Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Spanish Borderlands

Herbert E. Bolton

in the
Chronicles of America edition,
Yale University Press,
New Haven, 1921

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 10
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p232  Chapter IX

The year 1759 was a fateful one in North America, for it recorded the fall of Quebec, France's principal stronghold in the Western Hemisphere, and the accession of Carlos III, the ablest king since Philip II, to the Spanish throne. The second of these events tended to offset the results of the first. The continued English successes and French disasters of 1760 alarmed Carlos, and in 1761 he renewed the Family Compact and entered the war as the ally of France. In response to the challenge, in August, 1762, an English force captured Havana. Two months later another took Manila. The treaty of peace which closed the Seven Years' War restored the Philippines and Cuba to Spain, but gave Florida to England. By a secret treaty, signed before the conclusion of the war, France had transferred Louisiana to Spain to save it from England.

During its brief term under British rule and free  p233 trade Havana prospered as never before; and Carlos was not slow to profit by the hint. Carlos indeed saw that to preserve his overseas domain and to restore Spain to her former eminence drastic reforms were necessary. From the last days of Philip II, Spain's power in Europe had declined, though her colonies had expanded in extent and population. The policy of absolutism was bearing fruit; and the harvest was ruin. While vast expenditures of men and money were being made in the conquest of new lands, the nation at home was being mangled under the weight of abnormal taxation. Industry could not survive and, therefore, a sturdy normal growth was impossible. The galleons brought gold, but it was spent in other than Spanish markets. The colonies produced far below their capacity because of the jealous restrictions imposed on them, and were further hampered by grafting officials. These were some of the external evidences of a blight that went deeper. Spain had kept the minds of her people dark in a day when other nations, accepting the challenge of new forces, were working out the principles of constitutional government and of individual liberty. In clinging to a selfish and fictitious ideal and in forcibly molding her people to it, she deprived them of the power  p234 of initiative and of systematic labor — the power which is derived from hope and joy — and so rendered them incapable of intellectual supremacy in an age differentiated from its predecessors by greater freedom and spiritual enlightenment.

To make amends for the stupidity of his predecessors, Carlos put forth brave efforts. He lowered taxation and instituted measures for the equalization of government. He revived and fostered Spanish industries and built up the navy. In less than a decade after Carlos's accession, Spain's colonial trade tripled and the revenue from the Indies increased from five million to twelve million crowns. While he installed economic reforms at home and in the colonies, he reorganized the frontier defenses of New Spain, and under the press of danger from England and Russia he extended Spain's northern outposts into Louisiana and California. Not since the days of Cortés had Spain taken so long a forward step in expansion. If, with all his energy and foresight, Carlos failed to accomplish his larger aims, it was because he came too late. Spain's great opportunity had passed, and no stroke of magic could free her people from the lethargy into which they had fallen.

Spain acquired French Louisiana by necessity,  p235 not by design.​a On October 9, 1762, Louis XV offered the region to Carlos, who at first rejected the gift. But he soon changed his mind, for the value of Louisiana as a buffer against England could not be over­looked. Carlos deferred actual occupation as long as possible; but when he saw England's outposts advanced to the Mississippi, her settlers pushing over the Alleghanies, and her "long hunters" actually crossing the Mississippi, he realized that it was time to act.

The ceded territory embraced New Orleans and the western watershed of the Mississippi River. Its total population, exclusive of Indians, was estimated at from eight to twelve thousand persons of which over half were negro slaves. The principal settlements lay along the Mississippi, the lower Red, and the lower Missouri. The bulk of the population lay between New Orleans and Pointe Coupée; other important settlements in the lower district were Balize, Attakapa, Opelousas, Avoyelle, and Natchitoches.º Farther up were the Arkansas Post, St. Charles, and Ste. Geneviève. To the west, on the principal streams, there were slender trading stations such as the Cadodacho Post, on Red River, and Fort Cavagnolle, near where Kansas City now stands. Still farther in the interior,  p236 beyond the pale of civilization, roamed renegade Frenchmen and half breeds, who, under the name of hunters, had become veritable outlaws. The principal occupations of the province were agriculture and the fur trade. For horses, mules, and cattle, dependence was placed on commerce with the Indians and Spaniards of the west. Most of the stock purchased from the Indians was stolen from the Spaniards, and most of the direct trade with Spaniards was contraband.

