New Orleans History

The herculean labors and ceaseless toils of Livingston to force and keep the dark and ominous side of the Louisiana picture before the unsuspecting eyes of Bonaparte, can never in their all-embracing comprehensiveness be set forth. He personally saw and deluged with written arguments, which he called memoirs, every person with any influence from Napoleon down; his vigilance was almost literally sleepless until the acute stage and critical crisis were unalterably passed; and as a proof of his far-seeing statesmanship, he even then clearly saw that "next to the negotiation that secured our independence, this is the most important the United States has ever entered into. "In the great peace treaty of 1782-83, he was second only to Franklin in the value and extent of his services. When this illustrious man next appears on the broad world scene, he frames a treaty that doubles the area of his Country, without one line of relevant instructions from this side of the Atlantic.

The President and Secretaiy of State never for a moment extended their vision beyond the Mississippi to its boundless west side. Not a dollar of the two millions they asked from Congress was to be expended on the side of the great Northwest which grew to be the best end of the Republic. The administration knew not what was going on in Europe. Livingston divined everything that was going on and made things move on in his own chosen way. The soldier whose fame subsequently filled the world, was now but thirty-four; was without experience in statesmanship or diplomacy and handicapped by events, could hardly be expected to cope with a veteran in both these fields, now in the ripe maturity of his powers, with the honors and laurels of former triumphs giving power to his brain and dignity to his brow. In the battle of the Mississippi the conqueror of Italy met with his first defeat.

THE three most significant dates historically connected with the acquisition of the magnificent domain known as Louisiana, are April 30, 1803, when the Great treaty was signed; October 19, when the treaty was ratified in the Senate of the United States by a vote of twenty-four to seven, and December 20, 1803, when our government received formal possession at New Orleans, from the French prefect, Laussat. Were we to add an interesting fourth date, it would be April 10 of the same treaty year- that blessed Easter day- when Napoleon, having returned from his Easter devotions, to the still standing Palace of St. Cloud, announced his sudden resolution to sell the whole of his possessions in America to the Americans.

Much has been written about the motives of Bonaparte in parting with his newly-acquired and still unexplored territory on this side of the Atlantic. It can only be asserted with reasonable safety that he doubtless acted from mixed motives, which were as various as his moods. When not inscrutable, the mainspring of his actions seemed to be military glory and personal aggrandizement. He was probably impelled to adopt what proved to be a foolishly unwise policy, for these reasons:

1. He feared that in the event of war, which was imminent, he would lose the colony of Louisiana within sixty days after he took possession. The Treaty of Amiens was at an end; Austria was threatening; a British fleet was in the West Indies and a sensational report had come from London that fifty thousand men were being raised for service in Louisiana.

2. His affairs on the Island of San Domingo were in 1803 the worst possible; Toussaint I'Ouverture had worsted three of his best marshals; Le Clerc had just died, to whom he was attached, next to Duroc, Lannes and Berthier; and Livingston was shrewd enough to hold this bloody specter ever before his eyes; another San Domingo on his hands he did not want.

3. The First Consul, impressed by our minister's social rank in his own countiy, no less than by his merciless logic and solid understanding, had given his promise that debts due for the spoliation of our commerce, should be paid. This promise, of which he was again and again reminded, could only be kept by realizing on sale of public lands. He had then no funds.

4. About this time the hero of Italy caught a vague glimpse of larger game. He projected the wild scheme of cariying the war, not into Africa, like Scipio Africanus, but into Briton, like Caesar. The scheme did not mature, partly because the young chieftain was not the peer of the "mighty Julius," whom Shakespeare calls 'the foremost man of all this world." And then, the heroes of the Nile and the future victors of Trafalgar were lying in wait in the channel, and had the French levies ever gotten into England, the retreat from London would possibly have paralleled the retreat from Moscow, the most disastrous in all history.

5. Livingston's powers as a logician and sublime persistence were influencing factors in this momentous contention. Talleyrand said "he was the most importunate negotiator he had yet met with."

And lastly the French Consul cherished a desire to build this Nation up at the expense of Great Britain. He had rather the American Union would grow strong and great than should his most dangerous rival.

