As time progressed and the prospect of war increased, Claiborne became more anxious about the organization of the militia, and, in a communication sent to the Secretary of State on the 1st of January, he expressed his views on the subject as follows:
"The militia here is an inefficient force. My best and incessant exertions to introduce order and discipline have been attended with but little success. They are, moreover, badly armed, and, indeed, in case of an attack, the negroes are so numerous in the settlements on the Mississippi, that it might be dangerous to draw a considerable detachment of militia to any one point. I have no reason to believe that the great body of the people of the Territory are otherwise than friendly to the American Government. I do fear, however, that unless supported by a strong regular force, they would not, in case of attack, manifest that patriotic ardor in defence of the country which is essential to its preservation. You are not uninformed of the very heterogeneous mass of which the society in New Orleans is composed. England has her partisans; Ferdinand the Seventh some faithful subjects; Bonaparte his admirers; p205 and there is a fourth description of men commonly called Burrites, who would join any standard which would promise rapine and plunder. There are, nevertheless, many virtuous citizens, in whose honesty and patriotism I fully confide, and with a respectable regular force around which to rally, they would prove themselves worthy of reliance in the hour of danger.
[. . .]
"New Orleans could not afford to an European power the booty which was found at Copenhagen; but in these rapacious days, the vast sums of money known to be deposited in the two banks of this city, together with the quantity of cotton, etc., here stored, may present a lure too tempting to be resisted!"
Returning to the subject, he said to the Secretary of War on the 10th of January:1 "In order to comply with the President's late requisition, I have given orders for a draft. In New Orleans no companies have yet volunteered their services. This circumstance mortifies me exceedingly. But I still flatter myself that, in the interior, more patriotism may be displayed."
The Legislature of the Territory having resumed their annual sessions, Claiborne, when informed that they were ready to proceed to business, sent his message on the 14th of January. In that document he informed them, with regret, that the act to provide for the means of establishing public schools in the parishes of the Territory, which they had passed at their last session, was not likely to produce the desired effect; that, in the Parish of Pointe Coupée, provision had been made for the support of two or more public schools, but that the other parishes did not seem disposed to imitate so worthy an example. "I have observed with pleasure," said he, p206 "that schools for private instruction have of late greatly increased, and that fathers of families seem impressed with the importance of educating their offspring. The instruction of our children in the various branches of science should be accompanied with every effort to instill into their minds principles of morality; to cherish their virtuous propensities; to inspire them with ardent patriotism, and with that spirit of laudable emulation, which 'seeks the esteem of posterity for good and virtuous actions.' Youth thus reared into life become the pride of their parents, the ornaments of society, and the pillars of their country's glory."
Passing to another subject of considerable importance, he observed, "Your criminal jurisprudence requires revision. Punishments are not proportioned to crimes, and, in some cases, offenders are imprisoned for life, whose reformation might probably be effected by a less rigorous suffering. The jail of New Orleans is the common receptacle for convicts sentenced to hard labor. But no means being pointed out for their employment, these unfortunate victims of the law herd together in idleness, until their vices become contagious. Their support, moreover, is a serious charge upon the Treasury, so much so that a view to political economy has had an influence in pardoning offenders whose claims for mercy were very doubtful. For these and other considerations, which will readily occur, you will be convinced of the expediency of erecting a Penitentiary House, and of prescribing such rules for its internal police as may be best calculated to reclaim the wicked and dissolute."2
Referring to the hostile attitude taken by foreign powers against the United States, Claiborne thus stimulated the patriotism of the Legislature: "At this epoch, when p207 what are termed the civilized nations of Europe vie in acts of atrocity with the piratical States of Barbary, a people, to hope for safety, must be armed and united. The Government of the United States has made repeated efforts to restore an amicable intercourse with England and France. Nothing has been demanded of the belligerents which the immutable principles of justice did not sanction; no conduct of theirs was objected to but such as was in violation of our rights as a free and independent people. The language of remonstrance and complaint has been exhausted, and our wrongs remain unredressed. There seems to be no alternative but war, or a continuance of the embargo. Advert to the history of the American nation from the commencement of its existence to the present day! What triumphs have been achieved! What examples of fortitude, of firmness, of prudence have been afforded! A national character acquired by the blood of heroes, and maintained by the wisdom of illustrious statesmen, must and will be preserved. Our honor will never be sullied by receiving the commands of France; nor our independence prostrated by paying tribute to Great Britain. The embargo imposes privations, which a magnanimous people will cheerfully bear. It may be the means of avoiding still greater ills. But, however things may eventuate, whether in inevitable war, or honorable peace, the good citizens of this Territory will unite hand and heart in the support of the Government and in the defence of their country."
In their reply, the Legislature said to Claiborne: "Tell the Federal Government that the Louisianians, proud to belong to the great family, are ready to vie in zeal, in efforts and in sacrifices for the defence of their country."3 p208 In transmitting these sentiments to Secretary of State, Claiborne observed: "This answer may be considered as conveying the political sentiments of the great majority of the people of the Territory. Indeed, Sir, the Louisianians are becoming every day more attached to the American Government, and I am persuaded that, when the occasion serves, they will prove themselves worthy members of the American family. I have nevertheless to regret the residence among us of some foreigners, faithful friends of England, of Spain and of France, and the existence also of a faction in New Orleans (the remnants of Burrism) whose object is to embarrass the administration and to excite discontents."
In the mean time, Governor Claiborne succeeded at last in obtaining from Salcedo, the Governor of Texas, the surrender of some of the negroes who had fled to that province. This circumstance, being calculated to prevent the recurrence of an evil which had been of so long duration, gave great satisfaction in Louisiana. Claiborne assured Salcedo that a like conduct would be pursued in relation to such slaves as might fly from their Spanish masters and take refuge in the Territory of Orleans, and he informed him that, in order that no difficulty whatever might arise, the Legislature had enacted a special law on the subject, a copy of which he transmitted to him. "Your Excellency," said he to Salcedo, "will recognize (I trust) in the provisions of this law those just and liberal principles which should always characterize the intercourse between neighboring and friendly governments."
Julien Poydras, a very wealthy planter of Pointe Coupée, who was avowedly friendly to the general and local administration, was, much to Claiborne's gratification, elected by the Territorial Legislature a delegate to Congress for the ensuing two years. This was the more p209 satisfactory to Claiborne from the fact of there being in New Orleans a pretty strong party opposed to him, and to all his friends and supporters. On the 13th of February, Claiborne had informed the Federal Government that there was in the city a base faction, who were making every exertion to excite disunion and disorder. "A paper called La Lanterne Magique," said he, "is devoted to their views, and I much fear that, among a people (like the Louisianians) who are still for the most part strangers to our government, laws and language, the libelous publications which wickedly appear against the government and its officers will make some unfavorable impressions. The Legislature, however, are almost unanimous in approving the measures of the Government, and I am happy to add that, without the city of New Orleans, little or no dissatisfaction is expressed."
