Thomas Jefferson Papers

I. Chronology of Territorial Claims in Louisiana, on or before 31 August 1803

I. Chronology of Territorial Claims in Louisiana

[on or before 31 Aug. 1803]

A Chronological series of facts relative to Louisiana.

1673. Spain declares war against France. 4. Russel’s Mod. Eur. 68.
Joliet, an inhabitant of Quebec, & the Jesuit Marquette descended from Canada down the Missisipi to the Arkansas in 33.° & returned to Canada. 8. Rayn. 158. Hennepin N.D: 293.
1675. La Salle goes to France to sollicit authority to explore the Misipi. Joutel xvii
1678. The peace of Nimeguen. 4. Russ. 92.
La Salle returned from France to Canada with Tonti to undertake to explore the Misipi. Joutel xviii.
1679. he builds a fort at the mouth of the Miami of the lake. Hennepin Nouv. Decouvertes. 171.
1680. Jan. he builds a fort on the river Illinois. Hennep. N.D. 223. called it Crevecoeur.1
Feb. 29. Hennepin with 2. men leave the Illinois to descend the Misipi in a bark canoe. Hennep. N.D. 228. 241. visits the Arcansas 258. the Taensas 263. reaches the sea. 272. returns to the Illinois 294. 349. Nouv. voyage. 96. 1. DuPratz. 4.
1681. La Salle visits fort Crevecoeur & leaves a garrison there of 15. or 16. men. Tonti. 147.2
1682. La Salle & Tonti went down the Misipi & named the country Louisiana. he went to the mouths of the Misipi, observed their latitude, & returned to Canada. Joutel xvii.xx. Tonti 153. 1. DuPratz. 5. 2. Dumont 258. says in 1679.
1683. They build a fort, called Prudhomme, in the Chickasaw country 60. leagues below Ohio. Tonti 155. reach the ocean. Apr. 7. 1683. ib. 191. they have 60. persons in their company. set out on their return Apr. 11. 1683. ib. 196.
soon after this some Canadians, enticed by the flattering accounts of the country, went & settled near the mouth of the Misipi, & on the coast. 2. Dum. 260.3
1684. Spain declares war against France, but concludes at Ratisbon a truce of 20. years. 4. Rus. 141.
Jul. 24. La Salle sails from Rochelle with 4. vessels to seek the mouth of the Misipi by sea. Joutel 2. Tonti 140. he had with him 100. souldiers & officers, in all 280. persons. Hennepin Nouveau Voyage. 12.
 Feb. 18.
La Sale landed in the bay of St. Bernard, or St. Louis. Joutel 32. 1. Dupratz 6. Tonti 245. 2. Dum. 259
builds a fort there. Tonti 245. 276. left 100. men there Hen. N.V. 23. 130. persons. Joutel 45.
 Apr. 22. he sets out with 20. men to seek a new place. Tonti. 249.4
 June. he makes a 2d. settlement further up the river. 70. persons go to it. Joutel 49.
they abandon the first fort & go to the 2d. Joutel. 51. called it & the neighboring bay St. Louis. Joutel. 54.
Tonti descends the Misipi with 40. men to meet La Sale. Tonti 220. reconnoitres the coast 20. leagues East and West of the mouth. on the jour de Paques (Easter) they set out on their return. 222.
Tonti builds a house on the river Arkansa & leaves 10. Frenchmen there. Tonti 225. Joutel says 6. men, 4 of whom afterwards returned to Canada. Joutel 151.5 this becomes permanent. 226. 1. Dupr. 66 and is afterwards included in Law’s grant, who settled it with Germans in 1719. 2. Dum. 68.
 Apr. 22.
La Sale sets out for Illinois by land. Hennepin N.V. 39. but returns to Fort Louis. ib. 63.
 Jan. 7.
he sets out again with 20. men. Henn. N.V. 67. is murdered. Joutel 99. Henn. N.V. 77.
La Sale’s 2d fort at St. Louis is afterwards abandoned. Tonti 329. Coxe. 39.
after the death of La Sale, Cavelier his brother, with 7. men, set out for Canada. Joutel 132.
 July. they find the house on the Arkansa built by Tonti with only 2. men remaining in it. Jout. 151. they leave one of their company there. 157. they strike the Misipi. Joutel 158.
