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50 LIVINGSTON's views IN REGARD To LouisiaNA. schAP. II.
'however, on all occasions declared that as long as France conforms to the existing treaty between us and Spain, the Government of the United States does not consider herself as having any interest in opposing the exchange. The evil our country has suffered by their rupture with France is not to be calculated. We have become an object of jealousy both to the Government and people. “The reluctance we have shown to a renewal of the treaty of 1778, has created many suspicions. Among other absurd ones, they believe seriously that we have an eye to the conquest of their islands." The business of Louisiana also originated in that ; and they say expressly that they could have no pretence, so far as related to the Floridas, to make this exchange, had the treaty been renewed, since by the sixth article they were expressly prohibited from touching the Floridas. I own I have always considered this article, and the guaranty of our independence, as more important to us than the guaranty of the islands was to France: and the sacrifices we have made of an immense claim to get rid of it, as a dead loss.”
By comparing this with Jefferson's letter of April 18th, 1802, given in our preceding chapter, it will be seen how completely the President's views differed from Mr. Livingston's in regard to the consequences of a French colonization of Louisiana, and in regard to the proper policy to be adopted by the United States if it was attempted. And the further dispatches show that no change took place in the minister's views until he received the letter of the President. The policy which secured the purchase of Louisiana was purely original with the latter. Not a distant hint—not even an analogous idea was received from any other quarter.
The minister again wrote home, March 24th, that the colo
nization of New Orleans was “a darling object of the First Consul”—that he “saw in it a mean to gratify his friends and dispose of his armies”—that it was thought “that New Orleans must command the trade of our whole western country”—that. the French had been persuaded “that the Indians were attached to France and hated the Americans”—that “the country was a paradise,” etc. The minister then proposed that the United States establish a port at Natchez, or elsewhere, and give it such advantages “as would bring our vessels to it without touching at New Orleans.”
He wrote, April 24th, that the French minister “would give no answer to any inquiries he made” on the subject of Louisiana; that the government was “at that moment fitting out an armament” to take possession, consisting of “between five and
* Had there not been a foundation for this suspicion? Had not the French Minister in the United States penetrated the projects of the Miranda schemers ?
seven thousand men, under the command of General Bernadotte,” who would shortly sail for New Orleans, “unless the state of affairs in St. Domingo should change their destination.” He declared his information certain, and again pressed his Government “immediately to take measures to enable the Natchez to rival New Orleans.” Some other letters passed which are not necessary to be mentioned. On the 30th of July, Livingston wrote the Secretary of State that he had received his dispatches of May 1st and 11th, the President’s letter through Dupont de Nemours, of the preceding April 18th (1802), and that he was preparing a Memoir to the French Government. The formal instructions of May 1st and 11th fell far short of the scope or decision of the President’s private letter which he had sent to Dupont de Nemours open, expressly and avowedly to have its contents made known to the French Government. The former, however, directed the minister to urge upon France “an abandonment of her present purpose.” Those of the 1st directed him to endeavor to ascertain at what price she would relinquish the Floridas—those of the 11th, to employ “every effort and address” to procure the cession of all territory east of the Mississippi, including New Orleans—and he was authorized, should it become absolutely necessary in order to secure this, to guarantee the French possessions west of the river. o The discrepancy between the instructions and private letter admits of a ready explanation. The one exhibited the official attitude which it was considered prudent to take—the other gave warning of the inner and entire feelings and purposes, in a form which would have its full effect, but which could not be officially recognized and therefore construed into a menace, or made the subject of official discussion and disclosure. The inofficial letter, in effect, converted the propositions of the official ones into ultimata. If France would cede to the United States New Orleans, and all the territory east of the Mississippi, for an equivalent in money, then the “marrying” with England would not take place, and France could have the benefit of another American guaranty. But what was a guaranty worth which would fall with the first collision of the parties between whom the predicted “friction” would not be in the least reduced by the proposed arrangement ' What would the remaining ter. ritory be worth to France (never worth a thousandth part as much to her as to the United States), in the then situation of the world, without any navigable approach to the greater portion of it, except through a river of which the United States would hold the absolute control To accept the President's offer would be to give up the most valuable part of the possession and the key to all the remainder for the purpose of having the remainder secured from England. Yet, if the reasoning in the President's letter was sound (which enforced the first cession), the rest would inevitably soon follow that cession. In fact, the first cession would render the second more inevitable, and a thousand times less capable of being forcibly prevented. The President's idea, then, amounted practically to this: that if France would sell us all we then needed of her territory, for either commercial, military, or