The inhabitants of Louisiana at this day combined Spartan simplicity with a touch of courtly grandeur. An inventory made in 1769 of the bedroom furniture of Madame Villeré, wife of a leading citizen of New Orleans, is typical. It lists a cypress bedstead, with a mattress of corn husks, and one of feathers on top; a corn husk bolster; a cotton counterpane of home manufacture; six cypress chairs, with straw seats; seven candlesticks with green wax candles. The house, says Gayarré, "must have looked very much like one of those modest and unpainted little wooden structures which are, to this day [1851] to be seen in many parts of the banks of the river Mississippi, and in the Attakapas and Opelousas parishes. They are the tenements of small planters who own only a  p237 few slaves, and they retain the appellation of Maisons d'Acadiens." But inside these humble dwellings one sometimes encountered manners that suggested the ease and grace of the salons of Europe.

News of the cession to Spain of the French possessions caused consternation and protest among the settlers. From the Illinois country some of the inhabitants, in their desire to escape English rule, crossed the Mississippi and settled at St. Louis, where La Clede had recently established a trading post. Those of lower Louisiana were quite as anxious to escape Spanish rule. And they made known their wishes right noisily. An assembly at New Orleans made up of delegates from all the lower parishes drew up a memorial to Louis XV and sent it to France; but, in spite of the aid of the aged Bienville, the prayer was in vain. Still the colonists hoped on, for no Spanish official had arrived.

Hopes were dashed when, on March 5, 1766, Juan Antonio de Ulloa arrived at New Orleans as first Spanish Governor. Ulloa, a man of nearly fifty, was already a well-known scientist and naval officer. As a youth of nineteen, then a naval lieutenant, he had been sent to Peru with a brilliant scientific expedition. In the course of his labors  p238 there he was twice called to Lima to defend the province against the English under Admiral Anson. On the way to Europe around the Horn thirteen years later, his vessel, after capture by the English, escaped and sailed to Canada, where Ulloa was captured again. Taken to England, Ulloa was there made a member of the Royal Society of London. On his return to Spain he had published his now famous reports of the scientific expedition.

Ulloa arrived at New Orleans in a storm which was prophetic of the trouble that lay before him. His instructions provided that as little change as possible should be made in the administration of the colony. It was to be kept distinct from the other Spanish colonies, independent of the Council of the Indies, and dependent directly on the King. He was accompanied by a full corps of officers for the new colony, but had only ninety soldiers, for Louis XV had promised Carlos that the French provincial soldiery, under Aubry, should remain in the province as long as they were needed. This was a fatal mistake. Carlos should have cleaned house and given Ulloa a fair chance, with men whom he could command.

Ulloa was coldly received in New Orleans and was soon up to his ears in trouble with the turbulent  p239 and dissatisfied habitants. The fault was not one-sided. Ulloa was haughty and was bored by the simple people he had been sent to rule. He snubbed the Superior Council, a body which had thoroughly enjoyed a little authority. The French soldiers refused to enter the Spanish service. In vain both Ulloa and Aubry urged. Thereupon Ulloa gave up the idea of taking formal possession and ruled through Aubry, who continued to be nominal head of Louisiana. Ulloa commanded and Aubry executed. Ulloa held the purse, Aubry the sword. At the old posts the French flag continued to wave before the breeze. At the same time, Ulloa sent his ninety men to erect new posts, at Balize, at the Iberville River, opposite Natchez, and in Missouri. Over these new posts the Spanish flag was hoisted. It was an anomalous situation.

Ulloa made a census of the province and an extended tour of the settlements. At Natchitoches he spent some time, inquiring into communication with Texas and Mexico. Among numerous benevolent deeds Ulloa's succor of the needy Acadian exiles in Louisiana was not the least. But even this caused dissatisfaction.

With their patriotism the French citizens mixed solicitude for pocketbook. When Ulloa arrived  p240 Louisiana was flooded with paper money which had depreciated to a fourth of its face value. Ulloa generously agreed to redeem it at three-fourths its face value, but nothing less than one hundred per cent would quiet complaint. Orders soon came from Spain which interfered with the ancient methods of French and English importers. The merchants appealed to the Council and the orders were suspended. Ulloa gave new offense by exiling himself to live for seven months "in a miserable shed" at Balize. The discovery that the fifty-year‑old scholar had been waiting there for his expected bride, the Peruvian Marchioness of Abrado, mollified no one, and, when they moved to New Orleans, the Governor's wife and her train of Peruvian girls shared the Governor's unpopularity.

