On the 20th of December, 1803, the colony of Louisiana had passed from the domination of Spain into that of the United States of America, to which it was delivered by France after a short possession of twenty days, as I have related in a former work.1 Its inhabitants, of French or Spanish descent, and almost all the ornamenters who resided in the province, either permanently or temporarily, were discontented and gloomy. To them the change of government, or nationality, was extremely distasteful, for reasons as various as the habits, tastes, prejudices, passions, disappointments and hopes of each individual. A few Americans, who were almost lost in the vast numerical superiority of the rest of the population, and who had just expectations to profit, in every way, by the great event of the cession, were alone to feel and to manifest any degree of exultation. The immediate p2 effect of that cession was to vest all the powers of the defunct government (a sort of Gallic and Spanish hybrid) in Governor Claiborne, until Congress should legislate on the organization of the government of the new territory. Thus this officer, as he informed the inhabitants in a set proclamation, had suddenly become the Governor-General and the Intendant of Louisiana, uniting in his person all the authority severally possessed by those two functionaries under the despotic government of Spain. Well might he be astonished at the strange position in which he was placed; for he, a republican magistrate, found himself transformed into an absolute proconsul, in whom centered all the executive, judicial and legislative authority lately exercised, in their respective capacity, by the superseded Spanish dignitaries. Moreover, he was to wield those extraordinary powers in maintaining and enforcing the laws and municipal regulations of Spain, which were to remain in vigor until modified by the Government of the United States, and of which he was entirely ignorant. Not only were they unknown to him, but they were written in a language with which he was not acquainted, and they were thoroughly impregnated with a spirit completely foreign to his inclinations — to the atmosphere in which he was born and had grown up to manhood — and to the very moral and political training of his mind. Besides, he was to construe and to execute these laws in their application or adjustment to the wants of a population of which he knew nothing. These were circumstances which could not but startle him by their novelty, and by the danger with which they were fraught. Surely it is not to be wondered at, if the colonists looked at their new ruler with a jealous eye, and if they awaited with nervous apprehension the course which he was to pursue. He himself must have felt that his situation was such as to require that he should p3 tax to the utmost all the knowledge, talent, sagacity, prudence and firmness which he might possess, and that no time was to be lost in his giving a decided manifestation of his being gifted with these qualifications.
His first measure was to organize the judiciary, and he established, on the 30th of December, 1803, a Court of Pleas, composed of seven justices. Their civil jurisdiction was limited in cases not exceeding in value three thousand dollars, with the right of appeal to the Governor, when the amount in litigation rose above five hundred dollars. That tribunal was also vested with jurisdiction over all criminal cases in which the punishment did not exceed two hundred dollars and sixty days' imprisonment. Each of those seven justices was clothed, individually, with summary jurisdiction over all debts under one hundred dollars, reserving to the parties an appeal to the Court of Pleas, that is, to the seven justices, sitting together in one court.
In confirmation of what I have written on the discontent existing among those whose allegiance was now to be claimed by the United States, I quote Judge Martin's views on the same subject, as expressed in his History of Louisiana. "The people of Louisiana, especially in New Orleans," says this learned jurist, who came to the territory shortly after the cession, "were greatly dissatisfied at the new order of things. They complained that the person whom Congress had sent to preside over them was an utter stranger to their laws, manners and language; and had no personal interest in the prosperity of the country — that he was incessantly surrounded by newcomers from the United States, to whom he gave a decided preference over the Creoles and European French in the distribution of offices — that in the new Court of Pleas, most of the judges of which were ignorant of the laws and language of the country, proceedings were carried p4 on in the English language, which Claiborne had lately attempted to introduce in the proceedings of the municipal body, and that the suitors were in an equally disadvantageous situation in the Court of the Last Resort, in which he sat as sole judge, not attended, as the Spanish Governors were, by a legal adviser. That the errors in which he could not but help falling2 were without redress. They urged that, under the former government, an appeal lay from the Governor's decision to the Captain-General of Cuba, from thence to the Royal Audience in that island, and in many cases from thence to the Council of the Indies at Madrid." Thus Claiborne was at the same time the Governor, the intendant and the supreme judge of Louisiana. There could not be under the sun a more perfect despotism.
It is true that this state of things did not last beyond the time which was strictly necessary for Congress to modify it. On the 26th of March, 1804, an act was passed to organize the newly acquired province, and to divide it into two parts: the one called "Territory of Orleans," and the other "District of Louisiana," and their executive, judicial and legislative organization was provided for.3 But that act was so framed that it proved to be a fresh source of discontent, instead of a healing ointment on festering wounds. The severing of Louisiana into two distinct fragments turned out to be a very unpopular measure, and was keenly resented by the old population. It had always been a unit in the hands of France and Spain. Now that it was relieved from the burden of its colonial vassalage, and was promised the speedy possession of sovereignty, it would not have been affected, in the opinion of the Louisianians, with p5 this odious partition, which was evidently destined, they thought, to diminish their importance, and to retard the advent of that sovereignty which had become the object of their desires. They maintained that Congress had no right to curtail Louisiana of the magnificent proportions which it possessed when ceded, and that it was with those proportions, and not in a state of mutilation, that it was to be received into the Confederacy, as soon as possible, according to the very terms of the treaty of cession.
The Louisianians, who had objected to the immense power possessed by Claiborne as Governor, intendant and judge in the last resort, did not think that a sufficient guarantee had been given to them by the slight change made in the recent act of Congress for the organization of the Territory. Thus, by that act, the Supreme Court had been made to consist of three judges, it is true, but one of them was sufficient to constitute the court; so that, according to circumstances, the change might amount only to this: that one man, called "Judge," could dispossess them of their property, tarnish their honor, and hang them at will, instead of the man formerly called "Governor."
There was another feature in that act which was exceedingly unpalatable. It was the prohibition to import slaves, except by those American citizens who should come to settle in good faith in the Territory, with such slaves as they owned in their former domicile. This was looked upon as a blow purposely aimed at the old inhabitants, who, by such legislation, were deprived of the means of increasing that manual labor which was so much needed for the development of their resources. It may not be amiss to state that a Convention "for promoting the abolition of slavery and improving the condition of the African race," had assembled at Philadelphia p6 on the 13th of January, and had called, through "resolutions," submitted to Congress on the 26th of that month, the attention of that body "to the utility and propriety of passing such laws as should prohibit the importation of slaves into the Territory of Orleans." They appealed to the solemn declaration made by the United States, that "all men were born free and equal," and hence they argued, "that our Government could not authorize man to enslave unoffending man." Such was their language. They also urged other magniloquent considerations which have become familiar to the American mind, from the persevering zeal with which they have ever since been pressed into the service of ambitious demagogues, according to the different views taken of the subject by their respective friends and supporters. Be it as it may, on this occasion, the importation of slaves was partially prohibited in conformity with the wishes of the petitioners against slavery. The Louisianians were greatly mortified. They thought that it was an encouragement to further interference, and some predicted that it was but an entering-wedge.
There was also in that act a provision which excited the ire of the former colonists. It was one which declared that certain concessions of lands made by the Spanish Government were "null and void." This was considered as a demonstration of hostility, and as a threatening indication that something else would soon be forthcoming in violation of what the Louisianians believed to be their rights and privileges. An intense anxiety was produced by the authority granted to the President of the United States to appoint "Registers and Recorders of Land Titles," who were to receive and to record all titles acquired under the Spanish and French Governments, and also commissioned to take p7 cognizance of all claims to land, and to decide on them in a summary way, and with such proceedings as they might deem best to adopt — which proceedings and decisions were to be reported to the Secretary of the Treasury, and laid before Congress for their final judgment. The people thought that this was a complicated machinery to dispossess them of all their broad and fertile acres. They trembled at the consequences which they foresaw — such as arbitrary spoliations, or ruinous litigation, with an endless train of troubles and vexations which were dolefully predicted to them by this who pretended to read the dark pages of futurity.
Such was the state of feelings which prevailed among the former subjects of Spain and France, when the Colonial Prefect Laussat, who had been the agent of France in delivering the territory to the United States, and who had remained in it several months after the cession, departed for the island of Martinique, not without having addressed to his Government some interesting observations, which show that he sagaciously appreciated, to a certain extent at least, some of the results which were to follow from the cession, at no distant time. "The Americans," he said, "have given fifteen millions of dollars for Louisiana; they would have given fifty, rather than not possess it. They will receive one million of dollars for duties at the custom-house in New Orleans during the present year, — a sum exceeding the interest of the money they have paid for the acquisition, without taking into the consideration the value of the very great quantity of vacant lands. As to the twelve years during which our vessels are to be received on the footing of national ones, they present but an illusive prospect, considering the war,4 and the impossibility of our being able to enter into competition with their merchantmen. Besides, all will p8 in a short time turn to the advantage of English manufacturers, on account of the great facility which this place will exclusively enjoy, from its situation, to supply the Spanish colonies as far as the Equator. In a few years, the country, as far as Rio Bravo, will be in a state of cultivation. New Orleans will then have a population of about thirty to fifty thousand souls; and the new territory will produce sugar enough for the supply of North America and part of Europe. Let us not blind ourselves; in a few years the existing prejudices will be worn off; the inhabitants will gradually become Americans by the introduction of native Americans and Englishmen — a system already begun. Many of the present inhabitants will leave the country in disgust; those who have large fortunes will retire to the mother-country; a great proportion will remove into the Spanish settlements, and the remaining few will be lost among the new-comers. Should no fortunate amelioration of political events intervene, what a magnificent New France have we lost! The Creoles and French established here unite in favor of France, and cannot be persuaded that the convention for the cession of Louisiana is anything but a political trick; they think that it will return under the dominion of France."5 It is important to remark, for the better understanding of the history of Louisiana, in its future developments, that the representative of France seemed to admit the possibility of what he mysteriously and quaintly called "the intervention of a fortunate amelioration of political events," by which the territory which his country had reluctantly relinquished might be recovered, and that the Creoles and the European French remaining in that territory thought that the cession was a "political trick," and that they would return "under the dominion of France."
p9 Before his departure, Laussat caused to be distributed among such of the inhabitants of Louisiana as had shown themselves most zealous in favor of the French Government, as a feeble testimonial of the satisfaction and goodwill of that Government, seven hundred and sixty-five pounds of powder, which, "being French," he said, "was much appreciated by the inhabitants, who are ardent sportsmen."6
In another dispatch, he gives the most graphic description of the condition in which he leaves the ceded province, and comments harshly on the organization of the territorial government, which was to go into operation on the 1st of October, in compliance with the act of Congress passed on the 26th of March. He also reflects in no measured terms on the blunders which he attributes to the new proprietors of Louisiana, in taking possession of their magnificent acquisition.
