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The midland journal. (Rising Sun, Md.) 1885-1947, December 01, 1933, Image 7

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060136/1933-12-01/ed-1/seq-7/

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The Biggest Real EstateDeai
i History a /^^\
Thomas Jefferson TheSiqninq of the Louisiami Purchase Treaty ,
sculpto* • j
By ELMO SCOTT WATBON
ONE hundred and thirty years ago the
“biggest real estate deal in history”
was closed in the city of New Or
leans. On December 20, 1803, a
crowd gathered in the historic Place
d’ Armes (now known as Jackson
square). In the center was a tall
Ty. flagpole at the top of which flut-
V tered the Tricolor of France. Drawn
up along one side of the square was
W a detachment of United States
army troops. Facing them on the
other side of the flagpole were Spanish troops
and a few French officers.
, A few hours before, Pierre Clement Laussat,
% French prefect of Louisiana, Gen. James Wilkln
f son of the United States army, and William C.
i C. Claiborne, former governor of Mississippi Ter-
had met in the famous old Cabildo, which
faces on the square. There the credentials of the
two Americans were read, as was the authority
of the Frenchman to hand over to them official
possession of a certain tract of land; the keys of
the city of New Orleans were given to Claiborne
and he, dissolving the allegiance of the Inhabi
tants of New Orleans to France, welcomed them
as citizens of the United States.
Then the three men stepped out into the
Place d’ Armes. At a signal the Tricolor of
France began to descend and the Stars and
Stripes of the pnited States to ascend. Midway
on the flagstaff the two banners met and were
saluted. And when the American flag had
reached the top of the staff and the French ban
ner the bottom, it meant that the Louisiana Ter
ritory had changed hands for the sixth and last
time and was henceforth American soil.
Thus the fitting climax to this “biggest real
estate deal in history” in which Napoleon Bona
parte, the First Consul of France, had sold to
Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States,
for $15,000,000 a veritable empire of 1,171,931
square miles. It doubled the original area of the
new Republic and gave to that Republic the land
which in the future was to be the/ following
states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, lowa, the
part of Minnesota west of the Mississippi, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and most of
Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming and a
large part of Colorado. It extended our boun
daries from the Canadian border to the Gulf bf
Mexico and from the Rocky mountains to the
Mississippi river, which henceforth was to be
r-~ ours, freed forever from the menace of a foreign
power holding one of our most important gate
ways to the sea —New Orleans.
Like so many Important events in American
history, the Louisiana Purchase had Its origins
In' European politics and Intrigue. The Louisi
ana Territory had first been claimed for France
by the explorer. La Salle, who in 1682 had taken
possession of it in the name of Louis XIV. In
1712 the Grand Monarch had “farmed” Louisiana
to Antoine Crozat, the greatest merchant monop
olist of his day, but Crozat, unable to make use
of it, had turned it over five years later to John
Law, the Scotch adventurer, whose bursted “Mis
sissippi Bubble” had almost overnight trans
formed him from a hero in France to the most
hated man in that country. So in 1731 the Lou
isiana Territory went back to the French crown
again and in 1762 Louis XV had ceded It to Spain.
Spanish territory it had remained all the time
the English colonies on the Atlantic seaboard
_ were winning their freedom from Great Britain
and taking- their first faltering steps as a new
nation. In the meantime stirring events had been
taking place In France. The Bourbons had been
dethroned, the horrors of the French Revolution
had run their course and a new world figure had
risen above the horizon —Napoleon Bonaparte,
the First Consul of France.
Within a year after, he had become virtually
the master of Euroi>e. He had crushed Austria
and the states of the Italian peninsula. Peace
with England was in sight and six weeks after
bis victory at Marengo Napoleon sent a demand
to Spain to cede lamlslana back to France. The
main reason back of that demand was his de
sire, along with his other plans to dominate the
world, to rebuild the French commercial power
In America and begin upon a policy of colonial
expansion.