A few genuine Napoleonic utterances must suffice to support the preceding propositions. The most remarkable of these is found on page 65 of Histoire Generale des Traites de Paix by Le Comte de Garden: "Objection may be made that the Americans will prove to be too powerful for Europe in two or three centuries; but my plans do not take into account these remote contingencies. They (the Americans) Who have to give attention in the future to conflicts among the States of the Union. Confederations which call themselves perpetual last only so long as the contracting parties find it to their interest not to break them and it is to other present dangers to which we are exposed from the colossal power of England that I propose to apply a remedy." This is both authentic and prophetic.

A translation from a passage on the same page shows that we paid for the Louisiana region something more than Bonaparte would have taken: "If I should regulate my terms by what these vast territories are worth to the United States, the indemnity would have no limit. I will be moderate for the reason that I am obliged to sell. But, keep this to yourself (to Marbois) I want fifty" millions, and for less than that I will not treat; I would rather make a desperate effort to hold those fine regions." On page 75 of same authoritative source, we find this characteristic utterance by Napoleon: "When told by Barbe-Marbois that there was some uncertainty and obscurity in one article of the treaty, he replied that "if obscurity was not there, it would perhaps be good policy to put it there." These and numerous other quotations have been transferred bodily, without credit, to what is known as Marbois's History of Louisiana, which was probably written by William Beach Lawrence in the apparent interest of James Monroe and other political friends. The kindly Marbois at the feeble age of eighty-three, doubtless lent the use of his name to the inaccurate book which first appeared in Paris in 1828. The History of Peace Treaties, of which Garden's great work is a continuation, was first published prior to this date.

Returning to the highest sources of historical information on this side of the ocean- the archives of the Government and the American state papers -it may be affirmed that the writers of Louisiana treaty history have apparently shunned these first sources of historic facts as if they were poisoned springs.

As proof of the strange fatuity of the chief officers of the administration, the Secretary of State writes from Washington to James Monroe, on April 20, 1803: "Certain it is that the hearts and hopes of the Western people are strongly fixed on the Mississippi for the future boundary. It is even a doubt with some of the best judges whether the deposit alone should not be waived for a while, rather than it should be the immediate ground for war and an alliance with England."

This letter was written just ten days before the Great treaty was actually dated, and one week after it was virtually agreed upon. What had already become the central, transcontinental canal, or broad, free highway from mountain to sea, of the greater Republic, Madison would make its fixed, future boundary!

On May 1 he addressed Monroe: "We have just received the message of his Britannic majesty, which is represented as the signal of a certain rupture with France." He adds: "Such an event seems scarce avoidable." A rupture with France, whose ruler has just given us for a song an empire larger than his own! Was there ever such blind man's buff diplomacy?

In a dispatch of May 28, one month less two days after the Purchase treaty was signed and in effect ratified in Paris, Madison involves Jefferson in his own diplomacy-in-the-dark. He instructs Livingston and Monroe: "The President thinks that it will be ineligible, under such circumstances, that any convention whatever on the subject should be entered into, that will not secure to the United States the jurisdiction of a reasonable district on some convenient part of the bank of the Mississippi." It is needless to say that "a reasonable district" related to the lower Mississippi where we required a place of tran-shipment, not to those vast regions already acquired lying along the great western tributaries of the upper Mississippi.

And thus the habitual vacillations of Jefferson and Madison led them to abandon every claim except, one landing place! If this is statesmanship, what would be its absence?

Three copies of the Louisiana treaty were transmitted to the United States by three separate agencies, but Mr. Hughes arrived first, on July 14, and delivered the weighty document to the President at Washington. That Jefferson and Madison were astonished is to put it with mildness.

They were, in point of fact, dazed at the audacity of their agents, the immensity of the sum paid and the enormous magnitude of the whole transaction. After taking two weeks to recover their equilibrium, the Secretary of State, instead of overwhelming one of America's greatest benefactors with grateful thanks, finds fault with Livingston in a personal letter addressed to Monroe. The President at first declares that he cannot approve of the treaty, because, if he does, he will make waste paper of the constitution.