On the 26th of March, New Orleans was becoming crowded with United States troops. More than fourteen hundred of them were then in the city, and several hundred more had entered at the Balize. General Wilkinson, their commander, was daily expected from the North. The number soon amounted to about two thousand, and the public Barracks not being sufficient for their accommodation, many of the companies were comfortably, but expensively, quartered in different parts of the city.
In the month of April, Claiborne went up to the Parish of Pointe Coupée with the view of allaying a feud between the Parish Judge, Dormenon, and L'Abbé Lespinasse, the Parish priest, which had divided the citizens into two factions greatly embittered against each other, and almost disposed to engage in a petty civil war. These two leaders of the two contending parties were both Frenchmen by birth. The former was supported by Poydras, the delegate elect to Congress, and a majority p210 of the planters of the Parish. The latter was patronized by a few respectable Creole families, by almost all the women, and by some native Americans who had recently emigrated to the Parish. The Judge and his partisans wished the removal of the Parish Priest; the Abbé and his friends desired the dismissal of the Judge. "My powers," said Claiborne to the Secretary of State, "did not permit me to act in either case, and my inclination led me to take no other notice of the dispute than to advise all parties to preserve good order, and to add that any breach of the public peace would be noticed by the civil authority. The Sheriff of the District is said to be so friendly to the Judge as to evidence great partiality in the selection of jurors, and a great clamor has been raised against him. This cause of complaint, which I believe to be not altogether unfounded, shall be removed so soon as I can find a capable and honest man, indifferent to both parties, willing to accept the office. I should be at no loss to select an individual from among the citizens of Pointe Coupée, both honest and capable. But they have so generally taken part in this contest, that it will be advisable to appoint as sheriff some person who has not heretofore resided in the Parish." This incident, insignificant in itself, but not an exceptional one, is deserving of notice, as illustrating the curious social condition then existing in the Territory.
In such a social condition, Claiborne had soon found out that, among his manifold duties, the most delicate and disagreeable was that of appointing to office. He informed the President that, to conciliate the population generally, and indeed to be just to the old inhabitants, he was bound to fill a portion of the offices of honor and profit with those whose native language was French. "But," said he to the Secretary of State, "this policy is much censured by some of my fellow-citizens, and p211 made a cause of opposition to my administration. You will find inclosed a list of the most important civil and military officers of the Government, and in which are noticed the several places of nativity. From this list you will find that, if there is any favoritism, it is toward native Americans."
The Legislature, in their last session, had adopted a memorial to Congress, the object of which was to obtain the early admission of the Territory into the Union as a member of the Confederacy, on the same footing with the original States. This memorial was transmitted by the Claiborne to the Secretary of State at Washington on the 18th of May, but with a letter which he wrote in opposition to their wishes, and which is too interesting a document not to be reproduced here at length.4
"I am not from principle," said he, "an advocate for Territorial systems of government, nor during my agency in their administration have I experienced so much satisfaction, as to have created a personal bias in their favor; but it really seems to me that the system, as it relates to this District, cannot yet be done away without hazarding the interest of the United States, and the welfare of this community. I can bear testimony to the good intentions and amiable character of a majority of the inhabitants, to their industrious habits, to their obedience to the laws, and growing attachment to the American Government; but they nevertheless are not prepared for self-government to the extent solicited by the Legislature. The Government of the Territory in its present shape is with some difficulty administered; and as much power has been vested in the people as is, for the present, likely to be used with discretion. Our population is a mixed one, and composed of very discordant materials; the mass of p212 the inhabitants still entertain strong prejudices in favor of their ancient laws and usages, and, should the immediate control of the General Government over this Territory be withdrawn, those great principles of jurisprudence, so much admired in the United States, would not meet here that patronage which the general interest would require.
"In 1806, a census of the inhabitants of this Territory was taken, and I believe with great accuracy. There were then 52,998 souls, of which 23,574 were slaves, and 3,355 free people of color, leaving a white population of 26,069; of these at least 13,500 are natives of Louisiana, for the most part descendants of the French; about 3,500 natives of the United States, and the residue, Europeans generally, including the native French, Spaniards, English, Germans and Irish.
"I have no document which enables me to state with certainty the number of the several descriptions of persons composing the white population. But the above is, I am sure, very near correct. Since the year 1806, the emigration has not been considerable; it may have given us an increase of between three and four thousand free persons, two-thirds of whom are native Americans. But it is understood that many of the unfortunate people lately banished from Cuba will seek an asylum in this Territory, and that, in a few weeks, the French population may receive an addition of several thousand.
"The memorial met with considerable opposition in the House of Representatives, and, on its final passage, the votes were eleven in the affirmative and seven in the negative. I much doubt whether, if a question as to the early reception of the Territory into the Union as a State was submitted to the people, there would be found a majority in its favor. Of one fact I am assured — that a great majority of the native citizens of the United States p213 residing here are against the measure, as are also many of the native Louisianians. I was the other day in conversation on the subject with a very respectable and influential planter, and, among other objections to the prayer of the memorial, he stated that the time was ill-chosen; that when the Spanish possessions in our vicinity were on the eve of a revolution, and we knew not in what manner the United States, and this Territory in particular, might be affected by the war now raging, the period was not favorable for organizing a State Government: that the taxes already imposed by the Territorial authorities were as great as the people could conveniently meet, and that no change was for the present desirable, which would not be accompanied with an accumulation of expenses. He noticed, also, the negligence of his fellow-citizens in making use of the privilege already conferred on them, and doubted whether they were yet sufficiently informed on political matters to conduct a State Government. These remarks were just. The time is indeed illy chosen. There is, moreover, a want of information among the body of the people; the rights of the citizen are not generally understood, and his duties (more particularly political) often neglected. The apathy which prevails at our elections has been remarkable. In counties where there are more than two hundred voters there are instances of persons being returned as Representatives to the General Assembly by a lesser number than thirty suffrages, and hitherto it has seldom happened that, at any election, however contested, a majority of the voters have attended the polls.
"On transmitting a copy of this memorial to the Department of State, I have to regret, Sir, that my sentiments as to its objects should not accord with those of a majority of the members of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives, for whose integrity of character p214 I feel the highest respect, and in whose good intentions I fully confide. But whilst my judgment assures me that it would at this time be inexpedient to admit this Territory into the Union as a member State, I should be wanting in duty were I not to suggest the necessity of amending the ordinance of Congress of 1787, which has been extended to the Territory of Orleans, and more specially as relates to our Supreme Judiciary. I believe, also, that an increase of the members of the Legislative Council5 would meet the interest and wishes of the citizens."
