Page images

In addition to these courts, four years ago there were established four Alcades de Barrio, or petty magistrates, one for each of the four quarters of the city, with a view to improve its police. They hear and decide all demands not exceeding ten dollars, exercise the power of committing to prison, and, in case of robbery, riot, or assassination, they can, by calling on a notary, take cognizance of the affair; but, when this is done, they are bound to remit the proceedings to some of the other judges, and in all cases whatever to give them information when they have committed any person to prison.

Most of the suits are on personal contracts, rights to dower, inheritances, and titles to land. Those arising from personal quarrels are generally decided in a summary way. The inhabitants are said not to be litigious. . . .

[ocr errors]

Learning. There are no colleges, and but one public school, which is at New-Orleans. The masters of this are paid by the king. They teach the Spanish language only. There are a few private schools for children. Not more than half of the inhabitants are supposed to be able to read and write, of whom not more than two hundred perhaps are able to do it well. In general, the learning of the inhabitants does not extend beyond those two arts, though they seem to be endowed with a good natural genius and an uncommon facility of learning whatever they undertake.

The Church. The clergy consists of a bishop, who does not reside in the province, and whose salary of four thousand dollars is charged on the revenue of certain bishopricks in Mexico and Cuba; two canons, having each a salary of six hundred dollars; and twenty-five curates, five for the city of NewOrleans and twenty for as many country parishes, who receive each from three hundred and sixty to four hundred and eighty dollars a year. Those salaries, except that of the bishop, together with an allowance for sacristans and chapel expences, are paid by the treasury at New-Orleans, and amount annually to thirteen thousand dollars.

There is also at that place a convent of Ursalines, to which is attached about a thousand acres of land, rented out in three plantations. The nuns are now in number not more than ten or twelve, and are all French. There were formerly about the same number of Spanish ladies belonging to the order, but they retired to Havanna during the period when it was expected that the province would be transferred to France. The

remaining nuns receive young ladies as boarders, and instruct them in reading, writing, and needle-work.

They have always acted with great propriety, and are generally respected and beloved throughout the province. With the assistance of an annual allowance of six hundred dollars from the treasury, they always support and educate twelve female orphans.


From McMaster's History of the People of the United States, Vol. II., 631.

The Province of Louisiana, as the region came to be called, was to the Americans of that day an unknown land. Not a boundary was defined. Not a scrap of trustworthy information concerning the region was to be obtained. Meagre accounts of what travellers had seen on the Missouri, of what hunters and trappers knew of the upper Mississippi, of what the Indians said were the features of the great plains that stretched away toward the setting sun, had indeed reached the officials; and out of these was constructed the most remarkable document any President has ever transmitted to Congress. It told of a tribe of Indians of gigantic stature; of tall bluffs faced with stone and carved by the hand of Nature into what seemed a multitude of antique towers; of land so fertile as to yield the necessaries of life almost spontaneously; of an immense prairie covered with buffalo, and producing nothing but grass because the soil was far too rich for the growth of trees; and how a thousand miles up the Missouri was a vast mountain of salt. The length was one hundred and eighty miles; the breadth was forty-five. Not a tree, not so much as a shrub, was on it; but, all glittering white, it rose from the earth a solid mountain of rock salt, with streams of saline water flowing from the fissures and cavities at its base. The story, the account admitted, might well seem incredible; but, unhappily for the doubters, bushels of the salt had been shown by traders to the people at St. Louis and Marietta.

Even this assurance failed to convince the Federalists. Everywhere they read the story with the scoffs and jeers it so richly deserved. Can the mountain, one journal asked, be

Lot's wife? Has the President, asked another, been reading the "Mysteries of Udolpho"? What a dreadful glare it must make on a sunshiny day! exclaimed a third. No trees on it? How strange! There ought surely to be a salt eagle to perch on the summit and a salt mammoth to clamber up its side. The President, being a cautious philosopher, has surely been afraid to tell us all. He must have kept much back, else we should have seen some samples from that vale of hasty-pudding and that lake of real old Irish usquebaugh that lies at the mountain's base. The stories told fourteen years since about the Ohio country are now surpassed. The pumpkin-vines, the hoop-snakes, the shoe-and-stocking tree of the Muskingum, are but "pepper-corns" beside the mountain of sait.

Bad as was the Federal wit, the labored attempts of the Republican journals to prove the existence of the mountain were more stupid still. The fact was pronounced undoubted. Bits of the salt had reached the President; nay, were to be seen at Washington, at New York, at Boston among the curiosities of Mr. Turell's museum. There the editor of the Columbian Centinel had the impudence to assure his readers he had seen a piece the size of a hen's egg from the banks of the Missouri. But one had the courage and good sense to declare the story was half a fable. The editor of the National Ægis did not, he asserted, for a moment believe that a huge mountain of salt stood gleaming and glittering in the sun. The deposit was probably a great deep mine, a mountain in extent underground. Neither the President nor any member of the government had explored Louisiana. In describing the country, such facts had to be used as were supplied by travellers, and that class of travellers so much disposed to magnify mole-hills into mountains. What wonder, then, that some fabulous embellishments crept into the account which, undoubtedly, the President sent to Congress without reading through!


From Henry Adams's History of the United States, II. 48.

Livingston had achieved the greatest diplomatic success recorded in American history. Neither Franklin, Jay, Gallatin, nor any other American diplomatist was so fortunate as Living

ston for the immensity of his results compared with the paucity of his means. Other treaties of immense consequence have been signed by American representatives,—the treaty of alliance with France; the treaty of peace with England, which recognized independence; the treaty of Ghent; the treaty which ceded Florida; the Ashburton treaty; the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo,- but in none of these did the United States government get so much for so little. The annexation of Louisiana was an event so portentous as to defy measurement. It gave a new face to politics, and ranked in historical importance next to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution,- events of which it was the logical outcome; but as a matter of diplomacy it was unparalleled, because it cost almost nothing.