He keeps repeating "waste paper of the constitution," but finding at length that everybody was in favor of the treaty, except a few Hartford convention Federalists who had passed his own Kentucky resolutions of '98* in diluted form and had ceased to be Nationalists, he reverses the teachings of a lifetime and reluctantly approves of the actions of his agents. Mr. Jefferson had long been teaching that the strict construction of the constitution permitted nothing to be done under it except what was expressly authorized. There was hence no authority in express terms for the Nation to grow in size, to enlarge its boundaries, to add new territories. Ohio had been admitted into the Union that very year with his approval, but this was carved out of an acquisition gained by another peaceful or peace treaty - with England - made before the constitution became operative. The supreme organic law, according to this literal expounder, hindered growth, development, progress, expansion. Instead of frankly admitting that his constructional theories were fundamentally wrong, he proceeded to take the right action and then tried to get the constitution amended so as to authorize in terms the acquisition of this territory. But the President's nearest friends took so languid an interest in the amendment scheme that the whole matter of post facto sanction was at once and forever abandoned.

However, as late as August 12, 1803, in a letter to John Breckinridge, the President continues to insist that ''The constitution has made no provision for our incorporating foreign nations into our Union. "But two urgent letters from the ever-watchful and indefatigable Livingston, brings about an almost instantaneous change of base. The minister writes that the First Consul is already tired of his bargain, being free from war's alarms, and has instructed Marbois to take advantage of any loopholes or technicalities in the line of ratification or prompt payment, to get rid of an unfortunate agreement. The great negotiator, almost trembling with apprehension, beseeches Jefferson by his love of Country and by all that is holy, to hasten ratification without the change of a word or a stipulation; to literally and immediately comply with the financial conditions of the great transaction, so that Bonaparte shall have no possible excuse for evading his solemn pledges and obligations. The timely appeal had its desired effect. The President wrote to the Secretary of State from Monticello, Aucrust 12: "I infer that the less we say about constitutional difficulties respecting Louisiana the better, and that what is necessary for surmounting them must be done sub-silentio." A special session of Congress was called to meet October 17, and at the end of two days, to the enduring credit of the United States Senate of the Eighth Congress, the magnificent acquisition was consummated and ratified. It is useless to rehearse the exploded theories and sophistical reasoning used in the Senate and still more in the House against this beneficent treaty. Hamilton, of course, and other patriots of his party supported the treaty most zealously. Perhaps nothing weaker was said from the beginning to the ending of this enormous transaction than what Monroe said in a letter to Madison, written two weeks after the treaty was signed: "Could we have procured a part of the territory we should never have thought of getting the whole, but the decision of the Consul was to sell the whole, and we could not obtain any change in his mind on the subject." Compared with such dullness, Jefferson's twin-nation theory might almost pass for wisdom: "Whether we remain one confederacy, or form into Atlantic or Mississippi confederacies, I believe is not very important to the happiness of either part." A final chapter contrasting conditions in the Louisiana Purchase States in 1803 and 1900, will afford, we trust, a pleasing conclusion to this historic story.


