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SIMULTANEOUSLY with the order to restore slavery at Guadeloupe and St. Domingo, Bonaparte directed his Minister of Marine to prepare plans and estimates for the expedition which was to occupy Louisiana. “My intention is to take possession of Louisiana with the shortest delay, and that this expedition be made in the utmost secrecy, under the appearance of being directed on St. Domingo.” 1 The First Consul had allowed Godoy to postpone for a year the delivery of Louisiana, but he would wait no longer. His Minister at Madrid, General Gouvion St.-Cyr, obtained at length a promise that the order for the delivery of Louisiana should be given by Charles IV. to the First Consul on two conditions : first, that Austria, England, and the dethroned Grand Duke of Tuscany should be made to recognize the new King of Etruria ; second, that France should pledge herself “not to alienate the property and usufruct of Louisiana, and to restore it to Spain in case the King of Tuscany should lose the whole or the greater part of his estates.”
Correspondance, vii. 485; Bonaparte to Decres, 15 Prairial, An x. (June 4, 1802).
To these demands Talleyrand immediately replied in a letter of instructions to Gouvion St.-Cyr, which was destined to a painful celebrity. After soothing and reassuring Spain on the subject of the King of Etruria, this letter came at last to the required pledge in regard to Louisiana :
6. Spain wishes that France should engage herself not to sell or alienate in any manner the property or enjoyment of Louisiana. Her wish in this respect perfectly conforms with the intentions of the French government, which parted with it in 1762 only in favor of Spain, and has wished to recover it only because France holds to a possession which once made part of French territory. You can declare in the name of the First Consul that France will never alienate it."
St.-Cyr accordingly gave a formal written pledge in the name of the First Consul that France would never alienate Louisiana.?
Even yet the formal act of delivery was delayed. Bonaparte gave orders 8 that the expedition should be ready to sail in the last week of September; but the time passed, and delays were multiplied. For once the First Consul failed to act with energy. His resources were drained to St. Domingo as fast as he could collect them, and the demands of the colonies on his means of transportation exceeded his supply of transports. The expedition to. Louisiana was postponed, but, as he hoped, only to give it more scope.
1 Talleyrand to Gouvion St.-Cyr, 30 Prairial, An x. (June 19, 1802); Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
2 St.-Cyr to Don Pedro Cevallos, 23 Messidor, An X. (July 12, 1802). Yrujo to Madison, Sept. 4, 1803. State Papers, ii. 569.
8 Correspondance, viii. 5; Bonaparte to Decrès, 6 Fructidor, An x. (Aug. 24, 1802).
From the time of Berthier's treaty of retrocession, Bonaparte had tried to induce the King of Spain to part with the Floridas; but Charles IV. refused to talk of another bargain. In vain Bonaparte wrote to the young King of Etruria, offering to give him Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla, if Don Carlos would add Florida to Louisiana. When at length the King signed at Barcelona, October 15, the order which delivered Louisiana to France, Bonaparte pressed more earnestly than ever for the Floridas. Talleyrand made a report on the subject, dissuading him from acquiring more than West Florida.3
“ West Florida,” he wrote, “suffices for the desired enlargement of Louisiana ; it completes the retrocession of the French colony, such as it was given to Spain ; it carries the eastern boundary back to the river Appalachicola ; it gives us the port of Pensacola, and a population which forms more than half that of the two Floridas. By leaving East Florida to Spain we much diminish the difficulties of our relative position in regard to the United
i Correspondance, viii. 112; Bonaparte to Leclerc, 6 Frimaire, An xi. (Nov. 27, 1802).
Ibid., 12; Bonaparte to the King of Tuscany, 11 Fructidor, An x. (Aug. 29, 1802).
& Rapport au Premier Consul; Frimaire, An xi. (November, 1802); Archives des Aff. Étr , MSS.
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States, — difficulties little felt to-day, but which some day may become of the gravest importance.”
Bonaparte did not follow this advice. On the death of the Duke of Parma he wrote with his own hand to the King of Spain, offering the old family estate of Parma as a gift for the King of Tuscany, in return for which France was to receive the Floridas.1 The Queen, as before, favored the exchange, and all her influence was exerted to effect it; but Godoy was obstinate in evading or declining the offer, and after months of diplomatic effort Bonaparte received at last, toward the end of January, 1803, a despatch from General Beurnonville, his new representative at Madrid, announcing that the Prince of Peace, with the aid of the British Minister John Hookham Frere, had succeeded in defeating the scheme.?
66 The Prince told me that the British Minister had declared to him, in the name of his Government, that his Britannic Majesty, being informed of the projects of exchange which existed between France and Spain, could never consent that the two Floridas should become an acquisition of the Republic; that the United States of America were in this respect of one mind with the Court of London ; and that Russia equally objected to France disposing of the estates of Parma in favor of Spain, since the Emperor Alexander intended to have them granted as
1 Correspondance, viii. 111; Bonaparte to the King of Spain, 6 Frimaire, An xi. (Nov. 27. 1802).
2 Beurnonville to Talleyrand, 27 Nivôse, An xi. (Jan. 17, 1803); Archives des Aff. Étr., MSS.
indemnity to the King of Sardinia. In imparting to me this proceeding of the British Minister, the Prince had a satisfied air, which showed how much he wished that the exchange, almost agreed upon and so warmly desired by the Queen, may not take place.”
Europe would have acted more wisely in its own interest by offering Bonaparte every inducement to waste his strength on America. Had England, Spain, and Russia united to give him Florida on his own terms, they would have done only what was best for themselves. A slight impulse given to the First Consul would have plunged him into difficulties with the United States from which neither France nor the United States could have easily escaped. Both Godoy and the Emperor Alexander would have done well to let French blood flow without restraint in St. Domingo and on the Mississippi, rather than drown with it the plains of Castile and Smolensk.
Although the retrocession of Louisiana to France had been settled in principle by Berthier's treaty of Oct. 1, 1800, six months before Jefferson came into office, the secret was so well kept that Jefferson hardly suspected it. He began his administration by anticipating a long period of intimate relations with Spain and France. In sending instructions to Claiborne as governor of the Mississippi Territory,--a post of importance, because of its relations with the Spanish authority at New Orleans, — President Jefferson wrote privately, 1 –
· Jefferson to W.C.C. Claiborne, July 13, 1801; Jefferson MSS.