Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from William Constable, 23 March 1801

From William Constable1

Paris 23 March 1801

Dear Sir

Our Government is doubtless informed of the Treaty between this Republic and Spain for the cession of Louisiana2 of which Collaud is to be Governor.3 I am told it is concluded.4

Copy, in H’s handwriting, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Constable was a New York City merchant and speculator in, among other things, lands in western New York State. In 1801 he was in Paris to sell land.

2The Treaty of San Ildefonso, which France and Spain signed in secret on October 1, 1800, provided that Spain cede the territory of Louisiana to France. This cession was confirmed by the Treaty of Aranjuez signed by France and Spain on March 21, 1801. Charles IV, King of Spain, signed the final agreement of retrocession on October 15, 1802, but Louisiana was not formally transferred to France until November 30, 1803.

News of the cession did not reach the United States until May, 1801. See Rufus King to James Madison, March 29, 1801 (LS, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 9, January 3–December 31, 1801, National Archives); Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, May 26, 1801 (ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). The administration did not receive definite evidence confirming the cession until King sent a copy of the Treaty of Aranjuez to Madison on November 20, 1801 (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , XII, 1017–18). For additional correspondence concerning the cession, see Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , XII, 1012–18.

3General Victor Collot, former governor of the French colony of Guadeloupe. See King to Madison, March 28, 1801 (LS, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Vol. 9, January 3–December 31, 1801, National Archives). On December 30, 1801, Robert R. Livingston, United States Minister Plenipotentiary to France, wrote to King: “General Collot … was originally intended for Governor of the province [Louisiana], but he is, at present, out of favor” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and all the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , XII, 1019).

Pierre Clément de Laussat was appointed colonial prefect of Louisiana, and he arrived at New Orleans on March 26, 1803. He served as prefect from November 30, 1803, when Spain formally ceded Louisiana to France, until December 20, 1803, when the United States took possession of the territory.

4At the bottom of the copy of this letter H wrote: “original enclosed to J Madison Esq Secy of State. May 20. 1801.”

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