Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Robert R. Livingston, 26 May 1803

From Robert R. Livingston

Paris 26 May 1803

Dear Sir

You will receive by this conveyance the ratification of our treaties. I shall feel some anxiety considering how much we have taken upon ourselves beyond our powers to learn that this transaction meets your approbation. Here every body is loud in its commendation & we are supposed to have made a more important acquisition for our country than the purchase of Germany would be for france. Since the ratification I have openly declared to the ministers that we include west florida & I trust that you will take possession to Mobile. As to east florida it is at least doubtful with me how far it would be wise to acquire it as yet if (as I believe) Spain should be disposed to part with it. It is an extensive & desolate waste with so many harbours & inlets that I fear it would cost us some trouble to prevent its being the abode of adventurers & freebooters. It may also be important to us to have some spanish ports in the gulph to keep up the communication between us & the Spanish Colonies & if, which we may easily do, we obtain the navigation of the river Apalachecoles perhaps it would be best to leave to Spain the expence of guarding it and paying the Indians. War as you have learned has broken out here with extream animosity on both sides. France has been very anxious to avoid it, but England was so determined on it that she has seized the weakest pretences for violating the treaty of Amiens. The general sentiment of the corps diplomatique is against her—Nothing having happened since the signature of the treaty which was not well known at the time & the offer of Russia not only to guarantee but to garrison Malta which the british ministry have concealed in their communications to parliment has put them very much in the wrong. I send you a copy of the french manifesto this with the papers sent the secretary of State you will find very interesting. The moderation of the first consul has united this nation, & I have no doubt that some desperate measure will be attempted against England. The granting letters of Marque & the seizure of french & batavian vessels in British ports prior to a declaration of war or even to a discussion on its subject has excited here the highest degree of resentment all the British in France are put in arrest to the number of many hundreds & are sent on their parols as prisoners of war to fontainbleu they are to be retained till they are exchanged against persons taken in Britain contrary to the law of nations among this number is Mr. Talbot Lord Witworths secretary who was left here after his departure & went yesterday only from Paris but was arrested on his way. You may judge by this that no measures will be kept in future by either of these incensed rivals. The merchants both of france & Batavia will be ruined but it is impossible to say that the blow may not be returned & carried to the vitals of Britain. The paper credit has for some time past been shaken an invasion would at least tear up this by the roots. I mentioned to you in my letter of march last a wish to leave this in the autumn but I find such an aversion among the American creditors here to part with me till their affairs are finally arranged, & indeed the treaty & the present state of Europe calls for so much attention & so many matters may arise that can not be so well executed by any person who has not been here long enough to make himself acquainted with both persons & things, that if you have not made any other arrangment I will continue my residence to the next spring by which time I presume that all great points will be settled. If you should have any temporary call to England that would afford me an opportunity or a pretence to vissit it for a few days I would execute it with pleasure. Tho I think yr affairs there will require that Mr. Kings place be immediately filled by a resident minister. Mr. Munroe talks of going directly to Spain, but I presume when he finally determines he will inform you of his intention. This is a favourable moment to press Batavia on the subject of the West india duty she exacts from us & it is very important that it be immediately settled. If you will send me full powers I think I can arrange it with the batavian Ambassadour to have full powers sent to him so that the bussiness may be finished here. Genl Bernadotte is still at Rockfort where he has been near two months the frigate designed for him having been sent to the west indies & no other yet prepared. I have not been able to get Pougens to fulfill your commission tho I have arranged the prices with him, nothing is more difficult than to do any sort of bussiness with merchants or tradesmen here, I shall again send to him to know when he means to execute your orders. I have a set of the proceedings of the national institute for you which I shall send by the first safe opportunity to Norfolk.

I pray you to believe that I am dear Sir with the most respectful attatchment Your Most Obt hum: Servt

Robt R Livingston

Mr Talbot is released—inclosed is a letter written at Mr Munroes request containing a sketch of my reasons for supposing Mobile included in our purchase.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr president of the U.S:”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Aug. and so recorded in SJL, as a letter of 24 May. Enclosure: Livingston to Monroe, 23 May, concerning “the extent of the Louisiana cession to the East”; “I trust I Shall leave no doubt upon your mind,” he writes, “that it extends to the River Perdigo & of course includes the whole of west Florida”; the first French settlements at Mobile and Biloxi were included within what was then termed Louisiana; only after the left bank of the Mississippi was ceded to Great Britain in 1763 did the name West Florida come into use for that area to distinguish it from the Spanish settlements to the east; maps showed either the Perdido River or Mobile to be the boundary between Louisiana and West Florida; Spain has ceded Louisana to France with the same bounds that the province had while previously under French control, as confirmed by letters from the Spanish government to Charles Pinckney, and during the negotiations with Livingston and Monroe, Barbé de Marbois and Talleyrand did not contradict Livingston’s assertions that Louisiana includes Mobile; José Nicolás de Azara has agreed with that interpretation also; Livingston could perhaps strengthen the argument by consulting more documents and maps, “but I do not believe the question will be contested, & the only object of this is to induce you to agree with me that it will be proper for our Government to demand, & if disputed to take the possession at least as far as Mobile”; they need not “probe this business to the bottom unless any future circumstance Should render it proper” (Tr in same; in a clerk’s hand with an insertion by Livingston).