"The Louisianians," he writes, "have seen themselves, with much regret, rejected for the second time from the bosom of their mother-country. At first, on their being made aware of that event, their interpretations of the cession and their comments on it showed but too clearly the extreme bitterness of their discontent. In this disposition they were secretly encouraged by the Spaniards, . . . . . who, besides, were marvelously assisted by the natural antipathy which the Louisianians entertain for the Americans.
"Nevertheless, on the approach of the change of domination, partly from the love of novelty, partly from the hope of those advantages which were depicted to them, and perhaps also from a forced resignation to a fate which they could not avoid, they had become tolerably well disposed toward passing under the Government of the United States.
p10 "But hardly had the agents of that government taken the reins in hand, when they accumulated errors on errors, and blunders on blunders. I will refrain from enumerating them in detail to Your Excellency, Citizen Minister, but I will only, in a few words, mention the leading characteristics of their administration, such as the sudden introduction of the English language, which hardly anybody understands, into the daily exercise of public authority, and in the most important acts of private life — the affrays and tumults resulting from the struggle for pre-eminence, and the preference shown for American over French dances at public balls — the invasion of bayonets into the halls of amusement and the closing of the balls — the active participation of the American General and of the Governor in those quarrels — the inconsiderate proceedings which ensued — the revolting partiality exhibited in favor of native Americans or of Englishmen, both in the audiences granted by the authorities and in the judgments rendered — the marked substitution of American to Creole majorities in all administrative and judicial bodies — the arbitrary mixture of old usages with new ones, under the pretext of a change of domination — the intemperate speeches — the injurious precautions — the bad advisers7 — the scandalous orgies — the savage manners and habits — the wretched appointments to office — what more shall I say, Citizen Minister? It was hardly possible that the Government of the United States should have a worse beginning, and that it should have sent two men8 more deficient in the proper requisites to conciliate the hearts of the Louisianians. The first, with estimable qualities as a private man, has little intellect,9 a good deal of awkwardness, and is extremely beneath the position in which he has been placed. The p11 second, who has been long known10 here in the most unfavorable manner, is a rattle-headed fellow, full of odd fantasies.11 He is frequently drunk, and has committed a hundred inconsistent and impertinent acts. Neither the one nor the other understands one word of French, or Spanish. They have, on all occasions, and without the slightest circumspection, shocked the habits, the prejudices and the natural dispositions of the inhabitants of this country. The gazettes of Philadelphia have lately published, I do not know by what mistake, a confidential dispatch of Governor Claiborne to President Jefferson, in which he speaks of the Louisianians as of ignorant by kindly disposed beings, in the treatment of whom everything could be dared with impunity, and who, unable to appreciate the value of the American institutions, are not susceptible of self-government.
"As if it were to drive them into extremities, copies of the late act of Congress to organize the Territory have recently been brought to their perusal. . . . . . . Your Excellency might hear on all sides the utterance of such sentiments as these: 'Is it in this way that we are secured the benefits that were to result to us from the cession of Louisiana by France? Are these the liberties of which she seemed to have guarantied to us the preservation by an express clause of the treaty? Is it thus that she calls us to the enjoyment of the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States?' "
Laussat further speaks of the excitement as being so intense, that, at night, placards, in which insurrection was openly preached, were put up at all the corners of the streets. Crowds gathered round and copied them, preventing also their being torn away. Even public officers who attempted it were driven off. In the country, particularly p12 in the districts of the Attakapas and of the Opelousas, which were the most populous, and which, says Laussat,
"had always distinguished themselves by their ardent love for France," the dispositions which were manifested were not more favorable. "I contented myself," continues Laussat, "with observing everything in silence, or if I was provoked into breaking it at all, I did so by speaking in favor of the treaty of cession, and by representing that henceforth it would be impossible to do away with such an act. It is what the Louisianians absolutely refuse to be convinced of. They complacently feed on the idea that the First Consul has merely yielded to temporary circumstances, but that when peace shall come, and when he shall have humbled the insolence of Great Britain, he will recede from the treaty of cession. They arrange this political question in their own way, and they firmly adhere to what they have thus settled in their own minds. They make no concealment of it; they have expressed on the subject their sentiments to me, and also to the Governor, and to the American General. . . . . . .
"With regard to myself, Citizen Minister, I am very far from having such a belief. It is a dream, which I do not rank among the things which are possible. I think, on the contrary, that Louisiana being once emancipated from her colonial fetters, it would be unnatural to expect that she should ever willingly resume them and give up her new position."
He then asserts that the animosity which prevailed at the time against the Government of the United States would soon die away, unless unskillfully kept alive by the faults of the Administration.
"These people," he added, "are naturally gentle and docile, although touchy, proud and brave. Besides, they are few in number, and scattered about, without experience, and p13 without any rallying-point. The Spanish Government made it its policy to keep them entirely disconnected with public affairs, which it has accustomed them to consider with indifference, and even with a sort of abnegation. The Louisianians will not for a long time recover from such a training, and in the mean while they will gradually make up their minds to their change of circumstances, because, although their new chiefs should go astray and commit blunders, yet there are advantages inherent to the Constitution and to the situation of the United States, of which it is impossible to prevent these people from experiencing the salutary influence.
"But, on the other side, if this country is entirely abandoned to the impulsion which will be given to it, I consider it from this time as no longer existing for France. The Americans in general detest us. Those amongst them who have the least of English nature in them, are more English than French, notwithstanding their hypocritical and pompous protestations. There is not a day on which they have not proved it to me here. Add to this disposition on their part the temptations offered them by the resources of English commerce. There is no doubt that Louisiana is a vast field which England will work to its own profit. . . . . . . This probable turn of affairs might be counteracted by the innate attachment and the natural sympathy of the Louisianians for France, but one of the most prompt effects of the change of domination will be a complete revolution in the elements composing the population of this country. In less than ten years the greater portion of what is now considered as private property will have changed hands. Cause will be given to the old colonists to be disgusted with their new condition; they will be set aside, expropriated and expelled. The Government p14 of the United States is not blind to the fact that Lower Louisiana is the key which answers for the security of their finest and most extensive possessions. They will have no rest until they shall have succeeded, either by open force, or by secret and skillful contrivances, in putting that key in the hands of full-hearted and full-blooded Americans.
"If our Government should ever look back to this country, it should be, in my opinion, only with a view of entirely detaching the Western States from the rest of the Confederacy. Such a scheme, far from being extravagant, would have, on the contrary, innumerable chances of success. Time alone will one day bring on this scission. But what is important for the French Republic is, that this scission be operated under the protection of France, and whilst generations of Frenchmen and French spirit retain their ascendency in these regions. The consequences of such a revolution would then turn infinitely to the advantage of our nation, and Louisiana, in such a state of political independence and filial alliance, would be to France of a far more inestimable value than the most important colonies."
To those who may become familiar with what I have related in my work on the "Spanish Domination in Louisiana,"a and in the preceding pages, and with what I shall recite in the sequel of this history, the famous Burr conspiracy, which was to convulse the public mind two years after, and which has remained to this day a mooted mystery, may not appear an altogether baseless fabric. General Wilkinson, who was destined to act in its a conspicuous part, and who had been commissioned, jointly with Claiborne, to take possession of Louisiana, departed a short time after Laussat, and sailed for New York, leaving the few companies of the United States troops which he had brought with him, distributed at p15 the following points: New Orleans, Natchitoches,º Pointe Coupee and Fort Adams.
Nothing is more apt to produce discontent in any community than the want of a circulating medium; and where discontent exists from any other sources, nothing is more powerful in contributing to bring it to its climax than this very cause. So it was in Louisiana at that time. The distress in the province had become very great from the scarcity of money. The flow of silver from Vera Cruz, which was so refreshing under the Spanish Government, had ceased with the change of dominion, and Spain showed no prompt disposition to redeem a large quantity of paper which she had set afloat in the late colony under the name of "liberanzas," and which had fallen into considerable depreciation. It became necessary to find a remedy for the evil, and Claiborne sought it in the establishment of a bank styled "The Louisiana Bank," with a capital which was susceptible of extension to two millions of dollars. Were the people pleased? Not in the least. On the contrary, this measure excited lively apprehensions. A Bank! Such an institution was entirely new to them. Many thought that it would turn out to be nothing else than legalized robbery. Was it not to issue paper money, and had they not already greatly suffered from the depreciation of French and Spanish paper? What better results could be expected from American paper? They believed it to be the renewal of what the "assignats" had been in the worst times of the French republic. Hence the general impression was, that the country would be ultimately ruined, rather than benefited, by the newly devised plan of relief.