 Dec. 3 Tonti sets out from the Illinois, & descends the Misipi a 2d. time. Tonti. 317. finds La Sale’s 2d. settlement broke up. 329. finds at the Coroas 2. of the 7. French men who had separated from Cavelier after the death of La Sale. 331. returns to Illinois. 331.
1689. War commenced by Spain against France. 4. Russel. 228.
1696. Spain established a post at Pensacola. 9. Reynal 128.
1697. Sep. 20. Treaty of Ryswick 4. Russell 248.
1698. D’Hiberville discovers the mouth of the Misipi by sea. 2. Dum. 260.
he is made Governor. 2. Dum. 260.
he establishes a colony at Mobile, & Isle Dauphine. 260.
1701. The war of the Spanish succession begins, France & Spain being allies. 4. Rus. 317.
 Sep. 14.
Louis XIV. grants the exclusive commerce of Louisiana to Crozat. possession & extent described Joutel 196. 2. Dum. 260.
 Mar. 31.
Treaty of Utrecht establishing the 49th. degree of lat. as the division between Louisiana & the British Northern possessions.
1714. Mar. 6. Treaty of Rastadt.
1715. The French establish Natchitoches on Red river & build a fort 35. leagues above it’s mouth. 2. Dum. 65.
1715. The Spaniards make settlements at the Assinais & Adais on one side & at Pensacola on the other. 1. Dupratz 9. 13. 14. (this was 7. or 10. leagues from Natchitoches) to restrict the French limits. 1. Dupratz. 14. 278.
1716. Crozat cedes his charter to the West India company. 2. Dumont. 6. 260.
1717. The company sent inhabitants to Isle Dauphine, where were some settlers before. 2. Dum. 7.
Hubert and Page settle at the Natchez. 2. Dum. 60.
Fort Rosalie is built. 2. Dum. 60.7
1718. Two other vessels are sent there. 2. Dum. 8.
France and England declare war against Spain. quadruple alliance. 5. Rus. 6.
1719. The French take Pensacola. 1. Du Pratz 189. 2. Dumont 9. the Spaniards retake it. 191. 12. the French take it again ib. 195. 18.
France and Spain make peace. 5. Rus. 7.
France sends 800. settlers to Louisiana. Du Pratz. xlviii.
Old Biloxi is settled. 2. Dumont 34.
Isle Dauphine is evacuated & every body removed to Old Biloxi, except a Serjeant & guard of 10. men. 2. Dum. 36. 37.
New Biloxi is settled. 2. Dum. 42. 43.
A cargo of Negroes arrives at Old Biloxi. ib.
The grantees now settle, every one on his own grant, to wit, at Old Biloxi, Bayagordas, Point Coupée, Natchez, Yazous, Arkansas, Black river. 2. Dum. 44.
New Orleans is laid off, 30 leagues above the mouth of Misipi, where some settlers from Canada had already settled, & the seat of government is fixed there. 2. Dum. 47.
1720. A fort on the Missouri is built & garrisoned. 2. Dum. 74. called Fort Orleans. Jeffry. 139.
De la Harpe & Dumont, with 22. men, go 300. leagues up the Arkansa. a fine country. salt springs, marble, plaister, slate & gold. 2. Dum. 70.
1722. The Balise is established, & a fort built on piles. 2. Dum. 57.
The Spaniards attempt a settlement among the Missouris, but are all massacred to the number of 1500. 2. Dum. 282.
1733. France, Spain & Sardinia commence war against the Emperor. 5. Rus. 27.
1735. Peace is made. 5. Rus. 29.
1736. The French build a fort at Tombichee. 1. Du Pratz. 85.8
1743. The Family compact made.
1748. The Treaty of Aix la Chapelle. 5. Rus. 187.
1762. Spain enters as an ally with France into the war against England.
Nov. 3. France cedes Louisiana West of Iberville to Spain by a secret treaty, and East of Iberville to England. Preliminary treaty. The King of France’s order to L’Abbadie.9
1763. The Treaty of Paris is made.
1783. Great Britain cedes the two Floridas to Spain.10


In 1680. the nearest settlements of Spain were on the river Panuco, 100. leagues West of the Misipi. Hennep. N.D. 274. Coxe 115. Coxe’s Carolana. 4.

