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Liberty, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803: The Incorporation of the Territory of Orleans

Summary and Keywords

On December 20, 1803, residents of New Orleans gathered at the Place d’Armes in the city center to watch as the French flag was lowered and the flag of the United States was raised in its place. Toasts were made to the US president, the French First Consul, and the Spanish king (whose flag had been lowered in a similar ceremony just twenty days earlier), and the celebrations continued throughout the night. The following day, however, began the process of determining just what it meant now that Louisiana was a part of the United States, initiating the first great test for the United States of its ability to expand its borders, incorporating both territories and peoples. The treaty ratifying the transfer, signed in Paris the previous April 30th, promised that “the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States” where they would experience “the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States.” These inhabitants included thousands of people of French and Spanish descent, several thousand slaves of African descent, and about fifteen hundred free people of at least partial African ancestry; most of these inhabitants spoke French or (far fewer) Spanish and practiced Catholicism. In addition, the territory was home to tens of thousands of indigenous peoples, many of whom still lived on traditional territories and under their own sovereignty. For a few inhabitants of what would become the Territory of Orleans and later the state of Louisiana, incorporation did lead to “the enjoyment of all these rights” and gave some small grain of truth to Thomas Jefferson’s hope that the trans-Mississippi region would undergird the United States as an “empire of liberty,” although even for Europeans of French and Spanish ancestry, the process was neither easy nor uncontested. For most, however, incorporation led to the expansion of the United States as an empire of slavery, one built upon the often violent dispossession of native peoples of their lands and the expropriated labor of enslaved peoples of African descent.

Keywords: African Americans, early national history, French America, Louisiana, race, slavery, territorial expansion

The Transfer

The story of the Louisiana Purchase is often told as “the greatest real estate deal in world history,”1 a great diplomatic victory for Thomas Jefferson and his emissaries, and one that began a great and peaceful expansion of the United States, beginning the nation’s inevitable creep across the North American continent to fulfill its destiny as an Empire of Liberty. This article challenges these standard narratives of the Purchase, focusing instead on the hidden costs of the Purchase (from the hundreds of thousands of Haitian deaths to the hundreds of millions of dollars the US government spent wresting the territory away from native nations), turning the spotlight onto Napoleon Bonaparte’s decision to sell the territory, and viewing US expansion from the perspective of the peoples who already inhabited the lands that would become part of the United States. The Louisiana Purchase has served as a key event in the history of the United States in early 19th century, one that depicts a territorial and demographic expansion of the fledging United States out beyond the Appalachian Mountains. But if we shift our perspective, as Daniel Richter called for in Facing East, the narrative becomes instead a story of incorporation, one that was territorial and political, but also economic, demographic, and cultural.2

Louisiana before 1803

Louisiana was born in 1682 when René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de de La Salle conjured it into existence in the European imagination by performing a ceremony of possession at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Planting a cross, chanting the Te Deum, and shouting “Vive le Roi!” La Salle claimed for France the Mississippi River and all of the lands that it and its tributary riverways drained, naming it Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV. After an initial failure to establish a colony in 1684, Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, established the first permanent French colony along the Gulf Coast near present-day Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1699.3

The colony grew slowly, with little support from the metropole where it was seen as a far inferior opportunity to the newly flourishing Caribbean colonies. Few French were willing to emigrate and indeed, perhaps as many as one third of the four to six thousand who arrived between 1719 and 1721 did so involuntarily. Those unwilling migrants were joined by enslaved Africans who began to trickle into the colony by 1709; a decade later that trickle became a flood and, by 1731, approximately six thousand enslaved Africans had arrived. By this time, migration virtually ceased from both Europe and Africa. Enslaved Africans became a majority of the population concentrated along the banks of the lower Mississippi River Valley by 1726. Two characteristics marked the population of French Louisiana. First, people of African descent would remain the majority until at least the 1780s. Second, by mid-century, most inhabitants, whether of European or African ancestry or both, were creoles, having descended from those who had arrived in the 1710s and 1720s. Together, these Louisiana creoles mostly eked out a living, engaging in what Daniel Usner, Jr., labeled a “frontier exchange economy” that was supplemented by plantation agriculture (producing principally subsistence crops alongside small amounts of indigo and tobacco for export) performed by enslaved laborers.4

In 1762, Louis XV convinced his cousin Carlos III to take Louisiana as compensation for the latter’s support during the Seven Years War although the first Spanish governor would not arrive until 1766.5 Francophone elites, chafing under this new government, rebelled in November 1768. The following August, Alejandro O’Reilly arrived, imposed Spanish rule, and punished the rebels’ ringleaders, a resistance and response that would be remembered thirty-four years later when Louisianians found themselves, once again, subjected to new rulers.6

Under Spanish rule, Louisiana would flourish in a way it never had in the first half of the 18th century. Slavery, in particular, dramatically expanded both demographically and economically between 1770 and 1800. Spain lifted trade restrictions, allowing Louisianians far more freedom of trade than most in the Spanish Americas and, at the same time, sought to bolster the region’s meager population.7 Beginning in 1777, Spain slowly reopened the slave trade into Louisiana.8 Indigo and tobacco production flourished in the years following the American Revolution, and in the 1790s, the obstacles that had previously prevented successful sugar cultivation were overcome, opening the door for Louisiana to take advantage of the collapse of sugar production in Saint Domingue in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution.9

On the eve of the Purchase, Louisiana had a growing and increasingly polyglot population. As described by Peter J. Kastor and François Weil, “Louisiana may one time have been ‘French’ before becoming ‘American,’ its residents could just as easily claim it was Indian country or a new African melting pot.”10 Even the label “French” hides as much as it reveals. As Eberhard Faber has noted, there were at least four distinct Francophone populations: the ancient population (or ancienne) whose ancestors had mostly arrived in the early 18th century; Acadians who arrived from Canada after their expulsion by the British; Saint Domingue refugees who began arriving in the early 1790s; and foreign French who immigrated directly from France after 1800.11

The population of African descent, too, was similarly heterogeneous. Perhaps most importantly, there was a significant difference between free persons of African descent, many of whom by 1800 were in their second or even third generation of freedom, and those who were enslaved.12 In addition, the enslaved population could also be divided into ancienne creoles, whose foreparents arrived in Louisiana in the 1710s and 1720s, those who were part of the new wave of enslaved arrivals in the last third of the 18th century who contributed to a re-Africanization of the enslaved population, those who arrived from Saint-Domingue, and finally the first few of what would become at least one million African-Americans transported into and through the New Orleans slave market.13

Since not many Spaniards outside of those employed by the government or the military emigrated to Spanish Louisiana, the Spanish government actively recruited Spanish-speaking Canary Islanders (nearly 2,000 arrived between 1778 and 1783) as well as Francophone Acadians who had been exiled from Canada (a couple hundred of whom arrived in the mid-1760s, followed by 1,500 in the 1780s). While both the Canary Islanders and Acadians were Catholics, by the late 1780s, Spanish officials were also willing to encourage the emigration of English-speaking Protestants. Although they were not allowed to engage in public worship, their private practices would be tolerated.14

A Breathtaking Bargain?

When the United States acquired the vast Louisiana Purchase territory, and its diverse heterogeneous population, it added more than 800,000 square miles of territory to the United States, territory that would eventually become parts of at least fifteen new states. The cost, at the time, was $15 million: $11.25 million paid to France and another $3.75 million paid to Americans who had claims against France for property damages during the Quasi War. Based on this amount, many historians have calculated the purchase price as a meager 3 cents per acre, “a breathtaking bargain,” in the words of the Smithsonian Magazine on the 200th anniversary of the purchase.15 However, the entire federal budget at the time was less than $10 million and the United States had to issue bonds to cover most of the cost, in the end, paying more than eight million dollars additionally in interest, and raising the per-acre cost 50 percent, to 4.5 cents.