The intolerable situation came to a head in the autumn of 1768. For some time a conspiracy, headed by several Frenchmen, had been brewing. There is some ground for thinking that the leaders of the uprising had been inspired by the hope that, by getting control of the government, they could evade their debts and otherwise improve their fortunes. Secret meetings were held at the house of an adventuress in the suburbs of New Orleans, while emissaries worked among the outlying settlements.  p241 On the 27th of October the guns at the gates of the city were spiked and the planters and settlers entered the city as an armed mob. A council called by the insurgents decreed that the Spaniards should leave within three days. Aubry remained faithful to Ulloa and placed him in safety on a frigate in the river. But the mob cut the cables, and Ulloa, the Marchioness, and her Peruvian girls sailed to Havana. The interior posts held by the Spanish soldiery were now abandoned. "Thus was the revolution accomplished," says Gayarré. "A population, which hardly numbered eighteen hundred men able to carry arms, and which had in its bosom several thousands of black slaves, whom it was necessary to intimidate into subjection, had rebelled against the will of France, had flung the gauntlet at the Spanish monarchy, and was bearding a power­ful nation."

From Havana Ulloa reported the rebellion to the Marquis of Grimaldi. This official remonstrated with France for not having punished the insolent delegates to the French court. "The loss of great interests is looked upon in Spain with indifference but it is not so with regard to insults and contumelies," he said. A Council of State was held, wherein the question was raised as to whether Louisiana  p242 should be retained or given back to France. But on this point there was no hesitation. Out of six opinions rendered, all but one were emphatically for retention. The general view was well stated by the Count of Aranda. "The more or less fertility and extent of Louisiana is not the principal question to be examined. But we ought to judge of the importance of that acquisition, from the fact that it extends over Mexican territories to the bank of the Mississippi, a well-known barrier and a distant one from the population of New Mexico, and that it furnishes us, through that river, with an indelible line of demarcation between our provinces and those of the English, which have been widened by their acquisition of our domain in Florida." This was the kernel of the matter. Just as when Carlos III had accepted the gift, Louisiana was needed as a barrier to the advancing English, who were already crossing the Alleghanies and had their outposts on the Mississippi River.

But there was also the matter of Spain's pride, which could not be over­looked. The Duke of Alva gave an opinion that "bears the stamp of the hereditary temper of that haughty and inflexible house." The King, he said, should send to Louisiana a man with forces necessary to subject the  p243 people and stamp out disorders. The government should be so centralized as to leave the people no chance for a repetition of such audacity. "But finally, what to my judgment, appears to be of more importance than all the rest is, that it be seen throughout the world, and particularly in America, that the king knows how, and is able, to repress any attempt whatever, derogatory to the respect due to the royal majesty." Louisiana must be made an example to the rest of Spanish America!

The man chosen for this grim task was Alejandro O'Reilly. Like many of Spain's prominent men in the eighteenth century, he was an Irishman by birth. When a youth he had gone to Spain and served in the Hibernian Regiment. In the War of the Austrian Succession he had received a wound from which he limped the rest of his days. After serving in the armies of Austria and France he again served Spain in the wars with Portugal. Having risen to the rank of Brigadier General, he was employed to drill the Spanish army in Austrian tactics. In 1763, at the age of twenty-seven, with the rank of Major General, he was sent to Havana to reëstablish the fortifications which the English had ruined. Returning to Spain he became Inspector General of the King's Infantry and was made a  p244 count. In 1765, by his presence of mind, he saved the life of King Carlos during an insurrection.

When the news came of Ulloa's ejection, O'Reilly had been ordered to Havana and Mexico to review the troops, but his mission was now changed. His new orders required him to equip an expedition in Havana, go to Louisiana, take possession, arrest and try the leaders of the uprising, expel all dangerous subjects, and reorganize the province. In case of resistance he was authorized to use force. "But as the king, whose character is well known, is always inclined to be mild and clement, he has ordered O'Reilly to be informed that his will is that a lenient course be pursued in the colony, and that expulsion from it be the only punishment inflicted on those who have deserved a more severe one."

While the fate of Louisiana was being discussed in Spain, in New Orleans the people gradually deserted their erstwhile noisy spokesmen and turned to Aubry for protection. The leaders awaited developments in nervous suspense. On July 24, 1769, the place was thrown into commotion by word that O'Reilly had arrived at Balize with a formidable force. One of the leaders of the rebellion stuck a white cockade in his hat, appeared in  p245 the public square, and urged the people to resist. But it was all in vain. The rebellion had faded out. Aubry urged submission. A messenger came from O'Reilly, and some of the leading conspirators hastened down the river, tumbling over each other to be first to explain themselves and promise loyalty.

