« PreviousContinue »
it was so intended by its supporters, was opposed, and finally rejected. Mr. Griswold at the time offered other resolutions asserting the right of the people of the United States to the navigation of the Mississippi, its recent obstruction by Spain, and proposing an inquiry into the measures proper to be taken for the maintenance of the right. The majority refused to consider the resolutions, but afterwards agreed with closed doors to the following substitute. "Resolved, That this House receive with great sensibility the information of a disposition in certain officers of the Spanish government at New Orleans, to obstruct the navigation of the river Mississippi, as secured to the United States by the most solemn stipulations."
"That adhering to that humane and wise policy which ought ever to characterize a free people, and by which the United States have always professed to be governed; willing at the same time to ascribe this breach of compact to the unauthorized misconduct of certain individuals, rather than to want of good faith on the part of his Catholic majesty ; and relying with perfect confidence on the vigilance and wisdom of the executive, they will wait the issue of such measures as that department of the government shall have pursued for asserting the rights and vindicating the injuries of the United States; holding it to be their duty, at the same time, to express their unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the River Mississippi, as established by existing treaties."
Mr. Jefferson seemed to think that it was the object of the federal party in Congress to force the country into a war with Spain, "in order to derange our finances," and if that could not be done, "to attach the western country to them, as their best friends, and thus get again into power." With a view of carrying his pacific policy into effect he, on the 10th
of January, appointed Mr. Monroe minister plenipotentiary to France to act with Mr. Livingston, in the purchase of New Orleans and the Floridas, partly, because, as he said, the measures previously pursued by the administration, being invisible, did not satisfy the minds of the western people, then greatly excited, and consequently something sensible had become necessary; and partly, because the meditated purchase was liable to assume so many shapes that no instructions could be squared to fit them." He strongly urges on Mr. Monroe the acceptance of the appointment, "for," he says, " on the event of this mission depend the future destinies of this republic. If we cannot by a purchase of the country insure to ourselves a course of perpetual peace and friendship with all nations, then as war cannot be distant, it behoves us immediately to be preparing for that course, without however hastening it; and it may be necessary (in your failure on the continent) to cross the channel. We shall get entangled in European politics, and figuring more, be much less happy and prosperous. This can only be prevented by a successful issue to your present mission."
He at the same time takes occasion to tell Mr. Monroe that, according to the system of economy the administration had prescribed to themselves, no outfit could be given him, it being allowed only to ministers resident; nor a frigate to carry him out. This piece of economy, it may be observed, has not been imitated, and considering the confessed inadequacy of the salaries to some of the foreign ministers, its discontinuance furnishes no great cause of complaint. He was the less inclined to grant extraordinary indulgence to Mr. Monroe, because the public, knowing his private friendship, would be less disposed to excuse a deviation from the general rule in his favour.
He had had a correspondence on the subject of the right of deposit at New Orleans, with Mons. Dupont, a French
gentleman who had recently returned to France, after a long residence in the United States; "and who," as Mr. Jefferson remarks, "possessing the confidence of both governments, and the interests of both countries being the same in this matter, might conscientiously use his good offices." He says, "Our circumstances are so imperious as to admit of no delay as to our course; and the use of the Mississippi is so indispensable that we cannot hesitate one moment to hazard our existence for its maintenance. If we fail in this effort to put it beyond the reach of accident, we see the destinies we have to run, and prepare at once for them; not but that we shall still endeavour to go on in peace and friendship with our neighbours, as long as we can, if our rights of navigation and deposit are respected; but as we foresee that the caprice of the local officers, and the abuse of those rights by our boatmen and navigators, which neither government can prevent, will keep up a state of irritation which cannot long be kept inactive, we should be criminally improvident not to take at once eventual measures for strengthening ourselves for the contest." He excuses the United States for not offering for an object so important to them "such a sum as would ensure its purchase,” because they were an agricultural people, poor in money, and owing large debts, which would require, for fifteen years, a rigorous economy. And that the country in question, the Floridas, except the portion already granted, is a barren sand. That it was the love of peace alone which made it a desirable object with us, for whatever power held the country east of the Mississippi, became our natural enemy. Referring to former letters on the relations between the two countries, to prevent their getting into hands which might pervert them to mischievous purposes, he requests him to consign them to the flames. This letter was written some days after he had made application to Congress for the appropriation
of two millions for the purchase of Florida, but before they had acted on it. It deserves to be remarked that while his political opponents were charging him with a blind and absurd devotion to France, so as to be ready to postpone to her interests those of his own country, he was straining every faculty to prostrate a favourite policy of the French government; and went so far as to hold out to them the alternative of war, and even an alliance with their most hated enemy, if they persisted in retaining possession of Louisiana.
Mr. Jefferson recommends an Exploring Expedition across the Continent. Meriwether Lewis-Amendments to the Constitution. Error of its framers. Ohio admitted into the Union. Proposed Retrocession of the District of Columbia. Repeal of Discriminating Duties, and Discontinuance of the Mint proposed. Dry Docks. Yazoo Purchase. Purchase of Louisiana-Its supposed tendency to a Separation of the Western States falsified by time. Constitutionality of admitting Louisiana into the Union. Objections finally waived. Difficulties created by Spain. Meeting of Congress. President's Annual Message. Treaty with France ratified, and possession taken of Louisiana. Professorship of Agriculture.
In pursuance of a recommendation from the president in a confidential message of the 18th of January, 1803, Congress made an appropriation for defraying the expense of an exploring party across the continent to the Pacific. He considered that the United States would be justly subject to the reproach of the scientific world, if they longer delayed to obtain more accurate geographical knowledge of the western wilderness—a country highly interesting in itself, and which their people were destined one day to overspread. He was perhaps yet further stimulated to obtain a more accurate knowledge of the country, because he had a hope of obtaining it sooner or later from France. It had long been a favourite object with Mr. Jefferson to explore this part of the American continent. He had, when in France, recommended it to Ledyard, after he was disappointed in his project of engaging in the fur trade, on the north-west coast of America; and in 1792, he proposed to the American Philo