounding as they may strike the ears of many, they do not affect me with any force. In the first place, I do not perceive how they bear upon the question before me; it merely refers to the seizure of New Orleans, not to the maintenance of the balance of power. Again: of all characters, I think that of a conquering nation least becomes the American people. What, Sir! shall America go forth, like another Don Quixote, to relieve distressed nations, and to rescue from the fangs of tyranny the powerful States of Britain, Spain, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands? Shall she, like another Phaeton, madly ascend the chariot of Empire, and spread desolation and horror over the world? Shall she attempt to restrain the career of a nation which my honorable colleague represents to have been irresistible, and which he declares has appalled the British lion and the imperial eagle of the house of Austria? Shall she p491 wantonly court destruction, and violate all the maxims of policy which ought to govern an infant and free Republic? Let us, Sir, never carry our arms into the territories of other nations, unless we are compelled to take them up in self-defence. A pacific character is of all others most important for us to establish and maintain. With a sea coast of two thousand miles, indented with harbors and lined with cities, with an extended commerce, and with a population of six millions only, how are we to set up for the avengers of nations? Can gravity itself refrain from laughter at the figure which my honorable colleague would wish us to make on the theatre of the world? He would put a fools' cap on our head and dress us up in the particolored robes of a harlequin, for the nations of the world to laugh at; and, after all the puissant knights of the times have been worsted in the tournament by the Orlando Furioso of France, we must then, forsooth, come forward and console them for their defeat by an exhibition of our follies! I look, Sir, upon all the concerns we have heard about the French possessions of Louisiana, as visionary and idle. Twenty years must roll over our heads before France can establish in that country a population of two hundred thousand souls. What in the meantime will become of your Southern and Western States? Are they not advancing to greatness with a giant's stride? The Western waters will then contain on their borders millions of free and hardy republicans, able to crush every daring invader of their rights. A formidable navy will spring from the bosom of the Atlantic States, ready to meet the maritime force of any nation. With such means, what will we have to fear from the acts or from the arms of any power, however formidable?"
On the 25th of February, Mr. Ross's resolutions were rejected by a vote of fifteen to eleven, and the following p492 resolutions, of a milder character, which had been proposed as amendments by Mr. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, were unanimously adopted:
"Resolved, That the President of the United States be, and he is, hereby authorized, whenever he shall judge it expedient, to require of the Executives of the several States to take effectual measures to arm and equip, according to law, and hold in readiness to march, at a moment's warning, eighty thousand effective militia, officers included.
"That the President may, if he judges it expedient, authorize the Executives of the several States to accept, as part of the detachment aforesaid, any corps of volunteers, who shall continue in service for such time not exceeding ––––– months, and perform such services as shall be prescribed by law.
"That ––––– dollars be appropriated for paying and subsisting such part of the troops aforesaid, whose actual service may be wanted, and for defraying such any other expenses as, during the recess of Congress, the President may deem necessary for the security of the territory of the United States.
"That ––––– dollars be appropriated for erecting, at such place or places on the Western waters as the President may judge most proper, one or more arsenals."
These resolutions were referred to Messrs. Breckenridge, Jackson and Sumter, to bring in a bill accordingly. On the 26th, Mr. Breckenridge reported by a bill entitled "An Act directing a detachment from the militia of the United States, and for erecting certain arsenals;" and, on the 28th, it was adopted.
Let us now enter the hall of the House of Representatives and ascertain what had there occurred in relation to the same subject.
p493 On the 17th of December, 1802, John Randolph of Virginia moved the following resolution:
"That the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before this house such papers as are in the possession of the department of state, as relate to the violation, on the part of Spain, of the treaty of friendship, limits and navigation, between the United States of America and the King of Spain;"
and this resolution was agreed to unanimously. On the 22d, in compliance with this resolution, the President laid before the house the required information. On the 31st, the President made another communication in relation to the same subject, which, together with his preceding message of the 22d, was referred to a committee of the whole house on the state of the Union. On the 4th of January, 1803, Mr. Griswold made the following motion:
"Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to direct the proper officer to lay before this house copies of such official documents as have been received by this government, announcing the cession of Louisiana to France, together with a report explaining the stipulations, circumstances and conditions under which that province is to be delivered up; unless such documents and report will, in the opinion of the President, divulge to the house particular transactions not proper at this time to be communicated."
On the 5th, Mr. Griswold called up his resolution respecting Louisiana, and the question to take into consideration was carried by 35 to 32.
Mr. Randolph moved that it be referred to the Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, to whom had been committed the message of the President respecting the shutting up of the port of New Orleans to the Americans, and the violation of the treaty existing p494 between Spain and the United States, on the ground that the discussion on both questions might embrace points nearly connected. Mr. Randolph's motion was carried, and the House expressed "their unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the river Mississippi, as established by existing treaties." But the Committee of the Whole reported on the 11th of January against Mr. Griswold's resolution, and it was consequently lost by a vote of 51 to 35, as it was thought that, if carried, it might interfere with the negotiations already begun by the President. The other proceedings and discussions in the House on this subject were of comparatively little importance, and the excitement there seems to have been less than in the Senate. After having thus exhibited the interest it took in the cession of Louisiana by Spain to France, Congress adjourned on the 4th of March.
In the meanwhile, the Executive had not been inactive, and Mr. Madison had written, on the 10th of January (1803), to the United States' minister at Madrid: "You will find by the printed documents herewith transmitted, that the subject (what had taken place at New Orleans), engaged the early and earnest attention of the House of Representatives; and that all the information relating to it, possessed by the Executive prior to the receipt of that letter,11 was reported in consequence of a call for it. You will find, also, that the House has passed a resolution explicitly declaring that the stipulated rights of the United States on the Mississippi will be inviolably maintained. The disposition of many members was to p495 give the resolution a tone and complexion still stronger. To these proofs of the sensation which has been produced, it is to be added, that representations, expressing the peculiar sensibility of the Western country, are on the way from every quarter of it to the government. There is, in fact, but one sentiment throughout the Union with respect to the duty of maintaining our rights of navigation and boundary. The only existing relates to the degree of patience which ought to be exercised during the appeal to friendly modes of redress. In this state of things it is to be presumed that the Spanish government will accelerate, by every possible means, its intervention for that purpose; and the President charges you to urge the necessity of so doing with as much amicable decision as you can employ."