The militia, which was quite a respectable corps under the Spanish Government — which Laussat had partially, and with considerable difficulty, succeeded in keeping p16 together — and which Claiborne had been attempting to retain in existence, had at last become entirely disorganized. On the other hand, most of the individuals who were flocking from all parts of the United States, had eagerly formed themselves into companies of various denominations, under the cheerfully granted patronage of Claiborne, who hoped that it would stimulate some of the natives to enroll themselves. But such was not the case. They stood apart, and looked with sullen displeasure on the new military associations, of which they were keenly jealous. Resenting the conduct of the late colonists, the Americans showed perhaps a want of policy in parading, more than was necessary, through the streets of New Orleans, with ostentatious display, and with what was thought to be an expression of defiance. The dissatisfaction was increased, a more marked estrangement from the new order of things ensued, and a line still more distinct was drawn between the two populations.
But these causes of discontent paled before those which arose from the 4th section of the act providing for the temporary government of the Territory of Orleans. By that section they were flatly denied any participation whatever in that government, as the members of their Legislative Council were to be annually selected by the President, and as all the other civil and military officers were to be appointed either by the President or by the Governor, who were authorized to choose them, if they should deem it advisable, from among those who had resided only one year in the province, and who were utter strangers to the old population.12 Thus it is seen that Congress was then very far from suspecting that there could exist any sovereignty whatever in p17 territories, not even that squatter sovereignty which has since become so famous in the vocabulary of politicians.
At last, the dissatisfaction rose to such a pitch that it manifested itself in open and public acts. In the name of some of the most influential merchants of the city and of the wealthiest and most respected planters in its neighborhood, a public meeting was called for the 1st of June, in which it was unanimously determined to apply to Congress for the repeal of so much of their late act as related to the partition of Louisiana and the restriction on the importation of slaves. It was further resolved to ask for the immediate admission of Louisiana, in its original entirety, into the Union, in accordance with what was deemed the obvious intention of the treaty of cession. A committee was appointed to prepare and submit to the next public meeting the draft of a memorial to Congress. That committee was composed of Jones and Livingston, Americans, Pitot, a Frenchman, and Petit, a Creole. The second meeting, which was held in the beginning of July, was much more numerous than the first, and an enthusiastic approval was given to the report of the committee. Twelve individuals were chosen to circulate copies of it in the parishes and to procure the signatures of the most notable inhabitants, without forgetting, at the same time, to collect voluntary contributions for paying the expenses of the deputies who were to be sent to Washington City with their list of grievances and their memorial for redress. The last and third meeting took place on the 18th of July. A deputation of three was resolved upon, and its members were: Derbigny and Sauvé, European French, and Destréhan, a native of Louisiana. It is evident that, in this choice, the Louisianians were guided more by their sense of outraged dignity and violated rights, than by prudential considerations of policy. Violent prejudices p18 were to be removed; and in order to obtain this object, three deputies, with French habits, French minds and a French tongue, could not be called a judicious selection.
In the mean time, if the inhabitants below Manchac, and on the right bank of the Mississippi, were adverse to the change which had taken place in their destinies by the transfer of their allegiance from the French flag to the flag of the United States, the population of that district included in the present parishes of West and East Feliciana and of East Baton Rouge, being of English descent, and composed of settlers who had originally come from the old Thirteen States, were extremely anxious for annexation to the kindred race from which they had been severed, as Spain still retained possession of the territory in which they lived, and refused to acknowledge that it was comprehended within the cession. They were incensed at the omission, on the part of the commissioners of the United States, to claim them as an integral portion of the recent acquisition, and at their abstaining to enforce that claim by physical means if necessary. In the hope of giving a pretext for an intervention in their behalf, or under the belief that they could achieve for themselves the liberation which they desired, they raised the standard of revolt against the Spanish authorities; they assembled to the number of about two hundred men, and resolved to attack the Spanish fort at Baton Rouge. But it was an ill-concreted scheme; some disagreement took place among the leaders, who had to give up the enterprise, and who took refuge across the line in the Mississippi territory. Such of their followers as relied for protection on their obscurity, or insignificancy, returned peacefully to their respective homes.13
p19 This insurrection had been preceded by one which had been headed by Kemper, one of the most redoubtable enemies of the Spaniards. To compel the release of some of his friends imprisoned by the Government which he hated, he had seized the persons of Don Vincente Pintado, a militia captain, and of the Alcalde Juan Ocono, and was threatening to attack the fort at Baton Rouge. Order was restored without bloodshed by the prudence and firmness of the ex-governor of Louisiana, Marquis of Casa Calvo, who was still lingering in the territory, and who sent troops and an armed vessel to the seat of these disturbances.14
On the 1st of October, the territorial government which had been decreed by the act of Congress of the 26th of March, went into operation, with Claiborne as Governor, and Brown as Secretary.
Boré, Bellechasse, Cantrelle, Clark, De Buys, Dow, Jones, Kenner, Morgan, Poydras, Roman, Watkins and Wikoff had been appointed members of the Legislative Council by the President.
Duponceau, a Frenchman, who subsequently obtained great celebrity in Philadelphia as a jurist, Kirby, and Prevost, a stepson, I believe, of Vice-President Aaron Burr, were appointed Judges of the Superior Court. D. Hall, an Englishman by birth, was commissioned District Judge of the United States, with Mahlon Dickens as District Attorney, and Lebreton D'Orgenoy as Marshal. Duponceau declined, Kirby died, and Prevost opened the first territorial court, alone, on the 9th of November.
p20 Boré, Bellechasse, Jones and Clark had been the leaders of the opposition which had arisen in the territory; they had acted the most conspicuous part in the meetings of the inhabitants; they had been the most zealous in stimulating their fellow-citizens to remonstrate against the form of government which had been forced upon them; they could not, therefore, with any consistency, aid in establishing that very government against which they had protested, and they declined accepting the proffered seats in the Legislative Council. On the 8th of October, Jones wrote on the subject to Governor Claiborne a very spirited letter, in which he said "I cannot accept of any office under a law of which I have, from the beginning, so openly expressed my disapprobation, and which, for the happiness of my fellow-citizens, forgive me if I add, for the honor of my native country, I ardently wish to be annulled.
"When calm reflection shall have taken the place of passion and of party spirit, I flatter myself that my conduct on the present occasion will be approved. I was born an American. I glory in the name. In defence of that happy land which gave me birth my life and my fortune shall always be staked, but I cannot consent, for any consideration, to do an act which I think subversive of the rights and liberties of my fellow-citizens."
Their refusal to take their seats, on the part of these gentlemen, had considerable influence on the other members, who held back in dubious suspense, without declining, but without accepting. Two months nearly elapsed, and no council could be formed, notwithstanding the incessant efforts of Claiborne to soothe and conciliate the refractory tempers he had to deal with. What was to be done in this perplexing emergency? It happened that the President, not knowing the first names of the persons whom he had selected, had contented himself p21 with designating them by their surnames, and had sent blank commissions to be filled on the spot. Claiborne, thinking himself authorized by the necessity of the case, and anxious to avoid the mischief which would have resulted from further delay, assumed the responsibility of appointing Dorcière, Flood, Mather and Pollock in the place of the four gentlemen who had declined the President's appointment.15 In this way a mere quorum was obtained on the 4th of December.16
The Territory was divided by the Legislative Council into twelve counties, with an Inferior Court for each, composed of one judge, and the practice therein was provided for, as well as in the Superior Court. Suits were to be instituted by a petition in the form of a bill in chancery. These words, "A bill in Chancery," grated strangely on the ears of the old inhabitants of Louisiana. What was meant by chancery? What was a bill in chancery? The attempt to enlighten them on the subject would have been ludicrously futile; hardly any one would have understood the explanation, and no explanation or instruction was sought, or given. The definition of crimes and the mode of prosecution in criminal cases, according to the common law of England, p22 were adopted, and were not more intelligible to the people. Common Law! What was it? They were told that it was "unwritten law." Unwritten law! That, indeed, was something new under the sun for those who had always been governed by precise laws, regulations and ordinances! How could law be unwritten? Where was it to be found? They were answered, it "that law which draws its binding force from immemorial usage and universal reception in England." Is it to be wondered at if they shook their heads in utter bewilderment? But when it was added, for a clearer elucidation of the matter, that they might, if they pleased, take it to be "a bodyº of rules, principles and customs, which derived their authority and sanctity from their filtration for centuries through the thick strata of successive British generations, and which, originating in natural justice and equity, or local customs, were only to be evidenced by the records of judicial decisions scattered through hundreds of volumes written in a language which they did not comprehend, the only distinct impression which such an explanation left on their minds was, that the common law was the most unfathomable of all laws, and some mysterious and complicated engine of oppression, which would certainly be used to their detriment. They much better understood the provision which was made for the inspection of flour, pork and beef. They also understood the charter of incorporation which was given to the city of New Orleans, and other acts relating to the formation of a public library and to the establishment of navigation and insurance companies. The creation of a university, which was intrusted with the locating of schools in each county, was all within their comprehension; but as no appropriation of funds was made for those seminaries of learning, the people were sadly puzzled to discover how the views of the Legislature were to be p23 carried into execution for the education of their children. Some may have thought that the "Common Law," in its amplitude, had provided for the statutory omission, and that some relief for the projected schools might be found in a "chancery bill." But vain was the hope, if it ever existed; and this first attempt to educate the population proved an absolute failure.
The Council adjourned in February, 1805, after having appointed a committee to prepare a civil and a criminal code, with the assistance of two professional men, for whose remuneration five thousand dollars were appropriated. A moderate remuneration for such a work, if worthily done!
