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It is unnecessary to say, that the United States were anxious to prevent this apprehended transfer of the territory in question, and our ministers in France and Spain, Robert R. Livingston and Charles Pinckney, were instructed, if the cession had not been made, to use their endeavors to defeat the project; and Mr. Pinckney was particularly requested (May 11, 1802,) if Spain should retain New Orleans and the Floridas, to endeavor “to obtain the arrangement by which the territory on the east side of the Mississippi, including New Orleans, might be ceded to the United States, and the Mississippi made a common boundary, with a common use of its navigation for them and Spain." But notwithstanding the denial of the fact on the part of the French government to Mr. Livingston, and persisted in for a year, the cession had been made as early as October, 1800.
By the treaty between the United States and Spain, of October 27, 1795, our western boundary was fixed in the middle of the Mississippi down to the 31st degree of north latitude; and the navigation of the whole breadth of the river from its source to the ocean, was to be free to the subjects and citizens of both countries; and in consequence of these stipulations, the citizens of the United States were to be permitted for three years, to use the port of New Orleans as a place of deposit and esportation for their merchandise ; which privilege was to be thereafter continued, if not prejudicial to Spain; and if not continued there, “ an equivalent establishment” was to be assigned for this purpose at some other place on the bank of the Mississippi. But, notwithstanding these plain stipulations, the use of the port of New Orleans was suddenly interrupted by the intendant of the province of Louisiana at New Or: leans, on the pretext that, “with the publication of the ratification of the treaty of Amiens, and the reëstablishment of the communication between the English and Spanish subjects, the inconvenience [of the privilege granted by the treaty] had ceased;" adding, that the “ toleration could be no longer consented to without an express order from the king."
Information of this interruption of trade was communicated to cougress by the president the 30th of December, 1802. On the 7th of January, 1803, the house of representatives adopted a resolution, in which they declared, that, while "willing to ascribe this breach of compact to the unauthorized misconduct of certain individuals," they held it to be their duty" to express their unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the river Mississippi, as established by existing treaties.” This affair was made the subject of communication to both Mr. Pinckney and to Mr. Livingston.
The empty declaration, by congress, of a determination to maintain
the rights of our citizens, was not satisfactory to the western people, who expected some prompt, direct, and effective measure of redress. In response to their continued complaints, resolutions were introduced into the senate by Mr. Ross, an opposition senator from Pennsylvania, authorizing the president to take possession of New Orleans, and providing a force of 50,000 men; and an appropriation of $5,000,000. This proposition failed; but a law was passed, authorizing the president, whenever he should judge it expedient, to require the executives of such states as he should think proper, to hold in readiness a detachment of militia not exceeding 80,000. An appropriation of $1,500,000 was made for subsisting the troops, purchasing military stores, and defraying other necessary expenses : and $25,000 was appropriated for erecting arsenals on the western waters, and for furnishing them with arms and ammunition. Prior, however, to the passage of this act, a letter was received from Gov. Claiborne, of the Mississippi territory, inclosing one from the governor of Louisiana, saying that the suspension of deposits by the intendant was without orders from the Spanish government, and that the measure did not accord with his judgment. The matter would be communicated to the governor of Havana, who had some kind of superintendence over the authorities at New Orleans.
Mr. Livingston, writing to the secretary of state, April 24, 1802, said he had not yet received answers to his inquiries in relation to the rumored cession, what its boundaries were, what were the intentions of France respecting it, and when they were to take possession; and it was still uncertain whether the Floridas were included in the cession. He was, however, himself confident that such was the fact, and that the government was fitting out an armament to take possession; the number of troops to be from five to seven thousand, and to sail for New Orleans, unless the state of affairs in St. Domingo should change their destination
. The anticipation of the occupation, by France, of the acquired territory, caused the deepest solicitude on the part of our government, and a determination to effect, if possible, a reversal of the cession. Mr. Livingston endeavored to convince the French government that it would not be advantageous to France to take possession of Louisiana. The cession of the territory to her, however, might be turned to her advantage, if she would avail herself of it in the only way which sound policy dictated. (He spoke of Louisiana proper, without including the Floridas.) The way in which to secure this advantage was: having acquired the right to navigate the Mississippi, and a free trade, she could secure a vent for a vast variety of her commodities in the western states, by proper arrangements with the United States. It would be necessary to afford them cheaper than those they received from Great Britain. This she could do by interesting the American merchant in their sale, and by engaging the government of the United States to give them a preference. These objects might be attained by ceding New Orleans to the United States, reserving to herself the right of entry without the payment of higher duties than were exacted from vessels of the United States, and the right to navigate the Mississippi. This would enable France to carry her fabrics into all the western territory. She would command the respect without exciting the fear of the two nations whose friendship was most important to her commerce, and to the preservation of her islands: and all this without the expense of maintaining colonial establishments. But should France retain New Orleans, and endeavor to colonize Louisiana, she would render herself an object of jealousy to Spain, the United States, and Great Britain, who would discourage her commerce, and compel her to make expensive establishments for the security of her rights.
The object of our government seems to have been to purchase New Orleans and the Floridas; for, although the latter was not included in the cession, it was suggested by Mr. Livingston, that France could aequire it by an exchange with Spain, returning her Louisiana, retaining New Orleans, and then give the latter and Florida for our debt. In & letter to Mr. Madison of December 20, 1802, Mr. Livingston, although not sanguine of success, had such encouragement as to think it advisable to ask for instructions“ hov: to act in case favorable circumstances should arise." The armament for Louisiana, he said, had not yet sailed.