The revolution of St. Domingo had caused a French emigration into the island of Cuba, and the ruthless invasion of Spain by France was the cause of another exodus of those same refugees, who sought in Louisiana an asylum which was denied them in the country where they had become objects of hatred and suspicion. In the month of June, many of those emigrants had already arrived in New Orleans, some with their slaves and with whatever other property they could bring with them, and others utterly destitute. The negroes, having been introduced in violation of law, were seized, but it was thought to be one of those hard cases when humanity required that the law should be permitted to sleep, or at least that it should not be strictly and rigorously enforced. It was supposed that Congress, being appealed to, would, from sympathy for the fugitives, modify the law so as to permit them to retain what was with most of them their only means of securing a livelihood in their new home, and would not deprive those who had been twice the victims of an adverse fate, of the few remaining wrecks of their former fortunes. Acting in conformity with this spirit of compassion, and in anticipation of the p215 expected course to be pursued by the Federal Government, Claiborne wrote to the Mayor of New Orleans:
"The Collector of the District of Orleans having requested me by a letter bearing date on this day, 19th of June, to name some persons to whom he may deliver, conformably to the provisions of the act of Congress, passed on the 2d day of March, 1807, to prohibit the importation of slaves, certain negroes arriving here from Cuba, I must beg you to have the goodness to receive the same, and to place them in the possession of their respective owners, provided they previously enter into bond, with sufficient security to the Governor of the Territory and his successors in office, with a condition that the negroes so placed in their possession shall be held subject, and, at all times after ten days' notice, be forthcoming at the office of the Mayor of the City of New Orleans, there to abide such further and other dispositions as the Governor of the Territory of Orleans, or his successors in office, or the President and Congress of the United States may think it proper to make or direct.
[. . .]
"In the event that there be any persons, claiming negroes, who cannot give the security required, you will then be pleased to hire the negroes to some citizen who will give the necessarily surety for their delivery at your office as aforesaid, and to pay over the proceeds of the hire to the respective owners."
Two days after, Claiborne communicated to the Secretary of State what he had done in this matter, and said,
"I am not certain, Sir, that the temporary disposition I have made of these poor people will, upon investigation, be found correct. The letter of the law may not have been adhered to. But, under all circumstances, I trust the measures I have already directed will be approved. The p216 case is a peculiar one. It was not anticipated by the Government, and may not perhaps be considered as fully provided for under the acts of Congress. The emigration of the French from Cuba was compulsory, and their misfortunes, under the general law of nations, recommend them to the greatest indulgence. An accredited agent of the United States, the Consul of St. Yago, had moreover encouraged them to hope, as appears from his letter to me, that in their peculiar situation, the Government, as regards the slaves, may have the power and the inclination to grant them some relief from the precise rigor of established statutes, and in this expectation they entered the waters of the Mississippi. Of the wretched condition of these unfortunate exiles I am well assured. The enclosed petition from them is calculated to awake the sympathy of all who can feel for private distress.
"The vessels coming from Cuba with slaves are all under seizure, and detained to the great loss of the owners. These vessels are American and Spanish bottoms, and I have been assured by the several captains, that had not the feelings of humanity induced them, of their own accord, to bring away the exiled French, the Spanish authorities would have forced them to do so.
"Several other vessels from St. Yago have entered at the Balize with passengers, but I am not informed of their numbers. The French already arrived here are represented, for the most part, to be men of fair characters and industrious habits. The great majority of the people of color, emigrating hither, are women and children; and the negroes who have been introduced are said to consist of faithful domestics, who have adhered to their masters in all the vicissitudes of their fortunes, and of a few Africans purchased by the French during their residence in Cuba."
These emigrants, whose sufferings entitled them to so p217 much sympathy, and even to indulgence, if they had needed it, for impropriety of behavior, for persistency in defective habits, or for the conspicuousness of morals not entirely free from blame, did not find favor, however, with some of those at whose doors they were knocking for hospitable reception. For, on the 18th of July, Claiborne wrote to the Secretary of State:
"Considerable exertions have been made and are now making, through the medium of a paper called the New Orleans Gazette, to excite prejudices against those unfortunate strangers, and to impress society with an opinion that my conduct in relation to them and their slaves has been in direct opposition to the laws and the best interests of the United States. According to the newspaper writers, those strangers are, very generally, men of the basest character, who, for the last few years, have committed many wanton and cruel depredations on the commerce of the United States, and their stay in the Territory would endanger its peace and safety.
"For myself, Sir, I would have preferred that the space in our community which these emigrants have filled, had been occupied by native citizens of the United States. But I really see no cause for that uneasiness and alarm which have been expressed. There are, doubtless, among them some worthless individuals. But, upon inquiry, I find that the great majority are men of fair reputations and industrious habits, who deserve a greater portion of happiness than has heretofore been allotted to them. As regards myself, the newspaper abuse is a matter of no consequence. Assured of the rectitude of my conduct, and that the President will not condemn me unheard, I bid defiance to my enemies. But as regards the strangers whom misfortune has thrown upon our shores, I am sorry to find them so much abused; it can only tend to lessen the gratitude for the asylum p218 afforded them. There are, certainly, many excellent Americans who are dissatisfied with so considerable a foreign population. But the persons the most noisy on the occasion are those who participate in all the Spanish and English resentment against the French nation, and of whose breasts prejudice has taken such complete possession as to extinguish all sense of feeling for private distress."6
Notwithstanding the hostility shown to them by a portion of the population of Louisiana, the flood of emigrants had continued to pour in, and on the 18th of July, their number amounted to 5,754, of whom 1,798 were white people, 1,977 free colored and black, and 1,979 slaves.
Referring to this subject, Claiborne said to the Secretary of State on the 29th of July: "These trials," (alluding to the trials of some French men on the charge of piracy,) and the newspaper publications in which the refugees from Cuba are represented as the basest of men, and dangerous to the tranquillity of the territory, have produced here a great share of agitation. The foreign Frenchmen residing among us take great interest in favor of their countrymen, and the sympathies of the creoles of the country (the descendants of the French), seem also to be much excited. The native Americans and the English of our society, on the contrary, with some few exceptions, appear to be prejudiced against these strangers, and express great dissatisfaction that an asylum in this territory was afforded them. I have endeavored to impress reflecting men with the propriety in observing moderation in their language and conduct. But we have here many warm, rash individuals, whose imprudent expressions aid considerably the views of a p219 few base characters whose sole object is to produce confusion, and who seize on every opportunity to bring into contact the discordant materials of which this community is composed."7
Although strongly sympathizing with the French refugees, Claiborne thought it prudent to check that kind of immigration, and wrote as follows to Mr. Anderson, the American Consul at Havana.