After this sketch of the proceedings of the Council, it will not be out of place to make a rapid review of the acts of the Governor. As before stated, the new territorial organization went into operation on the 1st of October, and Claiborne was sworn into office17 on the 3d of that month, by Pitot, mayor of the city. On that very day, giving information of the fact to Mr. Madison, Secretary of State, he said, "Mr. Brown, Secretary of the Territory, is at Natchez, and does not propose adventuring into New Orleans until about the close of this month; and I think this is a very wise precaution, for the city is not yet free from that dreadful scourge, the yellow fever." In the proclamation which he issued a few days after, to convene the Legislature, he used this language: "In the course of my late administration, which, from a variety of circumstances, was accompanied with peculiar difficulties, I received from the officers, civil and military, a zealous and able co-operation in all measures for the public good, and from the people in general an indulgence and support which encouraged harmony and insured p24 the supremacy of the law." This document must have been very acceptable to the Louisianians, for it put them in possession of a direct official contradiction, proceeding from the best and most authentic source, of those offensive suppositions and apprehensions which had been entertained against them by that Congress who had voted the odious territorial organization to which they were to be subjected after the 1st of October.
On the 18th of August, Mr. Madison had written to Claiborne18 that the continuance and conduct of the Spanish officers at New Orleans justly excited attention; that, in every view, it was desirable that those foreigners should be no longer in a situation to affront the authority of the United States, or to mingle by their intrigues in the affairs of the Territory; and that the 1st of October, the day fixed for the inauguration of the territorial government, would be an epoch which might be used for letting it to be understood that their stay, so much beyond the right and the occasion for it, was not seen with approbation, leaving the mode and manner of the intimation to the discreet judgment of the Governor. In answer to this communication, Claiborne wrote on the 5th of October: "There is no doubt with me but that the Spanish officers encourage the discontents which arise here," and on the 9th he hastened19 to communicate to the Marquis of Casa Calvo the instructions he had received from the Secretary of State in relation to his desired departure and that of his followers.
An able pamphlet,20 written in French, and entitled p25 "A Sketch of the Political and Civil Situation of Louisiana from the 30th of November, 1803, to the 1st of October, 1804, by a Louisianian," had been widely circulated, and had produced so great a sensation, that Claiborne thought it of sufficient importance to make it the subject of a special communication to Mr. Madison. This pamphlet contained an almost complete review of the of which the Louisianians complained, and the tone of moderation and conviction in which it was conceived added to its force and effect. It attacked unsparingly the conduct of the American Government, and some of the acts of Claiborne. But, at the same time, it spoke respectfully of that magistrate's character, and rendered unequivocal justice to his integrity and to the purity of his intentions. This is the more remarkable, from the fact that the excitement then prevailing among all the classes of that population for whose perusal it was intended, had been carried to its utmost point of intensity. Claiborne's communication21 to Madison is an elaborate vindication of himself against the charges specified in the pamphlet, and if not a refutation, it is at least a positive denial of many of the assertions contained in it, and in a document of which, however, he was ignorant, — that is, the dispatch of Laussat to the French Government on the state of the late colony, and which is inserted in the preceding pages. Claiborne's defence seems imbued with the spirit of a man who is conscious of having done nothing but what was right; and in perusing it, the reader can hardly refrain from coming to the conclusion that the Governor, whether correct or not in his views, was at least in earnest, and believed every line which he wrote.
On the 19th of October, as an instance of the inflammable p26 temper of the population, Claiborne informed Madison that a private affair — the caning of a Frenchman in the street by an Englishman — had nearly produced a very serious affray, in which the Americans had sided with the Englishman, and the French or those of French extraction with his adversary. "This city," he said, "requires a strict police; the inhabitants are of various descriptions, many highly respectable, and some of them very degenerate. Great exertions have been made (and with too much success) to foment differences between the native Americans and the native Louisianians — every incident is laid hold of to widen the breach, and to excite jealousy and confusion — the intrigues of certain late emigrants from France, and some of the satellites of the Spanish Government, have tended considerably to heighten the discontents in this quarter. Everything in my power has been done to counteract these intrigues, but with little success. The fact is, that the affections of many of the Louisianians for their mother-country are warm, and others seem attached to the Spanish Government. I have to complain also of some of the native Americans; they are rash, and very imprudent. The newspaper publications likewise add to my embarrassments; they give inquietude to the Louisianians and trouble to me. The present state of things here mortifies me excessively, but I hope that good order will be preserved, and harmony soon restored. These objects shall constitute my first and greatest cares."
Another of his communications to the Secretary of State at Washington, dated on the 26th of the same month, contains these sagacious observations: "Although there has been much discontent manifested in New Orleans and its vicinity, yet I do not believe that the disaffection is of a serious nature, or that it is extensive. That some difficulty should attend the introduction p27 of American government and laws, was to have been expected. On every change of dominion, discontents, more or less, invariably ensue; and, when we take into view the various and rapid transitions and transfers which have taken place in this territory, we may indeed felicitate ourselves on the great share of good order which has been preserved. The most arbitrary governments find advocates, and the most unprincipled despot is seldom without friends. When despotism reigns, silence (produced by fear) is received as the test of contentment, and a tame submission to injustice as proof of the public sanction. Had an administration, rigid, coercive and unjust, been introduced into the ceded territory, under the authority of the United States, I am persuaded there would have been less murmuring, and a delusive appearance of popular approbation. But under a mild and just government, which admits of freedom of speech and of opinion, the man, indeed, must be little acquainted with human nature who would expect to find in Louisiana union in expression and sentiment."
On the next day, in another communication which he intended to be in justification of his course of administration, he observed: "My object has been to avail the public of the services of the well-informed and deserving citizens, and as there are many native Americans of this description residing in Louisiana, it ought not to be a matter of surprise that some of them should have received offices. The ancient Louisianians hold as many appointments as their numbers and qualifications entitle them to, and therefore they ought not to complain."
On the 3d of November, Claiborne received the information that a vessel, with near two hundred Frenchmen on board, who had been prisoners of war to the British Government, but who had successfully risen against their captors on the high seas, had entered the p28 Mississippi, with the design of coming up to New Orleans with their prize.22 He immediately wrote to Capt. Samuel Davis: "If this statement be correct, no refuge or shelter can be given in any port of this Territory to the said vessel, and she must depart as soon as possible. You will therefore proceed immediately to Plaquemine, where you will find that vessel detained, and ascertain how far the statement made to me is true. If you find that the vessel is a prize, or that she was captured in the manner described, you will hand the letter herein inclosed to the person who shall appear to have command of said vessel, and urge her immediate departure." On the same day, giving information of this fact to Madison, he said: "I determined that, under the treaty, it would be improper to permit this vessel to find an asylum here, and I was further convinced that the sudden arrival of so many Frenchmen in this city (whose habits and situation are not, probably, calculated to render them useful members of society) might disturb the harmony of our community."
But Claiborne's intentions were completely defeated. The two hundred Frenchmen who had captured the vessel had no idea of going back to sea in her, and many of them deserted her and found their way to the city. Finally, she and her cargo were seized by the U. S. Marshal at the request of British claimants, and the case had to be adjudicated upon by judicial authority. As to those Frenchmen who had thus made their escape, Claiborne wrote to Madison, "that they had already proved themselves unworthy members of society, and that he was therefore the more desirous to prevent the men remaining on board from landing."23
The arrival of those two hundred Frenchmen with p29 the vessel "Hero," which they had captured, to the great contentment of the Louisianians, who had no friendly feelings for the English, had produced some degree of agitation, which was greatly increased by another incident. On the 15th of November, the Sheriff, Louis Kerr, had received an order from the Superior Court to hold to bail Captain Manuel Garcia, a Spanish officer, at the suit of D. B. Morgan, in the sum of six hundred dollars and upward. Morgan was a native citizen of the United States, and had been for some time past employed as a surveyor for Spain in West Florida. For some cause or other he had been arrested by the Spanish authorities on Spanish ground, and with the property in his possession had been put on board of a Spanish galley commanded by Garcia and bound to Pensacola. On her way down the lakes, the galley anchored at the mouth of Bayou St. John, from which Morgan made his escape to New Orleans. On his arrival, he applied to Folch, the Governor of Florida, who was then in New Orleans on his way to Pensacola, in order to obtain the restoration of his property, which was detained on board of the galley. But his application not having been attended to, Morgan had recourse to judicial process against Garcia, who also happened to have come to the city, and against whom a writ was issued. This Spanish officer, on his being waited upon by the Sheriff, refused to be taken into his custody, or in lieu thereof, to give bail, although several gentlemen offered to go security for him. He declined their services, on the ground that such were his orders from his superior officers, and declared that he would submit only to force. He requested, however, the Sheriff to await the arrival of Governor Folch, whom he had sent for and expected every moment. To this the Sheriff gave his assent; but Governor Folch, being confined to his room by indisposition, sent his son, p30 who directed Captain Garcia not to give bail, and to resist by force any attempt to remove him from the house in which he was. This youth was excited, and in giving these orders, used some intemperate language. By this time the room in which this scene took place had become crowded, principally by Spaniards, many of whom were armed. The Sheriff was about ordering in a few men whom he had left in the street, when he was entreated to desist a few minutes longer, and to see Governor Claiborne, the Marquis of Casa Calvo and Governor Folch, between whom it was presumed that this affair could be amicably arranged, on the plea that, in virtue of Governor Claiborne's permission to the Spanish officers generally to pass through the ceded territory from Baton Rouge to Pensacola, Captain Garcia thought himself protected by the law of nations and the good faith of the American Government from arrest. Leaving Garcia in the hands of his friends, the Sheriff called on Judge Prevost, and related to him the circumstances of the case. The Judge's stern answer was, that the writ must be executed, or that the Sheriff would have to abide the consequences of its non-execution. This officer, therefore, had nothing else to do but to obey, and on his way back to Garcia's house, being informed that a large concourse of people, at least two hundred in number, had gathered round it in a state of great excitement, he thought it advisable to add to his constabulary escort the reinforcement of a corporal and three men whom he took from the guard-house. But on his making his appearance where Garcia was, swords were drawn by his opponents, and he found himself too weak to effect the arrest which he had contemplated, Finally, Garcia surrendered to a detachment of the United States troops commanded by Lieutenant Wilson.24
p31 The Spanish authorities were much excited by this outrage, as they considered it, and the Marquis of Casa Calvo wrote to Governor Claiborne a letter, in which he expressed his feelings of indignation, and maintained that Captain Garcia could not be made liable on American territory for what he had done by the command of his superiors in the Spanish dominions. Claiborne was no less irritated by the tone assumed toward him, and returned, on the 16th of November, this spirited answer to Casa Calvo:
"I have read with respectful attention your Excellency's letter of this evening, and in reply I have only to state, that the Spanish officer you allude to is in arrest in virtue of a process regularly issuing from the Superior Court of this territory. Upon what grounds it may have been issued, or how far it may have been irregular, it is not within my province to inquire. The powers of the Judiciary are derived immediately from the General Government of the United States. The court is independent, and not subject to my control. If the arrest of the officer be illegal, the court will certainly direct his liberation on a proper application to that effect. I cannot perceive in this transaction any just cause for the agitation which has been discovered on the part of your Excellency, and of Governor Folch. In a verbal message to me from your Excellency, expressions are conveyed derogatory to the Government which I represent, as well as personally offensive to me, and I learn with regret that Governor Folch has used language equally exceptionable. Your Excellency can easily conceive my feelings on receiving such communications. No threats of this nature, you may be assured, can induce me to swerve from my duty; and permit me to add, that the power does not exist which can shake the authority of my country over this territory."