THE State of Louisiana, the first-born State of the Louisiana treaty, was admitted into the Union April 30, 1812. It was named by LaSalle after Louis XIV, King of France. It contains an area of forty-eight thousand seven hundred and twenty square miles, being somewhat larger than the Territory of Orleans, which was organized March 26, 1804. Louisiana, by the census of 1900, has a population of one million three hundred and eighty-one thousand six hundred and twenty-five. In 1803 the population was placed at fifty thousand; in 1800, at forty-two thousand three hundred and seventy-five. The City of New Orleans, with a population of two hundred and eighty-seven thousand one hundred and four in 1900, had but eight thousand and fifty-six in 1803. The population of the State increased twenty-three and five-tenths per cent from 1890 to 1900, and thirty-six and seven-tenths per cent from 1850 to 1860. The cotton product of 1900 was seven hundred and fourteen thousand and seventy-three commercial bales. In 1802 the revenues of the colony from all sources amounted to one hundred and twenty-one thousand and forty-one dollars. The expenses of the Spanish government, troops, Indian presents, etc., reached four hundred thousand dollars in specie, at that time. The French had provided, before occupation, a captain general, with a salary of seventy thousand francs; a colonial prefect, at fifty thousand francs; three brigadier generals, etc. The French prefect, Laussat, wrote home: "I will now proceed to say how justice is administered here, which is worse than in Turkey." United States Consul Clark wrote to his government in 1803: "All the officers plunder when the opportunity offers; they are all venal." In view of these facts, Robert R. Livingston's words, after signing the Great treaty, seem more and more remarkable: "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives. The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed; they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures. The Mississippi and Missouri will see them succeed one another, and multiply, truly worthy of the regard and care of Providence, in the bosom of equality, under just laws, freed from the errors of superstition and the scourges of bad government." On November 30 the Spanish commissioners, Casa Calvo and Salcedo, surrendered the whole of ancient Louisiana to the French commissioner, Laussat. The region was in the nominal possession of France just twenty days. On December 20, 1803, it was surrendered by Laussat to Governor Claiborne and General Wilkinson, the American commissioners. That was the glorious date when the French flag came down and the Stars and Stripes went up, amid salvos of artillery from shore batteries and warships. The subsequent territorial experience was not so glorious. Claiborne, who became the first governor, knew neither the laws nor the language of the people he was sent to govern. His despotism was complete, because, being the chief of state and court of last resort, he centered in his own person all executive and judicial functions. Under the Act of Congress of March 26, 1804, one judge constituted a quorum, so that one man could still rob the citizen of property, honor or life, at will. Certain Spanish land titles were declared void. Laussat described Claiborne as "extremely beneath the position in which he has been placed," and Wilkerson as "a rattle-headed fellow, frequently drunk;" neither, knowing "a word of French nor Spanish." From these men to Edward Livingston, President Zachary Taylor and Judah P. Benjamin are long steps upward.


The upper portion of old Louisiana was named the "District of Louisiana" under the Act of 1804, but by the act which took effect July 4, 1805, was called the "Territory of Louisiana." This name was changed to Missouri when organized in 1812. On August 10, 1821, it was admitted into the Union as a State. The State takes its name from the river, the latter from two Indian words, Mis and Souri, meaning "big muddy."


This State came into the Union in 1836. Not only the gold hunter, De Soto, but the indomitable La Salle, the chivalrous De Tonty and the truthful historian, Joutel, traveled all over this Arkansas wilderness. On March 3, 1805, Upper Louisiana was divided into the District of New Madrid and Territory of Louisiana. The southern part of Missouri and what is now Arkansas constituted this "district." General James Wilkinson, appointed by the President as governor, and Meigs and Lucas, the two superior court judges, constituted the Legislature. In 1806 the district was called Arkansas and Stephen Worrel became the first deputy governor. From and after 1813 the Legislature of Missouri continued creating new counties; but on July 4, 1819, Arkansas began a separate territorial existence. President Monroe appointed General James Miller, the hero of Lundy's Lane, the first governor. This brave soldier filled the chief office with honesty and honor until his resignation in 1825. James S. Conway was the first State governor, elected by the people in 1836. Honesty and efficiency marked his administration. With Governor Conway may be classed public men of wider distinction, such as Augustus H. Garland. The names of river and State come from the French prefix arc and the Indian Kansas meaning river of the "bow" Indians, of "smoky water."


The lead mines of Dubuque attracted the first settlers to Iowa. The name Iowa, derived from the Indian Yawa, "across beyond," was first applied to a county east of the Mississippi, which formed a part of Michigan Territory . The "Iowa district" next became western Wisconsin. The Act of Congress which took effect July 4, 1838, established the Territory of Iowa. In May, 1846, a territorial convention fixed the limits of Iowa as they exist to-day. Congress and the people approved. The State was admitted into the Union December 28, 1846. In the long contest between savages and civilization, civilization won. Governor Robert Lucas, twice governor of Ohio and President of the convention which renominated President Jackson, was the first territorial governor. The third State governor, James W. Grimes, was uniquely and sternly fixed in his anti-slavery and temperance principles. Under the patriotic Governor Kirkwood, Iowa furnished seventy-eight thousand and fifty-nine men to the Union armies. The brainiest and greatest of this State's historic men was Justice Samuel H. Miller.


