Thomas Jefferson Papers

Draft of a Proclamation for the Temporary Government of Louisiana, on or before 31 October 1803

Draft of a Proclamation for the Temporary Government of Louisiana

[on or before 31 Oct. 1803]

By H.E.1 W.C. Commandant & Intendant of the Province of Louisiana

A Proclamation

Whereas by treaties entered into between the governments of France and Spain on the 1st. day of Oct. 1800. at St. Ildefonso & on the 1st. day of March 1801. at Madrid the latter ceded to the former the colony & province of Louisiana, with the same extent which it had at the date of the first mentd treaty in the hands of Spain, & that it had when France possessed it, and such as it ought to be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain & other states; and the govmt of France hath ceded the same to the US. by a treaty duly ratifed2 which is in the following words, to wit. [here enter the treaty] and possession of the said colony & province is now in3 the US. according to the tenor of the sd treaty: and Whereas the Congress of the US. by an act passed on the 31st. day of October in this present year did enact that until the expirn of the session of Congress then sitting, unless4 provision for the temporary govmt of the said territories be sooner made by Congress5 all the military, civil, & judicial powers, exercised by the officers of the existing govmt. of the same shall be vested in such person & persons, & shall be exercised in such manner as the Pr. of the US. shall direct,6 for maintaining and protecting the inhabitants of Louisiana in the free enjoimt of their liberty, property & religion & the President of the US. has by his commission bearing date the same 31st day of Oct. invested me with all the powers & charged me with the several duties heretofore held and exercised by the Commandant & Intendant of the province, I have therefore thought fit to issue this my Proclamation making known the premise, and to declare that the government heretofore exercised over the sd province of Louisiana7 has ceased, and that that of the US. of A. is henceforth8 established over the same: that the inhabitants thereof will be incorporated in the union of the US & admitted as soon as possible, accordg to the principles of the federal constn, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages & immunities of citizens of the US. that in the meantime they shall be maintained & protected in the free enjoiment of their liberty, property, & the religion which they profess: that all laws which were in existence at the cessation of the former government remain9 in full force, & all civil10 officers charged with their execution, other than those whose powers have been specially vested in me, are continued in their functions until provision shall otherwise be made. And I do hereby exhort and enjoin all the inhabitants & other persons within the said province to be faithful & true in their allegiance to the US. and obedient to the laws and authorities of the same, under full assurance that their just rights will11 be under the guardianship of the US. and will12 be maintained & protected from all force & violence from without or within.

In testimony whereof &c.

Given at the city of New Orleans the    day of     1803 &c.

Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 137:23709); undated; in TJ’s hand, except for closing bracket supplied by Editors.

A form of the above proclamation was forwarded to William C. C. Claiborne by James Madison with instructions dated 31 Oct. 1803 (see Notes on Preparations to Occupy Louisiana, printed at 30 Oct. above). Madison directed Claiborne to issue the proclamation immediately after the transfer of the territory, “making however any unessential variations or additions which may be necessary” to adapt it to local circumstances. Claiborne formally issued the proclamation, with minor changes, at New Orleans on 20 Dec. 1803, a copy of which was forwarded to Congress by TJ on 16 Jan. 1804 and appeared in the National Intelligencer on the same date (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 5:589-90; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:582).

here enter the treaty: as issued by Claiborne, the proclamation did not include the text of the Louisiana treaty. Instead, it merely stated that the territory had been ceded by France to the United States by a “treaty duly ratified, and bearing date the 30th of April, in the present year.” In a 27 Dec. letter to Madison, Claiborne explained that the full text of the treaty had already appeared in New Orleans newspapers, in both English and French, and was therefore in “general circulation.” Inserting the treaty into his proclamation would have “considerably retarded” its publication, Claiborne added, “and the lively anxiety of the people at that interesting Crisis forbad the delay of my proclamation” (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 6:230-1).

act passed on the 31st. day of october: see TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 21 Oct. TJ’s draft above includes the text of section two of the act in its entirety and nearly verbatim (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855-56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:245).

Claiborne’s commission from the president, dated 31 Oct. 1803, authorized him to assume in Louisiana “all the powers and authorities” formerly exercised by the governor and intendant of the territory until the end of the present session of Congress “unless provision be sooner made” for its temporary government. It also specifically forbade Claiborne from collecting any new or additional taxes or to grant or confirm land titles within the territory. A separate commission by TJ of the same date authorized Claiborne and James Wilkinson to take possession of Louisiana (FCs in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 9:94-5, 143-4).

all civil officers … are continued: Claiborne’s formal proclamation of 20 Dec. here deviated from TJ’s draft by excepting “such officers as have been entrusted with the collection of the revenue” from the civil officers to be continued by the new government (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:582; National Intelligencer, 16 Jan. 1804).

1Preceding two initials interlined.

2Preceding two words interlined.

3Preceding three words interlined in place of “hath been actually delivered to.”

4Preceding ten words and comma interlined in place of “they should have made.”

5Preceding five words interlined.

6TJ interlined the text from this point to “& religion.”

7TJ first wrote “the province,” then altered the text to read as above.

8Word interlined.

9Word interlined in place of “are continued.”

10Word interlined.

11Word interlined in place of “shall.”

12Word interlined in place of “shall for ever.”

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