A long correspondence ensued on the subject between p32 Casa Calvo and Claiborne, and it was at last agreed to leave the case in the hands of the judiciary, as appears by a communication of the 22d of November, in which Claiborne said to Casa Calvo: "I learn with pleasure that you are at last convinced that the affair of Captain Garcia is placed on the only footing which the existing laws of this territory can admit of. How far my permission for Governor Folch and suite to pass by this route to Pensacola entitles Captain Garcia to exemption from arrest, is matter for the consideration of the court, and on this question there is no doubt but the decision will be a proper one."
But as soon as one difficulty was settled another would spring up, and Claiborne was never allowed to enjoy long any degree of undisturbed tranquillity. Thus he had hardly got rid of the Garcia controversy, when another arose between him and Casa Calvo, in consequence of his refusing to carry into execution certain judgments which had been rendered against certain individuals by the Spanish authorities. Casa Calvo bitterly complained of this refusal, which made it impossible for him to collect "the arrears of the king's revenue." At last Claiborne put an end to it by addressing to the Marquis this final note on the subject: "A mere acquaintance25 with the laws of the United States, sir, would be sufficient to inform you that they will suffer no judgment to be executed, but those rendered in their own courts; that in those courts foreign judgments, however respectable the tribunal which rendered them, are only evidence, and require the confirmation of an American judgment be any execution can flow therefrom. I have therefore only to add, that in all cases of this nature, the courts of this Territory are open to you, and p33 are vested with the power (no longer in my hands) of redressing any grievances which you may have occasion to complain of."
Another source of tribulation to Claiborne was the necessity of soon preventing altogether that slave-trade to which the ancient population was accustomed, and which could not continue under the new régime. It was a task which, had he been so disposed, it would have been impossible, for the present, to perform strictly and effectually. Negroes were daily smuggled into the Territory through the Spanish possessions, by the way of the lakes, Borgne, Pontchartrain and Maurepas, to the districts of East Baton Rouge and Feliciana, and also through the innumerable bayous which empty into Barataria Bay and other sea outlets. At the North, Claiborne was accused of conniving at the trade, and he had to defend himself against the accusation. In a communication26 of the 25th of November to the President, he says: "The late admission of foreign negroes has also been a subject of complaint against me. The Searcher of all hearts knows how little I desire to see another of that wretched race set his foot on the shores of America, and how from my heart I detest the rapacity that would transport them to us. But, on this point, the people here were united as one man. There seemed to be but one sentiment throughout the province. They must import more slaves, or the country was ruined forever. The most respectable characters could not, even in my presence, suppress the agitation of their temper, when a check to that trade was suggested. Under such circumstances, it was not for me, without the authority of previous law, or the instructions of my government, to prohibit the importation."
p34 On the 27th of November, the peace of New Orleans was disturbed by a quarrel between the city militia and the troops of the United States, arising from a feeling of jealousy which had sprung up between them, and Claiborne was again called upon to settle this difficulty, on a formal complaint laid before him by the City Council against Lieutenant Wilson, the same who had arrested Captain Garcia. A court-martial had to be convened, which took cognizance of the charges brought by the city authorities against the lieutenant, and the affair was finally settled, not without leaving, however, some ill blood fermenting on both sides.
The new Legislative Council, which it had been so difficult to form, met on the 4th of December, as before stated, and Claiborne addressed to them an appropriate message on that important occasion, which was the harbinger in Louisiana of the era of self-government by the people. He particularly recommended to them the subject of education: "Let exertions then be made," he said, "to rear up our children in the paths of science and virtue, and to impress upon their tender hearts a love of civil and religious liberty. Among the several States of the Union an ingenuous emulation happily prevails, in encouraging literature and literary institutions, and some of these are making rapid strides toward rivaling the proudest establishments of Europe. In this sentiment, so favorable to the general good, you, gentlemen, I am certain, will not hesitate to join."
Shortly after this paragraph comes this passage, which, no doubt, was designed to quiet some anxiety then existing among the clergy, as to their position under the new order of things: "As connected with the education of youth," he remarks, "every constitutional encouragement should be given to ministers of the Gospel. Religion exalts a nation, whilst sin is the reproach of any p35 people. It prepares us for the vicissitudes which so often checker human life. It deprives even misfortune of her victory. It invites to harmony and good-will in this world, and affords a guaranty for happiness hereafter." This was certainly very acceptable to the religious-minded part of the community, but any political body, attempting to act on such a recommendation from the Executive, and to determine what kind of constitutional encouragement, under our institutions, can be given by legislation to ministers of the Gospel, would probably find the subject fraught with considerable difficulties.
It is a curious fact that, when thus going through the solemnity of opening, with commendable dignity and with apparent reliance on those he addressed, the first Legislative Assembly in Louisiana, Claiborne was aware that there was among the population very little faith in the duration of the system of government which he was gravely introducing to their supposed grateful acceptance. This is proved by his communication of the 11th of December to Madison:27 "The President's Message," he says, "has been translated into the French language, and I will take care to have it circulated among the people. It will tend to remove an impression which has heretofore contributed greatly to embarrass the local administration, to wit — that the country west of the Mississippi would certainly be re-ceded to Spain, and perhaps the whole of Louisiana. So general has been this impression, particularly as it relates to the country west of the Mississippi, that many citizens have been fearful of accepting any employment under the American government, or even manifesting a respect therefor, lest at a future time it might lessen them in the esteem of p36 Spanish officers. This opinion as to re-cession has been greatly encouraged by the Marquis of Casa Calvo and Governor Folch, who are really so uninformed of the strength of the United States, as to suppose that the Spanish monarch could readily acquire and maintain possession of Louisiana, and I doubt not but they have made such representations to their court."
The yellow fever had, in the autumn of this year, been very fatal in New Orleans, and in connection with other remarks on this subject, Claiborne, in a message to the Legislative Council, on the 14th of December, had called the attention of that body to a plan devised by Jefferson to prevent the recurrence of such a calamity. Referring to the probable growth of New Orleans, the President said: "The position of New Orleans certainly destines it to be the greatest city the world has ever seen. There is no spot on the globe to which the produce of so great an extent of fertile country must necessarily come. It is three times greater than that on the eastern side of the Alleghanies, which is to be divided among all the seaport towns of the Atlantic States. In the middle and northern parts of Europe, where the sun rarely shines, they may safely build cities in solid blocks without generating disease; but under the cloudless skies of America, where there is so constant an accumulation of heat, men cannot be piled on one another with impunity. Accordingly, we find this disease confined to the solid-built parts of our towns, and the parts on the water-side, where there is most matter for putrefaction, but rarely extending into the thin-built parts of the towns, and never into the country. In these latter places it cannot be communicated. In order to catch it, you must go into the local atmosphere where it prevails. Is not this, then, a strong indication that we ought not to contend with the laws of nature, but p37 should decide at once that all our cities shall be thin-built?"
After these introductory observations, the President expressed the opinion that, in building cities in the United States, the people should take the checker-board for their plan, leaving the white squares open and unbuilt forever and planted with trees. "As it is probable,"28 he observed to Claiborne, "that New Orleans must soon be enlarged, I inclose you this same plan for consideration. I have great confidence that, however the yellow fever may prevail in the old part of the town, it would not be communicated in that part which should be built on this plan, because this would be like the thin-built parts of our towns, where experience has taught us that a person may carry it after catching it in its local region, but can never communicate it out of that. Having very sincerely at heart that the prosperity of New Orleans should be unchecked, and great faith, founded, I think, on experience, in the effect of this mode of building against a disorder which is such a scourge to our close-built cities, I could not deny myself the communication of the plan, leaving it to you to bring it into real existence, if those more interested should think as favorably of it as I do. For beauty, pleasure, and convenience, it would certainly be eminent." It must be apparent to all those who may look at the map of the city of New Orleans as it stands at this time, in 1859, that thus far, in its ever progressive enlargement, the plan recommended by Jefferson has met with very little attention.
