Page images
PDF
EPUB

· By the treaty of Oct. 27, 1795, between the United States and Spain, the King, 'assenting to the claim of the United States to the free navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, stipulated to permit the citizens of the United States, “ for the space

of three years, to deposite their merchandises and “ effects in the port of New Orleans, and to export “ them from thence without paying any other duty " than a fair price for the use of the stores ;” and promised either to continue this permission, or to “as" sign to them, on another part of the banks of the * Mississippi, an equivalent establishment.” The benefit of this stipulation was enjoyed by our citizens until 1802, when the Spanish intendant at New-Orleans " occluded” (as Mr. Jefferson said)—shut them out, from this deposite, without assigning any equivalent establishment elsewhere. This violation of the treaty-stipulation was not to be endured; and, upon representations to the government of Spain, the place of deposite was restored. To whom this interruption of our right is to be ascribed, will presently be seen. I presume it was to prevent its recurrence, that Mr. Jefferson instructed his minister at Paris (the late Chancellor Livingston) to obtain, as I have understood, a cession of the isle or port of New Orleans, or some part of the eastern bank of the Mississippi-that is, of West Florida, or of both to the United States. It is not a little curious, that a negotiation for purchasing supposed Spanish territory should be carried on at Paris with the French government, instead of Madrid, with the government of Spain. In the same manner, when, at a subsequent period, Mr. Jefferson proposed to Congress the purchase of Florida, the certain property of Spain, the negotiation was instituted at Paris. The truth was, that France exercised a complete ascendency over Spain, which was no longer a free agent. Godoy, the Prince of Peace, the favourite of the Queen, ruled Spain in the name of her weak King; and Godoy was Bonaparte's tool. The “occlusion” of the port of New Orleans against American merchandise

[ocr errors]

and effects excited keen resentment in the United States ;, and some were ready to send an armed force to occupy the port; and the poor Spaniard was the subject of severe reproach. But I presume it was not then known, that the King of Spain had been, before that time (viz. on October 1, 1800) compelled to reconvey Louisiana to France. This fact exposes the secret of the interruption of our right of deposite at New-Orleans ; and it was against the French government that the indignation of the United States

should have been excited, had the retrocession of Louisiana to France been known. The opening again of the port of New Orleans arose from the circumstance, that Bonaparte was not prepared to take immediate possession of Louisiana. But the territory having been actually reconveyed to France accounts for the unsuccessful attempts of Mr. Livingston to obtain a cession of Orleans and part of the adjacent province of West Florida.

At length, during the short and feeble administration of the British government which succeeded Mr. Pitt’s, a peace was negotiated at Amiens between Great-Britain and France. Bonaparte seized this interval to prepare a fleet and army to go and take possession of New Orleans and the whole province of Louisiana. But the British government soon perceived, that it was, in effect, an armistice, rather than a peace, which had been concluded at Amiens; and that the war must be renewed. And finding that Bonaparte was going to add the immense province of Louisiana--a new world—to the dominions of France, a British fleet was despatched to block up the ports (in Holland) where Bonaparte had assembled military forces, and ships to transport them to New-Orleans.

It was in this state of things that Bonaparte became willing to transfer to the United States—not the island of New Orleans and part of the adjacent territory but the whole province of Louisiana--the whole or no part. For he was justly apprehensive that, its retrotrocession to France being then known, Great-Britain

would send an adequate force, and take possession of it for herself. If therefore he could raise some millions of dollars by the sale of the province to the United States, the sum would be so much clear gain. Under these circumstances, the transfer to the United States was made, and (if I mistake not) rather pressed on our envoys, Chancellor Livingston and Mr. Monroe; and they agreed to receive it, stipulating the price at fifteen millions of dollars. They gave to Mr. King, American minister in London, information of the treaty; with which the British government, to whom he made known the transfer, was perfectly satisfied. And I recollect that when Alexander Baring (son-inlaw to the late Mr. Bingham, and whom I had known in Philadelphia) came from England to Washington, to receive the six per cent. stock created to pay for this purchase, he told me, that the British government would sooner have paid the money stipulated for the purchase, than have suffered Louisiana to have become a province of France.

