« PreviousContinue »
of the United States, Great Britain is not likely to acquire any part of the Spanish possessions on the Mississippi; and that the United States never have favored, nor, so long as they are guided by the clearest policy, ever can favor, such a project. She must be led to see again, and with a desire to shun, the danger of collisions between the two republics, from the contact of their territories; and from the conflicts in their regulations of a commerce involving the peculiarities which distinguish that of the Mississippi. Such are the general observations which the President has thought it proper should be communicated to you; that, knowing the light in which the subject is viewed by him, you may be less in danger of presenting it in any other.1
It will be observed here that, after pointing out the probable attitude of Spain and France, respectively, with reference to the Louisiana territory and the United States, and also the relationship between France, Spain, and Great Britain toward the same areas and toward the United States, and of France's intent to acquire Louisiana, Madison states that:
France must infer, from our conduct and our communications, that the Atlantic States are not disposed to enter, nor are in danger of being drawn, into partialities towards Great Britain unjust or injurious to France; that our political and commercial interests afford a sufficient guaranty against such a State of things; that, without the co-operation of the United States, Great Britain is not likely to acquire any part of the Spanish possessions on the Mississippi; and that the United States never have favored, nor, so long as they are guided by the clearest policy, ever can favor, such a project. She [France] must be led to see again, and with a desire to shun, the danger of collisions between the two republics, from the contact of their territories; and from the conflicts in their regulations of a commerce involving the peculiarities which distinguish that of the Mississippi.
Here in 1801 is a statement by Madison himself of the principle that the United States "never have favored, nor, so long as they are guided by the clearest policy, ever can favor," the acquisition of any part of the Spanish possessions on the Mississippi by Great Britain. There is also the statement that France should understand "the danger of collisions " between France and the United States "from the contacts of their territories" and from the conflicts which will arise from the regulations of the Mississippi commerce.
There is the further statement of an impartiality on the part of the United States as between and among the various European powers.
It is significant that Madison states these are the "general observations which the President has thought it proper should be communicated to you." Thus these may be regarded as the views not alone of Madison but of Jefferson also.
'American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. II, p. 510.
Secretary Madison, under date of September 28, 1801, instructing Robert R. Livingston prior to his departure as Minister to France, said:
From different sources information has been received that, by some transaction concluded, or contemplated between France and Spain, the mouth of the Mississippi, with certain portions of adjacent territory, is to pass from the hands of the latter to the former nation. Such a change of our neighbors in that quarter is of too momentous concern not to have engaged the most serious attention of the Executive. . . You will probably find it advantageous to press, in a particular manner, the anxiety of the United States to maintain harmony and confidence with the French republic, the danger to which these will be exposed by collisions, more or less inseparable from a neighborhood under such circumstances, and the security which France ought to feel that it cannot be the interest of this country to favor any voluntary or compulsive transfer of the possessions in question from Spain to France.
Among other topics to be employed on the occasion, you may, perhaps, find it eligible to remark on the frequent recurrence of war between France and Great Britain, the danger to which the Western settlements of the United States would be subject of being embroiled by military expeditions between Canada and Louisiana,
. . In the next place, it will deserve to be tried whether France cannot be induced to make over to the United States the Floridas, if included in the cession to her from Spain, or at least West Florida, through which several of our rivers, particularly the important River Mobile, empty themselves into the sea.
This instruction obviously stresses two points to which reference has already been made as possibly in the minds of the framers of the Monroe Doctrine-the dangers incident to mere territorial contiguity as such and to the neighborhood of colonies belonging to rival European powers who might be frequently at war.
Further British expression
Notwithstanding that Lord Hawkesbury had stated that he did not think the cession of Louisiana to France "wd. soon become of importance," 6 yet on January 16, 1802, King (London) writing to Livingston (Paris) stated that he had—
conversed again and again with the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs concerning the cession of Louisiana, who assured me that the measure was in their view of much importance, and one which they could not see but with great concern; nevertheless that they were unable to interfere respecting it, for the same reason which compelled them to silence concerning other important objects, affecting the equilibrium of Europe, and the welfare of Great Britain;
King also stated that he had
more than once conversed with the same persons, with the view of impressing upon them the great importance in a variety of respects of this cession, espe
"American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. II, pp. 510-511.
The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, vol. IV, p. 19.
cially as it will affect the security of their colonies, and offers the means of rearing up and extending the commercial marine of France, the only sure foundation upon which she can raise a navy that will be able to cope with that in England.
Mr. King then makes some suggestions as to the line of argument which he thinks Livingston might adopt in Paris with the French Government, and suggests representations which should set out
in great detail the extent of the mischiefs, which we may be made to suffer from the completion of the cession, and concluding with a direct insinuation that foreseeing as we do the pernicious influence of the measure upon our political and social happiness, it will be impossible for us to see it carried into operation with indifference; or afterwards to preserve unimpaired the Confidence we wish to do, in the friendship of a Nation, towards which we cherish the grateful Remembrance of important services."
Writing again to Livingston under date of March 23, 1802, King once more refers to the fact that " we may, if we deem it our interest, without impropriety attempt to acquire the legitimate Title to Louisiana and the Floridas." Yet
Great as the benefit would be to us of uniting to our territories New Orleans with the entire left bank of the Mississippi and extending our Southern frontier to the ocean, I confess that I see little in the principles, to which we propose to devote ourselves, and by which our affairs are to be regulated, which authorises us to expect that a measure of such magnitude, and which would impose immediate and considerable burthens upon our People, would be likely to be received with favour."