"The refugees from Cuba who have arrived in this territory have experienced the most friendly hospitality. But their numbers becoming so considerable as to embarrass our own citizens, and I fear they will not be enabled much longer to supply, as fully as they would wish, the wants of these unfortunate strangers. You will, therefore, render a service to such of the French as may not have departed from Cuba, by advising them to seek an asylum in some other district of the United States.
"As regards the people of color who have arrived here from Cuba, the women and children have been received, but the males above the age of fifteen have, in pursuance of the Territorial Law, been ordered to depart. I must request you, Sir, to make known this circumstance, and also to discourage free people of color, of every description, from emigrating to the Territory of Orleans. We have already a much greater proportion of that description than comports with the general interest."
He addressed the same letter to Maurice Rogers, United States Consul at St. Yago de Cuba. But the colored people who had been ordered to depart contrived to evade the order, and remained in New Orleans, where they have left a numerous posterity. Even others of the same class subsequently arrived, and, notwithstanding a show of opposition, were permitted to glide into a quiet residence in the territory.
p220 The perturbed state of the world at that time was the cause that many individuals whose condition became unsettled were looking round for places where they could better their fortunes, and not a few of them were daily arriving in New Orleans from almost every quarter of the horizon which embraced the civilized portion of the earth, and particularly from Jamaica, Guadeloupe, and the other West India Islands. British aggressions and conquests in those regions had disposed many of their French inhabitants to seek for refuge elsewhere. "At all time," sad Claiborne to the Secretary of State, on the 4th of November, "the utmost vigilance on the part of the officers of the Government in this Territory is essential, but it is particularly so at the present period, when so many strangers are daily arriving among us, of whom many are of doubtful character and of desperate fortunes, and many, probably, would become willing instruments in the hands of those unprincipled, intriguing individuals who would wish to disturb the peace and union of the American States. That there are such individuals in this territory I have long since known, and I have no reason to believe that their hostility to the interests of the United States has in the least abated."
In consequence of the steady tide of emigration which was flowing towards Louisiana, chiefly from the shores of San Domingo, Cuba, Jamaica, and Guadeloupe, house rent in New Orleans and the price of provisions had become so extravagantly high that, in the month of November, families who had but limited resources began to find them drawing to an end, and the number of the poor and destitute were daily augmenting.8
It has already been stated that, in the month of May, about two thousand troops of the United States had p221 been concentrated in New Orleans. General Wilkinson, who was their commander, had arrived in that city from the North, on the 19th of April, after having stopped at Havana and Pensacola. Immediately after his return, he reconnoitered the country around New Orleans in search of a spot from which the troops might readily be brought into action in case of an attack, and where they might in the meanwhile enjoy as much health and comfort as the climate would allow. His choice fell on an elevated piece of ground on the left bank of the Mississippi, about •eight miles below the city, near the point where the road leading to the settlements of Terre aux Boeufs leaves that which runs along the river. A large detachment was sent to Terre aux Boeufs to make the necessary preparations, and the rest of the troops gradually followed. On the 13th of May, seven hundred non-commissioned officers and privates had assembled at that spot.9
They had hardly been three weeks encamped, when the most peremptory order from the department of war was received by Wilkinson, directing him to embark his whole force immediately, leaving only sufficient garrisons at New Orleans and Fort St. Philip, and to proceed to higher grounds in the rear of Fort Adams and of Natchez, and by an equal division of his men to form an encampment at those localities.10
From the difficulty of procuring boats and from other circumstances, the troops did not begin to ascend the river before the 15th of September. Their progress lasted forty-seven days, during which, out of nine hundred and thirty-five men who embarked six hundred and thirty-eight were sick, and two hundred and forty died.
p222 It is sad to relate that, of the nineteen hundred and fifty-three regulars who had been sent to New Orleans seven hundred and ninety-five died, and one hundred and sixty-six deserted, so that the total loss was almost one-half of the whole. The greatest sickness was in the month of August, when five hundred and sixty-three men were on the sick list.11
This disaster produced a profound sensation in the United States, and a great clamor arose against Wilkinson, who had already been so long suspected of being in the pay of Spain, and to whose misconduct his opponents attributed what had happened on this occasion. So loud was the hue and cry against him, that James Madison, who had succeeded Jefferson as President of the United States, thought proper to call him to the seat of Government to justify himself, and General Wade Hampton was appointed to take the command in his place.
1810. Claiborne, in the annual message which he delivered at the opening of the session of the Legislature, in January, 1810, complimented them on the new-born interest which the people of the Territory has exhibited in the recent elections for members of their body. "Their indifference on former occasions," he said, "to the right of suffrage was cause for serious concern. It was apprehended that such apathy would in the end prove injurious to their best interests. But, by the recent returns from several counties, it is apparent that the body of the people are becoming sensible of the importance of the elective franchise and that its exercise is justly considered to be a duty." He further observed, that the embarrassments to commerce necessarily resulting from the condition of the foreign relations of the United States having diminished the value of most of p223 the surplus productions of the Territory, and augmented considerably the price of all articles of foreign importation, therefore the strongest considerations of interest invited the Louisianians to the exercise of a prudent economy, and to seize on a moment so auspicious as the present, to encourage domestic manufactures and to lessen their dependence on a foreign market for articles of necessity and comfort.
"It is submitted to you," he said, "whether some legislative encouragement may be advisable. To what extent you can best determine. But, were only an honorable premium awarded for the samples of cotton and woollen cloths exhibited from the different Parishes, it could not fail to produce a laudable emulation. I have observed in the prairies of Attakapas and Opelousas some flocks of sheep whose fleece appeared to me to be of good quality. The improvement of the breed of that useful animal is an advisable object. In climates not very dissimilar to that of this territory he is reared to advantage, and I am persuaded that, with due care, his welfare will be equally sure in our extensive western prairies. The Merino sheep, whose wool is held in such high estimation, were a few years since imported into the Atlantic States, and promise to contribute greatly to their real wealth and convenience. I submit, therefore, to the legislature the expediency of introducing into this territory, at the public expense, as many of that improved breed as may be sufficient to make the experiment how far the climate is adapted to their prosperity. The great and necessary consumption of woollen manufactures in this territory makes it important that we should early resort to means to acquire at home those supplies which we, so sparingly, and at so enhanced a price, receive from abroad, and of which resource, it is probable, we may soon in a greater degree be deprived."
p224 In relation to the administration of justice he judiciously said: "There are, doubtless, necessary amendments which may occur to you, but I trust they will not be numerous. A disposition for frequent change of judicial systems should not be encouraged; it often proves injurious. Multiply your laws and they become less known — the more uncertain — and the citizen finds it better to endure, than to seek a redress for grievances."