On the 18th of the same month, Mr. Madison thus addressed Mr. Livingston in Paris: "In these debates (of Congress), as well as in indications from the press, you will perceive, as you would readily suppose, that the cession of Louisiana to France has been associated with the violation, at New Orleans, of our treaty with Spain, as a ground of much solicitude. Such, indeed, has been the impulse given to the public mind by these events, that every branch of the government has felt the obligation of taking the measure most likely, not only to re-establish our present rights, but also to promote arrangements by which they may be enlarged, and more effectually secured. In deliberating on this subject, it has appeared to the President that the importance of the crisis called for the experiment of an extraordinary mission, carrying with it the weight attached to such a measure, as well as the advantage of a more thorough knowledge of the views of the government, and the sensibility of the people, than would be otherwise conveyed.
p496 "Mr. Monroe will be the bearer of the instructions under which you are jointly to negotiate. The object of them will be to procure a cession of New Orleans and the Floridas to the United States; and consequently the establishment of the Mississippi as the boundary between the United States and Louisiana."
Previous to these instructions, Mr. Livingston had, on the 10th of January, sent a note to the Minister of Exterior Relations, in which he proposed that France should cede to the United States West Florida, New Orleans, and a certain portion of the territory of Louisiana: "These propositions, with certain accompaniments, said Mr. Livingston, in a despatch to Mr. Madison of the 18th of February, "were well received, and were some days under the First Consul's consideration; I am now lying on my oars in hopes of something explicit from you. From the best accounts I can receive from Holland, the armament (destined for Louisiana) will be detained there till about the last of March, so that you will not have them in New Orleans till June; a precious interval, of which you may think it prudent to avail yourselves."
On the 27th of February, Mr. Livingston submitted to the First Consul a memoir detailing the reasons for which he urged the cession of a portion, at least, of Louisiana by France to the United States. "That France," said he, "will never derive any advantage from the colonization of New Orleans and the Floridas, is fairly to be presumed, from their having been possessed, for more than a century past, by three different nations.12 While the other colonies of these nations were increasing rapidly, these have always remained weak and languid, and an expensive burden to the possessors. Even at this moment, p497 with all the advantages that New Orleans has derived from foreign capital, and an accession of inhabitants from the United States, which has brought its free population to about seven thousand souls, the whole of the inhabitants east of the Mississippi does not more than double that number; and those, too, are for the most part poor and miserable; and there are physical reasons that must for ever render them inadequate to their own support, in the hands of any European nation. These provinces are, however, important to the United States because they contain the mouths of some of their rivers, which must make them the source of continual disputes. The interest that the United States attach, Citizen First Consul, to your friendship, and the alliance of France, is the principal cause of their anxiety to procure your consent to their accession of that country, and to the sacrifices that they are willing to make to attain it. They consider it as the only possible ground of collision between nations whom so many other interests unite. I cannot, Citizen First Consul, but express my doubt of any advantage to be derived to France from the retaining of that country in its whole extent; and I think I could show that her true interest would lead her to make such cessions out of them to the United States as would at once afford supplies to her islands, without draining the money of France, and rivet the friendship of the United States, by removing all ground of jealousy relative to a country of little value in itself, and which will be perpetually exposed to the attacks of her natural enemy, as well as from Canada as by sea."
On the 2d of March, Mr. Madison forwarded to Messrs. Livingston and Monroe their credentials to treaty with the government of the French Republic on the subject of the Mississippi and the territories eastward thereof and without the limits of the United States. "The p498 object in view," said he, "is to procure, by just and satisfactory arrangements, a cession to the United States of New Orleans and of West and East Florida, or as much thereof as the actual proprietor can be prevailed on to part with." The principles and outlines of the plan on which the ministers were authorized to treat were annexed to their credentials.
In the meantime, Mr. Livingston was very pressing in his endeavors to obtain from Bonaparte the recognition of the right of the Americans to use New Orleans as a place of deposit, and, on the 16th of March, he addressed an energetic note on that subject to the Minister of Exterior Relations:
"The First Consul," said he, "has done me the honor, through you, to inform me that he proposes to send a minister to the United States to acquire such information as he may deem necessary, previous to his taking any measure relative to the situation in which the acquisition of Louisiana will place France with respect to the United States. If, Sir, the question related to the formation of a new treaty, I should find no objection to this measure. On the contrary, I should readily acquiesce in it, as that which would be best calculated to render the treaty mutually advantageous. But, Sir, it is not a new treaty for which we now press (though one mutually advantageous might be made), but the recognition of an old one, by which the United States have acquired rights, that no change in the circumstances of the country obliges them to relinquish, and which they never will relinquish but with their political existence. But their treaty with Spain, their right to the navigation of the Mississippi is recognized, and a right of depôt granted, with a provision, on the part of the King of Spain, to revoke this right, if, within three years, he found it prejudicial to his interests, in which case he is p499 to assign another equivalent establishment. The King of Spain has never revoked that right; but, after having made the experiment of its effects upon his interests for three years, he has continued it. The United States have, by this continuance, acquired a permanent and irrevocable right to a depôt at New Orleans, nor can that right now be called in question, either by Spain or by any other nation to whom she may transfer her title. Even the assignment of another equivalent establishment cannot, at this day, be forced upon the United States, without their consent. The time allowed by Spain has passed, and she has preferred to have the depôt at New Orleans to placing it elsewhere; and I will venture to say, that, in so doing, she has acted wisely; for New Orleans derives its whole value from its being the market for American produce, and their principal port of entry; and, if this consideration is important to Spain, it is infinitely more so to France, the produce of whose agriculture and manufactures will then find a ready exchange for the raw materials of the United States. Under these circumstances, at the very moment that Spain is about to relinquish the possession of that country to France, she violates her treaty without any apparent interest, and leaves the country with a stain upon her character.
"In what situation, Sir, are we now placed? An armament is about sailing for New Orleans; that port has been shut by the order of Spain; the French commandant will find it shut. Will he think himself authorized to open it? If not, it must remain shut till the Envoy of France shall have arrived in America, and made the necessary inquiries, and transmitted the result of those inquiries to the First Consul. In the meanwhile, all the produce of five States is left to rot upon their hands. There is only one season in which the navigation of the p500 Mississippi is practicable. This season must necessarily pass before the Envoy of France can arrive and make his report. Is it supposable, Sir, that the people of the United States will tranquilly wait the progress of negotiations, when the ruin of themselves and their families will be attendant on the delay? Be assured, Sir, that, even were it possible that the government of the United States could be insensible to their sufferings, they would find it as easy to prevent the Mississippi from rolling its waters into the ocean as to control the impulse of the people to do themselves justice. Sir, I will venture to say, that, were a fleet to shut up the mouths of the Chesapeake, Delaware and Hudson, it would create less sensation in the United States than the denial of the right of depôt at New Orleans has done, &c. I can never bring myself to believe, that the First Consul will, by deferring for a moment the recognition of a right that admits of no discussion, break all those ties which bind the United States to France, obliterate the sense of past obligations, change every political relation that it has been, and still is, the earnest wish of the United States to preserve, and force them to connect their interests with those of a rival power; and this, too, for an object of no real moment in itself. Louisiana is, and ever must be, from physical causes, a miserable country in the hands of an European power."