The concluding paragraphs of this letter from King to Livingston contain, says King's editor, "a declaration of the principle upon which rests what is now called the Monroe Doctrine."
Jefferson objects to transfer of territory
On April 18, 1802, President Jefferson himself addressed a communication to Livingston in which he used the following language: The cession of Louisiana and the Floridas by Spain to France works most sorely on the United States. It completely reverses all the political relations of the United States, and will form a new epoch in our political course. . . There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce, and contain more than half of our inhabitants. France, placing herself in that door, as sumes to us the attitude of defiance. Spain might have retained it quietly for years. Her pacific dispositions, her feeble state, would induce her to increase our facilities there so that her possession of the place would hardly be
felt by us, and it would not, perhaps, be very long before some circumstance might arise which might make the cession of it to us the price of something of more worth to her. Not so can it ever be in the hands of France; the impetuosity of her temper, the energy and restlessness of her character, placed in a point of eternal friction with us and our character, which, though quiet and loving peace and the pursuit of wealth, is highminded, despising wealth in competition with insult or injury, enterprising, and energetic as any nation on earth. These circumstances render it impossible that France and the United States can continue long friends when they meet in so irritable a position. . The day that France takes possession of New Orleans fixes the sentence which is to retain her forever within her low-water mark. It seals the union of two nations who, in conjunction, can maintain exclusive possession of the ocean. From that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation. . . This is not a state of things we seek or desire. It is one which this measure, if adopted by France, forces on us as necessarily as any other cause, by the laws of nature, brings on its necessary effect. It is not from a fear of France that we deprecate this measure proposed by her, for, however greater her force is than ours, compared in the abstract, it is nothing in comparison to ours when to be exerted on our soil, but it is from a sincere love of peace, and a firm persuasion that, bound to France by the interests and strong sympathies still existing in the minds of our citizens, and holding relative positions which insure their continuance, we are secure of a long course of peace, whereas the change of friends, which will be rendered necessary if France changes that position, embarks us necessarily as a belligerent power in the first war of Europe. In that case France will have held possession of New Orleans during the interval of a peace, long or short, at the end of which it will be wrested from her. Will this short-lived possession have been an equivalent to her for the transfer of such a weight into the scale of her enemy? Will not the amalgamation of a young, thriving nation continue to that enemy the health and force which are now so evidently on the decline? And will a few years' possession of New Orleans add equally to the strength of France? She may say she needs Louisiana for the supply of her West Indies. She does not need it in time of peace, and in war she could not depend on them, because they would be so easily intercepted."
On May 1, 1802, Secretary Madison in writing to Minister Livingston stated:
The cession of Louisiana to France becomes daily more and more a source of painful apprehensions. A mere neighborhood could not be friendly to the harmony which both countries have so much an interest in cherishing; but if a possession of the mouth of the Mississippi is to be added to the other causes of discord, the worst events are to be apprehended. You will, consequently, spare no efforts, that will consist with prudence and dignity, to lead the councils of France to proper views of this subject and to an abandonment of her present purpose. You will also pursue, by prudent means, the inquiry into the extent of the cession, particularly whether it includes the Floridas as well as New Orleans, and endeavor to ascertain the price at which these, if included in the cession, would be yielded to the United States. The President wishes you to devote every attention to this object, and to be frequent and particular in your communications relating to it."
Moore, International Law Digest, vol. 1, pp. 435-436.
"American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. II, p. 516.
Jefferson is thus specifically of the opinion, that as between ourselves and a European power, "mere neighborhood could not be friendly to the harmony which both countries have so much an interest in cherishing.”
Madison characterized as a "most precious acquisition" the obtaining of these territories by France and suggested the exchange of the French obligations to American citizens for the cession of the territory from France.To
Navigation of the Mississippi
On April 21, 1802, King had written to Hawkesbury a confidential communication setting forth the importance of the navigation of the Mississippi River both to Great Britain and to the United States and the reported cession of Louisiana to France. He had then inquired whether Great Britain had received any communication from the Government of Spain or France respecting the cession and whether
his Britannic Majesty has in any manner acquiesced in, or sanctioned the same, so as to impair or affect the stipulations above referred to concerning the free navigation of the Mississippi; In a word, I entreat your lordship to open yourself on this occasion with that freedom which, in matters of weighty concern, is due from one friendly nation to another, and which in the present instance, will have the effect to do away all those misconceptions that may otherwise prevail in respect to the privity of Great Britain to the cession in question."
To this communication Lord Hawkesbury replied on May 7, 1802:
It is impossible that so important an Event, as the cession of Louisiana by Spain to France, should be regarded by the King in any other light than as highly interesting to his Majesty and to the United States; and should render it more necessary than ever that there should subsist between the two Governments that spirit of confidence which is become so essential to the security of their respective Territories and Possessions."
Speaking of the free navigation of the Mississippi, Hawkesbury declared that France took it subject to the rights of navigation which British subjects and American citizens possessed, and added:
I can at the same time most truly assure you that his Majesty has not in any manner, directly or indirectly acquiesced in or sanctioned this cession."
The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, vol. IV, p. 109. "Ibid., p. 123.