O'Reilly's gentle demeanor allayed their fears. The Frenchmen were dined and went back "full of admiration for his talents, and with good hopes that their past faults shall be forgotten." On 17th of August the Spanish fleet, full twenty-four sails, appeared before New Orleans. Next day O'Reilly limped ashore, followed by his entire force, twenty-six hundred in number, and took formal possession with impressive ceremony. The people were both overawed and edified by the spectacle. Five times the cry Viva el Rey! went up from the Spanish throats, and five times it was echoed by the French soldiery and the populace. All bells pealed forth, and Aubry handed to O'Reilly the keys of the city. The fleur-de‑lis came down and the banner of Spain floated to the breeze. O'Reilly then repaired to the cathedral, where the solemn ceremony was ended with a Te Deum.

The day after the ceremony of taking possession,  p246 O'Reilly gave a dinner, with great pomp, to Aubry, French and Spanish officials, and other important personages. Meanwhile he was taking testimony in secret. Of Aubry he requested and obtained a full report of all the seditious occurrences in the colony. Aubry's eager compliance with this request is one of the acts which has lessened his fame in the old French colony.

With the evidence now in hand, O'Reilly's mind was made up. Under various pretexts twelve leaders were called to his house, arrested, their swords taken away, and their property sequestrated. While this scene was being enacted the house was surrounded with grenadiers. All twelve prisoners were lodged in separate places of confinement, some in vessels on the river, some in well guarded houses. One of the twelve, Villeré, had formerly prepared to flee the province and had then changed his mind. Being imprisoned in a frigate, he died — some say of frenzy, others of a bullet fired by his jailers. To the twelve originally arrested Foucault and Braud were later added on the charge of printing the Memorial of the Planters, one of the seditious publications which had appeared. Foucault refused to answer to the Spanish authorities, and, at his own request, was sent back  p247 to France to be tried. On his arrival there he was thrown into the Bastile. Braud was released.

The arrests and Villeré's death caused renewed consternation, and numerous colonists planned to flee to the English in Florida. Everybody trembled for his safety. But O'Reilly reassured the populace by a proclamation declaring that only the leaders should be punished. The oath of allegiance was administered to the inhabitants of New Orleans and vicinity. People living in the interior were given opportunities later for this ceremony. Every one who so desired was given the option of returning to France. Most of the inhabitants took the oath and remained.

Now followed the trial of the arrested men, an event which left a profound impression in the colony. The prosecuting attorney, Don Felix del Rey, was a learned practitioner before the courts of Santo Domingo and Mexico, and later Viceroy of Mexico. The prisoners rested their defense on the ground that Spain had never taken possession of Louisiana, hence that Ulloa could not require their obedience. Del Rey concluded, in a lengthy argument, that the accused were guilty of rebellion. On the 24th of October the court rendered the verdict, and O'Reilly, as president, pronounced the  p248 sentence. O'Reilly condemned Lafrénière, Noyan, Caresse, Marquis, and Joseph Milhet "to the ordinary pain of the gallows." The memory of Villeré, who had died in prison, he condemned "to be held and reputed forever infamous." Petit was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, Doucet to ten years, Boisblanc, Jean Milhet, and Poupet to six years each. The property of each was confiscated, all those imprisoned were to be banished on release, and all seditious publications were to be burned by the hangman.

The friends of the condemned appealed and pleaded in vain, for O'Reilly was firm. The execution was set for the next day. But no hangman could be found. The official executioner of the colony was a negro, and it was conceded that a white man would be more suitable for the task under the circumstances. But in spite of rewards offered none could be found, and the firing squad was substituted for the hangman. The execution took place in the public square at three in the afternoon, the 25th of October. Next day the seditious Memorial of the Planters was publicly burned. Petit and his companions were taken to Havana and imprisoned in Morro Castle. It is pleasant to record that soon afterward all were pardoned by Carlos.  p249 Aubry sailed for France, but never reached there, for he sank with his ship in the Garonne River — an act of retribution, some thought.

The Spanish commander has ever since been known in Louisiana as "Bloody O'Reilly."

Now for a third of a century Louisiana remained under Spanish rule. By 1770 the Spanish flag had been raised at all the interior posts, Ste. Geneviève, below St. Louis, being the last to haul down the fleur-de‑lis. Having accomplished his coup d'état, O'Reilly was conciliatory and appointed numerous old French officers to important positions. Spanish law and administration were installed, though the French Black Code was retained. New Orleans was given a cabildo whose old building is still one of attractions of the "French" quarter. Indeed more than one so‑called French relic of the old city is Spanish.