In consequence of the frequent ravages of the Yellow-fever, particularly in the autumn of the past year, he recommended to the Legislature the policy of making "some general health laws which should enforce cleanliness, and subject the shipping entering the Mississippi to those quarantine regulations which at other places had proved salutary."12
In a communication to the Secretary of the Treasury, bearing date, January 17, Claiborne recommended that Congress be invited to make some appropriation to support, under the direction of the Territorial Legislature, the establishment of public schools in the Territory of Orleans. "I am sorry," he said, "to observe that the education of the youths of this district has been, and is still, greatly neglected; nor do I expect ever to see as liberal an appropriation for public schools as the present state of this society demands, unless Congress shall deem them objects worthy their patronage. Donations have been made, I believe, by Congress, to most of the Territories, with a view to the encouragement of education, and I am persuaded a like generosity will be observed toward the Territory of Orleans. The donation I recommend would enable the Territorial Legislature immediately to establish seminaries of learning in the several p225 counties, where the children of the native Louisianians and the native Americans, of the native Frenchmen and the native Spaniards, now inhabiting this Territory, might be instructed in useful knowledge, and the effects of whose early intercourse and friendship would probably be such as to induce the rising generation to consider themselves one people, and no longer to feel that jealousy and want of confidence which exists among their fathers."13
This jealousy and this want of confidence of which Claiborne complains was a stumbling block in the way of his administration, and proved to him a constant source of trouble and anxiety, as may be seen from his dispatch of the 23d of January to the Secretary of State, to whom he expressed his sentiments in these terms:
"To give general satisfaction to the inhabitants of this Territory, among the several descriptions of which so much jealousy and dislike exists, I have found impracticable. My sole object is now, and ever has been, to be just to them all, and to conciliate as much as possible the minds of the ancient inhabitants of the Territory to the American Government. As one means of doing so, I have occasionally invited them, in common with the native citizens of the United States, to partake in the administration of the local government. I have had no reason to regret this policy, and I hope and believe that it is approved by the President of the United States. The ancient inhabitants (I mean the natives of Louisiana, or those who were settled here previous to the cession), possess a great share of the wealth of the District, and of course pay a very considerable proportion of the Territorial tax. To exclude them from a participation in the affairs of the Territory would, to say the least of it, be an act of injustice.
p226 "From the list of appointments enclosed you will find that, next to the native Americans, the natives of Louisiana enjoy the greatest share of my patronage. Men who were born in this country, and where also their fathers are entombed, I never can treat as aliens. But my mode of thinking and acting has made me some bitter enemies. Not an office is created, or becomes vacant, but the number of my foes increases, and if my choice should happen the fall on a citizen whose native language is French, I am immediately charged with being too friendly to French interests."
Claiborne also informed the General Government that, as long as the Floridas should remain in the possession of a foreign power, all the laws prohibiting the importation of slaves would be evaded. "It is confidently reported," he said, "that two or three vessels have lately sailed from Pensacola for the Coast of Africa, and design to return with a cargo of negroes. These will be carried to the rich settlement of Baton Rouge, and such as cannot be sold there will probably be conveyed across the Mississippi and disposed of in the Territory of Orleans."14
I have already mentioned that Wade Hampton had succeeded General Wilkinson in his military command. Claiborne, in a note of the 27th of January, suggested to him the expediency of leaving at New Orleans, as a garrison, three or four complete companies, "because," as he remarked, "you are doubtless advised of the very heterogeneous mass of which the society in New Orleans is composed, and that we have among us men of every nation and character. Heretofore, nothing has occurred to threaten the public peace. But with a population so mixed, and becoming more so every day by the press of emigration from Cuba and elsewhere, I must confess I am not p227 without apprehensions that disorders and disturbances may arise. The free-men of color, in and near New Orleans (including those recently arrived from Cuba), capable of carrying arms, cannot be less than eight hundred. Their conduct has hitherto been correct. But in a country like this, where the negro population is so considerable, they should be carefully watched. Until the militia of the Territory is rendered an efficient force, I should be sorry to see less than three or four companies of regular troops in New Orleans, or in its vicinity. I have not been wanting in efforts to better the condition of the militia. But many obstacles are in my way."
It is remarkable, that the antagonism which in the Legislature of Louisiana has so long existed between the representatives of New Orleans and its vicinity, and those of the rest of the country, had a contemporaneous origin with the formation of the Territorial Government; for, on the 17th of February, Claiborne informed the Secretary of State that "the Territorial Legislature was still in session; that a great difference of opinion had arisen between the members from the Western counties and those from New Orleans and its vicinity, and that the parties were so nearly divided, that few, if any, laws of general concern would probably pass."
In the mean time, the opposition to Claiborne's administration was becoming more intense on the part of his enemies, and the Attorney-General of the Territory thought it his duty to institute judicial proceedings against a virulent libel which had been published against the Executive. On being informed of it, the Governor wrote a very noble letter to the Attorney-General, requesting him to stop the prosecution.
"An officer whose hands and motives are pure," he said, "has nothing to fear from newspaper detraction, or the invectives of angry and deluded individuals. My conduct in life is p228 the best answer I can return to my enemies. It is before the public, and has secured, and will, I am certain, continue to secure me the esteem and confidence of that portion of society whose approbation is desirable to an honest man.
"The lie of the day gives me no concern. Neglected calumny soon expires; notice it, and you gratify your calumniators; prosecute it, and it acquires consequence; punish it, and you enlist in its favor the public sympathy. The liberty of the press is all important to a free people; but its licentiousness in the United States has become a curse to my country. It destroys all the benefit which its liberty would otherwise procure. The press, in former days, kept bad men in check; but in these times its denunciations afford no evidence of demerit, for we all know that they are directed as well against the virtuous as the wicked. Judicial interference is not, in my opinion, the best means of putting down that licentiousness. When they shall think proper to withdraw their patronage from the vehicles of slander, and not until then, will the libelers of the laws of the Government, its officers, and honest citizens, disappear."15
In the month of May, Claiborne, having obtained leave of absence, departed from New Orleans for Baltimore, and the Government was left in the hands of Th. Bolling Robertson, the Secretary of the Territory.
On the 6th of September, Robertson issued the following circular to all those whom it might concern in the Territory: "You have no doubt heard of the late introduction of African slaves among us. Two cargoes have been already smuggled into this Territory by the way of Barataria and Lafourche, and I am fully convinced p229 from a variety of circumstances which have come to my knowledge, that an extensive and well laid plan exists to evade or to defeat the operation of the laws of the United States on that subject. The open and daring course which is now pursued by a set of brigands who infest our coast, and overrun our country, is calculated to excite the strongest indignation in the breast of every man who feels the slightest respect for the wise and politic institutions under which we live. At this moment, upwards of one hundred slaves are held by some of our own citizens in the very teeth of the most positive laws, and notwithstanding every exertion which has been made, so general seems to be the disposition to aid in the concealment, that but faint hopes are entertained of directing the party and bringing them to punishment. Confiding in your zeal, I have thought it advisable to state to you my impressions on this all-important subject, and to call upon you to use all the means in your power to give efficacy to a system of law founded on the purest principles of humanity and the soundest views of enlightened policy."