Toward the end of December, the elements of discord which had distracted the country seemed to come to a temporary truce, and to be disposed to allow the expiring year to make in peace its exit from the stage; for Claiborne p38 wrote to Madison on the 31st: "I have29 never witnessed more good order than at present pervades this city, and, as far as I can learn, the whole territory. I discover also, with great pleasure, the existence of understanding between the modern and the ancient Louisianians. The winter amusements have commenced for several weeks; the two descriptions of citizens meet frequently at the theatre, at the balls and other places of public amusement, and pass their time in perfect harmony. A great anxiety exists here to learn the fate of the memorial to Congress. The importation of negroes continues to be a favorite object with the Louisianians; and I believe the privilege of electing one branch of the Legislature would give very general satisfaction. Immediate admission into the Union is not expected by the reflecting part of society, nor do I think there are many who desire it." But this roseate hue, which had spread over the horizon, flattering Claiborne with halcyon days, was soon to give way to the darkening shades of a stormy sky. Claiborne had suffered himself to be blinded by a pleasing delusion. The discontent which was rankling in many hearts was too deep and too bitter to be soothed by the occasional amenities of social intercourse in the public places to which he refers. That discontent arose from feelings which were proof against the fascinations of the ball-room, the attractions of theatrical performances, the bewitching influence of musical entertainments, or the sparkling bowls of the festive board. It was hardly possible that it should have been otherwise; for if the act of Congress, dividing Louisiana into two territories, and providing for the temporary government thereof, had excited the indignation of its inhabitants, and if Boré, Bellechasse, Jones, Cantrelle and Clark, p39 when refusing to take their seats in the newly appointed Legislative Council, and to aid in carrying into execution "an act" which they had proclaimed to be an infringement of the rights and dignity of those to whom it was to be applied, had been approved by the immense majority of their fellow-citizens, it is due to them to say that the debates in Congress, on the discussion of that very act, had been of such a nature as to wound their just susceptibilities. Many members of that body, who had opposed its passage, had taken of it the same view in which it presented itself to the people of Louisiana. In relation to the power vested in the Governor "to convene and prorogue the Legislative Council, whenever he might deem it expedient," Mr. Leib, in the House of Representatives, had said "that it made that body the most dependent in the United States; and that, when the power of prorogation vested in the Governor was duly considered, it seemed to him that the people of the Territory would be much better without such a body. It was a royal appendage." . . . .
Not only did Mr. Gregg agree with Mr. Leib, as to the objectionable feature that gentleman had pointed out, but he was also opposed to the power given to the President to appoint the members of the Council. "It was a burlesque. How was the President to know anything of their qualifications? From whom was he to derive that information except from the Governor? And why, therefore, should not that officer himself be at once the appointing power?" Mr. Varnum was of opinion that they were establishing a kind of government hitherto unknown in the United States. "Why not make provision for the election of a legislative body by the people? Policy, justice, propriety and the obligations of the treaty of cession required it at their hands." Mr. Elliot declared that, "to authorize the President to appoint the p40 members of the Legislative Council, was neither consistent with the spirit of the Constitution, nor with the treaty."
"It is extremely difficult," said in reply Mr. Eustis of Massachusetts, "to form any system of government for this Territory consonant with our ideas of civil liberty under the Constitution of the United States. Before we determine the principle on which the Council is to be formed, it is necessary distinctly to understand the genius, the manners, the disposition and the state of the people to be governed. The treaty has been resorted to by my colleague, to show that they are entitled to their own Legislature. It says: The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted soon 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. Are the people of Louisiana admitted into the Union at this time, or not, with all the rights of citizens of the United States? If they are so admitted, they are undoubtedly entitled to all the rights of citizens of the United States. If not, there remains another inquiry: Are they qualified from habit, and from the circumstances in which they are placed, to exercise those high privileges? If they are both entitled and qualified to enjoy them, we can have no hesitation in pronouncing the bill grounded on a wrong principle, and that it ought to be rejected. But I do not consider the subject in this light. The people are, in my opinion, unprepared for, and undesirous of, exercising the elective franchise. The first object of the Government is to hold the country. How? By protecting the people in all their rights, and by administering the Government in such a manner as to prevent any disagreement among them — to use no other term. Suppose the people called p41 upon to choose those who are to make laws for themselves, does the information we possess justify the belief that this privilege could be so exercised as to conduce to the peace, happiness and tranquillity of the country? I apprehend not.
"According to this bill, the Governor and Council are to make the laws. Suppose the Council is in session and the Governor possesses no power to prorogue them. Suppose they should engaged in acts subversive of their relation to the United States, would not this power be of essential utility? It appears to me indispensably necessary that a vein of authority should ascend to the Government of the United States, until the people of the territory are admitted to the full enjoyment of State rights. From that knowledge of this people which I have been able to acquire, I have formed an opinion that authority should be constantly exercised over them, without severity, but in such a manner as to secure the rights of the United States and the peace of the country.
"The government laid down in this bill is certainly a new thing in the United States; but the people of that country differ materially from the citizens of the United States. I speak of the character of the people at the present time. When they shall be better acquainted with the principles of our Government, and shall have been desirous of participating in our privileges, it will be full time to extend to them the elective franchise. Have not the House been informed from an authentic source, since the cession, that the provisions of our institutions are inapplicable to them? If so, why attempt, in pursuit of a vain theory, to extend political institutions to them for which they are not prepared? I am one of those who believe that the principles of civil liberty cannot suddenly be engrafted on a people accustomed to a régime of a directly opposite hue. The p42 approach of such a people to liberty must be gradual. I believe them at present totally unqualified to exercise it. If this opinion be erroneous, then the principles of this bill are unfounded; if, on the contrary, this opinion is sound, it results that neither the power given to the President to appoint the members of the Council, nor to the Governor to prorogue them, are unsafe, or unnecessary.
"The extension of the elective franchise may be considered by the people of Louisiana a burden instead of a benefit. I have understood that there is none of that equality among them which exists in the United States; grades there are more highly marked, and they may deem it rather a matter of oppression to extend to them the privilege which we deem inestimable, and with the value of which we have long been familiar.
"Before we decide this principle, it is absolutely necessary to consider the relation of these people to the United States. I consider them as standing in nearly the same relation to us as if they were a conquered country. By the treaty they are, it is true, entitled to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and to be incorporated into the Union as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution — but can they be admitted now? Are they at this moment so admitted? If not, they are not entitled to these rights; but if they were, I should doubt the propriety of extending to them what might be misused.
"It is very natural and honorable to gentlemen of liberal minds to be desirous of extending to these people the privilege enjoyed by our own citizens; but sentiments of this kind, however liberal and praiseworthy, may be carried in the face of facts, and may operate injuriously on those they are intended to benefit. Upon the whole, p43 as the bill only purports to provide for a temporary government, and as, in the course of a year, we shall have more information respecting the country, when it will be in our power, in case such information shall justify it, to extend all the privileges which gentlemen seem so desirous to grant, I hope the Committee will not agree to strike out this section."
Mr. Lyon said in reply, that the bill contained many traits which were exceedingly disgusting to him.
"I think," he continued, "that these people have a right, by nature and by treaty, to have some concern in their own government; and although they may not be entirely qualified for self-government, and we may not be willing to put them on the same footing with the people of a free and independent state, I know of no reasons why they may not be allowed, by their representatives, to come before the Governor in an organized way, with an expression of their wishes and of their wants, and to propose for his adoption laws which they may think fitting and salutary for their country. I am not ready to say with Mr. Leib, the gentleman from Pennsylvania, that I wish to take from the Governor the power of convening and proroguing the Legislative Assembly or Council. I am willing, for the present, that he should have that power, as well as an unqualified negative on their bills. In that case, how can the representatives of that people injure our government? It is the business of the Governor, appointed by the President, to watch over them for the interest of the nation. His power will be ample for the protection of that interest. When they ask his assent to those things that are fitting and proper, he will give it, I hope; when they ask it for those things which are not fitting or proper, he will, no doubt, refuse it; and if they should at any time become troublesome, he will prorogue them, and tell them to go home about their p44 business. I cannot refuse these people the humble boon, the pitiful specimen of liberty which consists in laying before the Governor, by their representatives, for his consent, the bills they wish passed into laws for their local accommodation and for their satisfaction with respect to their rights and their property; neither would I mock their feelings by a Legislative Council appointed by the President. I do not think it fits his character. How is he to divine who it is best to appoint? I would as soon compliment Bonaparte with that power. I dare say he is better acquainted with the people there. But the gentleman from Massachusetts seems to think these people are not desirous of exercising the power of electing their Legislative representatives. If that is the case, do we not owe something on this score to the principle — to consistency — to the national honor pledged by treaty? If there is danger on that score (which I am pretty certain there is not), let the government be so organized that it can go on without the representatives of those districts who neglect or refuse to elect."
"But the most ludicrous idea I have heard expressed on the subject is, that these people must be kept in slavery until they are taught to think and behave like freemen. Establish the government proposed, it is said, and let them learn under that to enjoy the rights and benefits of freemen. I wonder how much longer this probationary slavery to last, in order to bring about the purpose proposed? For my part, I believe they have had it longer than has done them any good. I really wish to know how much longer this apprenticeship is to continue, and what are the symptoms by which we are to know when slaves are fitted to be freemen."
Mr. Lucas seemed to have taken up the strange idea that the United States were bound by the treaty of cession, only to secure to the people of Louisiana as large a p45 portion of liberty, and as full an enjoyment of their rights, as they would have been permitted to possess, had they remained under the Government of France or Spain.