Thus, to British policy and interest are the United States'indebted for the acquisition of Louisiana. And, if gratitude ever enters into the consideration of nations, we owe it to Britain, for that acquisition, as really as to France for her assistance in acquiring our independence. But on the score of gratitude, in these two cases, we are indebted neither to one nor to the other. Each of them acted to serve her own interest exclusively : France, to diminish the power of Britain by cutting off thirteen flourishing colonies; and Britain, to prevent an accession to the power of France in possessing the immense territory of Louisiana, and a consequent control over all our Western States, which depended on the Mississippi, and the rivers running into it, for the conveyance of their boundless products to a market. Yes, we owe it to the naval power of Britain, that Louisiana is not now a province of France. Bo-' naparte had already sent his prefect, Mr. Laussat, to New-Orleans, to receive possession ; and he waited only for the arrival of the French fleet and army, to

take upon himself the administration of the government.*

Before I take leave of Louisiana, I will add a few observations.

At the close of the seven-years war, so disastrous to France, which was terminated by the peace of 1763, she ceded to Spain—apparently in consideration of the losses which the latter had sustained by being drawn into that war, towards its close, in aid of France—the province of Louisiana, westward of the river Mississippi, and the island of New-Orleans on its eastern side. The whole of Florida was ceded by France and Spain (each her part) to Great-Britain.' În the course of the war of our revolution, France and Spain became once more engaged in a war with Great-Britain. Spain seized the occasion to possess herself of Florida; and, at the treaty of peace of 1783, Britain relinquished her right to it.

I entertain no doubt, that at that time the government of France contemplated the regaining Louisiana ; and waited only for some favourable events to accomplish her purpose. It was unquestionably with this in view, that, in the negotiations at Paris, in 1782, for effecting a general peace, the French Minister represented to our Commissioners, authorized to treat of peace with Great-Britain, that they ought not to claim the country westward of the Allegany mountain, but to suffer it to go into the hands of Spain. Mr. Jay, however (for he was obliged for a while to act alone, though Dr. Franklin was also a commissioner) resisted all the French intrigues, as well at Paris as in London; and thus that country was secured to the United States. It

was, unquestionably, with a view to this land-scheme, and some other plans injurious to the United States, that the French government exerted itself, and successfully, through its minister to the United States, la Luzerne, and the secretary of legation, Marbois, to obtain from Congress instructions to the American ministers for negotiating a peace with Great-Britain, wholly unwor- . thy of the earlier firm, dignified and independent acts of that body. The commissioners were instructed " to “ undertake nothing in the negotiations for peace or “ truce, without the knowledge and concurrence of the “ ministers of the King of France, and ultimately to

* See Appendix, E.

ocean.

govern themselves by their advice and opinion. This appeared to Mr. Jay so dishonourable to the United States, and fraught with such evil consequences, that he laid the instruction aside, and, in his negotiations with the British minister, considered only what the important interests of his country required; and thus formed the basis of the treaty of peace, so highly advantageous to the United States.

In pursuance of our treaty of 1795, with Spain, commissioners were to be appointed to run the boundary line between the territory of the United States and Florida, from the river Mississippi to the Atlantic

Andrew Ellicott was the commissioner on the part of the United States; and, with the requisite attendants, he repaired to the Natchez, the place designated in the treaty for the first meeting of the commissioners. From the time of his entering the Mississippi, after his descent by the Ohio, and coming to the first Spanish posts, and thence proceeding downwards towards the Natchez, there were mysterious appearances, suggesting the idea that delays and difficulties would be interposed, to prevent the running of the boundary line. The apprehensions of Mr. Ellicott were realized, after his arrival at the Natchez. He there received satisfactory information, that the governor in chief at New Orleans, and the sub-governor (Gayoso) at the Natchez, in some private and confi. dential communications, had suffered the secret to escape them, That is was intended, by delays and evasions, to defeat the attempt, on the part of the United States, to run the boundary line, and the execution of the treaty, in what concerned that country. Mr. Ellicott states, that Governor Gayoso's original letter to a confidential friend, to that effect, had been in his hands. Accordingly, in the correspondence of this governor with Mr. Ellicott are seen a series of apologies, ex

« PreviousContinue »