Before this letter was received, the president, contemplating the cession of Louisiana to France, in connection with the affair at New Orleans, determined to take measures most likely, not only to reëstablish our present rights, but to effect their enlargement and security. The importance of the crisis, he thought, demanded the experiment of an extraordinary mission; and he appointed Mr. Monroe, as an associate of Mr. Livingston, and also of Mr. Pinckney, if it should be necessary, in treating with the Spanish government. The instructions were to procure, if possible, a cession of New Orleans and the Floridas. Information of this appointment was communicated by Madison to Mr. Livingston under date of the 18th of January, 1803.
On the 24th, Mr. Livingston wrote, informing our government of the appointment of General Bernadotte, brother-in-law of Joseph Bonaparte, as minister to the United States. This letter spoke discouragingly; and an accompanying dispatch appeared to assume that Florida also was ceded to France. But on the 3rd of March, he wrote that it was still in the hands of Spain.
A direct negotiation had been commenced before the arrival of Mr. Monroe, and was successfully terminated about a month afterward, with Marbois, minister of the treasury, whom the first consul preferred to Talleyrand, for this business. From the voluminous correspondence on this subject, it may be inferred, that, among the considerations which facilitated the negotiation, were these : First, Apprehensions that Great Britain would take possession of that territory, and transfer. it to the United States; it being generally known that that government was averse to its occupation by France. A confirmation of this fact had recently been given by the London papers, in which was a proposition for raising fifty thousand men to take New Orleans. Second, The apprehension that the United States themselves would take possession ; information having been received of the passage of the resolution by congress to maintain the rights guaranteed by the treaty with Spain, and of the introduction of the more recent resolutions of Mr. Ross in the senate, proprosing to raise a force to take New Orleans. Third, A pressing want of money on the part of Napoleon.
The first definite proposition appears to have come from the first consul
, through Marbois, which was, that the United States should give one hundred millions of francs, pay their own claims, and take the whole country. To which Mr. Livingston replied, " that the United States were anxious to preserve peace with France; that, for that reason, they wished to remove them to the west side of the Mississippi; that we would be perfectly satisfied with New Orleans and the Floridas, and had no disposition to extend across the river; that, of course, we would not give any great sum for the purchase. Mr. L., being pressed to name a sum they would give, told Marbois, that they had no authority to go to a sum that bore any proportion to what he had mentioned; but that as a he had himself considered the demand too high, he would oblige them by telling what he thought would be reasonable. He replied, that if they would name sixty millions, and pay the American claims, about twenty millions more,
he would communicate the offer to the first consul. Mr. L. told him that it was vain to ask any thing that was so greatly beyond our means; that true policy would dictate to the first consul not to press such a demand; that he must know that it must render the
present government (of the United States) unpopular, and have a tendency, at the next election, to throw the power into the hands of men who were most hostile to a connection with France; and that this would probably happen in the midst of a war.” Marbois feared the consul would not relax. Mr. L. asked him to press upon the consul the argument that the country was not worth the price asked, together with the danger of geeing the country pass into the hands of Great Britain. He told him that he had seen the ardor of the Americans to take it by force, and the
difficulty with which they were restrained by the prudence of the president; that he must easily see how much the hands of the war party would be strengthened, when they learned that France was on the eve of a rupture with England. In the same interview, Marbois was asked whether, in case of a purchase, France would stipulate never to possess the Floridas, and that she would aid us to procure them; to which he replied in the affirmative.
Although the ministers had no instructions to purchase Louisiana, the thing not having been contemplated-perhaps never before thought of; but the offer to sell having been made by Bonaparte, and the great value of the acquisition to the United States being considered, our ministers were induced to assume the responsibility of transcending their authority. The conference sketched above, took place on the 13th of April
, and on the 30th, the treaty was signed by the parties to the negotiation.
Among the stipulations of the treaty was one conceding to the vessels of France and Spain coming directly from any part of their respective dominions, loaded only with the products of the same, the right
, for twelve years, to enter the ports of the ceded territory on the same terms as vessels of the United States coming directly from the same countries. During this time, no other nation was to enjoy the same privileges; and thereafter, France was to enjoy the footing of the most favored nations. The sum to be paid was 60,000,000 francs, and the French debt which was not to exceed 20,000,000; the precise amount not having been ascertained. An investigation of the claims was provided for in the treaty. The French debt having been subsequently determined to be $3,750,000,
the whole purchase amounted to $15,000,000. The treaty consisted of • three separate parts; the first being properly the treaty of cession. This
was followed by two conventions, the first of which contained the stipulation for the payment of the 60,000,000 francs in six per cent. stock, interest to be paid half yearly; the principal to be paid in annual instalments of not less than three millions of dollars, to commence fifteen years after the exchange of ratifications. The other convention stipulated the payment of the claims of American citizens against France, and established the mode of determining them.
Thus was obtained, in consequence of an unexpected offer of Bonaparte, and contrary to the instructions of our government and to the constitution, an acquisition to the United States of incalculable value. Mr. Jefferson admitted this purchase and "annexation” to be unauthorized, and proposed an ex post facto amendment of the constitution, to give sanction to the measure, but which was never attempted.
Mr. Monroe, soon after his departure from the United States, was appointed (April 18, 1803,) minister to Great Britain, whither he pro