In 1715. they make the settlements at Assinais & Adais, & Pensacola. 1. Du Pratz. 9. 13. 14. 278.

In 1722. they attempt one on the Missouri which is prevented by the Indians. 2. Du Pratz 157. 2. Dumont 282. Jeffry’s hist. of the French dominions in America. 139.

Du Pratz sais ‘the coast is bounded to the West by St. Bernard’s bay, where M. de la Salle landed.’ and again ‘on the East the coast is bounded by Rio Perdido &c. a little to the East of Mobile &c. 1. Du Pratz. 216. and ‘the Red river bounds the country to the North.’ 1. Du Pratz. 272.

2. Du Pratz 301. says ‘Canada lies to the North of Ohio, & inclines more to the East than the source of Ohio.’ [consequently the Ohio was not in Canada,11 and must therefore have been in Louisiana, as these two provinces were co-terminous.] and again ‘the lands of the Illinois are reputed to be a part of Louisiana.’ ib. his book was published in 1758. and the translation in 1763.

The Translator of Du Pratz, in his preface, says ‘the mountains of New Mexico run in a chain of continued ridges from North to South, and are reckoned to divide that country from Louisiana, about 900. miles West from the Misipi. pa. xi.

1712. The great document establishing with precision the boundaries of Louisiana, is Louis XIV’s grant of this date to Crozat. to be found in the translation of Joutel. 196.12
1763. Treaty of Paris Art. VI. France cedes to England the river & port of Mobile & every thing on the left side of the Misipi, which she possesses or ought to possess except the island of N. Orleans:13 and Art. XIX. Spain cedes to England all she possesses East or S.E. of the Misipi. thus all Louisiana E. of the Misipi is acknoleged to England, and all English claims West of the Misipi acknoleged to Spain.
England divides the country South of Georgia, & East of the Iberville14 into two provinces, East & West Florida, by the Apalachicola.
1783. England, by Art. V. of the treaty cedes to Spain la Floride Orientale ainsi que la Floride Occidentale.
Spain re-establishes the government of Louisiana as before, & the government of Floridas, that part of what the English had called West Florida being under the Governor of N. Orleans, & the rest under the Governor of Florida. see the Baltimore American Patriot. Vol. 1. No. 97. this is confirmed by M. D’Azara, Spanish Ambassador at Paris who told mr Livingston that Mobile made a part of Louisiana. see Liv’s letter to Monroe. Paris. May 23. 1803.
Spain retrocedes to France by the treaty of St. Ildefonso.
Apr. 30.
France cedes to the US. Louisiana with the same extent that it now has, & that it had when France possessed it, and such as it ought to be after treaties passed subsequently between Spain & other powers.15
Objections des Commissaires Anglois sur l’incertitude des limites de l’Acadie &c. ‘les limites propres et anciennes de l’Acadie s’etendent depuis l’extremité de la baye Françoise jusq’au cap Canseau. l’objection d’incertitude sur ces limites ne peut donc tomber que sur celles de l’interieur des terres. dans de pareilscas, la regle la plus usitée et la plus convenable est d’etendre les limites dans l’interieur des terres jusque à la source des rivieres qui se dechargent à la cote, c’est à dire que chaque nation a de son coté les eaux pendantes. c’est ainsi qu’on en a usé à la paix des Pyrenèes pour fixer les limites entre la France et l’Espagne’ &c. 1. Memoires de l’Amerique. 116.