Having put things in order, O'Reilly left Luís de Unzaga in charge as Governor. He in turn was followed in 1776 by dashing young Bernardo de Gálvez. Unzaga had winked at the English smugglers who monopolized the trade of the lower Mississippi and who were pushing west among the tribes of the Gulf Coast. But Gálvez began his administration by swooping down upon the  p250 English smugglers, eleven of whose vessels he seized. Nevertheless they continued their trade, if less openly than before. They worked among the coast tribes, reached Texas overland, ascended the Arkansas and Missouri rivers, and worked among the tribes of Iowa and Minnesota. Trade in Pawnee and Spanish horses extended even to Virginia; Governor Patrick Henry being among the purchasers of thoroughbred Spanish stock.

In the attempt to keep the English out of Louisiana, Spanish defense was concentrated on the line of the Mississippi. On the other hand, since Louisiana belonged to Spain, the defenses and the missions of old Texas-Louisiana border were withdrawn. The few settlers who lived on the border in the Los Adaes district, some five hundred in number, were evicted and taken to San Antonio (1773). The expulsion of these simple folk from their settlement, already over half a century old, was one of the pathetic incidents of the American border, and reminds one of the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia a few years before. Some of the settlers, refusing to be evicted, fled to the woods or to the surrounding tribes. Some of them, after remaining at San Antonio a year, and living at a settlement on the Trinity River five  p251 years, in 1779 took advantage of a flood and Comanche raids, followed their doughty Creole leader, Gil Ybarbo, to Nacogdoches, and from there scattered eastward to their former homes. Today, round about Robeline in Louisiana, and San Augustine in Texas, their descendants still live the simple life of their ancestors.

Louisiana was Spain's first experience in North America in a colony previously occupied by Europeans, and in it many departures were made from her traditional system. This was especially true of her Indian policy. Instead of relying for control upon the time honored mission and presidio, Spain utilized the French traders already among the tribes. But, with Spain's characteristic paternalism, the service was reorganized and much improved. A regular corps of licensed traders was installed; vagabonds, outlaws, and unlicensed traders were driven from the tribes, presents were distributed annually, and medals of merit were given to the friendly chiefs. In the Spanish days fur traders arose, Frenchmen for the most part, whose names are immortal in the West. At New Orleans there were Piseros and St. Maxent; at Natchitoches, Le Blanc, La Mathe, and Bormé; at Nacogdoches, Gil Ybarbo; and at St. Louis, the  p252 Chouteaus, the Robidoux, Lisa, and Clamorgan. St. Louis, the Arkansas Post, and Natchitoches became centers for distributing presents and holding councils with tribes living on both sides of the Mississippi River.

Of all the tribes none were more important than those of the Red River valley, in the present States of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. They had been friendly to the French and hostile to Spain, and it was necessary to win them to Spanish allegiance. This important task was assigned to Athanase de Mézières, an old French officer in the military service. In recognition of his ability as an Indian agent, O'Reilly had put him in charge of the district of Natchitoches. For ten years he labored loyally at his task. By eloquence, presents, and bluff, he induced most of the hostile tribes to make treaties. He toured their villages as far as the upper Brazos river, and thence marched south three hundred miles to San Antonio over an unknown trail. Six years later he was called to Texas to prepare the new allies for a great campaign of extermination against the Apaches, hated foes of both the Spaniards and Eastern tribes.

For several years after 1776 the vital question in  p253 Louisiana was the outcome of the American Revolution. After long hesitation, in April, 1779, Spain at last joined the revolting colonies. Her primary aim was not popular liberty, but conquest at the expense of England, for she hoped to obtain Gibraltar, Minorca, the Floridas, British Honduras, and perhaps the country between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. With lightning speed Gálvez, the youthful Governor of Louisiana, captured the English posts on the lower Mississippi. Two years later Mobile and Pensacola were at his feet. Meanwhile an English expedition from Canada against St. Louis by way of Wisconsin had failed (1780) and in retaliation a force from St. Louis had run up the Spanish flag at St. Joseph, Michigan. Spain had frustrated the British attempt to gain control of the Mississippi, had enabled George Rogers Clark to hold his conquests in the Illinois, and had recovered Florida. Her Anglo-American frontier now stretched all the way from St. Mary's River on the Atlantic coast to the head of the Mississippi.