Whilst these negotiations were going on, war was on the eve of breaking out again between Great Britain and France, notwithstanding the hollow peace of Amiens, and, on the 2d of April, Mr. King wrote from London to the Secretary of State at Washington:
"In a late conversation with Mr. Addington, he observed to me, if the war happen, it would, perhaps, be one of their first steps to occupy New Orleans. I interrupted him by saying, I hoped the measure would be well weighed p501 before it should be attempted; that, true it was, we could not see with indifference that country in the hands of France; but, it was equally true, that it would be contrary to our views, and with much concern, that we should see it in the possession of England; we had no objection to Spain continuing to possess it; they were quiet neighbors, and we looked forward without impatience to events which, in the ordinary course of things, must, at no distant day, annex this country to the United States. Mr. Addington desired me to be assured that England would not accept the country, were all agreed to give it to her; that, were she to occupy it, it would not be to keep it, but to prevent another power from obtaining it; and, in his opinion, this end would be best effected by its belonging to the United States. I expressed my acquiescence in the last part of his remark, but observed, that, if the country should be occupied by England, it would be suspected to be in concert with the United States, and might involve us in misunderstandings with another power, with which we desired to live in peace. He said: If you can obtain it, well, but if not, we ought to prevent its going into the hands of France, though you may rest assured, continued Mr. Addington, that nothing shall be done injurious to the interests of the United States. Here the conversation ended."
On the 11th of the same month, Mr. Livingston, whose exertions were incessant, wrote from Paris to the Secretary of State at Washington.
"My notes will tell you how far I have officially pressed to the government on the subject of Louisiana. I have omitted no means, in conversation, of eradicating their prejudices in its favor; and I informed you that I had reason to think that I had been successful with all, unless it was the First Consul, to whom I addressed myself in the letter and essays p502 that you have seen, and which were attentively read by him, as well as several informal notes to his brother (Joseph). I had reason to think that he began to waver; but we had nothing to offer but money and commercial advantages: of the latter, I did not think myself entitled to be liberal; and of the first, I found in them a certain degree of reluctance to treat, as derogatory to the dignity of government. The affair of New Orleans gave me two important strings to touch: I endeavored to convince the government that the United States would avail themselves of the breach of the treaty to possess themselves of New Orleans and the Floridas; that Britain would never suffer Spain to grant the Floridas to France, even were she disposed, but would immediately seize upon them as soon as the transfer was made; that, without the Floridas, Louisiana would be indefensible, as it possesses not one port even for frigates; and I showed the effect of suffering that important country to fall into the hands of the British, both as it affected our country and the naval force of all Europe.
"These reasons, with the possibility of war, have had, I trust, the desired effect. M. Talleyrand asked me this day, when pressing the subject, whether we wished to have the whole of Louisiana. I told him, no; that our wishes extended only to New Orleans and the Floridas; that the policy of France should dictate (as I had shown in an official note) to give us the country above the river Arkansas, in order to place a barrier between them and Canada. He said that, if they gave New Orleans, the rest would be of little value; and that he would wish to know 'what we would give for the whole.' I told him it was a subject I had not thought of, but that I supposed we should not object to twenty millions, provided our citizens were paid. He told me p503 that this was too low an offer, and that he would be glad if I would reflect upon it, and tell him to‑morrow. I told him that, as Mr. Monroe would be in town in two days, I would delay my further offer until I had the pleasure of introducing him. He added, that he did not speak from authority, but that the idea had struck him. I have reason, however, to think that this resolution was taken in council on Saturday. On Friday, I received Mr. Ross's motion. I immediately sent it to Mr. Talleyrand, with an informal note, expressive of my fears that it would be carried into effect; and requesting that General Bernadotte13 might not go till something effectual was done. I also translated it and gave it to General Bernadotte, and pressed upon him the necessity of asking express instructions, in case he should find the island in possession of the Americans. He went immediately to Joseph Bonaparte. These, I believe, were exciting causes to the train we are now in, and which I flatter myself we shall be able, on the arrival of Mr. Monroe, to put to effect. I think, from every appearance, that war is very near at hand; and, under these circumstances, I have endeavored to impress the government that not a moment should be lost, lest Britain should anticipate us." — Mr. Livingston added in a postscript: "Orders are gone this day to stop the sailing of vessels from the French ports; war is inevitable; my conjecture as to their determination to sell is well founded. Mr. Monroe is just arrived here."
On the 13th, Mr. Livingston, returning to the same subject, said in a despatch to the Secretary of State:
"By my letter of yesterday (he means his letter of the 11th), you learned that the Minister (Talleyrand) had asked me whether I would agree to purchase Louisiana, p504 &c., &c. On the 12th, I called upon him to press this matter further. He then thought proper to declare that his proposition was only personal, but still requested me to make an offer; and, upon my declining to do so, as I expected Mr. Monroe the next day, he shrugged up his shoulders and changed the conversation. Not willing, however, to lose sight of it, I told him that I had long been endeavoring to bring him to some point, but, unfortunately, without effect; that I wished merely to have the negotiation opened by any proposition on his part; and, with that view, had written him a note which contained that request, grounded upon my apprehension of the consequence of sending General Bernadotte without enabling him to say a treaty was begun. He told me he would answer my note, but that he must do it evasively, because Louisiana was not theirs. I smiled at this assertion, and told him that I had seen the treaty recognizing it; that I knew the Consul had appointed officers to govern the country; and that he had himself told me that General Victor was to take possession; that, in a note written by the express order of the First Consul, he had told me that General Bernadotte was to treat relative to it in the United States, &c. He still persisted in saying that they had it in contemplation to obtain, but had it not. I told him that I was very well pleased to understand this from him, because, if so, we should not commit ourselves with them in taking it from Spain, to whom, by his account, it still belonged; and that, as we had just cause of complaint against her, if Mr. Monroe concurred in opinion with me, we should negotiate no further on the subject, but advise our government to take possession. He seemed alarmed at the boldness of the measure, and told me he would answer my note, but that it would be evasively. I told him I should receive any communication from him with p505 pleasure, but that we were not disposed to trifle; that the times were critical, and, though I did not know what instructions Mr. Monroe might bring, I was perfectly satisfied they would require a precise and prompt notice; that I was very fearful, from the little progress I had made, that my government would consider me as a very indolent negotiator. He laughed, and told me he would give me a certificate that I was the most importunate he had met with.