any other purposes, we would help her (or rather allow her to help us) keep the other part from a more dangerous occupant, until we also had need for that other part. Precisely in this light the French government viewed this offer. Talleyrand emphatically declared that if the French Government gave up what we then asked, what was left was worthless to France. We neither accuse nor suspect Mr. Jefferson of insincerity. There is no doubt he would have respected his guaranty; and that he would have remained adverse to taking any unjust advantage. But he foresaw, and clearly and warningly pointed to the train of causes which must inevitably end, sooner or later, in the overthrow of any French power on the Mississippi. Having . done this, he took middle ground—ground that would neither disgust France nor mankind by its rapacity—and awaited the result. We have no doubt that having such intellects as Bonaparte's and Talleyrand's to deal with, he very strongly anticipated the result which finally took place. It was to be ready for this, or some other equivalent or similar proposition, that he sent Monroe to France, with verbal instructions extending to any contingency. The President's views produced no immediate visible change in Bonaparte's plans. Livingston informed his Government, November 11th, that the military expedition to New Orleans was about embarking, and he feared “no prudence would pre
vent hostilities ere long.” Some of his later dispatches were rather more hopeful in their tenor, but no marked change occurred in the open aspect of things until the news reached France of the war flame that was burning in Congress, on account of the proceedings of Morales at New Orleans. The Federalists, who were so vehemently laboring to overthrow the Administration on that question, were unconsciously playing into its hands, and as effectually serving one of its great objects —the greatest object of its foreign policy—as if they had been employed expressly for that purpose. When intelligence of war resolutions, vehement speeches in Congress, and of every other apparent indication of a popular ferment and of a national explosion in the United States, was wafted across the Atlantic, the French Consul—used to the fiery energy of democratic legislatures—unable to discern distinctly at such a distance between parties—finding one set openly talking war and the other only asking for privacy in the deliberations on the question—observing that all were in favor of firm declarations and provisional warlike preparations—fancied he saw the American scenes of 1798 about to be reënacted. He saw the United States again preparing with the prodigal bravery which distinguishes an aroused democracy, to tauntingly defy France to the combat; and he doubtless believed this was the first act in the drama which the President's letter had foreshadowed. It would be something worse than ridiculous to suppose that Bonaparte was intimidated, or that the Directory were intimidated in 1798. But the question was, in commercial phrase, would the contest “pay to Was it worth while to wage a war with so distant a power while the marine of France was so inferior to that of England, the sure ally of the enemies of France? Was it worth while to attempt to garrison a wilderness, destitute even of provisions, against five millions of contiguous people, who could reach it by a large number of navigable rivers ? Was it worth while to expose the French West India possessions to the attacks of such a neighbor Was it worth while to tempt a partition of all the colonial possessions of France between the United States and England Was it worth while to “marry” these powers in the bonds of a common interest, and induce their allied maritime flags to “maintain exclusive possession of the ocean,” and fix “the sentence which was to restrain France forever within her low-water mark?” The shattered ships of France bore good testimony whether the menaces of the President in the last particular would prove bagatelles, if the policy he threatened was entered upon. The victor of Lodi, Aboukir, and Marengo—the Dictator of southern Europe—could have laughed at the President's threats if nothing but the Rhine or the Pyrenees had separated the domains over which they ruled. But circumstances sometimes more than counterbalance strength. A mountaineer in a pass is more formidable than a battalion on a plain. The United States held the unapproached maritime supremacy of the western hemisphere. She held more. Maritime skill and maritime victory were hers by birthright. Never man for man and gun for gun had her flag been struck to Christian or Corsair; and now the Levantine seas were witnessing her avenging chastisement of those to whom Europe paid tribute. United with England, and only given time to build (in the mechanical sense of the term) fleets, and no ocean or sea could float a sail which was not under the protection of their associated flags. But independently of such future results, and looking only to existing facts, Bonaparte was not weak enough in military capacity to suppose for a moment he could hold a level and comparatively unfortified mud bank, inhabited by a few thousand Creoles, and a vast wilderness occupied only by savages, with the Atlantic between it and France, against the fighting men of five millions of people, and with England joyfully and eagerly ready to intercept every succor he could send, so that not a regiment would reach America without in part owing it to favoring accidents. The moment, therefore, he believed the President's avowals had been made in earnest, and that the American people were ready to uphold them—ready to fight for the territory—(and what could he expect if the American Republicans, the only party that could ever tolerate France, should lead in the war feeling () his strong sagacity at once foresaw that his colonization projects were at an end; that these new domains were worthless to France, and must soon pass entirely from its grasp. Measuring as he always did the sentiment of America towards France by the Federal standard, he probably considered any guaranty the