Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Randolph, 25 October 1803

To John Randolph

Oct. 25. 03.

Th: Jefferson being informed of the question which occupied the H. of R. yesterday, and of the argument founded on the English expression ‘engages to cede.’ altho’ he knows it has been decided, yet for mr Randolph’s satisfaction incloses him the following extracts from the French originals on the paper herein sent. the 2d. treaty, which was in all our newspapers, tho’ never authentically published, shews they considered the 1st. as an actual conveyance, that no other was ever contemplated, & that nothing more remained to be done but to redeliver the country, for which the king signed an order, which is in possession of the French Chargé here, and will be forwarded by our messenger as soon as we are authorised to recieve the possession. affectionate & respectful salutations.

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Jno. Randolph.”

The previous day, Connecticut congressman Roger Griswold argued that available information suggested merely a promise by Spain to cede Louisiana to France, thereby calling into question the existence of an actual cession. He proposed a resolution that the House of Representatives call on the president to present a copy of the Treaty of San Ildefonso, a copy of the deed of cession (if one existed), and any communications between the executive branch and the government of Spain that might indicate Spain’s views on the retrocession. Randolph led opposition to the motion, asserting that the legitimacy of the transfer was indisputable. After accepting a couple of amendments that softened the resolution’s language, the House narrowly rejected the motion, 59 to 57 (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834-56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 13:385-420).

On 21 Mch. 1801, the French and Spanish signed the treaty of Aranjuez, which guaranteed the ruling Bourbon family of Spain control over the kingdom of Tuscany, or Etruria, thereby fulfilling one of the conditions stipulated in the Treaty of San Ildefonso (the 1st) for the retrocession of Louisiana to France. A report from Robert R. Livingston, received in February 1803, cast some doubt about whether the duke of Parma and his son, who was to become king of Etruria, had renounced rule over Parma, also one of the conditions of the treaty. Subsequent reports indicated that France, which had seized control of Parma, might exchange it with Spain for Florida (Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969-81, 231 vols. description ends , 55:375-8; 56:45-7; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 4:110-11n, 115, 121, 204, 302, 311; Vol. 38:584, 588n).

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