"There was something so extraordinary in all this, that I did not detail it to you till I found some clue to the labyrinth, which I have done, as you will find, before I finish this letter; and the rather, as I was almost certain that I could rely upon the intelligence I had received of the resolution to dispose of the country.
"This day Mr. Monroe passed with me in examining my papers; and while he and several other gentlemen were at dinner with me, I observed the Secretary of the Treasury (Barbé Marbois) walking in my garden. I sent out Colonel Livingston to him; he told him he would return when we had dined. While we were taking coffee, he came in; and, after being some time in the room, we strolled into the next, when he told me he heard that I had been at his house two days before, when he was at St. Cloud; that he thought I might have something particular to say to him, and had taken the first opportunity to call on me. I saw this was meant as an opening to one of those free conversations which I had frequently had with him. I accordingly began on the subject of the debt, and related to him the extraordinary conduct of the Minister (Talleyrand), &c., &c. He told me that this led to something important that had been cursorily mentioned to him at St. Cloud (where the First Consul was then residing); but, as my house was full of company, he thought I had better call on him any time p506 before eleven that night. He went away, and I followed him a little later, when Mr. Monroe took leave. He told me that he wished me to repeat what I had said in relation to Mr. Talleyrand's requesting a proposition from me as to the purchase of Louisiana. I did so; and concluded with the extreme absurdity of his evasions of that day, and stated the consequence of any delay on this subject, as it would enable Britain to take possession, who would readily relinquish it to us. He said that this proceeded upon the supposition of her making so successful a war as to be enabled to retain her conquests. I told him that it was probable that the same idea might suggest itself to the United States; in which case it would be their interest to contribute to render her successful; and I asked him whether it was prudent to throw us into the scale. This led to long discussions of no moment to repeat. We returned to the point: he said, that what I had told him led him to think that what the Consul had said to him on Sunday, at St. Cloud (the day on which, as I told you, the determination had been taken to sell) had more of earnest than he thought at the time; that the Consul had asked him what news from England? As he knew he read the papers attentively, he told him that he had seen in the London papers the proposition for raising fifty thousand men to take New Orleans (Mr. Ross' proposition in the Senate). The Consul said he had seen it too, and had also seen that something was said about two millions of dollars being disposed among the people about him, to bribe them, &c., and then left him; that afterwards, when walking in the garden, the Consul came again to him, and spoke to him about the troubles that were excited in America, and inquired how far I was satisfied with his last note.
"He (Marbois) then took occasion to mention his sorrow that any cause of difference should exist between p507 our countries. The Consul told him in reply: Well! you have the charge of the treasury; let them give you one hundred millions of francs, pay their own claims, and take the whole country. Seeing by my looks that I was surprised at so extraordinary a demand, he added that he considered the demand as exorbitant, and had told the First Consul that the thing was impossible; that we had not the means of raising that. The Consul told him we might borrow it. I now plainly saw the whole business: first, the Consul was disposed to sell; next, he distrusted Talleyrand, on account of the business of the supposed intention to bribe, and meant to put the negotiation into the hands of Marbois, whose character for integrity is established. I told him that the United States were anxious to preserve peace with France; that, for that reason, they wished to remove the French possessions to the west side of the Mississippi; that we would be perfectly satisfied with New Orleans and the Floridas and had no disposition to extend across the river; that, of course, we would not give any great sum for the purchase; that he was right in his idea of the extreme exorbitancy of the demand, which would not fall short of one hundred and twenty-five millions of francs;14 that, however, we would be ready to purchase, provided the sum was reduced to reasonable limits. He then pressed me to name the sum. I told him that this was not worth while, because, as he only treated the inquiry as a matter of curiosity, any declarations of mine would have no effect. If a negotiation was to be opened, we should (Mr. Monroe and myself) make the offer after mature reflection. This compelled him to declare, that, though he was not authorized expressly to make the inquiry from me, yet if I could mention any sum p508 that came near the mark and that could be accepted, he would communicate it to the First Consul. I told him that we had no sort of authority to go to a sum that bore any proportion to what he mentioned; but that, as he considered the demand as too high, he would oblige me by telling me what he thought would be reasonable. He replied that, if we would name sixty millions, and take upon us the American claims, to the amount of twenty more, he would try how far this would be accepted. I told him that it was vain to ask anything that was so greatly beyond our means, &c. &c.
"He frankly confessed that he was of my sentiments; but that he feared the Consul would not relax. I asked him to press this argument upon him, together with the danger of seeing the country pass into the hands of Britain. I told him that he had seen the ardor of the Americans to take it by force, and the difficulty with which they were restrained by the prudence of the President; that he must easily see how much the hands of the war party would be strengthened, when they learned that France was on the eve of a rupture with England. He admitted the weight of all this. But, says he, you know the temper of a youthful conqueror; everything he does is as rapid as lightning; we have only to speak to him as an opportunity presents itself, perhaps in a crowd, when he bears no contradiction. When I am alone with him, I can speak more freely, and he attends; but this opportunity seldom happens, and is always accidental. Try, then, if you cannot come up to my mark. Consider the extent of the country, the exclusive navigation of the river, and the importance of having no neighbors to dispute you — no war to dread. I told him that I deemed all these to be important considerations, but there was a point beyond which we could not go, and that fell far short of the sum he mentioned.
p509 [. . .]
