To Thomas Jefferson Dec 25, 1802

To Thomas Jefferson Dec 25, 1802



Spain has ceded Louisiana to France, and France has excluded Americans from New Orleans, and the navigation of the Mississippi. The people of the Western Territory have complained of it to their Government, and the Government is of consequence involved and interested in the affair. The question then is-What is the best step to be taken? 1

The one is to begin by memorial and remonstrance against an infraction of a right. The other is by accommodation-still keeping the right in view, but not making it a ground-work.

Suppose then the Government begin by making a proposal to France to repurchase the cession made to her by Spain, of Louisiana, provided it be with the consent of the people of Louisiana, or a majority thereof.

By beginning on this ground anything can be said without carrying the appearance of a threat. The growing power of the Western Territory can be stated as a matter of information, and also the impossibility of restraining them from seizing upon New Orleans, and the equal impossibility of France to prevent it.

Suppose the proposal attended to, the sum to be given comes next on the carpet. This, on the part of America, will be estimated between the value of the commerce and the quantity of revenue that Louisiana will produce.

The French treasury is not only empty, but the Government has consumed by anticipation a great part of the next year's revenue. A monied proposal will, I believe, be attended to; if it should, the claims upon France can be stipulated as part of the payment, and that sum can be paid here to the claimants.

I congratulate you on The Birthday of the New Sun, now called Christmas Day; and I make you a present of a thought on Louisiana.

T. P.

  1. By the Treaty of San Ildetonso, October 1, 1800, and the Convention of Aranjuez, March 21, 1801, Napoleon acquired Louisiana from Spain in return for placing the Prince of Parma, son-in-law of the Spanish king, on the newly-erected throne of Etruria. By the Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain, in 1795, had granted American citizens the privilege of depositing their goods at New Orleans for reshipment in ocean-going vessels. On October 16, 1802 Juan Ventura Morales, the acting intendant of Louisiana, revoked this right of deposit and failed to provide another site, as the treaty required. It was assumed in America at this time that France was responsible for the revocation, but all available evidence indicates that the action was taken by Spain alone. The day after receiving this letter, Jefferson told Paine that "measures were already taken in that business."-Editor.