But what the United States had purchased from France in 1803 was not all the territory within the bounds of the treaty. Rather, it had merely acquired the right of preemption, or the “exclusive authority to obtain Indian title by conquest or contract.” Based on an analysis of all the disbursements paid to Indian nations for lands falling within the bounds of the treaty from 1804 through 2012, Robert Lee argues that the Louisiana Purchase eventually cost the United States government $418 million dollars in 1803 dollars, nearly thirty times the usually cited figure of $15 million dollars (roughly 80 cents per acre). Lee argues that the true cost would be even higher if one also counted “direct and indirect civil and military expenditures that supported US ambitions,” and, indeed, the U.S. army would wage dozens of wars against native nations in the Louisiana territory over the course of the 19th century.16

The final, as yet uncalculated, cost of the Purchase that is not often included in the accounting are the hundreds of thousands of deaths that occurred during the war for Haitian Independence, an independence that was declared on January 1, 1804, just twelve days after the flag raising ceremony in New Orleans. Such an accounting also changes our understanding of the Purchase as a bloodless conquest. As Edward Baptist has argued, it only appears that way if we ignore “The blood of the Haitian people, fighting a desperate war for their independence, their lives, and most of all, for their freedom from slavery, [who] paid the real price of the Louisiana Purchase.”17 At least some contemporaries recognized the role of the Haitian Revolution. Just after learning of the April 30 treaty, Alexander Hamilton published an anonymous editorial in the New-York Evening Post, in which he credited “a fortuitous concurrence of unforeseen and unexpected circumstances, and not to any wise or vigorous measures on the part of the American government” under Jefferson’s presidency. The most important of these fortuitous circumstances were “the deadly climate of St. Domingo, and . . . the courage and obstinate resistance made by its black inhabitants,” to which, Hamilton wrote, “we [are] indebted” as they prevented Bonaparte’s ambition to reassert himself on the North American continent.18

Historian Henry Adams, who, in 1889, established the diplomatic narrative of the Purchase that still holds up today, credited Toussaint Louverture as “an influence [on US history] as decisive as that of any European ruler.” It was, he continued, “the prejudice of race alone [that] blinded the American people to the debt they owed to the desperate courage of five hundred thousand Haytian negroes who would not be enslaved.” Louverture died just two days before Napoleon offered the territory to the American negotiators; Adams envisioned him in his cell in eastern France, “his last moments would have glowed with gratified revenge, had he known that at the same instant Bonaparte was turning into a path which the negroes of St. Domingo had driven him to take.”19 While Adams’ interpretation of the diplomacy of the Purchase still has currency today, it was not until a century later that historians took Adams’ admonitions about the role of Louverture seriously. As Laurent Dubois has argued, the “most important causal force in shaping France’s sale of Louisiana was not the diplomatic maneuverings and choices of European governments, but the actions of a revolutionary movement in a colony on the verge of becoming the independent nation of Haiti.”20

Including Haitian revolutionaries as important actors in the story of the Purchase also challenges the narrative of Jefferson’s great diplomatic victory. Following Spanish closures of the Mississippi River to American traffic in 1784, and again in 1802, Jefferson was determined to wrest control over the port of New Orleans, and therefore over all the river’s traffic. Defying the calls of Federalists to invade Louisiana, Jefferson choose the diplomatic high road and sent James Monroe to assist Robert R. Livingston, American minister, to France, in peaceably acquiring the port city.21 American historiography has privileged the question “why buy?” and has kept the focus on US decisions and desires, from western settler interest in uncontested access to the Mississippi River to Jefferson’s deeply held belief in the importance of the yeoman farmer for the future of the republic. However, if, instead, we ask, “why sell?” we are forced to shift our focus from the local to the transnational context.

Louisiana was, for Napoleon, a key element in his goal to revitalize the French empire in the Americas. Hoping to suppress the revolution in Saint Domingue and re-impose slavery in what had been the most profitable sugar colony in the 18th-century Caribbean, Louisiana would be needed as a provisioning colony for a reclaimed Saint Domingue. By early 1803, however, events in Saint Domingue and Europe forced Napoleon to change his mind. In Saint Domingue, General Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc’s expedition to retake the island was failing; Leclerc himself died of yellow fever in November 1802. In Europe, the brief peace with Britain was coming to an end. Although there was some concern in France about US expansion, for Napoleon it paled in comparison to fears that England would conquer Louisiana and come to dominate North America. Napoleon thus turned his attention to challenging Britain within Europe rather than trying to stem the US expansion in North America. With his dream of reestablishing an American empire dissipating, Napoleon sought to get rid of an unproductive and now unnecessary territory and raise some much needed cash; he hoped that selling Louisiana to the United States would make that nation France’s political and commercial ally.22 Hence his sudden and unexpected offer to the American diplomats to sell not just New Orleans but the entire Louisiana territory, an event known in France as “la vente de la Louisiane.”

Federal Reactions

And so, on April 30, 1803, Jefferson’s diplomats signed the Louisiana Purchase treaty, doubling the size of the United States with the acquisition of the Mississippi watershed, ranging from the eastern Rockies to the western Appalachian Mountains. Upon hearing the news, Secretary of State James Madison wrote “The purchase of Louisiana in its full extent, tho’ not contemplated is received with warm, & in a manner universal approbation. The uses to which it may be turned render it truly a noble acquisition. Under prudent management it may be made to do much good as well as to prevent much evil.”23 In his message to Congress in January 1804, Jefferson declared “On this important acquisition, so favorable to the immediate interests of our Western citizens, so auspicious to the peace and security of the nation in general, which adds to our country territories so extensive and so fertile and to our citizens new brethren to partake of the blessings of freedom and self-government, I offer to Congress and our country my sincere congratulations.”24 For Jefferson, Louisiana embodied an empire of liberty, one that would enable the United States to avoid emulating Europe, where increasingly stratified societies were developing, and instead allow its economic and social order to remain rooted in small and independent producers.25 As Jefferson reported to Congress in October 1803, “the fertility of the country, its climate and extent, promise in due season important aids to our treasury, an ample provision for our posterity, and a wide-spread field for the blessings of freedom and equal laws.”26 By doubling the size of the United States, the Purchase ensured the continuation of Jefferson’s yeoman’s republic.

Anglo-Americans already living in Louisiana reacted with great joy. Benjamin Morgan, a Philadelphian merchant, sugar planter, and financier, reacted to “the glorious news” in August 1803, describing “this great event” as “surpass[ing] the expectations of the most sanguine American among us.” Contributing to what would become the narrative of Louisiana’s cheap and bloodless acquisition, Morgan wrote, “It is astonishing while the nations of Europe are destroying thousands of men & wasting millions of treasure for trifling spots of ground our government has in a few days and for a comparatively small sum of money purchased a tract of country nearly as large as Europe.”27

Not all were so congratulatory, however. Opposition was spearheaded by New England federalists who, beyond questioning the constitutionality of the Purchase, worried that it was either a useless territory or one that was too large and would be impossible to govern. Hamilton acknowledged the benefit of the Purchase, especially in promising that “the navigation of the Mississippi will be ours unmolested,” but he questioned the usefulness of purchasing “all the immense, undefined region west of the river” instead of negotiating for the Floridas, “obviously of far greater value to us,” and he looked forward to the day when the two territories could be exchanged. Hamilton also worried that the US republic could not survive “a too widely dispersed population.”28

It was precisely the territory’s population that so disturbed many Anglo-Americans and posed difficulties for the question of incorporation. Fisher Ames, a New England Federalist, described Louisiana as “a wilderness unpeopled by any beings except wolves and wandering Indians”29 or, conversely, populated by a “Gallo-Hispano-Indian omnium gatherum of savages and adventurers, whose pure morals are expected to sustain and glorify our republic.”30 From his travels along the Mississippi River, Abraham Ellery reported to Hamilton that New Orleans was “inhabited by a Mixture of Americans, English, Spanish, & French & crouded [sic] every year . . . with two or three thousand boatmen from the back country, remarked for their dissipated habits, unruly tempers, & lawless conduct.” He also worried about the impact of the region’s racial demography, “where the white population bears so small a proportion to the black, & where the Blacks have already been guilty of two or three insurrections with a few years back.”31