"Thus, Sir, you see a negotiation is fairly opened, and upon grounds which, I confess, I prefer to all other commercial privileges; and always to some a simple money transaction is infinitely preferable. As to the quantum, I have yet made up no opinion. The field opened to us is infinitely larger than our instructions contemplated; the revenue is increasing, and the land more than adequate to sink the capital, should we even go to the sum proposed by Marbois; nay, I persuade myself, that the whole sum may be raised by the sale of the territory west of the Mississippi, with the right sovereignty, to some power in Europe, whose vicinity we should not fear. I speak now without reflection, and without having seen Mr. Monroe, as it was midnight when I left the treasury office, and is now near three o'clock. It is so very important that you should be apprised that a negotiation is actually opened, even before Mr. Monroe has been presented, in order to calm the tumult which the news of war will renew, that I have lost no time in communicating it. We shall do all we can to cheapen the purchase; but my present sentiment is that we shall buy. Mr. Monroe will be presented to the minister to‑morrow, when we shall press for as early an audience as possible from the First Consul. I think it will be necessary to put in some proposition to‑morrow. The Consul goes in a few days to Brussels, and every moment is precious."
On the 17th, Mr. Livingston thus resumed the subject in a despatch to his government:
"On waiting," said he, "upon the Minister (Talleyrand), we found M. Marbois, who told me he had come to communicate to the Minister what had passed between us, and that he greatly regretted the not being able to bring us to such an offer as he might mention to the First Consul. I told p510 him that it was unnecessary to repeat what would compel us to limit our offers to a much more moderate sum, as I had already detailed them at large; and he knew they exceeded our means, &c.
[. . .]
"The next day, Mr. Monroe and myself, after spending some time in consultation, determined to offer fifty millions, including our debts. We presumed it would be best only to mention forty in the first instance. This I accordingly did, in a conference I had on the 15th with M. Marbois. He expressed great sorrow that we could not go beyond that sum, because he was sure that it would not be accepted, and that perhaps the whole business might be defeated, which he the more feared, as he had just received a note from the Minister (Talleyrand), indicative of the Consul's not being quite pleased that he had so greatly lowered his original proposition. He said that he saw our situation, and he knew that there was a point beyond which we could not go safely to ourselves or the President; but he wished us to advance to that point. He said that he would, if I wished, to that very day to St. Cloud, and let me know the result, &c., &c.
"The next morning, which was yesterday, I again called to see him. He told me that he had been to St. Cloud; that the Consul received his proposition very coolly; and that I might consider the business as no longer in his hands, since he had given him no further powers, &c., etc
[. . .]
"I dined with the Second Consul yesterday; and, in the evening, M. Marbois came in. I took him aside, and asked him if anything further had passed. He said no; but that, as he was to go to St. Cloud the next day, it was possible that the Consul might touch upon the p511 subject again; and that, if he did not, I might consider the plan as relinquished; and that, if I had any further proposition to make, it would be well to state it. I then told him that, on further consideration with Monroe, we had resolved to go to the greatest possible length, and that we would give fifty millions. He said that he had very little hopes that anything short of his propositions would succeed; but that he would make the best use of the arguments I had furnished him with, if an opportunity was offered; and, if nothing was done the next day, I might conclude that the Consul had changed his sentiments; that having given the kingdom of Etruria, whose revenues were twenty-five millions, in exchange for this country, it was natural that the first Consul should estimate it beyond its real value."
Now, that we have seen the American side of the question, let us penetrate into the councils of France, and listen to the recital of these transactions, as told by M. Marbois, in his History of Louisiana.
"That province," said he, "was at the mercy of the English, who had a naval armament in the neighboring seas, and good garrisons in Jamaica and the Windward Islands. It might be supposed that they would open the campaign by this easy conquest. The First Consul had no other plan to pursue, when he abandoned his views respecting Louisiana, than to prevent the loss which France was already sustaining, being turned to the advantage of England. He, however, conceived that he ought, before parting with it, to inform himself respecting the value of an acquisition, which was the fruit of his own negotiations, and the only one that had not been obtained by the sword.
"He wished to have the opinion of two ministers, who had been acquainted with those countries, and to one of whom the administration of the colonies was familiar. p512 He was in the habit of explaining himself without preparation or reserve, to those in whom he had confidence.
"On Easter Sunday, the 10th of April (1803), after having attended to the solemnities and ceremonies of the day, he called those two counsellors to him, and, addressing them with that vehemence and passion which he particularly manifested in political affairs, said: 'I know the full value of Louisiana, and I have been desirous of repairing the fault of the French negotiator who abandoned it in 1763. A few lines of a treaty have restored it to me, and I have scarcely recovered it, when I must expect to lose it. But if it escapes from me, it shall one day cost dearer to those who oblige me to strip myself of it, than to those to whom I wish to deliver it. The English have successfully taken from France: Canada, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the richest portions of Asia. They are engaged in exciting troubles in St. Domingo. They shall not have the Mississippi, which they covet. Louisiana is nothing in comparison with their conquests in all parts of the globe, and yet the jealousy they feel at the restoration of this colony to the sovereignty of France, acquaints me with their wish to take possession of it, and it is thus they will begin the war. They have twenty ships of war in the Gulf of Mexico; they sail over those seas as sovereigns, whilst our affairs in St. Domingo have been growing worse every day, since the death of Leclerc. The conquest of Louisiana would be easy, if they only took the trouble to make a descent there. I have not a moment to lose in putting it out of their reach. I know not whether they are not already there. It is their usual course, and, if I had been in their place, I would not have waited. I wish, if there is still time, to take away from them any idea that they may have of ever possessing that colony. I think of ceding it to the United States. I can scarcely p513 say that I cede it to them, for it is not yet in our possession. If, however, I leave the least time to our enemies, I shall only transmit an empty title to those republicans whose friendship I seek. They only ask of me one town in Louisiana; but I already consider the colony as entirely lost, and it appears to me, that in the hands of this growing power, it will be more useful to the policy and even to the commerce of France, than if I should attempt to keep it.'
"One of these ministers had served in the auxiliary army sent by France to the United States during their revolution. The other had, for ten years, been in the public employ, either as secretary of the French Legation to the Continental Congress, or as the head of the administration of St. Domingo.