The French ratification of the Louisiana treaty and conventions was dated 22 May and signed by Bonaparte, Talleyrand, Barbé de Marbois, and Hugues Bernard Maret, who, as the secretary of state, promulgated laws and decrees (Michaël Garnier, Bonaparte et la Louisiane [Paris, 1992], 144; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 1138; Vol. 36:188).

include west florida: before he received Livingston’s letter of the 23d, Monroe began his own examination of the limits of Louisiana on the east side of the Mississippi River. Disagreeing with Livingston’s view that it was not necessary “to probe this business to the bottom,” Monroe considered it his “first duty” to establish the bounds of Louisiana “by reference to all the authentic documents to wh. access could be had” and to be sure of any information or opinions he and Livingston transmitted to the U.S. government about West Florida (Monroe to Livingston, undated, in DLC: Monroe Papers; endorsed by Monroe “not sent”). Monroe prepared an undated memorandum on the subject, which he sent to Madison on 7 June, and TJ received a copy through the State Department. Monroe examined the language of the treaty of San Ildefonso between Spain and France in October 1800 and the recent cession of the province from France to the United States. He then cited international agreements that pertained to West Florida and Louisiana: a secret convention between France and Spain of 3 Nov. 1762; the treaty of 10 Feb. 1763 signed by France, Britain, Spain, and Portugal, along with preliminary articles dated 3 Nov. 1762; a 3 Sep. 1783 treaty between Spain and Great Britain; and the 1795 treaty between the United States and Spain. He found that Louisiana and West Florida had been administered as a single entity by Spain and France. He paid particular attention to the agreements of 1762 and 1763 to satisfy himself that West Florida had not been separated from Louisiana while in the possession of France. “Indeed I think that the doctrine is too clear to admit of any doubt,” he informed Madison (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 132:22814–19, in a clerk’s hand, endorsed by TJ: “on the cession of W. Florida,” endorsed by Jacob Wagner: “enclosed in Mr Monroe’s letter of June 7th 1803”; printed, from a copy in DNA: RG 59, DD, in Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:72–7; FC in DLC: Monroe Papers).

Bonaparte had attempted to involve russia in the issue of the continuing British occupation of malta. The British government, however, had been working to improve relations with the Russians, and Emperor Alexander did not immediately agree to mediate the Malta disagreement. He finally did so in April, but news of that decision did not reach London until mid-May, too late to avert the breach between Britain and France (Grainger, Amiens Truce description begins John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803, Rochester, N.Y., 2004 description ends , 189, 193, 204, 205).

french manifesto: Livingston probably sent a copy of Bonaparte’s 20 May message announcing the probable onset of war. The message blamed the breach on the British government and said little about the points of contention. The first consul also released papers from the recent negotiations between the two countries, including the final statement of terms from the French, which Talleyrand completed just after Charles Whitworth had left Paris and was en route back to England. That document, although it was more detailed than Bonaparte’s message, said nothing about most of the issues that were of concern to the British. American newspapers used the term “manifesto” for both Talleyrand’s statement of terms and the first consul’s war message (same, 190–1, 194; New York Morning Chronicle, 13 July; Georgetown Washington Federalist, 15 July; Baltimore Republican, 18 July; Amherst, N.H., Farmer’s Cabinet, 4 Aug.).

Orders by the British Admiralty and Privy Council on 15 and 16 May called for the detention of merchant vessels and warships of France and the Batavian Republic, at sea or in port, and authorized letters of marque (Grainger, Amiens Truce description begins John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803, Rochester, N.Y., 2004 description ends , 192; William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present, 7 vols. [London, 1897–1903; repr. 1996–97], 5:47).

A few days before Livingston wrote the letter printed above, Bonaparte issued an order for the arrest as prisoners of war of all British naval and army officers in France, and all men enrolled in Britain’s militia. Officials took into custody not just male Britons of military age, but also women and children, and briefly detained James talbot, the first secretary of the British legation, at Calais (Grainger, Amiens Truce description begins John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803, Rochester, N.Y., 2004 description ends , 152, 200–1).

letter of march last: Livingston to TJ, 12 Mch.

For the Dutch west india Company duties charged on American goods shipped to the Batavian Republic, see Vol. 38:586, 589n.

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