The Incorporation of Louisiana

Once purchased, Louisiana had to be governed. The land had to be organized, governments had to be instituted, and its people had to be made into Americans. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (and its predecessors, the Land Ordinance acts of 1784 and 1785) envisioned US expansion as a peaceful, consensual process.32 The 1787 Ordinance established a model for surveying and selling land in parcels where the only competing claims to sovereignty and ownership came from indigenous groups. It also established how territories would be transformed into states and admitted into the union “on an equal footing with the original States in all respects.” Until the region reached a population of 60,000 people, however, it was governed by a governor, secretary, and judges, all appointed by Congress, rather than elected by the residents of the territory, although they did gain the right to an elected territorial assembly once the number of those eligible to vote reached 5,000.33 In Louisiana, however, members of the territorial assembly were to be appointed by the president as well, a measure that, as critics noted, made for a government even less democratic than that authorized by the Northwest Ordinance.

It was not just Federalists, whose opposition was fueled in part by their antagonism towards Jefferson and his administration and by a longstanding opposition to territorial acquisition, who worried about how incorporation would take place. Others, including Jefferson himself and members of his Democratic-Republican party, feared the consequences of the Purchase, worrying about the fragility of the republic persevering in the new expanse of the nation and especially about the demographic diversity that it brought into the body politic.34 How, they wondered, were they to make citizens out of foreigners who were unacquainted with democracy and republican governance?

In February 1804, the House of Representatives debated the bill that would eventually split the entire Purchase area into two separately governed territories, one of which would become the Territory of Orleans and, eight years later, the state of Louisiana. Members of the House recognized that the form of government being proposed for this territory was unlike any that existed in the nation. The proposed act vested legislative powers in the governor and a legislative council, comprised of “thirteen of the most fit and discreet persons of the territory,” who would be “appointed annually by the President,” while the similarly unelected governor held extensive executive powers. While some members of the House argued against its adoption, others, including William Eustis, a Democratic-Republican representative from Massachusetts, argued that “the character of the people” of Louisiana necessitated such an undemocratic form of government. It was, according to Eustis, “necessary distinctly to understand the genius, the manners, the disposition, and the state of the people to be governed” to determine whether they were “qualified from habit, and from the circumstances in which they are placed, to exercise these high privileges,” or the rights that were promised to them in the 1803 treaty. Acknowledging “the government laid down in this bill is certainly a new thing in the United States,” Eustis opined that “the people of this country differ materially from the citizens of the United States.” He believed “that the principles of civil liberty cannot suddenly be ingrafted on a people accustomed to a regime of a directly opposite hue.” John Baptiste Charles Lucas, of Pennsylvania, concurred: “Governed by Spanish officials, exercising authority according to their whim, supported by military force, it could not be said that a people thus inured to despotism, were prepared of a sudden to receive the principles of our Government.”35

Eustis and Lucas may have seen a letter from the territory’s first governor, William C. C. Claiborne, dated January 2, 1804, a very garbled version of which was published in the United States’ Gazette in Philadelphia on February 24. In the Gazette’s words, Louisianians were “totally destitute of information” and lived in “profound ignorance.” They would find the benefits of republican government, such as trial by jury, “a great inconvenience and trouble to them . . . The principles of an elective government they would not understand—A representative system would only bewilder them.”36 In other letters written that month, Claiborne was even harsher. “The more I become acquainted with the inhabitants of this Province,” he wrote to Madison on January 10, “the more I am convinced of their unfitness for representative Government.” They were, he continued, too incredulous, susceptible to “the Machinations of a few base individuals,” and in a state of “mental darkness.” Until they acquired “a general knowledge of American language, laws and customs . . ., I do fear that a representative Government in Louisiana, would be a dangerous experiment.” Before that time, he advised “that they remain for some years under the immediate Guardianship of Congress.”37 A few days later, he wrote to Jefferson describing Louisianians as “unformed, indolent, luxurious—in a word, illy fitted to be useful citizens of a Republic.”38

Eustis, Lucas, and other members of Congress may also have seen other reports, such as those from Anglophone New Orleans residents Benjamin Morgan and Daniel Clark. Morgan, writing to a former business partner, noted “We have a mixed population of almost all nations & it will require men of integrity & talents to overcome the prejudices of these people & reconcile them to the government of free-men.”39 Clark was less kind in his judgment. In a letter to Claiborne just a few days before Spain formally retroceded the colony to France, Clark described “the People of this Country” as “an assemblage of all Nations most of whom have no idea of a good Government, are only kept in order by the Hand of Power, are excessively ignorant and may be easily imposed upon.” He recommended that, given Louisianians’ lack of familiarity with republican governance, “a display of a small Force” be used to convince inhabitants of their new positionality.40 At the end of the Congressional debate, the arguments of Eustis and Lucas won out, and the section was adopted without amendments.41

Upon receipt of the law in early May, Claiborne wrote to Madison, warning him that “Complaints . . . upon this Subject will be made” as “the old inhabitants had expected immediate admission into the Union” while “Some of the late adventurers from the United States” had ambitions beyond the law. “For myself,” he continued, “I do firmly believe that the constitution temporarily prescribed is well adapted to the present Situation of Louisiana.”42

While political incorporation began at the end of 1803, the reorientation of Louisiana towards the United States began much earlier with the arrival of Anglophone merchants as early as 1763.43 Daniel Clark, an Irish-born merchant, demonstrates how economic ties could reorient Louisianans’ loyalties and attachments to the United States long before the Purchase. Clark had emigrated to New Orleans in 1786, at the age of twenty, to join his uncle’s merchant business. For over a decade, the Clarks “acted as [James] Wilkinson’s agents in New Orleans, selling merchandise he shipped downriver from Ohio.” In 1793, the younger Clark partnered up with Daniel Coxe, a Philadelphia merchant, furthering his ties to the United States and, within a few years, he became a US citizen and served as that nation’s unofficial consul in the city (a position that would be formalized in 1801).44 By 1789, what had been a trickle of non-Spanish immigrants became a flood, as Spain opened its territory up to settlement by Americans, “offering religious tolerance, trading privileges, and generous land grants to western settlers willing to swear loyalty oaths to His Catholic Majesty.”45

The New Orleans economy became even more tightly entwined with its American counterpart in 1795 when the Treaty of San Lorenzo opened the river to American traffic, enabling Americans in the Ohio Valley to easily transport their crops to market. By 1803, according to Alexander DeConde, Americans dominated the economic life of the city. And it was indeed the revocation of the Americans’ right to deposit their merchandise in New Orleans in 1802 that made acquiring the port of New Orleans such a pressing matter for the United States.46

A “Clash of Cultures”

Many accounts of the immediate aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase focus on the supposed cultural differences and resulting tensions between the ancienne population and the newcomers. After all, most non-native Louisianians were Catholic. The majority spoke French as their first language but a few were native-Spanish speakers. More than half the population were enslaved people of (mostly) African descent. And, perhaps most shocking to the Anglo-American racial sensibility, nearly 15 percent of the population of New Orleans were free people of African descent, some of them of relatively recent Saint-Domingue origins.