" 'We should not hesitate,' said the last Minister (Barbé Marbois) 'to make a sacrifice of that which is about slipping away from us. War with England is inevitable. Shall we be able with inferior naval forces to defend Louisiana against that power? The United States, justly discontented with our proceedings, do not hold out to us a solitary haven, not even an asylum, in case of reverses. They have just become reconciled with us, it is true, but they have a dispute with the Spanish government, and threaten New Orleans, of which we shall only have a momentary possession. At the time of the discovery of Louisiana, the neighboring provinces were as feeble as herself. They are now powerful, and Louisiana is still in her infancy. The country is scarcely at all inhabited; you have not fifty soldiers there. Where are your means of sending garrisons thither? Can we restore fortifications that are in ruins, and construct a log chain of forts upon a frontier of •four hundred leagues? If England lets you undertake these things, it is because they will drain your resources, and p514 she will feel a secret joy in seeing you exhaust yourself in efforts of which she alone will derive the profit. You will send out a squadron; but, while it is crossing the ocean, the colony will fall, and the squadron will, in its turn, be in danger. Louisiana is open to the English from the north by the great lakes, and if, to the south, they show themselves at the mouth of the Mississippi, New Orleans will immediately fall into their hands. Of what consequence is it to the inhabitants whom they are subject to, if their country is not to cease to be a colony? This conquest would be still easier to the Americans; they can reach the Mississippi by several navigable rivers, and to be masters of the country it will be sufficient for them to enter it. The population and resources of one of these two neighbors every day increase, and the other has maritime means sufficient to take possession of every thing that can advance her commerce. The colony has existed for a century, and, in spite of efforts and sacrifices of every kind, the last account of its population and resources attests its weakness. If it becomes a French colony and acquires increased importance, there will be in its very prosperity a germ of independence, which will not be long in developing itself. The more it flourishes, the less chance shall we have of preserving it. Nothing is more uncertain than the future fate of the European colonies in America. The exclusive right which the parent States exercise over these remote settlements becomes every day more and more precarious. The people feel humbled at being dependent on a small country in Europe, and will liberate themselves, as soon as they have a consciousness of their own strength.
"The French have attempted to form colonies in several parts of the continent of America. Their efforts have everywhere proved abortive. The English are p515 patient and laborious; they do not fear the solitude and silence of newly settled countries. The Frenchman, lively and active, requires society; he is fond of conversing with neighbors. He willingly enters on the experiment of cultivating the soil, but, at the first disappointment, quits the spade or axe for the chase.
"The First Consul, interrupting these observations, asked how it happened that the French, who were incapable of succeeding in a continental colony, had always made great progress in the West Indies. Because, replied the minister, the slaves perform all the labor. The whites, who would be soon exhausted by the heat of the climate, have, however, the vigor of body and mind necessary to direct their operations. — 'I am again,' said the First Consul, 'undecided as to maintaining or abolishing slavery. By whom is the land cultivated in Louisiana?' — 'Slavery,' answered the minister, 'has given to Louisiana half her population. An inexcusable imprudence was committed in suddenly granting to the slaves of St. Domingo a liberty for which they had not been prepared. The blacks and whites have both been the victims of this great fault. But, without inquiring at this day how it would be proper to repair it, let us acknowledge that the colonies where slavery is preserved are rather burdensome than useful to France. At the same time, let us beware how we abandon them. They have not the means of governing themselves. The Creoles are French; they have been encouraged in that mode of culture, and in that system which now causes their misfortunes. Let us preserve them from new calamities. It is our duty to provide for their defence, for the administration of justice and for the cares of government. But, for what good purpose would you subject yourself to still greater embarrassments in Louisiana? You would there constantly have the colonial p516 laws in collision with those at home. Of all the scourges that have afflicted the human race, slavery is the most detestable; but even humanity requires great precautions in the application of the remedy, and you cannot apply it, if Louisiana should again become French. Governments still half resist emancipation: they tolerate in secret what they ostensibly condemn, and they are themselves embarrassed by their false position. The general sentiment of the world is favorable to emancipation; it is in vain that the colonists and planters wish to arrest a movement which public opinion approves. The occupation of Louisiana — a colony with slaves — will occasion us more expense than it will afford us profit.
" 'But there is another kind of slavery of which this colony has lost the habit: it is that of the exclusive system. Do you expect to reëstablish it in a country contiguous to one whose commerce enjoys the greatest liberty? The reign of prohibitory laws is over, when a numerous population has decided to throw off the yoke. Besides, the productions which were so long possessed exclusively by a few commercial people, are ceasing to be privileged articles. The sugar cane and the coffee tree are everywhere cultivated, and at a very small expense. Every people expects to raise on its own account all the provisions adapted to its territory and climate. There are on the globe, between the tropics, lands a thousand times more extensive than our islands, and susceptible of the same kind of culture. Monopoly is rendered impossible when the productions are so multiplied, and the Louisianians will not permit it to enslave their commerce. Would you subdue resistance by force of arms? The malcontents will find support in the neighborhood, and you will make the United States, with whom reciprocal interests ought to connect us for centuries, enemies of France. Do not expect from the p517 Louisianians any attachment for your person. They render homage to your fame and to your exploits; but the love of nations is reserved for those princes whom they regard as the authors of their happiness; and, whatever may be your solicitude with respect to theirs, it will be for a long time, and perhaps for ever, without effect. These colonists have lost the recollection of France; they are of three or four different nations, and hardly regard Louisiana as their country. Laws which are incessantly varying, chiefs who cannot know those whom they are sent to govern and are not known by them, changes effected according to the unsettled interests of the ruling state or the inexperience of Ministers, the continual danger of becoming belligerents in quarrels to which they are really strangers; such are the causes which have for a hundred years extinguished in their hearts every sentiment of affection for masters who are two thousand leagues distant from them, and who would exchange or convey them away like an article of merchandise. In order that a country should exist and possess citizens, the certainty of stability must be united with the feeling of prosperity. The Louisianians, on hearing that they had again become French, must have said to one another: This change will not last longer than the others. If, Citizen Consul, you, who have, by one of the first acts of your government, made sufficiently apparent your intention of giving this country to France, now abandon the idea of keeping it, there is no person that will not admit that you only yield to necessity; and even our merchants will soon acknowledge that Louisiana free, offers to them more chances of profit than Louisiana subjected to a monopoly. Commercial establishments are at this day preferable to colonies, and even without commercial establishments it is but to let trade take care of itself."