It is true that, for some considerable time before official notice was taken of the fact, smuggling had been carried on to some extent in relation to Africans, and as to every other sort of merchandise, to an immense amount, not only through Barataria and Lafourche, but also through Bayou Teche in Attakapas.
In the neighborhood of Bayou Sara and in the adjacent country there was a large settlement of native Americans, who resolved to avail themselves of the impotency to which Spain was reduced by its war with France, and to secure their political independence.a During the summer, having obtained the assistance of their countrymen who dwelt near them in the contiguous counties of the Territory of Mississippi, they suddenly p230 flew to arms, embodied themselves into a small army of insurgents, and marched on Baton Rouge. In the fort which commanded the town, Delassus, the Spanish Governor of the district, used to reside, but he was absent at the time, and the fort had been left in charge of a youth, Louis Grandpré, the son of Carlos de Grandpré, the former Governor. Grandpré had under him only a score or two of old soldiers, most of whom were cripples, and the fort itself was in such a condition, that it would have been deemed incapable of defence by any military man. The forces by which Grandpré was attacked were so overwhelming, that he ought to have surrendered rather than attempt an impossibility and fruitlessly expose his own life and that of the corporal's guard he had with him, but he had received no instructions to meet the case, and he chivalrously thought that he was not, under any circumstances whatever, to give up what had been intrusted, for safe keeping, to his fidelity and honor. Therefore, when summoned by the insurgent to lower his flag, he resolved to die, and replied in the negative. The result was not long delayed; a loud shout of mutual encouragement on the side of the Americans, a simultaneous rush, and they went pell-mell into the fort. They had been met, sword in hand, but by one single man, and he alone perished. It was Grandpré who had thus hopelessly confronted his multitudinous foes. There was no defence made except by him, and it is to be regretted that his enemies, being hundreds to one, had not the magnanimity, or the opportunity, to spare the life of this young hero.
The insurgents, soon after their success, had a Convention which purported to be composed of the representatives of the people of West Florida, and they issued a declaration of independence, in which they solemnly made known to the world that the several districts constituting p231 the province of West Florida, had assumed the rank, then and hereafter, of a free and independent State. It is remarkable that in this document, in which they give their reasons for operating this revolution, they show no hostility to Spain, but, on the contrary, take care to record "the fidelity with which they had professed and maintained allegiance to their legitimate sovereign, while any hope remained of receiving from him protection for their property and their lives." They seem to have been solicitous to proclaim that they had not taken arms against their King, for whom they professed to have always entertained an inviolable attachment, which had also extended to Spain as the parent country, whilst so much as a shadow of legitimate authority remained, to be exercised over them. Here is this curious document, signed by John Rhea, President of the Convention, and Andrew Steele, Secretary, on the 26th day of September:
By the Representatives of the people of West Florida, in Convention assembled:
"It is known to the world with how much fidelity the good people of this Territory have professed and maintained allegiance to their legitimate Sovereign, while any hope remained of receiving from him protection for their property and their lives.
"Without making any unnecessary innovation in the established principles of the Government, we had voluntarily adopted certain regulations, in concert with our First Magistrate, for the express purpose of preserving this Territory, and showing our attachment to the Government which had heretofore protected us. This compact, which was entered into with good faith on our part, will forever remain an honorable testimony of our p232 upright intentions and inviolable fidelity to our King and parent country, while so much as a shadow of legitimate authority remained to be exercised over us. We sought only a speedy remedy for such evils as seemed to endanger our existence and prosperity, and were encouraged by our Governor with solemn promises of assistance and co-operation. But those measures which were intended for our preservation he has endeavored to pervert into an engine of destruction, by encouraging, in the most perfidious manner, the violation of ordinances sanctioned and established by himself as the law of the land.
"Being thus left without any hope of protection from the mother country, betrayed by a magistrate whose duty it was to have provided for the safety and tranquillity of the people and Government committed to his charge, and exposed to all the evils of a state of anarchy, which we have so long endeavored to avert, it becomes our duty to provide for our own security, as a free and independent State, absolved from all allegiance to a Government which no longer protects us.
"We, therefore, the Representatives aforesaid, appealing to the Supreme Ruler of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do solemnly publish and declare the several districts composing this Territory of West Florida to be a free and independent State; and that they have a right to institute for themselves such form of government as they may think conducive to their safety and happiness; to form treaties; to establish commerce; to provide for the common defence; and to do all acts which may, of right, be done by a sovereign and independent nation; at the same time declaring all acts, within the said Territory of West Florida, after this date, by any tribunals or authorities not deriving their powers from the people, agreeably to the provisions established by this Convention, to be null and void; and p233 calling upon all foreign nations to respect this our declaration, acknowledging our independence, and giving us such aid as may be consistent with the laws and usages of nations."16
This declaration of independence was transmitted to the President of the United States with the utmost speed, through Governor Holmes, of the Mississippi Territory, and on the 10th of October, John Rhea, the President of the West Florida Convention, addressed the following communication to the Secretary of State at Washington, in which he prayed for the annexation of that District to the United States, and took the opportunity to claim, in full ownership, on behalf of the Commonwealth of West Florida, all the unlocated lands within its limits, to which he pretended that they were entitled on several grounds, and particularly as a reward for having wrested the government and country from Spain at the risk of their lives and fortunes.
"The Convention of the State of Florida," said Rhea to Robert Smith, Secretary of State, on the 10th of October, "have already transmitted an official copy of their act of independence, through His Excellency Governor Holmes, to the President of the United States, accompanied with the expression of their hope and desire that this Commonwealth may be immediately acknowledged and protected by the Government of the United States, as an integral part of the American Union. On a subject so interesting to the community represented by us, it is necessary that we should have the most direct and unequivocal assurances of the views and wishes of the American Government without delay, since our weak and unprotected situation will oblige us to look to some foreign Government for support, should it be refused to p234 us by the country which we have considered as our parent State.