An archetypal clash took place at a public ball on January 22, 1804, just one month after the flag raising ceremony. According to one eye witness, George W. Morgan, as well as Wilkinson and Claiborne’s report on the ball room affair, several Frenchmen interrupted the end of “an English Country dance” by loudly calling for a waltz and wouldn’t be quieted until the orchestra began to play a French Cotillion. Americans started singing Hail Columbia while the French responded with La Marseillaise. “Swords were drawn,” Claiborne and Wilkinson notified Madison, “and it Required, the greatest Exertions, to prevent the Spilling of Blood.” After preventing one fight, Wilkinson “went round the room assuring the French that there was no animosity on the part of the Americans against them and that they were all brothers.” For his part, Claiborne appeared “much distressed by this unfortunately difference.” Morgan, Claiborne, and Wilkinson all blamed “Strangers,” “French Officers & troublesome young Men from Bordeaux,” who reacted to the choice of a “Contra Danse, Anglaise” as a sign of the Americans’ “partiality, to the English, their Enemies,” rather than local francophone Creoles, although Claiborne and Wilkinson “suppose[d] them to favour decidedly the French Interest” even though they had “taken no Open Part” in the dispute.47 In his memoirs, French consul Pierre-Clément de Laussat accused Daniel Clark and other Americans of bearing “the principal responsibility for the fracas.” Clark had, according to Laussat, reminded attendees at the ball of the troubles that Spain had faced when it first tried to impose its authority over the colony in the mid-1760s. The U.S., like Spain, “will not rule over this country,” he believed, “until two or three Frenchmen have been hanged.”48

Although cultural clashes certainly occurred,49 the conflicts between New Orleans’ colonial population and those newly arrived Americans has often been overemphasized. More recent scholarship, especially by Peter Kastor, Nathalie Dessens, and Eberhard Faber, has challenged this older interpretation, with its straightforward narrative of resistance by the city’s ancienne population to an inevitable process of Americanization. Rather, as Faber writes, “they did not always resist change, or resist it unanimously; in some ways they even spearheaded the transformation. In many ways, attachment to the United States led to cultural changes not because Americans imposed them, and not in the ways that Americans wanted, but because some Louisianians, empowered by the republican system, imposed then on others.”50 Incorporation involved both conflicts and alliances between colonial era elites and “ambitious arrivistes,” mostly Americans but also British, French, and Irish immigrants who considered themselves in the American camp.51

Claiborne and the others might have been correct that most of the immediate opposition to annexation came from recently arrived Francophones, while ancienne Louisianians embraced the Purchase. In a December 1804 remonstrance to Congress, “planters, merchants, and other inhabitants of Louisiana” expressed their pleasure at the initial news of the purchase: “It was early understood that we were to be American citizens; this satisfied our wishes; it implied everything we could desired, and filled us with a happiness which arises from the anticipated enjoyment of a right long withheld.” These elite ancienne Louisianians were, however, concerned about the undemocratic nature of the territory governance established by the March 1804 law, “the sudden change of language in all the public offices and administration of justice” and, perhaps most importantly, the ban on importing enslaved persons into the territory, all of which they articulated in a petition to Congress sent in December 1804.52 Congress and Jefferson may have generally dismissed the concerns expressed in the planters’ and merchants’ petition, but a few months later they passed “An Act for the Government of Orleans Territory” that not only gave Louisianians the representative government they so longed for, it was also ambiguous on the question of the domestic slave trade, an ambiguity Louisianians took advantage of. Between 1804 and 1808, when the international slave trade was banned throughout the United States, between 7,000 and 8,000 enslaved peoples arrived in the port of New Orleans, followed by another 4,000 in the years leading up to statehood in 1812, more than had arrived during the last two decades of Spanish Louisiana.53

It was on the questions of slavery and the slave trade that elite members of the ancienne population demonstrated their willing allegiance to Anglo-American governance. One of the first acts of the new elected assembly that was established in 1805—an assembly dominated by Francophone creole planters—was a new slave code that eliminated many of what were seen as protectionist Spanish provisions, sought to undermine the distinctions between enslaved and free people of African descent, and establish unambiguous white supremacy. The following year, the assembly also restricted access to manumission by banning coartacións conducted without a slave owner’s permission and limiting manumission to those over 30.54

In their 1804 remonstrance to Congress, this group of ancienne Louisianians had stressed Article 3 of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, stating their right to a speedy incorporation and “enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of the citizens of the United States.”55 However, their 1806 and 1807 acts demonstrated that they were not willing to extend those “rights, advantages, and immunities” to other members of the ancienne population, free people of color, who nevertheless sought these rights for themselves. One that they successfully maintained was the right to form a militia, despite the initial opposition of Claiborne and Wilkinson, who “reflected with much anxiety” about their continued service and found “the formidable aspect of the armed Blacks and Malattoes [sic], officered & organized, . . . painful & perplexing.” In a letter to Claiborne in January 1804, fifty-five free men of color expressed their “sincere attachment to the Government of the United States,” their “lively Joy that the Sovereignty of the Country is at length united with that of the American Republic,” and their desire to “serve with fidelity and Zeal . . . as a Corps of Volunteers.” A month later, Claiborne received authorization to organize “the corps of the Freemen of Colour.”56

Later that summer, however, having been excluded from the gatherings held by white memorialists described above, free men of color held their own meeting in order to, as Claiborne reported to Madison, “consult together as to their rights” and draft their own memorial to the US government. Claiborne, who believed they were “well attached to the present Government” already, was able to discourage them from engaging in any further public acts of protest.57 Despite this discouragement, the free men of color were able to retain their militia into the 1830s, at which point it was disbanded. Two decades later, the Louisiana Supreme Court would acknowledge that free men of color were excluded from “political rights, . . . certain social privileges, and . . . the obligations of jury and militia service.” And, yet, the Court continued, these were exceptions and, in general, gens de couleur libre enjoyed the right to contract, inherit, and transmit property, to testify in court, and to be “tried with the same formalities, and by the same tribunal, as the white man,” all rights that were denied slaves in Louisiana and free people of color through the rest of the antebellum South.58

Free people of color may have achieved partial inclusion in the “rights, advantages, and immunities of the citizens of the United States,” but two other groups of inhabitants were clearly excluded from any pretense of acquiring these rights—indigenous peoples and all those who were enslaved—and both would suffer enormously from the exponential growth of slavery that the Louisiana Purchase ushered in. Native peoples, both within and without the Purchase’s boundaries would lose their lands, and many would be forced to relocate to “Indian country,” a concept that George Washington had dreamed of and which Jefferson’s purchase of lands west of the Mississippi River enabled. Similarly, enslaved peoples would suffer from an increasingly harsh system of slavery that spread across the southern tier of the Purchase territory, including at least one million who were caught up in the domestic slave trade in the decades after 1803.59

An Empire of Slavery

Thomas Jefferson may have envisioned a peaceful expansion of commercially oriented farmers who sold their produce to distant markets. What his purchase of Louisiana wrought, whether intentionally or not, was the often violent expropriation of native lands and the exponential expansion of African-American slavery.60 Race itself and the exclusion of indigenous and African-descendant peoples from the promises of Jefferson’s empire of liberty would be the grease that facilitated the inclusion of white Louisianians, despite their foreignness and American politicians’ initial hesitancy about extending the fruits of liberty to them. As Adam Rothman has argued, Jefferson had only himself to blame for the glaring contradiction. By emphasizing the Purchase as, in his own words, “a wide-spread field for the blessing of freedom and equal laws,” Jefferson “invest[ed] the Louisiana Purchase with a profoundly liberal symbolism.”61 That the history of the Purchase is also intimately entwined with that of the Haitian Revolution, that, in Laurent Dubois’ words, “it was the courage of men and women fighting to preserve their liberty . . . that made possible one of Thomas Jefferson’s signal political achievements, one of whose major results was the expansion of slavery in the United States,” is “rich with irony.”62