p518 "The other Minister (Decrès) was of a totally opposite opinion: 'We are still at peace with England,' said he; 'the colony has just been ceded to us, it depends on the First Consul to preserve it. It would not be wise in him to abandon, for fear of a doubtful danger, the most important establishment that we can form out of France, and despoil ourselves of it for no other reason than the possibility of a war: it would be as well, if not better, that it should be taken from us by force of arms. If peace is maintained, the cession cannot be justified, and this premature act of ill-founded apprehension would occasion the most lively regrets. To retain it would, on the other hand, be for our commerce and navigation an inestimable resource, and to our maritime provinces the subject of universal joy. The advantages which we have derived from the colonies are still present to every mind. Ten flourishing cities have been created by this trade; and the navigation, opulence, and luxury which embellished Paris are the results of colonial industry. There can be no marine without colonies; no colonies without a powerful marine. The political system of Europe is only preserved by a skilfully combined resistance of many against one. This is as necessary with respect to the sea as to the land, if it is not intended to submit to the tyranny of a universal sovereignty over commerce and the loss of the immense advantages of a free navigation. To this you will not submit; you will not acknowledge by your resignation that England is the sovereign mistress of the seas, that she is there invulnerable, and that no one can possess colonies except at her good pleasure. It does not become you to fear the Kings of England. If they should seize on Louisiana, as some would have you fear, Hanover would be immediately in your hands as a certain pledge of its restoration. France, deprived of her navy and her colonies, p519 is stripped of half her splendor, and of a great part of her strength. Louisiana can indemnify us for all our losses. There does not exist on the globe a single port, a single city susceptible of becoming as important as New Orleans, and the neighborhood of the American States already makes it one of the most commercial in the world. The Mississippi does not reach there till it has received twenty other rivers, most of which surpass in size the finest rivers of Europe. The country is at last known, the principal explorations have been made, and expenses have not been spared, especially by Spain. Forts exist: some fertile lands suitable to the richest kinds of culture are already fully in use, and others only await the necessarily labor. This colony, open to the activity of the French, will soon compensate them for the loss of India.
" 'The climate is the same as that of Hindostan, and the distance is only a quarter as great. The navigation to the Indies, by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, has changed the course of European trade, and ruined Venice and Genoa. What will be its direction, if, at the Isthmus of Panama, a simple canal should be opened to connect the one ocean with the other? The revolution which navigation will then experience will be still more considerable, and the circumnavigation of the globe will become easier than the long voyages that are now made in going to and returning from India. Louisiana will be on this new route, and it will then be acknowledged that this possession is of inestimable value.
" 'A boundless country belongs to us, to which the savages possess only an imaginary right. They overrun vast deserts, with the bow in their hand, in pursuit of wild beasts. But the social state requires that the land should be occupied, and these wandering hunters are not proprietors. The Indian has only a right to his subsistence, p520 and this we will provide for him at a small expense.
" 'All the productions of West Indies suit Louisiana. This variety of products has already introduced large capitals into countries that were so long an uninhabited wilderness. If we must abandon St. Domingo, Louisiana will take its place. Consider likewise the injury which it may do us, if it becomes our rival in those productions of which we have so long had the monopoly. Attempts have been made to introduce there the vine, the olive, and the mulberry tree; and these experiments, which Spain has not been able to prevent, have but too well succeeded. If the colony should become free, Provence and our vineyards must prepare for a fearful competition with a country new and of boundless extent. If, on the other hand, it is subjected to our laws, every kind of culture injurious to our productions will be prohibited.
" 'It is even for the advantage of Europe that France should be rich. So long as she shared with England the commerce of America and Asia, the princes and cabinets that consented to be subsidied, profited by their competition in their offers. What a difference it will make to them all, if there is to be no more competition, and if England alone is to regulate this traffic of amity among princes! Alone rich, she alone would give the law.
" 'Finally, France, after her long troubles, requires such a colony for her internal pacification; it will be for our country what, a century ago, were for England the settlements which the emigrants from the three kingdoms have raised to so high a degree of prosperity; it will be the asylum of our religious and political dissenters; it will cure a part of the maladies which the revolution has caused, and be the supreme conciliator of p521 all the parties into which we are divided. You will there find the remedies for which you search with so much solicitude.'
"The First Consul terminated the conference without making his intentions known; the discussions had been prolonged into the night. The Ministers remained at St. Cloud; and, at day-break, he summoned the one who had advised the cession of Louisiana, and made him read the despatches that had just arrived from London. His ambassador informed him that naval and military preparations of every kind were making with extraordinary rapidity.
" 'The English,' said Napoleon, 'ask of me Lampedousa, which does not belong to me, and at the same time wish to keep Malta for ten years. This island, where military genius has exhausted all the means of defensive fortification to an extent of which no one without seeing it can form an idea, would be to them another Gibraltar. To leave it to the English would be to give up to them the commerce of the Levant, and to rob my southern provinces of it. They wish to keep this possession, and have me immediately to evacuate Holland.
" 'Irresolution and deliberation are no longer in season. I renounce Louisiana. It is not only New Orleans that I will cede, it is the whole colony without any reservation. I know the price of what I abandon, and have sufficiently proved the importance that I attach to this province, since my first diplomatic act with Spain had for its object its recovery. I renounce it with the greatest regret. To attempt obstinately to retain it, would be folly. I direct you to negotiate this affair with the envoys of the United States. Do not even await the arrival of Mr. Monroe; have an interview this very day with Mr. Livingston. But I require a great deal of money for this war, and I would not like to commence it with new p522 contributions. For a hundred years France and Spain have been incurring expenses for improvements in Louisiana, for which its trade has never indemnified them. Large sums, which will never be returned to the treasury, have been lent to companies and agriculturists. The price of all these things is justly due to us. If I should regulate my terms according to the value of these vast regions to the United States, the indemnity would have no limits. I will be moderate, in consideration of the necessity in which I am, of making a sale. But keep this to yourself. I want fifty millions, and for less than that sum I will not treat; I would rather make a desperate attempt to keep these fine countries. To‑morrow, you shall have full powers.' The new plenipotentiary then made some general observations on the cession of the rights of sovereignty, and upon the abandonment of what the Germans call the souls, as to whether they could be the subject of a contract of sale or exchange. Bonaparte replied: 'You are giving me in all its perfection, the ideology of the law of nature and nations. But I require money to make war on the richest nation in the world. Send your maxims to the London market; I am sure that they will be greatly admired there, and yet no great attention is paid to them when the question is the occupation of the finest regions of Asia.
" 'Perhaps it will also be objected to me that the Americans may be found too powerful for Europe in two or three centuries; but my foresight does not embrace such remote fears. Besides, we may hereafter expect rivalries among the members of the Union. The confederations that are called perpetual, only last till one of the contracting parties finds it to his interest to break them, and it is to prevent the danger to which the colonial power of England exposes us, that I would provide a remedy.
p523 "The Minister made no reply. The First Consul continued: "Mr. Monroe is on the point of arriving. To this minister, going a thousand leagues from his constituents, the President must have given, after defining the object of his mission, secret instructions, more extensive than the ostensible authorization of Congress, for the stipulation of the payments to be made. Neither this minister, nor his colleague, is prepared for a decision which goes infinitely beyond anything that they are about to ask of us. Begin by making them the overture, without any subterfuge. You will acquaint me, day by day, hour by hour, of your progress. The cabinet of London is informed of the measures adopted at Washington, but it can have no suspicion of those I am now taking. Observe the greatest secrecy, and recommend it to the American Ministers; they have not a less interest than yourself in conforming to the counsel. You will correspond with M. de Talleyrand, who alone knows my intentions. If I attended to his advice, France would confine her ambition to the left bank of the Rhine, and would only make war to protect the weak states and to prevent any dismemberment of her possessions. But he also admits that the cession of Louisiana is not a dismemberment of France. Keep him informed of the progress of this affair."
