From Robert R. Livingston
Paris 2 May 1803
Having just heard of a vessel going from Havre I give you this hasty letter merely to inform you that it is now understood that war is inevitable & that within a few days. Yesterday I presented Mr. Monroe to the first consul at his levee where he publicly declared that the terms demanded by Britain were totally inadmissable. Lord Wetworth did not attend the Levee & this day has asked his pasports. Mr. Monroe has been extreamly sick ever since the third day of his arrival, but within the last three days is so much recruted that he is able to go out. Our affairs you may consider as compleatly finished they are arranged & we shall probably sign tomorrow New Orleans as it now is and as it was when France possessed it and Louisiana are ours and subject to subsequent treaties upon my construction which I think we shall be able to support by the old french carts the river perdigo is our Eastern boundary we have mentioned that this is the construction we put on it so that there will be no deception should we claim it in treating with Spain—You will have a large sum to pay Eleven millions two hundred & fifty thousand dollars besides what is due to our own citizens which, principal & interest, under the restrictions to which we have confined it can not exceed four millions but except for what you pay them you will only create a 6 pr Ct Stock redeemable after fifteen years by instalments. Our creditors will be fully rectified & I trust the acquisition we have made will be satisfactory to our country tho in obtaining it we have exceeded our powers. this is the point to which my unwearied labours have tended ever since I have been here because I forsaw that anything short of this would be insufficient to save us at some future day from rivalry & that the fine country above the Akransa in the hands of England or france with the favorable terms they might hold out to settlers could not fail to depopulate our western territory—It is now in your power to open or shut the door & at all events Bet settlers will be citizens & not enemies. At my arrival I found strong prejudices against both our nation, & government, & the most exagerated opinion of the importance of Louisiana. I have been happy enough to change the sentiment with respect to both or rather as it regards the first we owe it to your wise & prudent measures & to the pictures your messages have drawn of the prosperity of our country. At present be assured that we stand here not only with this government, but with those of other nations as a very high and respectable friend, the spirited conduct of all parties on the subject of New Orleans has also had a good effect. Mr King writes me that he will go the middle of the month, having stayed at my request to see the turn things might take—We shall loose in him a very able minister & one particularly useful as he is a favorite of the King & much in the confidence of the present ministers. the difference of our political sentiments has not prevented a cordial cooperation in our measures where necessary.
I flatter myself that in the course of two days Mr Monroe & myself (who have happily agreed in every point) will be able to send the treaties & our joint letter to the secretary of State—as this may reach you earlier you may consider this information as sufficiently authentic to justify your calling together the senate. I am
Dear Sir with the most respectful consideration Your Most Obt hum: Servt
R R Livingston
RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr president of the United States”; at head of text: “private”; portions in same code as Livingston used on 12 Mch., with interlinear decipherment by TJ (in italics); endorsed by TJ as received 13 July and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in John Mitchell to TJ, 9 May.
war is inevitable: during April in a succession of meetings between Charles Whitworth, Talleyrand, and in some cases Joseph Bonaparte, the French and British governments failed to come to agreement over issues that included Britain’s continuing occupation of Malta, French troops in Holland, the annexation of Piedmont by France, and French interference in the governance of Switzerland. On instructions from Lord Hawkesbury, Whitworth presented an ultimatum on 27 Apr. and declared that he would leave Paris on 2 May. A counterproposal from Talleyrand delayed Whitworth’s departure, but there was no progress in negotiation and the British ambassador left Paris on the 12th. Britain commenced a naval war against France by an order in council of 16 May and made a formal declaration of war two days later. On the 20th, the first consul announced the war in a message to the Sénat (Grainger, Amiens Truce description begins John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803, Rochester, N.Y., 2004 description ends , 178–94; Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Consulat [Paris, 1986], 752–64; Thierry Lentz, Le Grand Consulat, 1799–1804 [Paris, 1999], 468–9).
After Livingston presented monroe to Bonaparte at the reception for the diplomatic corps at the Louvre palace on 1 May, Monroe and the first consul had a brief conversation in French in which Bonaparte said he was glad to see Monroe. They spoke again after dinner, when Bonaparte asked Monroe about TJ’s age and family, the population and public buildings of Washington, and other subjects. Soon after his arrival in Paris, Monroe had met with Joseph Bonaparte, who said that he would continue to “promote our views with his brother” (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., 4:613; Monroe, “Journal or note of proceedings relative to mission to France & negotiation,” 27 Apr.-[May] 1803, in DLC: Monroe Papers).
At the levee on 1 May, the first consul in comments to Russian and Prussian diplomats expressed his dissatisfaction with the terms presented by the British and declared that Britain underestimated France (Grainger, Amiens Truce description begins John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801–1803, Rochester, N.Y., 2004 description ends , 188–9).
extreamly sick: early in the negotiations over Louisiana, Monroe was suffering from a back injury that Fulwar Skipwith described as “as violent an attack of the Rumatism as I ever witnessed.” Monroe later informed Madison that the malady, which was “very severe for 48. hours,” did not impede the negotiations (Ammon, Monroe description begins Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, New York, 1971 description ends , 212; 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., 4:565n; 5:295).
new orleans … and louisiana are ours: in the discussions continuing from mid-April, François Barbé de Marbois would not budge from the figure of 60 million francs plus assumption by the U.S. of claims against Frence by American citizens. Nor would the French consider selling only part of Louisiana for a reduced price. Barbé de Marbois pressed for full payment within a year, but Monroe and Livingston won agreement for the United States to give France shares of six percent stock for $11,250,000 (the equivalent of 60 million francs). Semiannual interest payments were to begin soon after the United States took possession of Louisiana, but no payment of principal would be due for 15 years. The United States would also pay up to 20 million francs (about $3,750,000) for the claims. The purchase agreement consisted of three instruments: a treaty for the cession of Louisiana to the United States, a convention for the payment to France, and another convention for the resolution of the debts. The pacts were officially dated 30 Apr., the day on which the parties agreed to the terms, although the papers were not signed until several days later (same, 4:525–6, 538–9, 601–4, 610; Miller, Treaties, 2:498–505, 512–23; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana [New York, 1976], 171–2).
old french carts: that is, cartes (maps). The treaty for the conveyance of Louisiana to the United States did not specify the boundaries of the colony but quoted the treaty of San Ildefonso, which said that Louisiana as Spain ceded it to France had the same limits as when France originally possessed it. Livingston argued that the colony’s eastern boundary was at the Perdido (perdigo) River, which would put much of West Florida within the bounds of Louisiana (same, 169–71, 213–14; J. C. A. Stagg, Borderlines in Borderlands: James Madison and the Spanish-American Frontier, 1776–1821 [New Haven, 2009], 39–41; 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., 4:329, 600; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:499).
Rufus king had closed his household in London and shipped his effects by 8 Apr., but delayed his departure as relations between Britain and France deteriorated. He left London on 18 May and sailed for the U.S. on the 21st (King, Life description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King: Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents and His Speeches, New York, 1894–1900, 6 vols. description ends , 4:243; 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., 5:113).
send the treaties: Livingston and Monroe dispatched the treaty and conventions with a letter to Madison dated 13 May (same, 4:601; 5:5).