The treaty by which Spain ceded Louisiana
back to FTance In 1802 was kept secret but soon
after Thomas Jefferson became President In 1801
he suspected what was going on across the At
l lantlc. French control of New Orleans and
French domination of the Mississippi would have
a serious meaning for* the United States, espe
cially to the settlers of Ohio. Kentucky and Ten
nessee. As early as 1799 they were sending down
• the river 120,000 pounds of tobacco, 10.000 bar
rels of flour, 22,000 pounds of hemp. 500 bar
rels of cider and as many more of whisky for
shipment abroad.
So long as the Spanish were In control, this
commerce would not be seriously affected for,
aven though there had been matters of annoy
ance between American commercial interests and
the Spanish authorities. In general the Amerl
cans had not found the restrictions ol the Span
iard oppressive. But with t..e arrogant Napoleon
holding New Orleans, matters might be very dif
ferent Indeed.
Then Don Juan Ventura Morales, Spanish gov
ernor of New Orleans, preparatory to turning the
Louisiana Territory over to France, closed the
port to the Americans and the western settlers
.looked upon this as prophetic of what Napoleon’s
policy of strangling American trade and check
ing farther American expansion was to be. What
Jefferson thought of it is reflected in the follow
ing letter to Robert Livingston, American min
ister to France:
“The cession of Louisiana and the Florldas by
Spain to France works most sorely In the United
States. . . . There is on the globe one single
spot, the possessor of which is our natural and
habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through
which the produce of three-eighths of our terri
tory must pass to market, and from its fertility
It will ere long yield more than hnlf of our whole
produce, and contain more than half of our In
habitants. . . . Spain might have retained It
quietly for years. . . . Not so can it ever be
in the hands of France. . . . Every eye In
the United States is now fixed on the affairs of
Louisiana.”
He then went on to Instruct Livingston and
Robert Pinckney, American minister to Spain, to
obtain West Florida from Spain and New Orleans
from France. Congress was also fully aware of
the necessity for action and It backed up Jeffer
son by appropriating on January 2, 1803, the
sum of $2,000,000 for the purchase of the desired
territory. Jefferson also appointed James Mon
roe as minister extraordinary to Paris to aid Liv
ingston in the negotiations.
In the meantime, however, events had been
taking place In Europe, and also in America,
which were destined to make Napoleon play
squarely into Jefferson’s hands. Although peace
had been declared between France and England
In 1802, Napoleon’s belligerent attitude toward
England was rapidly bringing about a state of
mind which meant another war. Then, too, Na
poleon’s plan of colonial expansion was going
none too well. The rebellion of Toussaint L’Over
ture in Santo Domingo had been crushed but at
a fearful price and this made Napoleon realize
the difficulties of carrying out his ambitious
project for re-establishing French commercial
domination in the New world.
With war with (ireat Britain Imminent Na
poleon knew that his problem was greatly in
creased. He was quick to see that England, mis
tress of the seas, could easily seize and hold
Is>ulsiana. Livingston had not had much suc
cess in his preliminary negotiations for the pur
chase of New Orleans with two of Napoleon’s
ministers, Talleyrand and Marbois. But on Eas
ter Sunday, 1803, the First Consul announced an
astonishing decision to his ministers. He would
sell not only New Orleans but the whole Louisi
ana Territory to the United States!
A day or two after this Monroe arrived In
Paris and Talleyrand told the two American
ministers of Napoleon’s Astonishing proposal.
/
MIDLAND JOURNAL, RISING SUN, MD.
They could scarcely believe their ears when Tal
leyrand told them of Napoleon’s decision. They
suspected a trick. But when Talleyrand con
vinced them that the offer was sincere, they were
more than willing to begin to talk terms.
However, their negotiations dragged on for
some time, complicated by the fact that Monroe
was 111 and scarcely able to play his part fa
them. At last they began to reach a basis for
agreement, and the two American ministers, un
able to communicate with their government be
fore It should be too late, took upon themselves
the great responsibility of accepting Marbois’
terms.