Discussion of the Literature

The standard narrative of the Louisiana Purchase was established in the late 19th century by Henry Adams’s History of the United States, first published in 1889. Focusing on the Purchase as a political and diplomatic event, it was, according to Adams, a central event of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, and indeed of US history. As Jacques Portes and Marie-Jeanne Rossignol argue, “The Louisiana Purchase may be seen as Adam’s intellectual and literary creation, a historical creation so fascinating that it has captivated generations of historians, leading them to repeat the tale with only minor variations.” Some of those minor variations involve the depiction of Jefferson himself. For Adams, the third president betrayed his republican ideas and belief in a limited executive by hypocritically and, Adams argues, unconstitutionally, authorizing the Purchase without consulting Congress. Alexander DeConde, whose 1976 This Affair of Louisiana, adds little to Adams’ narrative does, however, portrays Jefferson as “shrewed” and an “astute politician.”63

The years surrounding the 300th anniversary of the establishment of French Louisiana in 1999 and the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase in 2003 saw a proliferation of publications, much of which was celebratory, emphasizing the inevitability of the Purchase and its beneficial role in the territorial expansion and economic growth of the United States. Published in 2004, Jon Kukla’s Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America followed in Adams’ footsteps, focusing on politics and diplomacy in European and American capitals, and also in acknowledging the role of the Haitian revolutionaries. Kukla’s Jefferson was, like DeConde’s, a master of diplomacy who made possible the seemingly inevitable growth of the United States. While Kukla, like many others in the celebratory tradition, sees the Purchase as enabling America’s destiny (as his subtitle declares), as yeoman farmers spread across the landscape, enabling economic growth, and the rise to world power, he also argues that this destiny included ushering in a new diverse—in language, race, culture, and religion—United States.64

These dual commemorations stimulated new research, which has increasingly cast a more critical eye on the causes and consequences of the Purchase. Published one year before Kukla’s Wilderness, Roger Kennedy’s view of the Purchase is a much more pessimistic one. In Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase, Kennedy argues that Jefferson betrayed his commitment to yeoman farmers as he gave in to slaveholders’ pressure to flood the purchased territory with slavery. Emphasizing the tragic consequences of the Purchase, Kennedy explores the trauma of Indian removal and argues that “slavery was given fresh encouragement,” setting off a series of events that inevitably led to the Civil War.65

A second strand of the Louisiana Purchase literature focuses on the period immediately following the transfer and has, until recently, emphasized the cultural tensions between the city’s older, mostly Catholic and Francophone residents and its newer Anglo-American, Protestant émigrés. Whether Americanization happened quickly—and whether it was imposed by the newcomers or embraced by the ancienne population—has been the matter of much debate. Because of Louisiana’s distinctive legal and racial systems, much of this “clash of traditions” literature has focused on the transformations that occurred in one or both of these arenas. On one side of the legal debate lies George Dargo who, in 1975, focused on the legal battle over whether to enshrine civil law or impose common law on the new US territory. For Dargo, the conflict between contrasting legal traditions and political ideologies was inevitable and yet, he argues, Jefferson’s efforts to impose common law, which he believed was necessary for the territory’s incorporation, quickly gave way to the 1808 adoption of A Digest of the Civil Laws, which Dargo argued was a victory for the civil law tradition. On the other side of the debate are those who argue that Louisiana’s legal system should be seen as a “mixed jurisdiction,” one that blended civil law and common law traditions and that was, to a great extent, shaped by newly arrived Anglo-American jurists and lawyers.66

The debate pitting the persistence of a creole way of life against Americanization after the Purchase has been especially stark in examinations of the region’s racial order. Until recently, most scholars tended to agree with Caryn Cossé Bell, who contends that Louisiana’s “three-tiered caste system . . . contrasted sharply with an Anglo-American order that attempted to confine all persons of color—both slaves and free—to a separate and inferior caste.” After 1803, these scholars argue, Anglo-Americans sought to transform the local racial order into something that looked more like what they were familiar with, although there are have been disagreements as to how much this racial order was transformed, how long it took, and what factors helped either resist or facilitate this transformation.67 The Americanization thesis has been challenged by Thomas Ingersoll and Eberhard Faber who argue that, far from having a foreign racial order imposed upon them, many elite members of the ancienne population willingly embraced this process, taking advantage of the opportunities for self-government that allowed them to create a harsher system of slavery and less fluid racial order.68 Jennifer Spear argues that, rather than encountering a fully established tripartite racial system in 1803, Anglo-American officials helped to codify what was a much more elaborate, and occasionally fluid, racial order (more like the castas system of Spanish America than the tripartite system of Saint-Domingue). Thus, Louisiana’s distinctive racial order was authored by Anglo-Americans working in concert with early republic ancienne elites.69 In his analysis of gens de couleur libre’s involvement in New Orleans’ courts in the early 19th century, Kenneth Aslakson argues that their use of the judicial system also helped to shape race relations in the post Purchase period, adding another layer to our understanding of the complex cultural processes following a transfer of sovereignty.70

The debate between creole resistance and Americanization is also complicated by the arrival of 9,000 Saint-Domingue refugees in 1809/1810, roughly split among whites, gens de couleur libre, and those claimed to be enslaved, doubling the size of New Orleans’ population and substantially strengthening its Francophone and Catholic character.71 Aslakson and Emily Clark, for instance, have both argued that the image of the quadroon as an “erotic colored mistress,” an image ever present in descriptions of New Orleans in the early 19th century, owes more to French Caribbean influences than local Louisiana ones.72

In 2004, Peter Kastor offered a way to move the debate beyond this dichotomy by focusing instead on the processes of incorporation of both territories and peoples. Additionally, Kastor rejects trying to understand Louisianians’ identities in favor of examining how their attachments—economic, political, legal, and cultural—to the United States were cultivated. Finding that Francophone whites and free people of color alike sought incorporation into the new political entity, while native peoples sought autonomy, and enslaved peoples rejected it, he argues that the apparent chaos surrounding the Purchase fairly quickly developed into stability and that political incorporation had been successfully achieved by 1820.73 Kastor has similarly been on the forefront of trying to meld the two strands of the Louisiana Purchase historiography as the co-editor (along with Francois Weil) of Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase, a collection of essays focusing on both the politics and diplomacy of the Purchase and on its consequences for the residents of the territories.74

Primary Sources

As a pivotal event in the history of the United States, most of the political and diplomatic correspondence and documents are readily available in published and online collections.

Primary Documents in American History, Louisiana Purchase: Library of Congress Web Guide includes links to online papers of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe relevant to the Purchase.

The Louisiana Purchase: Legislative Timeline, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, Library of Congress, contains links to all the relevant Congressional documents, 1802–1807, including the “Description of Louisiana,” sent by Jefferson to Congress on November 14, 1803, which emphasized the importance of sugar, cotton, and slavery to the future of Louisiana.

Louisiana Purchase: 1803 and Associated Documents, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, includes transcriptions of the Treaties of San Ildefonso and the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson’s addresses and messages to Congress, and relevant U.S. Statutes.

Additional correspondence from a great variety of letter writers has been published by Clarence Edwin Carter in The Territorial Papers of the United States (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1934–1969), especially volume 9, The Territory of Orleans, 1803–1812, available online at Hathi Trust Digital Library.

William C. C. Claiborne oversaw the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States and served as the governor of the Territory of Orleans and the first elected governor upon statehood in 1812. His correspondence during this period has been published in: William C. C. Claiborne, Official Letter Books of W. W. C. Claiborne. Edited by Dunbar Rowland, 6 vols. (Jackson, MS: State Department of Archives and History, 1917), available online at Hathi Trust Digital Library.