"We therefore make this direct appeal through you to the President and General Government of the American States, to solicit that immediate protection to which we consider ourselves entitled; and, to obtain a speedy and favorable decision, we offer the following considerations: 1st. The Government of the United States, in their instructions to the Envoys Extraordinary at Paris, in March, 1806, authorized the purchase of East Florida, directing them at the same time to engage France to intercede with the Cabinet of Spain to relinquish any claim to the Territory which now forms this Commonwealth. 2d. In all diplomatic correspondence with American ministers abroad, the Government of the United States have spoken of West Florida as a part of the Louisiana cession. They have legislated for the country as a part of their own territory, and have deferred to take possession of it, in expectation that Spain might be induced to relinquish her claim by amicable negotiation. 3d. The American Government has already refused to accredit any minister from the Spanish Junta, which body was certainly more legally organized as the representative of the sovereignty, than that now called the Regency of Spain. Therefore, the United States cannot but regard any force or authority emanating from them, with an intention to subjugate us, as they would an invasion of their territory by a foreign enemy. 4th. The Emperor of France has invited Spanish Americans to declare their independence rather than to remain in subjection to the old Spanish Government; therefore, an acknowledgment of our independence by the United States could not be complained of by France, or involve the American Government in any contest with that power. 5th. Neither can it afford any just cause of p235 complaint to Great Britain, although she be the ally of Spain, that the United States should acknowledge and support our independence, as this measure was necessary to save the country from falling into the hands of the French exiles from the Island of Cuba, and other partisans of Bonaparte, who are the eternal enemies of Great Britain.
"Should the United States be induced by these, or any other considerations, to acknowledge our claims to their protection as an integral part of their territory, or otherwise, we feel it our duty to claim for our constituents an immediate admission into the Union as an independent State, or as a Territory of the United States, with permission to establish our own form of government, or to be united with one of the neighboring Territories, or a part of one of them, in such manner as to form a State. Should it be thought proper to annex us to one of the neighboring Territories, or a part of one of them, the inhabitants of this Commonwealth would prefer being annexed to the Island of Orleans; and, in the meanwhile, until a State government should be established, that they should be governed by the ordinances already enacted by this Convention, and by their further regulations hereafter.
"The claim which we have to the soil or unlocated lands within this Commonwealth will not, it is presumed, be contested by the United States, as they have tacitly acquiesced in the claim of France, or Spain, for seven years; and the restrictions of the several embargo and non-intercourse laws might fairly be construed, if not as a relinquishment of their claim, yet as at least sufficient to entitle the people of this Commonwealth (who have wrested the Government and country from Spain at the risk of their lives and fortunes) to all the unlocated lands. It will strike the American Government that the p236 moneys arising from the sales of these lands, applied as they will be to improving the internal communications of the country, opening canals, etc., will, in fact, be adding to the prosperity and strength of the Federal Union. To fulfill with good faith our promises and engagements to the inhabitants of this country, it will be our duty to stipulate for an unqualified pardon for all deserters now residing within this Commonwealth, together with an exemption from further service in the army or navy of the United States."17
In consequence of these events, the President of the United States resolved to take immediate possession of the District of West Florida, and, on the 27th of October, issued this proclamation:
"Whereas the Territory south of the Mississippi Territory, and eastward of the River Mississippi, and extending to the River Perdido, of which possession was not delivered to the United States, in pursuance of the treaty concluded at Paris on the 30th of April, 1803, has, at all times, as is well known, been considered and claimed by them as being within the colony of Louisiana, conveyed by the said treaty, in the same extent that it had in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France originally possessed it;
"And whereas the acquiescence of the United States in the temporary continuance of the said Territory under the Spanish authority, was not the result of any distrust of their title, as has been particularly evinced by the general tenor of their laws, and by the distinction made in the application of those laws between that Territory and foreign countries, but was occasioned by their conciliatory views, and by a confidence in the justice of their cause, and in the success of candid discussion p237 and amicable negotiation with a just and friendly power;
"And whereas a satisfactory adjustment, too long delayed, without the fault of the United States, has for some time been entirely suspended by events over which they had no control; and whereas a crisis has at length arrived subversive of the order of things under the Spanish authorities, whereby a failure of the United States to take the said Territory into its possession may lead to events ultimately contravening the views of both parties, whilst in the mean time the tranquillity and security of our adjoining territories are endangered, and new facilities given to violators of our revenue and commercial laws, and of those prohibiting the introduction of slaves;
"Considering, moreover, that under these peculiar and imperative circumstances, a forbearance on the part of the United States to occupy the Territory in question, and thereby guard against the confusion stone contingencies which threaten it, might be construed into a dereliction of their title, or an insensibility to the importance of the stake: considering that, in the hands of the United States, it will not cease to be a subject of fair and friendly negotiation and adjustment: considering, finally, that the acts of Congress, though contemplating a present possession of the said Territory by a foreign authority, have contemplated also an eventual possession of the said Territory by the United States, and are accordingly so framed as, in that case, to extend in their operation to the same:
"Now, be it known, that I, James Madison, President of the United States of America, in pursuance of these weighty and urgent considerations, have deemed it right and requisite that possession should be taken of the said Territory in the name and behalf of the United States. p238 W. C. C. Claiborne, Governor of the Orleans Territory, of which the said Territory is to be taken as part, will accordingly proceed to execute the same, and to exercise over the said Territory the authorities and functions legally appertaining to his office. And the good people inhabiting the same are invited and enjoined to pay due respect to him in that character, to be obedient to the laws, to maintain order, to cherish harmony, and in every manner to conduct themselves as peaceable citizens, under full assurance that they will be protected in the enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion."
On the same day, the Secretary of State sent the following instructions to Claiborne:18
"As the district, the possession of which you are directed to take, is to be considered as making part of the Territory of Orleans, you will, after taking possession, lose no time in proceeding to organize the militia; to prescribe the bounds of parishes; to establish parish courts; and finally, to do whatever your legal powers, applicable to the case, will warrant, and may be calculated to maintain order; to secure to the inhabitants the peaceable enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion; and to place them, as far as may be, on the same footing with the inhabitants of the other districts under your authority. As far as your powers may be inadequate to these and other requisite objects, the Legislature of Orleans, which it is understood will soon be in session, will have an opportunity of making further provisions for them, more especially for giving, by law, to the inhabitants of the said Territory, a just share in the representation in the General Assembly; it being desirable that the interval of this privation should not be p239 prolonged beyond the unavoidable necessity of the case.
"If, contrary to expectation, the occupation of this Territory on the part of the United States should be opposed by force, the commanding officer of the regular troops on the Mississippi will have orders from the Secretary of War to afford you, upon your application, the requisite aid; and should an additional force be deemed necessary, you will draw from the Orleans Territory, as will Governor Holmes from the Mississippi Territory, militia in such numbers and in such proportions from your respective territories, as you and Governor Holmes may deem proper. Should, however, any particular place, however small, remain in possession of a Spanish force, you will not proceed to employ force against it, but you will make immediate report thereof to this Department.
"You will avail yourself of the first favorable opportunities that may occur to transmit to the several governors of the Spanish provinces in the neighborhood copes of the President's proclamation, with accompanying letters of a conciliatory tendency."