On April 30. 1803. Mnrhols, Livingston and
Monroe signed the covenants by which the Unit
ed States bound itself to pay directly to France
the sura of $11,250,000 and to assume debts
owed by France to American citizens, estimated
at $3,750,000, making the total of $15,000,000. It
Is said that after they had affixed their signa
tures, Livingston remarked, “We have lived long,
but this is the noblest work of our lives. From
this day the United States takes its rank among
the powers of the earth.”
The curious thing Is that they could not real
ize that they had bought something of “a pig In
a poke” in that the boundaries of the Louisiana
Territory were not clearly defined so they had
not the slightest notion of the vast extent of the
territory which they had acquired for their coun
try. Neither could they realize that no other
American purchasers of territory would ever ac
quire so much for so little, for they got this vast
domain for less than sls a square mile. Within
a hundred years' sls would not buy a square
Inch of some of that land I
In other respects it was a strange transaction.
Livingston and Monroe had far exceeded their
authority In buying Ixmisiana and, as a matter
of fact, Napoleon had no right to sell It without
the consent of Spain and bis own assembly.
Spain Immediately made a protest that the sale
was illegal—a protest which she did not care to
maintain too stoutly, considering the nature of
the First Consul. Many Frenchmen were also
bitter about the sale.
Even In this country there was considerable
criticism. Of course, the westerners were de
lighted. But the Federalists In the East, recall
ing how Jefferson had denounced Washington
and Adams for using powers not expressly dele
gated to the President In the Constitution, were
quick to denounce Jefferson for doing the same
thing. And the President, assuming responsi
bility for what his envoys had done and dubious
of the legality of the purchase, made the historic
admission that he “had stretched his powers un
til they cracked.”
But In October congress ratified the covenants
and the next month I.aussat arrived in New Or
leans to assume authority over that city and
Louisiana Territory, preliminary to turning both
over to their new owners. The Spanish flag came
down and the French Tricolor took Its place, to
stay there for only 20 days, then to give way
forever to the Stars and Stripes.
O by WMtern Newspaper Union.
NO AUTOCRATIC
RULE IN RUSSIA
Supreme Authority Vested in
All-Union Congress.
When President Roosevelt ad
dressed the head of the Soviet gov
ernment, Inviting him to designate
a representative to discuss matters
affecting the two countries, the at
tention of Americans was drawn to
the unique character of the govern
mental system which is centralized
at Moscow. Few persons had heard
of Michael I. Kalinin, but it was
commonly assumed that he was
“President” of the Soviet republic.
His office is, in fact, that of chair
man of the central executive com
mittee, which wields final authority
when the all-union congress, the su
preme organ of authority, Is not in
session.
The all-union congress is composed
of about 2,000 members representing
town and township soviets and prov
incial councils. The congress meets
at least once every two years. Dur
ing recess its- powers are exercised
by the central executive committee,
composed of two chambers, the coun
cil of the union (450 members) and
the council of nationalities (139
members). The committee works
through a presidium of 27 members,
which exercises full authority when
the committee is in recess. The cen
tral executive committee elects the
members of the people's council of
commissars, which serves as the ex
ecutive body of the Soviet union,
answerable to the central committee
and Its presidium.
The only legalized political or
ganization in the Soviet union is the
Communist p;;rty. Its principal body
is a central committee, which In turn
elects a political bureau. The sec
retary of tliis bureau is Joseph Sta
lin. Naturally, the Communist party
enjoys extraordinary powers, which
are concentrated in the “Politburo”
domi’iited by its secretary.
The constituent republics of the
Soviet Onion are the Russian, White
Russian, Ukrainian, Transcaucasian.
Turkoman, Ozbek and Tajikistan.
A Quicker Way
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There are 12 additional autonomous
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The population of the entire Soviet
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an area of 8,144,228 square miles, as
compared with the area of the Unit
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Growth Acid Everywhere
A new acid has been discovered—
one that stimulates growth—by Doc
tors Lyman and Williams of Oregon
university which they call pantho
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bacteria. Its discovery may be a
long step forward In the treatment of
cancerous growths, scientists hope.—
Pathfinder Magazine.
One Sure Way to
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lieved by Creomulsion. (adv.)
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