"But the United States," he said, "had done more than they were bound. For instance, the privilege of the Habeas Corpus had been extended to the inhabitants of the Territory — a privilege which they had never possessed when they were connected either with France or Spain. An argument was drawn from the treaty, that these people are to be admitted to the absolute enjoyment of the rights of citizens; but gentlemen would not deny that the time when, and the circumstances under which this provision of the treaty was to be carried into effect, were submitted to the decision of Congress. It has been remarked, that this bill establishes elementary principles of government never previously introduced in the organization of any Territory of the United States. Granting the truth of this observation, it must be allowed that the United States had never had devolved upon them the obligation of making provision for the government of any people under such circumstances. Legislators must not rest on theory, but must raise their political structures on the basis of the moral and intellectual state of the people for whom they are to be made. He did not wish to reflect on the inhabitants of Louisiana, but he would say that they were not prepared for a government like that of the United States. They had been governed by Spanish officers, exercising authority according to their whim, which was supported by military force, and it could not be maintained that a people thus inured to despotism were prepared on a sudden to receive the principles of our government. It was questionable whether there was in Europe a nation to whom these principles would be so advantageous as they were to us.
p46 "It should be recollected by gentlemen who so strenuously advocated the abstract principle of right, that the people of Louisiana had not been consulted in this act of cession to this country, but had been transferred by a bargain made over their heads. As a proof that this act had not been received with approbation by them, it must be borne in mind, that, when they saw the American flag hoisted in the room of the French, they shed tears. Was it not a proof that they were not so friendly to our government as some gentlemen imagined? He was persuaded that the people of the Mississippi Territory would not have acted in this manner. There is no doubt but that after they shall have experienced the blessings of a free government, they will wonder at their having shed tears on this occasion; but they must, in the first instance, feel those blessings."
Mr. Macon's first objection to the bill was, that it created a species of government unknown to the laws of the United States.
"I believe," he added, "that the territorial government, as established by the ordinance of the old Congress, is the best adapted to the circumstances of the people of Louisiana, and that it may be so modified as best of the promote their convenience. The people residing in the Mississippi Territory are now under this kind of government. Is it not likely that the people of Louisiana will expect the same form of government and laws with their neighbors; and is it not desirable for the general peace and happiness that there should be a correspondence between them? If they are as ignorant as some gentlemen represent them (and of this I know nothing), will they not expect the same grade of government with the inhabitants of the Mississippi Territory, with whom they will have a constant intercourse? Although the Mississippians lived previously under the Spanish Government, when formed into a Territory, p47 no inconvenience resulted from having granted to them the privileges which we desire to extend to Louisiana. It is said, in reply to this observation, that a large number of inhabitants of that Territory were Americans. It is true that many of them were native Americans, but some also were Spanish.
"The simple question is, what kind of government is better fitted to this people? It is extremely difficult to legislate for a people with whose habits and customs we are unacquainted. I, for one, declare myself unacquainted with them; nor would I, in fixing the government, unless for the safety of the Union, do an act capable of disgusting the people for whom it is adopted. It will be a good policy to avoid whatever is calculated to disgust them. My opinion is that they will be better satisfied with an old-established form of government, than with a new one. Why? Because they have seen it established in the adjacent Territory of Mississippi, and know the manner in which it operates. If there are bad men in Louisiana, will anything be more easy than to disgust the people against the General Government, by showing that they have given one kind of government to the people of the Mississippi Territory, and a different kind to them? In my mind, it is sound government to give them no cause of complaint. We ought to show them that we consider them one people."
Mr. Campbell was very energetic in his denunciations of the bill.
"On examination," said he, "it will appear that it really establishes a complete despotism; that it does not evince a single trait of liberty; that it does not confer one single right to which they are entitled under the treaty; that it does not extend to them the benefits of the Federal Constitution, or declare when, hereafter, they shall receive them. I believe it will, on investigation, be found difficult to separate liberty from the p48 right of self-government; and hence arises the question now to be decided, whether we shall countenance the principle of governing by despotic systems of government, or support the principle that they are entitled to be governed by laws made by themselves, and to expect that they shall, in due time, receive all the benefits of citizens of the United States under the Constitution.
"By section 4, all legislative power is vested in a Governor and thirteen Councilors appointed by the President. The people have no share in their choice. The members of the Council are only to aid the governor; they have no right to make laws themselves. The words of the section are:
"That is, the Governor makes the laws by and with the advice of the Council. They are not to deliberate on what shall be law; but he, like some ancient potentates, is to suggest to them what, in his opinion, is proper to be law. This is the proper construction of this section, or I do not understand it. He is to make; they are not to make the laws, and submit them for his approbation. He makes them, and asks his creatures whether they will agree or not to them. I hope that we are not prepared to establish such a system as this.
"If then the proposed system be despotic, it is proper in the next place to inquire why it is erected over the people of Louisiana? Is their condition such as not to qualify them for the enjoyment of any of the blessings of liberty? Are they blind to the difference between liberty and slavery? Are they insensible to the difference of laws made by themselves, and of laws made by others? We have no evidence that this is the case. If p49 we retrace the progress of liberty among other nations, I would ask gentlemen where they find reason for the opinion that the people of Louisiana are unfitted for the enjoyment of its blessings? They will find that it has, in many cases, arisen among people far less enlightened. I trust, therefore, we shall not determine that, because the people of that country have not investigated the full value of free government, they are not qualified to enjoy any freedom. I ask gentlemen to point out, when they talk of the abuse of the elective franchise, a solitary instance where the people have abused the rights they acquired under it. They will find it hard to point toº one. Whereas I ask them for a single instance, in the annals of mankind, where despotism has not been abused. This they will find it difficult to adduce. One principle cannot be denied: when power is vested in the people, they exercise it for their own benefit, and to the best of their skill. They have no object in abusing it; for they are to be the first victims of its improper exercise. I ask them, where is the danger of placing in the hands of the people the right of choosing those who are to regulate their own internal concerns? Surely, when gentlemen depicted the great danger of this investiture of power, they did not consider that the very act before us subjects all laws to the control of Congress, and that in all cases wherein Congress shall negative them, they will have no validity. Where, then, is the danger? Will it be injurious to the United States that the Legislature of the territory, chosen by the people, should make laws for their own accommodation, without prejudice to the Union? It cannot. I feel surprised when I hear gentlemen say, 'We ought to be cautious in giving power, lest it should be used in opposition to the interests of the Union.' How can this be, when this Government has the appointment of all the p50 officers, and particularly the Governor and judges, and when to the Legislature is only confided the management of internal concerns, when they have no authority to form connections with foreign powers, or to form any coalition with their neighbors, in opposition to the measures of the General Government? If the people are already hostile to the United States, it is evident that it is not the severity of despotism that will make them friendly. I ask, how are we to account for this change in our deportment toward them? Not long since, these people were congratulated on their releasement from a despotic government, and were invited into the arms of a government ready to extend to them all the blessings of self-government. Now, we are about to damp all their hopes, and to send forth a few creatures to lash them with despotism and to make all their laws. We go further. We do not even hold forth the idea that, on a future day, they shall make their own laws. Our language is, if, notwithstanding the despotism we extend over you, you patiently bear your chains like good subjects, we may withdraw them, and let you govern yourselves. If this is not the language of gentlemen, I do not comprehend it.
"It is stated by a gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Eustis) that it is difficult to form a government for such a people; and that it is necessary previously to consider the habits and manners of the people to be governed. I am sorry, at this enlightened day of the world, to hear arguments in favor of despotism, so often used before. How does a despot govern his subjects? He tells them and makes them believe that they are ignorant, and unqualified to govern themselves. Considering their ignorance, he tells them he does them a favor by governing them, and that they have nothing to do but to obey. This is the doctrine on which monarchy and despotism p51 rose. In proportion as it prevails, despotism prevails; and in proportion as it is destroyed, the principle of liberty prevails. Let us not say that the people are too ignorant to govern themselves. No, give them an opportunity, and they will acquire knowledge, at least sufficient to make a proper choice of those best qualified to superintend their public concerns. This will act as a stimulus to those who expect to be chosen, to make themselves qualified. But I never knew before this day, that for a people to be fit for the enjoyment of liberty, they must, for a certain time, be under the scourge of despotism.
"The same gentleman inquires, In case the elective franchise shall be withheld, what hold have we on the people of Louisiana? This inquiry is readily answered. We shall have power to repeal all laws they make; and a governor appointed by us will have the nomination of all military and civil officers who administer the government. If this is not a hold and a check upon them, I know not what it is. While examining this point, it may not be improper to inquire what is the best way of making these people most attached to the United States; and whether that end will be answered by denying them all liberty, and by making a radical difference between their government and that of territories similarly situated with themselves? Let me for once observe, that it is the true policy of this Government to conciliate the people to us, to our manners and laws, to show them that, considering them as a part of the Union, they have the right to expect the enjoyment of privileges unknown to them before, instead of disappointing their hopes and compelling them to serve a long quarantine before they are admitted to a participation of those rights which we ourselves possess.
"It has been intimated that these people are unfit to p52 govern themselves; but I am acquainted with no information that warrants this inference. I believe that information of a different nature derived from other gentlemen is more to be relied on, because those who give it are better informed. As to their interests, I cannot conceive what can have rendered them so different from those of the Mississippi Territory. They were once the same people and under the same government, and they cannot have since become unfit for self-government. The best information assures me that a considerable proportion of the population is composed of American citizens, amounting, perhaps, to one-fourth or one-fifth of the whole. There are in it, also, many British subjects, not so ignorant as to be entirely insensible to the benefits of a free government.
"Is there, too, anything in the Spanish Government whose effects are so degrading as to disqualify a man from enjoying freedom? If this were the case, it would have been an argument against accepting the country at all. Have we not, however, understood that this great measure has been effected with a double view of accommodating the United States, and benefiting the people of Louisiana, by extending to them the advantages of a free government? Shall we consider ourselves at liberty to barter them, to view them as cattle, and govern them as such? I hope not.