Thus it is seen that, according to Marbois's own account, Bonaparte had determined, on the 10th of April, to part with Louisiana, and that he was as anxious to sell as the American Ministers to purchase. Both parties, being in such dispositions, could not fail to come promptly to some definite conclusion, despite the little coquetting and by‑play acted on the part of Messrs. Marbois and Talleyrand, as described by Mr. Livingston, and which no doubt were intended to enhance the value of the commodity they had to dispose of.
p524 The treaty of cession15 was signed on the 30th of April. Louisiana was transferred to the United States, with all its rights and appurtenances, as fully and in the same manner as they had been acquired by the French Republic from Spain, on condition of the Americans consenting to pay to France eighty millions of francs, twenty millions of which should be assigned to the payment of what was due by France to the citizens of the United States. Some commercial advantages were besides stipulated in favor of France.
Article 3 of the treaty, which reads as follows: "The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess" — was, wrote Marbois, prepared by the First Consul himself, who said on that occasion: "Let the Louisianians know that we separate ourselves from them with regret; that we stipulate in their favor every thing that they can desire, and let them, hereafter, happy in their independence, recollect that they have been Frenchmen, and that France, in ceding them, has secured for them advantages which they could not have obtained from an European power, however paternal it might have been. Let them retain for us sentiments of affection; and may their common origin, descent, language, and customs, perpetuate the friendship."
As soon as the Ministers had signed the treaty, writes the same author, who had acted so conspicuous a part in that important event, they rose and shook hands, when p525 Mr. Livingston, expressing the satisfaction which they felt, said: "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives. The treaty which we have just signed has not been obtained by art or dictated by force; equally advantageous to the two contracting parties, it will change vast solitudes into flourishing districts. From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank; the English lose all exclusive influence in the affairs of America. Thus one of the principal causes of European rivalries and animosities is about to cease. However, if wars are inevitable, France will hereafter have in the New World a natural friend, that must increase in strength from year to year, and one which cannot fail to become powerful and respected in every sea. The United States will re-establish the maritime rights of all the world, which are now usurped by a single nation. These treaties will thus be a guarantee of peace and concord among commercial states. The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed: they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures. The Mississippi and Missouri will see them succeed one another, and multiply, truly worthy of the regard and care of Providence, in the bosom of equality, under just laws, freed from the errors of superstition and the scourges of bad government."
As to the First Consul, when he was informed of the conclusion of the treaty, he sententiously and prophetically said: "This accession of territory strengthens for ever the power of the United States; and I have just given to England a maritime rival, that will sooner or later humble her pride."
Thus closed these negotiations, which I have thought of sufficient interest to be related in detail, and which eventuated in the most important treaty perhaps ever p526 signed in the nineteenth century, if it be judged by its consequences to the United States and to the rest of the world. Among these consequences were the extension of the area of freedom, an immense accretion to the physical and moral power of the great American Republic, and the subsequent acquisition of the Floridas, Texas, California, and other portions of the Mexican territory. Other results, at least of equal magnitude, may be clearly foreseen, and it may be permitted to the pride of patriotism to hope for the realization of Bonaparte's prevision: "that the day may come when the cession of Louisiana to the United States shall render the Americans too powerful for the continent of Europe."
1 Con el fin de contrarestar los designios del bandido Americano, Felipe Nolan, el cual se habia introducido en las provincias internas de Nueva España con treinte y seis hombres armados.
2 Annals of Congress, Session of 1803, p1017. Appendix.
3 Formando un dilatado proceso por la cosa mas clara, insignificante, infundada é injusta, y como la astucia y perversa malignidad de su corazon, y del asesor (p455)satelite suyo, y tambien enemigo mortal mio, no tienen limites, reitero á V. E. la suplica que le tengo hecha de que suspende su juicio, &c., &c.
4 Que es importante contener la pluma y la lengua del dicho Pedrera, hombre audaz, en un pais compuesto por la mayor parte de estrangeros de penetracion, de religion y costumbres diversas, contrarios por naturaleza á la prudente y moderada sujecion á las leyes, y ansiosos de introducir novedades analogas á las maximas de libertad que se figuran favorecer su antojo y su capricho.
5 Martin's History of Louisiana, vol. II, p180.
6 Barbé Marbois' History. Translation from the French. Philadelphia edition. 1830. p215.
7 The preliminaries of peace agreed to between France and England on the 1st of October, 1801.
8 The place where the representatives of England and France had met to discuss the terms of a definitive peace between the two nations.
9 Barbé Marbois' History of Louisiana.
10 The obligation of secrecy which had been imposed.
11 A letter from the Governor of Louisiana to Governor Claiborne, in which it is stated that the measure of the Intendant closing the port of New Orleans to the Americans was without instructions from his government, and admitted that his own judgment did not concur with that of the Intendant.
12 The French, the English, and the Spaniards.
13 General Bernadotte had received the appointment of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to represent France at Washington.
14 On the supposition that the claims of American citizens against the government of France amounted to twenty-five millions of francs.
a No protection, no allegiance is one of the best, and certainly one of the most succinct, statements of Rousseau's social contract on which most modern nation-states are built, the very first of which were the United States of America. It remains every bit as relevant today in the face of Moslem aggression: the fundamental danger facing the United States today is hardly that we should buckle under to blackmail and turn into an Islamic theocracy, but that the citizenry, who so far have not been very well protected against aggression, might become disenchanted with the very principles of our government and the rule of law.
b And sure enough, we tried, several times, and for a short time exercised a protectorate over the island. On the other hand, where does one stop? Yucatan and Jamaica threaten the security of Cuba, and, like Dean Swift's fleas, so ad infinitum.
c Or, in terms more relevant to our own time, what if Canada or Mexico refuse to prevent the entry of terrorists posing a danger to the United States?
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