The fifth of the Louisiana Purchase States entered the Union May 11, 1858. It was organized as a territory in March, 1849. Louis Hennepin appears to have first visited the regions embraced within the State of Minnesota. He described the Falls of Saint Anthony soon after he made the first rough picture of Niagara Falls. The enlightened Frontenac sent Perrot to the upper Mississippi, where he built in Minnesota Fort Perrot, known also as Fort Le Sueur. In 1819, Governor Lewis Cass of Michigan, with a party numbering forty, traveled through this territory, which had lately been placed under his jurisdiction. Alexander Ramsey was the first governor of the Territory of Minnesota. He was the second governor of the State and for twelve years a Senator of the United States. Cushman K. Davis became governor of Minnesota in January, 1874. Both these able men gained the highest distinction in the United States Senate. William Windom, as Senator and cabinet minister, became widely known. General James Shields and Henry M. Rice, this progressive State's first chosen Senators in Congress, were both patriotic and useful public men. The State's name means cloudy or sky-colored water.


The route of the Lewis and Clark expedition was through Kansas City, Kan., and on to the site of Atchison. There was held the first Fourth of July celebration ever held in that then wilderness region. Independence Creek was named by these alert explorers. Lieutenant Pike bravely explored Kansas, and in November, 1807, discovered Pike's Peak. Andrew H. Reeder became the first territorial governor of Kansas in 1854. John W. Geary, the third governor, was able and patriotic, but soon retired from the bloody border scenes, out of which not even John Brown or Robert J. Walker emerged with unsmirched reputation. Acting Governor Frederick P. Stanton did much to make Kansas a free state. The Lecompton (pro-slavery) constitution was a second time rejected by ten thousand majority. Kansas came into the Union January 29, 1861, a date since known as "Kansas day." James M. Harvey was a gallant soldier, twice governor of Kansas and Senator of the United States. His worth was solid. Of those who have since passed away the brilliant John J. Ingalls and the widely-esteemed Preston B. Plumb were truly national men.


Nebraska was organized as a territory in 1854 and admitted as a State in 1867. In 1673, Father Marquette explored and partly mapped out this part of ancient Louisiana. In their outward trip, Lewis and Clark encamped many nights within the limits of Nebraska, while making their extraordinary journey of four thousand one hundred and thirty-three miles. An expedition in 1842, under John C. Fremont, passed along the Platte Valley. The Monnons, while moving to Utah, early traversed this wild region. The Territoiy of Nebraska was blessed, or possibly distracted, with six governors in seven years. But Alvin Saunders of Iowa, sent out by President Lincoln, remained in office for six years. The first State governor, Daniel Butler, was removed by impeachment. The first State constitution, framed in 1871, was rejected by a vote of the people. The name comes from hras and ne, Indian for "shallow water."


The measureless wealth of the mines and the unsurpassable beauty of nature in Colorado were absolutely unknown in 1803. In 1807, Lieutenant Pike, after exploring the headwaters of the principal rivers, was taken prisoner with his party of twenty by a much larger force of Spaniards. The Long exploring expedition of 1819-20, brought back a careful account of the South Platte region and the mountains, especially Long's Peak, justly named in honor of that accomplished officer of the regular army.

In 1859 the rush began for the Pike's Peak gold, The Gregoiy and the Jackson mines. Sixty thousand eager men soon followed in the wake of the pioneers. During the years from 1861, when a territorial government was organized, to 1876, when Colorado was admitted as a State, mortals seemed to be working miracles in a thousand ways. "Stern men with empires in their brains" began "to pitch new states as old world men pitch tents." Colorado seems destined to become the empire state of the great Northwest. The State takes its name from the River Colorado, the Spanish for "ruddy" or ''red."


North Dakota was admitted as a State in the Union November 2, 1889. North Dakota had been organized as a separate territoiy March 2, 1861. Lewis and Clark passed a winter near the City of Mandan. The old fort at Pembina was built by Lord Selkirk. George Catlin made a study of the North Dakota Indians in 1841. Governor John Miller was the first State executive. The name Dakota signifies in the Indian tongue "many allies or tribes in one."