"One idea relied on by gentlemen is worthy of notice. It takes for granted that the people do not wish for a free government. I ask gentlemen if they are really serious in this remark? If they are, the argument will be conclusive in giving them, if they choose, an absolute despotism. In that case, if we knew it were the desire of the people to have a king, whatever might have been our opinions of the benefits of liberty, it would be our duty to give them one. Gentlemen cannot think so, nor p53 would they suffer the United States to degrade their character by such an act. I conceive the United States bound to give them a republican form of government, and to consider, therefore, not what they may desire, but what will suit their ultimate interest, while it promotes the interest of America at large. One gentleman observes that we ought to consider the people of Louisiana as totally distinct from, and as not possessed of any similar habits with ourselves. I trust, however, we shall consider them as a part of the human species. I believe the gentleman will find the human character the same in different parts of the globe. If this principle had been pursued, liberty had never flourished; if the people had never enjoyed liberty till they were ripe for it, how many ages of darkness would have passed away? But the fact is, the people suffer oppression to an astonishing degree — despotism grinds them till human nature can endure no more, and then they break their chains in a revolt. I therefore can see no force in the argument of waiting till they are ripe for liberty. How ripe? If they have never tasted its benefits, how can they know them? I trust, therefore, that we shall extend to them the same rights as are enjoyed by the other Territories, and that it shall not be said that we have met to make laws for a people whom we have called our friends and brothers, different from the laws which we have made for ourselves."
Mr. Jackson succeeded Mr. Campbell on the floor, and was proceeding to attack the bill on the same grounds with his predecessors on his side of the question, and was objecting to certain injurious reflections cast on the people of Louisiana by Huger of South Carolina, who had intimated that, in his opinion, the Louisianians were no better than negroes, and consequently were to be treated as that degraded race, when he was interrupted by p54 Mr. Huger, who explained that his meaning was not such as the gentleman's language implied, and declared that he had spoken barely by way of comparison, to show that nothing was more dangerous to pass from the extreme of slavery to perfect liberty.
"I will not pretend to say," resumed Mr. Jackson, "that I accurately comprehend the meaning of the gentleman. His words were: they ought to be looked upon as a certain portion of people among us and treated as such. If he did not allude to slaves, I do not know to whom he did allude. But as he says he did not allude to them, I will avoid any remark that may implicate him in such an allusion."
When Mr. Jackson took his seat, up started Mr. Holland. "Gentlemen maintain," he said, "that if we deny the people of Louisiana the right of self-government, we deny them everything. But before they are permitted to make laws, ought they not to understand what law is? If we give power to these people, will they not choose persons as ignorant as themselves? It is a fact that many of the most respectable characters in Louisiana conceive the principle of self-government a mere bubble, and they will not consider themselves aggrieved if it is not extended to them. Does the history of nations show that all men are capable of self-government? No such thing. It shows that none but an enlightened and virtuous people are capable of it; and if the people of Louisiana are not sufficiently enlightened, they are not prepared to receive it. For what are they prepared? To remain in a passive state, and to receive the blessings of good laws; and receiving these, they have no reason to complain."
Many more members of the House of Representatives than those whose names are here mentioned took their share in these debates. The subject was also fully discussed p55 in the Senate, and Congress, after the most lengthy deliberations, voted by a large majority for the passage of the bill, which, however, had been strongly opposed in that body, and with as vehement language as could be desired by the Louisianians, to whom it was so objectionable.
These debates, and their final result, it must be admitted, were of a character to wound deeply the just susceptibilities of the people of Louisiana, and to keep up that excitement of which I have already related some of the baleful effects. Huger, of South Carolina, a gentleman of French descent, had been understood to say on the floor of the Capitol, notwithstanding his subsequent explanations of a retractive nature, that the French of Louisiana were hardly above the standard of a certain portion of the population of the United States, which was, with propriety, deprived of all political rights. Another, without going so far, had said that they ought to be treated as a conquered people. Many had maintained that it was impossible to suppose that a population long subjected to the debasing governments of France and Spain were fit subjects to be intrusted with the dangerous possession of liberty, without a gradual training and a slow process of emancipation. The whole length and breadth of the debate was narrowed down to this question: "Are the people of Louisiana capable of self-government?" "If they are, and if we are convinced of it," said the warmest advocates of the bill, "we give it up; for we admit that it establishes a form of government hitherto unknown to us, and at variance with our other institutions. We admit that it would be an infamous act of tyranny if applied to any other people, but we are persuaded that it is demanded by the necessities of the case." This was avowedly the basis on which stood "the bill to organize the government of the Territory p56 of Orleans", and that bill, notwithstanding the extraordinary features which it was admitted to possess, was voted a law by an immense majority in Congress — which law was readily sanctioned by the President of the United States. Thus the Louisianians, a few months after they had been delivered to the warm embraces and paternal protection of that great Republic which invited all mankind to the enjoyment of liberty, had the intense mortification of being branded, before the whole world, with a solemn official declaration that they were incapable of self-government — a declaration which derived an additional humiliating pungency from the circumstances that it was made by a democratic Congress, and promulgated by Thomas Jefferson, that great apostle of universal liberty, and the immortal author of that celebrated document in which all men are proclaimed to be born 'free and equal.' "
These debates, of which I have here given a short abridgment, deserve to be studied with care, and possess much interest, particularly when taken in connection with the projected annexation of Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua and other Territories, and with the probable expansion of the protection, if not of the government, of the United States, over nations whose vitality is threatened with destruction, and who, it is believed, are destined to take shelter under the strong eagle wing of their colossal neighbor.
It will also be remarked that no one, in those days, seems to have imagined that there could exist any degree of sovereignty, not even squatter sovereignty, in the people of a territory of the United States, and that the introduction and advocacy of a doctrine which was destined in after years to assume proportions of great magnitude in the politics of the country, would then have probably been looked upon, however p57 sound and correct it might be, as nothing short of a monstrous heresy.
Before dismissing from further consideration this bill for the organization of the ceded province of Louisiana, it may not be improper to notice a feature in it which is important in itself, but which is entitled to still greater importance from its connection with a question which perhaps overshadows every other on the political map of the country. It is that Congress, in 1804, when it passed that bill, exercised the contested power of preventing the importation of slaves into territories, for it regulated, on that memorable occasion, the slave-trade between the slave States and a slave Territory. To give that act its due weight, one must recollect that it was sanctioned by Thomas Jefferson, and by that party which had lately defeated the Federal party, and had proclaimed itself pledged to a strict construction of the Constitution, and to an uncomplaining opposition to the assumption of powers not expressly delegated to the General Government. Should the adversaries of slavery, as it exists in some of the States of our Confederacy, ever obtain the ascendency in both Houses of Congress, it is probable that they will attempt to legislate on the slave-trade between the States, and that this act to organize the Territory of Orleans in 1804, will afford a precedent of which they will avail themselves with that pertinacity of purpose and that fanatical vigor of intellect they have ever displayed in assailing that institution, which the South considers as its very life-blood and the indispensable condition of its existence, and also as the very breath and essence of its prosperity.
2 Considering that he was administering Spanish laws, which he hardly comprehended.
3 See the Appendix.
Thayer's Note: In the print edition before me, there is no Appendix to Volume 5.
4 The war of France with England.
5 Martin's History of Louisiana, 2d vol., p244.
6 Chasseurs passionnés. See the Appendix.
Thayer's Note: In the print edition before me, there is no Appendix to Volume 5.
7 Mauvais entourage.
8 Governor Claiborne and General Wilkinson.
9 Peu de moyens et beaucoup de gaucherie.
10 Connu ici de longue main sous de vilains rapports.
11 Un brise raison à boutades.
12 As to the Legislative Council, that body could not even take the initiative in legislation, but was only to deliberate on such subjects as might be laid before them by Claiborne.
13 The repression of this insurrection cost the Spanish Government a pretty considerable outlay. As soon as the news reached Pensacola, Governor Folch (p19)departed at the head of 150 men, of infantry and cavalry, and soon reached Bayou Manchac through the lakes. But he found that tranquillity had been restored by the efforts of Governor Grandpré. (See the dispatch of Intendant Morales to Miguel Cayetano Soler, one of the Spanish ministers, dated New Orleans, Sept. 26th, 1804, and also the same to the same, October 31st, 1804. State Archives, Baton Rouge.)
14 Morales to Cayetano Soler, 19th August, 1804. State Archives at Baton Rouge.
15 Martin's History of Louisiana, p252, 2d vol.
16 Julien Poydras, of Pointe Coupée, one of the most influential and wealthiest men in the Territory, had greatly contributed by his efforts to the formation of the Council. In his letter of acceptance to Claiborne he had used this language: "The President of the United States having appointed me a councilor, I conceive it a duty to accept. If those who have great interest in the country should decline serving it when called upon, their conduct would be unwarrantable. I could offer many plausible excuses, such as age, insufficiency of talents, self-interest, &c. But in so doing I should not act the part of a patriot. A beginning must be made; we must be initiated into the sacred duties of freemen and the practices of liberty." This reasoning, however, had no influence on Cantrelle, who also refused a seat in the Council. Commenting on the course pursued by Poydras, Governor Claiborne said: "His acceptance is a fortunate occurrence, and his conduct and reasoning form a happy contrast to the part acted by Jones, Clark and others."
17 Claiborne's dispatch to Madison, on the 3d of October, 1804.
18 State Archives at Baton Rouge.
19 State Papers at Baton Rouge.
20 Esquisse de la situation politique et civile de la Louisiane depuis le 30 Novembre jusqu'au 1er Octobre 1804, par un Louisianais. Diverso intereà miscentur maenia Luctu. Virg. Æneid. A la Nouvelle Orléans, de l'imprimerie du Télégraphe, chez Beleurgey et Renard, rue Bourbon.
21 Claiborne to Madison, 16th of October, 1804, p8 of the Executive Journal at Baton Rouge, vol. 1.
22 Claiborne to Davis, 3d November, 1804, p21, Executive Journal, vol. 1.
23 Claiborne to Madison, 15th Nov., 1804, p27. Do.
24 L. Kerr's report to Claiborne, 17th Nov., 1804. Executive Jour., p29, vol. 1.
25 Claiborne to Casa Calvo, 22d of November, 1804. Executive Journal, page 39, vol. 1.
26 Page 43, vol. 1, Executive Journal.
27 Page 55, Executive Journal, vol. 1.
28 Executive Journal, vol. 1, page 56.
29 Executive Journal, vol. 1, page 61.
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