William C. C. Claiborne, Interim Appointment: W.C.C. Claiborne Letter Book, 1804–1805, ed. Jared William Bradley (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001).Find this resource:

    Following are several accessible contemporary memoirs describing Louisiana in the years just before and after the Purchase:

    James Pitot, Observations on the Colony of Louisiana, from 1796 to 1802. Edited by Robert D. Bush, trans. Henry C. Pitot (Baton Rouge: Published for the Historic New Orleans Collection by Louisiana State University Press, 1979). Pitot was a Saint-Domingue refugee who became mayor of New Orleans (1804–1805) and judge of the parish court (1813–1830).Find this resource:

      Pierre-Louis Berquin-Duvallon, Travels in Louisiana and the Floridas, in the Year, 1802, Giving a Correct Picture of those Countries trans. John Davis (New York: I. Riley & Co., 1806). Another Saint-Domingue refugee who lived in New Orleans between 1800 and 1802.Find this resource:

        C[harles] C[ésar] Robin, Voyage to Louisiana, 1803–1805. Edited by Stuart O. Landry (New Orleans: Pelican, 1966). Although little is known about the author, Robin’s account is one of the most detailed for the period immediately following the Purchase.Find this resource:

          Pierre-Clément de Laussat, Memoirs of My Life to My Son During the Years 1803 and After, Which I Spent in Public Service in Louisiana as Commissioner of the French Government for the Retrocession to France of that Colony and for Its Transfer to the United States. Edited by Robert D. Bush, trans. Agnes-Josephine Pastwa (Baton Rouge: Published for the Historic New Orleans Collection by the Louisiana State University Press, 1978). Laussat was the French consul who oversaw the transfers of Louisiana from Spain and then on to the United States.Find this resource:

            Thomas Ashe, Travels in America, Performed in 1806, for the Purpose of Exploring the Rivers Alleghany, Monongahela, Ohio, and Mississippi, and Ascertaining the Produce and Condition of their Banks and Vicinity, John Davis (London: Edward M. Blunt, 1808).Find this resource:

              Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Impressions Respecting New Orleans Diary and Sketches, 1818–1820 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951). Anglo-American architect spent the last two years of his life (before dying of yellow fever) in New Orleans, overseeing the construction of a municipal waterworks system.Find this resource:

                New Orleans novelist George Washington Cable published a fictional account of race and class relations after the Purchase that encapsulates the “clash of cultures” tradition: George Washington Cable, The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1880).

                Further Reading

                Adams, Henry. History of the United States of America. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1891.Find this resource:

                  Aslakson, Kenneth R. Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in New Orleans. New York: New York University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

                    Bell, Caryn Cossé. Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718–1868. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                      Billings, Warren M., and Mark F. Fernandez, eds. A Law Unto Itself? Essays in the New Louisiana Legal History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

                        Clark, Emily. The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.Find this resource:

                          Dargo, George. Jefferson’s Louisiana: Politics and the Clash of Legal Traditions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975.Find this resource:

                            DeConde, Alexander. This Affair of Louisiana. New York: Scribner, 1976.Find this resource:

                              Dessens, Nathalie. From Saint-Domingue to New Orleans: Migration and Influences. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.Find this resource:

                                Dessens, Nathalie. Creole City: A Chronicle of Early American New Orleans. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015.Find this resource:

                                  Faber, Eberhard L. Building the Land of Dreams: New Orleans and the Transformation of Early America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

                                    Hirsch, Arnold R., and Joseph Logsdon, eds. Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

                                      Ingersoll, Thomas N. Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans: The First Slave Society in the Deep South, 1718–1819. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999.Find this resource:

                                        Kastor, Peter J. Nation’s Crucible: The Louisiana Purchase and the Creation of America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                                          Kastor, Peter J., and François Weil, eds. Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                                            Kennedy, Roger G. Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                                              Kukla, Jon. Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America. Westminster, MD: Knopf, 2004.Find this resource:

                                                Lachance, Paul. “The Politics of Fear: French Louisianians and the Slave Trade, 1786–1809.” Plantation Societies in the Americas 1 (June 1979): 162–197.Find this resource:

                                                  Lee, Robert. “Accounting for Conquest: The Price of the Louisiana Purchase of Indian Country.” Journal of American History 103 (2017): 921–942.Find this resource:

                                                    Spear, Jennifer M. Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                                                      Vernet, Julien. Strangers on Their Native Soil: Opposition to United States’ Governance in Louisiana’s Orleans Territory, 1803–1809. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.Find this resource:

                                                        This article has focused on the impact of and responses to the Louisiana Purchase on the residents of the lower Mississippi River Valley, especially New Orleans and its surrounding plantation district. For responses to incorporation in the upper territory, see:

                                                        Aron, Stephen. American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

                                                          Banner, Stuart. Legal Systems in Conflict: Property and Sovereignty in Missouri, 1750–1860. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.Find this resource:

                                                            Gitlin, Jay. The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders, and American Expansion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

                                                              Vidal, Cécile. “From Incorporation to Exclusion: Indians, Europeans, and Americans in the Mississippi Valley from 1699 to 1830.” In Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase. Edited by Peter J. Kastor and François Weil. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009.Find this resource:


                                                                (1.) Peter S. Onuf, review of Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America, by Jon Kukla, American Historical Review, 109 (April 2004): 519.

                                                                (2.) Daniel K. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); see also Claudio Saunt, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014).

                                                                (3.) Lawrence N. Powell, The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 8–14; Light Townsend Cummins, “Exploration and Settlement, 1519–1715,” in Louisiana: A History, ed. Bennett H. Wall (2nd ed., Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1990), 13–16; Robert S. Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999), 3–7; and Patricia Seed, Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492–1640 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 41–68.

                                                                (4.) Powell, Accidental City, 18; Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992), 34, 57–58; Jennifer M. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 12–13, 19–20, 56–59, 216; Daniel H. Usner, Jr., Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 276–286; and The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, search for number of enslaved persons disembarked along the Gulf Coast, 1719–1860.

                                                                The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database does not capture the full extent of the slave trade into Spanish Louisiana as much of the trade was intra-American, with ships originating within the Caribbean. Personal conversation with David Eltis, May 16, 2016. Using the Louisiana Slave Database, which includes records of more than 100,000 enslaved people in Louisiana between 1719 and 1820, Douglas B. Chambers estimates that between 11,000 and 50,000 enslaved persons were brought into Louisiana during the Spanish era. Chambers, “Slave Trade Merchants of Spanish New Orleans, 1763–1803: Clarifying the Colonial Slave Trade to Louisiana in Atlantic Perspective,” Atlantic Studies 5, no. 3 (2008/12/01 2008): 341.

                                                                (5.) As would later be the case with Napoleon’s willingness to abandon the territory, France’s disinterest in the colony was linked to its loss of New France to Britain as a consequence of the Seven Years’ War. Louisiana, it seems, was only useful in relationship to other French possessions in the Americas.

                                                                (6.) Kimberly S. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769–1803 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), 7–8; and Powell, Accidental City, 128–162.

                                                                (7.) Powell, Accidental City, 164–165.

                                                                (8.) Paul Lachance, “The Politics of Fear: French Louisianians and the Slave Trade, 1786–1809,” Plantation Societies in the Americas 1, no. 2 (June 1979): 162–197; Jennifer M. Spear, “‘Using the Faculties Conceded to Her by Law’: Slavery, Law, and Agency in Spanish New Orleans, 1763–1803,” in Signposts: New Directions in Southern Legal History, eds. Sally Hadden and Patricia Minter (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013), 65–88.

                                                                (9.) Powell, Accidental City, 189–190, 259–260.

                                                                (10.) Peter J. Kastor and François Weil, “Introduction,” in Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase, eds. Kastor and Weil (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009), 4.

                                                                (11.) Eberhard L. Faber, Building the Land of Dreams: New Orleans and the Transformation of Early America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), ix. See also Paul Lachance, “The Foreign French,” in Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization, eds. Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992); Mark Fernandez, “Edward Livingston, America, and France: Making Law” in Empires of the Imagination, 239–267; and Kastor, “‘They Are All Frenchmen’: Background and Nation in an Age of Transformation,” in Empires of the Imagination, 268–298.

                                                                (12.) Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order, 178–214.

                                                                (13.) Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana; Chambers, “Slave Trade Merchants”; Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).

                                                                (14.) Gilbert C. Din, “The Canary Islander Settlements of Spanish Louisiana: An Overview,” Louisiana History 27 (1986): 353–373; and Gilbert C. Din, “The Immigration Policy of Governor Esteban Miró in Spanish Louisiana,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 73 (1969): 155–175.

