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France was dismayed at the privilege granted by Spain in 1795. Napoleon saw a possibility of regaining the lost New France. He had a desire to limit our western progress and confine our possessions to the Eastern shores of the Mississippi. Spain, however, did not have the power to bind us to the proposed boundaries and transferred all of Louisiana to France on October 1, 1800, by a secret treaty which gave back to France all of the Territory which she ceded to Spain in 1763. Vague rumors circulated as to this unknown real estate transfer making the Mississippi settlers restless and determined to fight. Our experience with France on the high seas had been of such a nature as to make this move far from reassuring.
During the John Adams administration an envoy was sent to France to adjust the difficulty. An interview with the French authorities would not be granted unless we paid a stipulated sum. This was refused when our envoy, Pinckney, made the famous remark, "Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute."
In 1802 Spain closed the mouth of the "father of waters” to our products and this virtually stopped the navigation of the river by the citizens of the United States. President Jefferson and the administration tried to plan ways and means by which the difficulty could be overcome and Jefferson asked Congress to appropriate $2,000,000 to be given to France for New Orleans and West Florida which would carry with it our right to navigate the entire length of the Mississippi. Robert R. Livingston, one of the five to draft our Constitution, was at this time our Minister to France. James Monroe in the early spring of 1803 was sent to Paris as a special envoy to assist in the purchase of New Orleans.
Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Republic of France, had at this time involved all Europe in war. He was in desperate straits for money; he was in much urgent need of replenishing his depleted purse not only to carry on the wars already begun but to prepare for the threatened war with England, France's old enemy, who had been watching Napoleon's unparalled success with envious eyes. In any event he could hardly expect to hold Louisiana, a possession at so great a distance from the Mother Country. Barbé Marbois was not only the Minister of the Treasury of the Republic of France but was the confidential and trusted councilor of Napoleon and was selected by him as a plenipotentiary for this sale. These four statesmen, two of whom had taken part in our struggle for Independence and two of whom were decidedly conspicuous in the movements of the French Revolution, perfected an agreement by which all of Louisiana was to be added to the United States.
We only asked for New Orleans and the mouth of the Mississippi. The surprise came when Napoleon said: “I renounce Louisiana. It is not only New Orleans that I will cede. It is the whole country without reserve."
The price was $15,000,000 and the Treaty was signed April 30, 1803. This was ratified by Congress November 3, 1803, and the purchase made December 17, 1803, when Livingston remarked, "We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our lives."
In round numbers we obtained 1,037,735 square miles, or about 664,150,000 acres, at two and one-fifth cents an acre. For a sum less than the amount which has been appropriated to properly celebrate the hundredth anniversary of this event at St. Louis,* a territory was added to the United States which now comprises twelve of our States and two of our Territories, and which moreover occupies one third of the area of the United States and contains one fifth of the people of America. The purchase gave us the control of the Mississippi and its tributaries, and it gave us a commercial highway. It more properly might be called the acquisition of both the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers, as it includes the entire length of the Missouri to its head waters in the Rocky Mountains. To emphasize the value of this tremendous acquisition of land it is worth while stating that at the present time the wool products alone of the States made out of the Louisiana Purchase would pay the purchase price. The corn in Iowa would pay the price six times over. The wheat fields in this territory are greater than half of all those in our land and their products would buy Louisiana a hundred times.
*The Exposition at St. Louis to celebrate this purchase cost $50,000,000.00—more than three times the purchase price.
Technically France did not occupy Louisiana at the time of the purchase. The transfer from Spain by the Treaty of October 1, 1800, called the St. Ildefonso treaty, had never been made. France did not occupy the province she had sold. The formality of surrender and delivery from Spain to France had to be accomplished before France could dispose
of the land to the United States. November 30, 1803, with proper ceremonies the yellow and red flag of Spain was lowered at New Orleans and the keys of the Island turned over to the French Representative who in the name of France raised the tri-colors of that country. December 20, 1803, the tri-colors descended as had the Spanish colors twenty days before and the Stars and Stripes ascended and the reign of France on American soil came to an end. Within the space of three weeks Spain, France and the United States each had owned Louisiana, a stretch of land embracing the territory covered by Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Indian Territory; parts of Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Minnesota and Wyoming and the Territory of Oklahoma containing today a taxable wealth of $6,616,642,829, an area larger than the combined area of Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy and equal to two thirds of the territory covered by the original thirteen States. It has been said this act was by far the greatest work of our people during the years intervening between the adoption of the Constitution and the outbreak of the Civil War.
Several years before the appropriation was made by Congress for this purchase of New Orleans, Jefferson, while Secretary of State in 1792, had in mind the sending of an exploring party to navigate the Missouri River to its source. He had a desire to extend the commercial relation with the Indian and to obtain some of the benefits of the region which was monopolized by traders from Canada and British America. He and his private secretary, Meriweather Lewis, had talked the matter over before the Louisiana Purchase and when he became President he strongly recommended in his message to Congress in January, 1803, that an expedition be sent into the unknown Northwest. Congress supported him and his instructions were drafted and plans formulated for the trip June 20, 1803, which was some days before the Paris Treaty reached Washington, (July 14, 1803). Lewis was appointed by Jefferson to lead the party and he in turn chose Captain William Clark to be his associate. The entire party consisted of the two leaders, whose names have been historically inseparable, and forty-four assistants. They started from a point near New Orleans May 14, 1804, and returned to St. Louis September, 1806, having broken a path for civilization which is unparalled in the history of modern or ancient times. On the route they encountered trappers from the south and the Hudson Bay Company men from the north and Indians over a good part of the journey. Then a time came when even these were not seen and for months they explored north and west towards the Rocky Mountains, where the native animals were their only enemies. The leaders were fortunate in securing the services of an Indian squaw, Sacajawea, of the Shoshone tribe who had been captured when a child and was now the wife of a worthless French trapper. She acted as their guide. It is questionable if without her aid and knowledge of the country the expedition could have been successful. While this expedition at no time traveled over any of the country now occupied by Wyoming, the explorers came within forty miles of the northwest corner of the state and heard of the wonders of the Yellowstone Park. The line traveled was up the Mississippi to St. Louis, across the middle of the present state of Missouri, north on the Missouri to Sioux City, Iowa, west and north on the northern boundaries of Nebraska, north through the middle of South Dakota, north to Bismark, North Dakota, and then northwest still following the Missouri river into Montana, going south from Fort Benton in the northwestern part of Montana to within fifty-six miles of the northwest corner of Wyoming, thence south and west where they crossed the Rocky Mountains at a point between Montana and Idaho now known as the Lewis and Clarke Pass,* then directly north to Fort Missouri, crossing the Bitter Root Mountains and west to Lewiston on the boundary between Idaho and Washington, down Snake River to where it joins the Columbia river and on down the river to the Pacific Ocean, having crossed the continent and reached the end of their western exploration, which gave to us (November 15, 1805) the territory now covered by Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and a part of Wyoming. Here they stayed until the next spring The return home was over practically the same country to Fort Missoula in Montana between Bitter Root and the Rocky Mountains, when Clark went south to Clarke's Pass and through the Rocky Mountains, at a point just east of Bitter Root Forest Reserve. This point is about sixty miles north of the place in the mountains where they crossed when going west. From here the route was north and east to Bozeman about forty-eight miles