The purchase of the Louisiana territory in 1803 constituted the first great chapter in the history of our national expansion. This purchase doubled the area of the United States, adding over 900,000 square miles. It comprised almost the entire region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, north of Texas, the territory out of which have since been formed the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, with a great part of the States of Minnesota and Colorado, and also the Indian Territory, including Oklahoma. By a secret convention in 1762, confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France had given this vast territory to Spain; and the control which Spain thus had of the mouth of the Mississippi became, as years went on, a matter of more and more serious concern to our Western people, for whom the Mississippi and its tributaries were the great avenues of travel and of trade. Our sagacious statesmen saw early what serious consequences might be involved in the situation. Franklin said to Jay in 1784: "I would rather agree with the Spaniards to buy at a great price the whole of their right on the Mississippi than sell a drop of its waters. A neighbor might as well ask me to sell my street-door." Jefferson devoted his earnest thought to the subject years before 1803. As Secretary of State in 1790, when there seemed to be some danger of Great Britain seizing New Orleans, he expressed to Washington his opinion that, rather than see Louisiana and Florida added to the British Empire, we should take part in the general war which then seemed impending; and at the same time he warned the French to let the territory alone. In 1801 Spain, by a secret treaty, ceded the territory back to France. Napoleon planned a great expedition and colony for Louisiana, and had ambitious thoughts of the restoration in America of the French power which fell before England at Quebec. The intimations of the cession from Spain to France created much disturbance and alarm in America. "Kentucky was in a flame. The President was deeply stirred. The Spaniards had retained Louisiana on sufferance: the United States could have it at any time from them. But the French would be likely to hold their ancient possessions with a tighter clutch, and not content themselves with two or three trading-posts in a fertile territory large enough for an empire. Jefferson, from the hour when the intelligence reached him, had only this thought: The French must not have New Orleans. No one but ourselves must own our own street-door." He addressed urgent instructions and suggestions to Mr. Livingston, our minister at Paris, embodying considerations which he knew would find their way to Napoleon. The United States could not let the French control the mouth of the Mississippi, and a conflict about it might finally necessitate an alliance of some sort between ourselves and Great Britain.

Early in 1803 Jefferson sent Mr. Monroe, as a special ambassador, to join Mr. Livingstone in Paris, charged with the fullest instructions, and authorized to give two million dollars, if he could do no better, for the island of New Orleans alone. Monroe arrived to find France on the eve of war with England, and Napoleon in active negotiations with Livingston for the transfer to the United States of the whole of Louisiana. Napoleon knew that the British fleet could easily keep French forces away from the Mississippi; and, rather than have Great Britain seize Louisiana, he would sell it to the United States, getting what money he could out of it for use in the impending war. "I know the full value of Lou

isiana," he said, "and I have been desirous of repairing the fault of the French negotiators who abandoned it in 1763. But, if it escapes from me, it shall one day cost dearer to those who oblige me to strip myself of it than to those to whom I wish to deliver it. The English have successively taken from France Canada, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the richest portions of Asia. They shall not have the Mississippi, which they covet.

I already consider the colony as entirely lost; and it appears to me that, in the hands of, this growing power, it will be more useful to the policy and even to the commerce of France than if I should attempt to keep it." "I have given to England." he said afterward, “a maritime rival that will, sooner or later, humble her pride." The terms of the sale"probably the largest transaction in real estate which the world has ever known "— were agreed upon after considerable bickering, the sum paid by the United States being fifteen million dollars. The treaty contained a positive provision that "the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States." M. Marbois, the' French minister, relates that, as soon as the three negotiators had signed the treaties, they all rose, and shook hands; and Mr. Livingston gave utterance to the joy and satisfaction. of them all, saying:

"We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives. The treaty which we have just signed has not been obtained by art nor dictated by force, and is equally advantageous to the two contracting parties. It will change vast solitudes into flourishing districts. From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank. The United States will re-establish the maritime rights of all the world, which are now usurped by a single nation. 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 the 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 bad government."

The general ignorance concerning the Louisiana territory, on the part of the American people at the time of the purchase, was very great: even the boundaries were far from being clearly defined. For the sake of furnishing the best information available, Jefferson had prepared and submitted to Congress the document whose more important portions are reprinted in the present leaflet. Besides what is here given, the document contained accounts of the existing political organization, of the exports, imports, and navigation, and, in an appendix, census details and other matter. The document, which performed for that time a function similar to that of the report of the Philippine Commission in our time, was printed in pamphlet form by various publishers for general circulation. The edition used for the present reprint was published by John Conrad and Company of Philadelphia, 1803.

The best general account of the purchase of Louisiana and of the debates and legislation incident to it is that by Henry Adams in his History of the United States during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson, vol. ii. See also Cooley's "Acquisition of Louisiana." The subject has prominent place in all the biographies of Jefferson. There is an excellent brief account in Gilman's Life of Monroe, in the American Statesmen Series; and the bibliography of the subject, by Professor J. F. Jameson, in the appendix to that volume, is the best to which the student can be referred. See also the references in the valuable chapter on "Territorial Acquisitions and Divisions," by Justin Winsor and Professor Edward Channing, in the Narrative and Critical History of America, vol. vii. The original letters of Livingston and Monroe, giving accounts of the negotiations in Paris, appear in the American State Papers, Foreign Relations, ii.; and there is a history of the cession by BarbéMarbois, one of the French negotiators.



Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass.

« PreviousContinue »