                                                                (16.) Robert Lee, “Accounting for Conquest: The Price of the Louisiana Purchase of Indian Country,” Journal of American History 103 (2017): 921–942, quotations on p. 921 and 941; Robert Lee, “Federal Disbursements for Indian Title in the Louisiana Territory, 1804–2012” (Philadelphia: McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 2017); In addition to original payments for ceded territories, Lee includes the $2.4 billion that “tribes clawed back . . . in court awards, legal settlements, and settlement acts” in “more than a century of litigation” (937).

                                                                (17.) Edward E. Baptist, “Hidden in Plain View: Evasions, Invasions, and Invisible Nations,” in Echoes of the Haitian Revolution, 1804–2004, eds. Martin Munroe and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (Kingston, Jamaica: UWI Press, 2009), 7.

                                                                (18.) Alexander Hamilton, New-York Evening Post, July 5, 1803, reprinted in “Hamilton on the Louisiana Purchase: A Newly Identified Editorial from the New-York Evening Post,” William and Mary Quarterly 12 (1955): 274.

                                                                (19.) Henry Adams, History of the United States of America (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1889–1891), Vol. 1: 378, Vol. 2: 21.

                                                                (20.) Laurent Dubois, “The Haitian Revolution and the Sale of Louisiana; Or, Thomas Jefferson’s (Unpaid) Debt to Jean-Jacques Dessalines,” in Empires of the Imagination, 93; Robert L. Paquette, “Revolutionary Saint Domingue in the Making of Territorial Louisiana,” in A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean, eds. David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 204–225.

                                                                (21.) Peter J. Kastor, Nation’s Crucible: The Louisiana Purchase and the Creation of America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 36–39. Kastor does argue that “The United States did not buy Louisiana so much as France sold it,” 41.

                                                                (22.) Jacques Portes and Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, “Celebration and History: The Case of the Louisiana Purchase,” in Empires of the Imagination, 331–333.

                                                                (23.) James Madison to Robert R. Livingston, July 29, 1803, 1. The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress.

                                                                (24.) Thomas Jefferson, Message to the Senate and House, January 16, 1804, Annals of Congress, Appendix to the History of the Eighth Congress, 1229.

                                                                (25.) Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), 50–51.

                                                                (26.) Thomas Jefferson, Third Annual Message to Congress, October 17, 1803, Annals of Congress, 8th Congress, 1st Session, 11–15.

                                                                (27.) Benjamin Morgan to Chandler Price, August 11, 1803, Territorial Papers of the United States (hereafter cited as TPUS), vol. 9, 8.

                                                                (28.) Alexander Hamilton, “Purchase of Louisiana, [5 July 1803],” Founders Online, National Archives (original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 26, 1 May 1802 – 1823 October 1804, Additional Documents 1774–1799, Addenda and Errata, ed. Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 129–136.

                                                                (29.) Fisher Ames, cited in Jon Kukla, Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America (Westminster, MD: Knopf, 2004), 292.

                                                                (30.) Fisher Ames to Thomas Dwight, October 31, 1803, Works of Fisher Ames, ed. John Thornton Kirkland (Boston: T. B. Wait, 1809), 1: 329.

                                                                (31.) Abraham Ellery to Alexander Hamilton, October 25, 1803, Founders Online, National Archives, last modified December 28, 2016 (original source: Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 26, 166–167).

                                                                (32.) On the political and ideological challenges accompanying the incorporation of Louisiana into the U.S., see Kastor, Nation’s Crucible, 55–110.

                                                                (33.) An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio, July 13, 1787, Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, 1774–1789, National Archives, National Archives Microfilm Publication M332, roll 9, Record Group 360, quotation from Article 5.

                                                                (34.) Peter J. Kastor, “‘What Are the Advantages of the Acquisition?’: Inventing Expansion in the Early American Republic,” American Quarterly 60, no. 4 (2008): 1003–1035. Kastor argues that historians have cherry picked the pro-expansionist sentiments from pamphlets, travel narratives, and maps published after the purchase, removing them from the larger context of hesitation and concern (1015).

                                                                (35.) An Act Erecting Louisiana into Two Territories, and Providing for the Temporary Government Thereof, March 26, 1804, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America . . ., 2: 284; “Louisiana Territory,” February 27, 1804, Proceedings and Debates of the House of Representatives of the United States, at the First Session of the Eighth Congress . . ., 1054–1068, quotations on 1057–1058, 1061.

                                                                (36.) United States’ Gazette, February 24, 1804, 1. For Claiborne’s original letter, see William C. C. Claiborne, Official Letter Books of W. W. C. Claiborne (hereafter cited as Claiborne Letter Books), ed. Rowland Dunbar, 6 vols. (Jackson, MS: State Department of Archives and History, 1917), 1: 322–329.

                                                                (37.) Claiborne to James Madison, January 10, 1804, Claiborne Letter Books, 1: 329–330.

                                                                (38.) Claiborne to Thomas Jefferson, January 16, 1804, TPUS, 9: 161.

                                                                (39.) Benjamin Morgan to Chandler Price, August 11, 1803, TPUS, 9: 8.

                                                                (40.) Daniel Clark to William C. C. Claiborne, November 17, 1803, TPUS, 9: 114.

                                                                (41.) An Act erecting Louisiana into two territories, and providing for the temporary government thereof, March 26, 1804, The Laws of the United States, Acts of the Eighth Congress of the United States, 283–289.

                                                                (42.) Claiborne to James Madison, May 3, 1804, Claiborne Letter Books, 2: 124–125. After having been in New Orleans for just about on month, Claiborne wrote to Jefferson that, while “I believe the citizens of Louisiana are, generally speaking, honest; and that a decided majority of them are attached to the American Government,” they were, he continued “uninformed, indolent, luxurious—in a word, illy fitted to be useful citizens of a Republic.” Claiborne to Thomas Jefferson, January 16, 1804, TPUS, 9: 161.

                                                                (43.) Light T. Cummins, “Anglo Merchants and Capital Migration in Spanish Colonial New Orleans, 1763–1803,” in New Orleans and Urban Louisiana: Settlement to 1860, ed. Samuel Claude Shepherd (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2005), 246–259; and Faber, Building the Land of Dreams, 31.

                                                                (44.) Michael Wohl, “Not Yet Saint nor Sinner: A Further Note on Daniel Clark,” Louisiana History 24, no. 2 (Spring 1983): 195–205. Clark’s attachments to the United States would not last as he became a strident opponent of Claiborne’s rule over the territory and was accused of involvement in the Burr Conspiracy. Despite their long-standing commercial relationship, Wilkinson accused Clark of being “a renegade, who had four times changed his allegiance” (British, Spanish, French, and then American). James Wilkinson, Memoirs of My Own Times (Philadelphia: Printed by Abraham Small, 1816), 2: 9. For a similar reorientation of economic attachments that preceded political incorporation into the United States in New Mexico and Texas, see Andrés Reséndez, Changing National Identities at the Frontier: Texas and New Mexico, 1800–1850 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005). For Louisiana, see Faber, Building the Land of Dreams.

                                                                (45.) Faber, Building the Land of Dreams, 38–39.

                                                                (46.) Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (New York: Scribner, 1976), chapter 7.

                                                                (47.) Deposition of George W. Morgan, January 28, 1804, TPUS, 9: 180–182; and Claiborne and James Wilkinson to the Secretary of State, February 7, 1804, TPUS, 9: 177–180.

                                                                (48.) Pierre-Clément de Laussat, Memoirs of My Life to My Son During the Years 1803 and After, Which I Spent in Public Service in Louisiana as Commissioner of the French Government for the Retrocession to France of that Colony and for Its Transfer to the United States, eds. Robert D. Bush, Agnes-Josephine Pastwa (Baton Rouge: Published for the Historic New Orleans Collection by the Louisiana State University Press, 1978), 96.