The same functionary, on the 15th of November, sent to Governor Holmes the view which the Federal Government took of the claims of the inhabitants of West Florida to the unlocated lands in that district.
"To repress," he said, "the unreasonable expectations therein indicated in relation to the vacant land in that Territory, it is deemed proper to lose no time in communicating to you and to Governor Claiborne the sentiments of the President on the subject.
"The right of the United States to the Territory of West Florida, as far as the River Perdido, was fairly acquired by purchase, and has been formally ratified by treaty. The delivering of possession has, indeed, been p240 deferred, and the procrastination has been heretofore acquiesced in by this Government, from a hope, partially indulged, that amicable negotiation would accomplish the equitable purpose of the United States. But this delay, which proceeded only from the forbearance of the United States to enforce a legitimate and well-known claim, could not impair the legality of their title; nor could any change in the internal state of things, without their sanction, however brought about, vary their right. It remains, of course, as perfect as it was before the interposition of the Convention. And the people of West Florida must not for a moment be misled by the expectation that the United States will surrender, for their exclusive benefit, what had been purchased with the treasure and for the benefit of the whole. The vacant land of this Territory, thrown into common stock with all the other vacant land of the Union, will be a property in common, for the national uses of all the people of the United States. The community of interests upon which this Government invariably acts, the liberal policy which it has uniformly displayed toward the people of these Territories (a part of which policy has ever been a just regard to honest settlers), will, nevertheless, be a sufficient pledge to the inhabitants of West Florida for the early and continued attention of the Federal Legislature to their situation and their wants."
The Secretary of State further requested Governor Holmes to keep in mind, and to inform the memorialists, "that the President could not recognize in the Convention of West Florida any independent authority whatever to propose, or to form a compact with the United States."
England, who was then the faithful ally of Spain, and who was engaged with her in that gigantic and ever memorable national struggle known as the "Peninsular p241 War," remonstrated against the course pursued by the United States in relation to West Florida.
"I deem it incumbent upon me," said Mr. Morier, Great Britain's representative at Washington, to the Secretary of State, on the 15th of December, "considering the strict and close alliance which subsists between His Majesty's government and that of Spain, to express to the Government of the United States, through you, the deep regret with which I have seen that part of the President's message to Congress, in which the determination of this Government to take possession of West Florida is avowed.
"Without presuming to discuss the validity of the title of the United States to West Florida (a title which is manifestly doubtful, since, according to the President's proclamation, it is left open to discussion, but which has, nevertheless, been brought forward as one of the pleas to justify the occupation of that province), may it not be asked why that province could not have been as fairly a subject of negotiation and adjustment in the cases of the Spaniards, who possess the actual sovereignty there, as in the hands of the Americans, who, to obtain possession, must begin by committing an act of hostility toward Spain?
"But it may be said that the Spanish forces in Mexico, in Cuba, or at Pensacola, are unequal to quell the rebellious association of a band of desperadoes who are known here by the contemptuous appellation of land-jobbers. Allowing as much, (which you will agree with me, sir, is allowing a great deal,) would it not have been worthy of the generosity of a free nation like this, bearing, as it doubtless does, a respect for the rights of a gallant people at this moment engaged in a noble struggle for its liberty — would it not have been an act, on the part of this country, dictated by the sacred ties of good neighborhood p242 and friendship which exist between it and Spain, to have simply offered its assistance to crush the common enemy of both, rather than to have made such interference the pretext for wresting a province from a friendly Power, and that in the time of her adversity?
"For, allow me, Sir, to inquire how can the declaration in the President's proclamation, that, in the hands of the United States, that Territory will not cease to be a subject of a fair and friendly adjustment, be made to accord with the declaration in his Message to Congress, (implying permanent possession,) of the adoption of that people into the bosom of the American family?
"The act, consequently, of sending a force to West Florida to secure by arms what was before a subject of friendly negotiation, cannot, I much fear, under any palliation, be considered other than as an act of open hostility against Spain.
"While, therefore, it is impossible to disguise the deep and lively interest which His Majesty takes in everything that relates to Spain, which would, I am convinced, induce him to mediate between Spain and the United States on any point of controversy which may exist between them, with the utmost impartiality and good-will toward both parties, I think it due to the sincere wish of His Majesty to maintain unimpaired the friendship which at this moment happily exists between Great Britain and the United States, to say that such are the ties by which His Majesty is bound to Spain, that he cannot see with indifference any attack upon her interests in America. And as I have no doubt that the Government of the United States will attribute this representation to the most conciliatory motives, I am induced to request, in answer to it, such explanation on the subject, as will at once convince his Majesty's Government of the pacific disposition of the United States toward his Majesty's p243 allies the Spaniards, and will remove the contrary impression, which, I fear, the President's Message is likely to make."19
Acting in conformity with his instructions, Claiborne had hastened to Natchez; and, putting himself at the head of a corps of militia, he marched to St. Francisville in the District of West Florida, where, on the 7th of December, he hoisted the flag of the United States without opposition, and, in their behalf, took formal possession of the country. The inhabitants cheerfully submitted to his authority, and the State of West Florida ceased its ephemeral existence. It was annexed to the Territory of Orleans by a special proclamation, and, by subsequent ones, Claiborne instituted in this new part of the Territory the parishes of Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Biloxi and Pascagoula. From a census taken, this year, by the Marshal of the United States, according to Congressional legislation, it appears that the population of the Territory of Orleans, without counting that of these new parishes, amounted to seventy-six thousand five hundred and fifty-six souls.
1 Executive Journal, p26, vol. 4.
2 Executive Journal, p37, vol. 4.
3 Executive Journal, p43, vol. 4.
4 Executive Journal, p82, vol. 4.
5 They were only five in number.
6 Executive Journal, p113, vol. 4.
7 Executive Journal, p121, vol. 4.
8 Executive Journal, p167, vol. 4.
9 Martin's History of Louisiana, p294, vol. 2.
10 Martin's History of Louisiana, p295, vol. 2.
11 Martin's History of Louisiana, p296, vol. 2.
12 Executive Journal, p219, vol. 4.
13 Executive Journal, p232, vol. 4.
14 Executive Journal, p237, vol. 4.
15 Executive Journal, p252, vol. 4.
16 Annals of Congress, by Gales & Seaton, Appendix, p1254, 11th Congress, 3d Session.
18 Annals of Congress, by Gales & Seaton, p1256, 11th Congress, 3d Session.
19 Annals of Congress by Gales & Seaton, p1261. 11th Congress, 3d Session.
a The events of 1810 in West Florida — its revolt, the establishment of the Republic of West Florida, and its incorporation into the United States, are the subject of an interesting book, onsite in full: Stanley Clisby Arthur, The Story of the West Florida Rebellion.
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