Spain's rule in Louisiana added to her already long and illustrious list of trailmakers. Communication for defense and trade had to be opened between Louisiana and the old outposts of New Spain and, at the same time, between San Antonio and  p254 Santa Fé, which had been cut off from each other by the intervening Apaches and Comanches. The principal agent in this work was Pedro Vial. Vial was sent in 1786 from San Antonio to find a direct route to Santa Fé. In spite of a fall from his horse, with one companion he made his way to Red River; thence westward through the Comanche country to Santa Fé. He had found the Comanches friendly, but his route was roundabout. José Mares found a more direct trail to San Antonio (1787) while Vial explored from Santa Fé, down the Red and Sabine rivers, to Natchitoches, returning thence to San Antonio and to Santa Fé by a still more direct route than that of Mares. On the journey he had traveled farther than from Chicago to San Francisco. This tireless pathfinder next explored from Santa Fé to St. Louis (1792) returning by a route approximating that of the later Santa Fé Trail. He had preceded Pike by fifteen years. He was not a great diarist, but he was a good frontiersman.

What Mézières and Vial had done in lower Louisiana, Clamorgan and his associates now did in upper Louisiana. Americans from the Ohio Valley and Scotch traders from Canada were invading the country in growing numbers. Making their way  p255 by the Des Moines, the St. Peters, and the Assiniboine rivers, they traded and even built posts among the Omahas, Arikaras, and Mandans. At the same time Russians and British were threatening the Oregon coast. To ward off these dangers, in 1793 the "Company of Explorers of the Missouri" was chartered at St. Louis. A prize of $2000 was offered to the first person who should reach the Pacific by way of the Missouri. Now there was a spurt of energy, and by 1797 Trudeau, Lecuyer, Mackay, and Evans, in the service of Clamorgan's Company, had carried the Spanish flag above the Mandan villages in North Dakota. But the ambitious schemes of the Company were not realized. The Government failed to pay Clamorgan the promised annual subsidy of $10,000 and rival traders opposed the Company's monopoly. The St. Louis trade, however, continued to develop, and Lewis and Clark in 1804 found traces of Spaniards far up Cheyenne River.

American traders invaded upper Louisiana and the backwoodsmen pressed upon the lower Mississippi frontier. To hold them back, Spain intrigued and employed Indian agents, like Alexander McGillivray of West Florida. Spain denied to the backwoodsmen the right to navigate the  p256 Mississippi, but they protested, intrigued, made reprisals, and appealed to the Government, till in 1795 their point was gained through diplomacy. Still they kept pressing on across the Mississippi. To check their advance, Spain imported Canary Islanders and invited Britain Loyalists to settle. Finally she tried counter-colonies formed of the Americans themselves. Thus in 1790 Colonel George Morgan crossed over and founded New Madrid. Before the end of the century scores of other Americans, among them Moses Austin and Daniel Boone, had been given liberal Spanish grants in the vain hope that they would hold back their brethren. By the opening of the new century the population of Louisiana had reached fifty thousand, as against some ten thousand at the end of the French régime, and a large part of the increase was due to American immigration.

Napoleon needed Louisiana for his own purposes, and in 1800 he took it. Three years later with as little ceremony he sold it to the United States. Spain now fell back again on her old Texas and New Mexico frontier, where the struggle with the Anglo-Americans was renewed. They pushed on across Louisiana into Texas. Horse drovers and traders, like Philip Nolan, operated in Texas from  p257 the time of the American Revolution. Early in the nineteenth century adventurers like Aaron Burr and James Wilkinson laid plans for filibustering raids. During the Mexican War of Independence Americans led expeditions into Texas to aid in the struggle for liberty, while others crowded over the borders and settled on the bottom lands along the Red and Sabine rivers. When Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, Austin and a host of others obtained princely grants of rich Texas soil. Fifteen years later the American settlers revolted and set up a republic, which, after nine proud years of independence was annexed to the United States. War with Mexico followed, and in 1848 New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California went the way of Texas. Five years afterwards, the Gadsden Purchase added to the United States another slice of the old Spanish domain. From Jamestown (1607) to the Gadsden Purchase (1853) is a continuous story of the pressure of Anglo-Americans upon Hispanic borderlands not effectively occupied. On the south the American tide stopped at the Río Grande, finding there a bulwark of substantial settlement.

Thayer's Note:

a The bulk of this chapter is basically a much abridged version of Gayarré, who covers the transfer of Louisiana and the inauspicious beginnings of Spanish rule in several hundred pages: History of Louisiana, Vol. II, Ch. 2 thru Vol. III, ch. 1 (q.v.).

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 2 Apr 16