                                                                (49.) Claiborne, for one, believed that the hostility towards Americans came mostly from a small group of Frenchmen, from Bordeaux and St. Domingue, who engaged in “incessant efforts to foment divisions among the Creoles of the Country and the natives of the United States who are here,” rather than francophone creoles themselves. Claiborne to James Madison, January 24, 1804, Claiborne Letter Books, 1: 345; see also Claiborne and Wilkinson to James Madison, February 7, 1804, TPUS, 9: 177–180.

                                                                (50.) Kastor, Nation’s Crucible; Nathalie Dessens, Creole City: A Chronicle of Early American New Orleans (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015); Faber, Building the Land of Dreams, quotation on p. 2. On elite resistance to Americanization, see George Dargo, Jefferson’s Louisiana: Politics and the Clash of Legal Traditions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975); Julien Vernet, Strangers on Their Native Soil: Opposition to United States’ Governance in Louisiana’s Orleans Territory, 1803–1809 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013).

                                                                (51.) Faber, Building the Land of Dreams, 7.

                                                                (52.) Remonstrance of the People of Louisiana against the Political System Adopted by Congress for Them, December 31, 1804, Annals of Congress: Appendix, 1597–1608, American State Papers, eds. Walter Lowrie and Walter S. Franklin (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1834), 8th Congress, Miscellaneous: Vol. 1: 396, 399.

                                                                The “Act Erecting Louisiana into Two Territories,” prohibited the importation of enslaved persons from outside of the United States as well as all those in the domestic slave trade who had been imported into the United States since May 1798. The only exception was for United States’ citizens who emigrated into the Louisiana territory with their own enslaved property. An Act Erecting Louisiana into Two Territories, and Providing for the Temporary Government Thereof, March 26, 1804, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America .|.|. Eighth Congress, Session I, 2: 286, Section 10. For more on Louisianans’ grievances against the U.S. government, see Faber, Building the Land of Dreams, chapter 5; Kastor, Nation’s Crucible, chapter 3; and Vernet, Strangers on Their Native Soil.

                                                                If regulation of the slave trade was the most pressing issue for New Orleanians, inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory were more concerned with the validation of their colonial-era land titles and protection against Indian nations. See The Remonstrance and Petition of the Representatives Elected by the Freemen of their Respective Districts in the District of Louisiana, September 29, 1804, Annals of Congress: Appendix, 1597–1608, American State Papers, 8th Congress, 2nd Session, Miscellaneous: Vol. 1: No. 183, 400–406.

                                                                (53.) An Act for the Government of Orleans Territory, March 2, 1805, TPUS, 9: 405–414; Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec, “Slave Migrations and Slave Control in Spanish and Early American New Orleans,” in Empires of the Imagination, 204–238.

                                                                (54.) An Act prescribing the rules and conduct to be observed with respect to Negroes and other Slaves of this territory, June 7, 1806, published in A General Digest of the Acts of the Legislature of Louisiana: Passed from the Year 1804, to 1827, Inclusive, and in Force at this Last Period, ed. L. Moreau Lislet (New Orleans: Benjamin Levy, 1828), 100–119. For analysis, see Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order, 188, 193–199; Faber, Building the Land of Dreams, 17, 230–235; and Kastor, Nation’s Crucible, 80–84.

                                                                (55.) Treaty between the United States of America and the French Republic, April 30, 1803, Avalon Law Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School.

                                                                (56.) Claiborne to James Madison, December 27, 1803, Claiborne Letter Books, 1: 314; James Wilkinson to Secretary of War, 1803, in TPUS, 9: 139; Address from the Free People of Color to Claiborne, January 1804, TPUS, 9: 174–175; Henry Dearborn to Claiborne, February 20, 1804, in Claiborne Letter Books, 2: 54–56. For more on this incident, see Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order, 184–187; Erin M. Greenwald, “To Strike a Balance: New Orleans’ Free Colored Community and the Diplomacy of William Charles Cole Claiborne,” in Nexus of Empire: Negotiating Loyalty and Identity in the Revolutionary Borderlands, 1760s–1820s, eds. Gene A. Smith and Sylvia L. Hilton (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), 113–139.

                                                                (57.) Claiborne to James Madison, July 3, 1804, in Claiborne Letter Books, 234–235.

                                                                (58.) State v. Harrison, a Slave, 11 La. Ann. 722 (1856).

                                                                (59.) Adam Rothman, Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005); Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); and Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014).

                                                                (60.) Adam Rothman, Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 9. Faber argues that the Jeffersonians did not intend the Louisiana Purchase territory to become an empire of slavery (Building the Land of Dreams, 14–16).

                                                                (61.) Thomas Jefferson, Third Annual Message to Congress, October 17, 1803, Annals of Congress, 8th Congress, 1st Session, 11–15; and Rothman, Slave Country, 26–27.

                                                                (62.) Dubois, “Haitian Revolution and the Sale of Louisiana,” 94.

                                                                (63.) Henry Adams, History of the United States of America (New York: C. Scribner’s sons, 1891), vols. 3–4; Portes and Rossignol, “Celebration and History,” 333; and DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana, 130, 135. Note: this overview focuses on the American historiography; for the French historiography, see Portes and Rossignol; and Peter J. Kastor and François Weil, “Introduction,” in Empires of the Imagination, 13–14, 18–20.

                                                                (64.) Kukla, Wilderness So Immense.

                                                                (65.) Roger G. Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

                                                                (66.) On the battle between civil law and common law, see Dargo, Jefferson’s Louisiana; see also Hirsch and Logsdon, eds., Creole New Orleans. For the “mixed jurisdiction” argument, see Mark F. Fernandez, “Louisiana Legal History: Past, Present, and Future,” in A Law Unto Itself?: Essays in the New Louisiana Legal History, eds. Warren M. Billings and Fernandez (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001), 13–14.

                                                                (67.) Caryn Cossé Bell, Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718–1868 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997), especially chapter 3, “The New American Racial Order.” See also Laura Foner, “The Free People of Color in Louisiana and St. Domingue: A Comparative Portrait of Two Three-Caste Slave Societies,” Journal of Social History 3, no. 4 (Summer 1970 1989): 423.

                                                                (68.) Thomas N. Ingersoll, Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans: The First Slave Society in the Deep South, 1718–1819 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999), especially chps. 9–11; and Faber, Building the Land of Dreams.

                                                                (69.) Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order, 178–214.

                                                                (70.) Kenneth R. Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in New Orleans (New York: New York University Press, 2014).

                                                                (71.) Rebecca J. Scott has argued that all those who arrived in New Orleans under the label “slave” should be considered to have been emancipated by the French abolition of slavery in its Caribbean colonies in 1794. Rebecca J. Scott, “Paper Thin: Freedom and Re-enslavement in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution,” Law and History Review 29, no. 4 (2011): 1061–1087.

                                                                (72.) Kenneth Aslakson, “The ‘Quadroon-Plaçage’ Myth of Antebellum New Orleans: Anglo-American (Mis)interpretations of a French-Caribbean Phenomenon,” Journal of Social History 45, no. 3 (2012): 709–734; and Emily Clark, The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013). On the influence of Saint Domingue refugees on Louisiana society and culture, see also Nathalie Dessens, From Saint-Domingue to New Orleans: Migration and Influences (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007); Dessens, Creole City; Gabriel Debien and René Le Gardeur, “Les Colons de Saint-Domingue réfugiés à la Louisiane, 1792–1804,” Revue de la Louisiane 9 (1980): 101–140; Robert L. Paquette, “Revolutionary Saint Domingue in the Making of Territorial Louisiana,” in A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean, eds. David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 204–225.

                                                                (73.) Kastor, Nation’s Crucible. In Building the Land of Dreams, Faber has taken up the mantle of incorporation over Americanization.

                                                                (74.) Kastor and Weil, Empires of the Imagination.