MS (PPAmP); entirely in TJ’s hand, including brackets. PoC (ViU). Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 137:23690-1); entirely in TJ’s hand; lacks final paragraph; includes on last page, “Extract from the Grant to Crozat” (see Document II below). Tr (ViU); in Thomas Mann Randolph’s hand, “copied from a sheet in the hand of Th: Jefferson. Aug. 31. 1803.” Tr (DLC: Monroe Papers); in a clerk’s hand; endorsed by Monroe; also endorsed: “cession of the Commerce of Louisiana by the King of France to Mr Crozat in the year 1712—limits of the country under that name,” and “Interesting.” Tr (DNA: RG 59, MLR); in a clerk’s hand. PrC (NHi: Robert R. Livingston Papers).

TJ compiled his chronology largely from accounts of North America written by French explorers and settlers. Among the works upon which he principally relied were memoirs by three of La Salle’s lieutenants: Louis hennepin, Henri joutel, and Henri de tonti (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 4066, 4067, 4073, and 4072). Two settlers of Louisiana, Antoine-Simon Le Page du pratz and Jean-François Benjamin dumont de Montigny, wrote histories of the colony that also shaped TJ’s timeline (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 4068, 4069). The choice of these sources elevated La Salle’s explorations over those of earlier Spanish parties, and focused attention on the first decades of the eighteenth century, the period when French efforts to settle the lower Mississippi Valley began in earnest (Gordon Sayre, Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature [Chapel Hill, 1997], 326-7, 329; Gordon Sayre, “Plotting the Natchez Massacre: Le Page du Pratz, Dumont de Montigny, Chateaubriand,” Early American Literature, 37 [2002], 385-6.

An article printed in Baltimore’s american patriot, appearing originally in the 26 July issue of the Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, claimed as “a pretty well known fact” that Spain had preserved the jurisdictional division of East and West Florida, with the former dependent on the governor general of Cuba, and the latter governed by the colonial administration at New Orleans. It acknowledged also that “we have no regular distinct account of any fixed or ascertained boundaries by Spain, as all the acts of that government are involved in great mystery” (Baltimore American Patriot, 11 Aug. 1803).

For Robert Livingston’s letter to monroe, see Livingston to TJ, 26 May.

objections des commissaires anglois: that is, “The British commissioners’ objections concerning the uncertainty of Acadia’s borders, etc. The old, established borders of Acadia extend from Bay François (the Bay of Fundy) to Cape Canso. Any claim of uncertainty can refer only to inland boundaries. In such cases, the most common and appropriate rule is to extend the internal borders to the source of the rivers that empty at the coast. In other words, each nation has the flowing waters on its side. This is what was done in the Treaty of the Pyrenees to set the border between France and Spain, etc.” The passage replaced an extract of the 1714 French royal grant of Louisiana to Antoine Crozat, which TJ had appended to the draft version. It was drawn from the first volume of Mémoires des commissaires du roi et de ceux de sa Majesté Britannique, sur les possessions & les droits respectifs des deux Couronnes en Amérique, a compendium of documents produced during negotiations over Canada and the West Indies, published in Paris in 1755 (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1452). TJ generally referred to the four-volume set as memoires de l’amerique (Vol. 7:288; Vol. 23:298; TJ to Abiel Holmes, 7 Dec. 1804). TJ is quoting from the 12th article of the French response to the British commissioners, dated 4 Oct. 1751. For his own interpretation of the passage, see Document II below.

1Preceding two entries interlined in Dft.

2Entry interlined in Dft.

3Entry interlined in Dft.

4Entry interlined in Dft.

5Preceding sentence and citation interlined in Dft.

6Remainder of entry interlined in Dft.

7Preceding two entries interlined in Dft.

8Entry interlined in Dft above entry: “1741. Spain joins France in a war. 5. Russ. 85.”

9Entry interlined in Dft, where it reads: “Secret treaty by which France cedes Louisiana to Spain. the king’s order to L’Abbadie. Preliminary articles <with> between France Spain & England.”

10Dft: “1783. Treaty of peace at Paris.”

11Bracketed passage ends here in Dft.

12Entry interlined in Dft.

13Here in Dft, TJ canceled “and to Spain the island of N. Orleans, and all Louisiana on the right bank of the Misipi.”

14Preceding passage beginning with “South” interlined in Dft.

15Dft ends here.

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