The Territory of South Dakota was organized March 2, 1861. It was admitted as a State November 2, 1889. The University of South Dakota, at Vermillion, has a president and fourteen professors. Nicollet was the first writer to describe the picturescjue beauty of this region. It is divided into about equal parts by the line of the Missouri River. The Cheyenne and Grand Rivers are the next in size. Hagerty and Child have written entertaining books about the promise and fulfillment of the State.


It came into the Union in 1889. Montana, and its foreshadowed greatness, stimulated the genius of Joaquin Miller to writer a monumental history of the State, distinctly worthy of subject and author. The great Poet of the Sierras says with fitting truth and grace: "Here, great men in the glorious pursuits of peace, laid the foundation stones without cement of blood, and reared a great State out of material fresh from the hand of God. "And this other utterance was true, in 1803, of the eleventh to enter the Union of the Great Treaty States." But here lay Montana, a thousand miles from any sea; a wilderness in the very heart of an untrodden wilderness, with savages on the four sides of her and savages in every pass and valley." No one can condense this best of the State histories. The musical name from the French mont suggests the home or holy place of the mountains.


Wyoming, an Indian word meaning "broad plain," the twelfth and last of the Purchase States, which came into the Union in 1890. Indians and wild beasts held possession of this region until 1806, when white trappers and fur traders became primitive commercial travelers. The first authorized explorer was Captain Bonneville. John Colter, of the Lewis and Clark party, was the first American to trap and trade in Wyoming. Ezekiel Williams and party did splendid pioneer work under appalling hardships. The Yellowstone Park, the Wonderland of America, is worth more than we paid for the whole Louisiana empire.


From the domain acquired by the Great treaty were carved out twelve large states and two territories, soon to become states. The increase of inhabitants in ten years has been over five hundred and forty-four per cent. During the same period the increase of invested capital has been more than thirty-four hundred and nine per cent. These figures tell enough in condensed form.

The Indian Territory, with an area of thirty-one thousand four hundred square miles, can here reasonably be included, as it is mainly a part of the Louisiana Purchase territory. Its complete organization as a member of the National Union will be delayed no longer than the National Legislature deems it best for the interests of the entire Nation. As the actual Treaty boundary line has never yet been topographically marked or defined we are still unable to name the exact area of the purchased domain.

It should be added that about one-third of Minnesota and Colorado, and perhaps one-fifth of Wyoming and Montana, are not embraced in the Louisiana Purchase.

From what the historical records contain, the conclusion is inevitable that Robert R. Livingston negotiated the Louisiana treaty; that Alexander Hamilton was its chief promoter; that Franklin and Vergennes were large factors because their treaty of peace work of 1782-3 led us to the Mississippi, and that Napoleon and Jefferson, being in supreme power, officially sanctioned what "the empire of circumstances," prior events and other men brought about.


The foregoing History of the Louisiana Purchase has shown who were the far-sighted statesmen chiefly, not ex officio, instrumental in bringing about the enlargement of the Nation. The other great men who created and presetted the Republic are entitled to at least equal honor and reverence. America's foremost patriots and benefactors are given the following approximate relative rank: Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln, Franklin, Marshall, Webster, Grant, Livingston, Jackson. We lay stress only on the preeminence of the group, which includes those who have done the most to make the Union strong, enduring and great. All these illustrious men either aided to prevent England from conquering the Louisiana domain or helped to acquire or preserve it. Hence the whole story is not told unless brief reference is made to their fruitful toils and sublime sacrifices. These nine heroes of war and of peace best teach patriotism and Love of Country, by example.

History of the Louisiana Purchase, By James Q. Howard, Chicago. Callaghan & Company, 1902



[ The District | Sporting Houses | The Blue Book | Madams | The Girls | Ernest Bellocq | Bellocq's Women
| Leon Bellocq | Storyville History | Pictorial Tour | Storyville Transition | Maps | The Sunday Sun
| Jazz | Canal Street | Early Mansions | Early New Orleans | French Opera House | Engravings | Links | Comments ]