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Strangers on Their Native Soil

Strangers on Their Native Soil: Opposition to United States' Governance in Louisiana's Orleans Territory, 1803-1809

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Strangers on Their Native Soil
    Book Description:

    After the United States purchased Louisiana, many inhabitants of the new American territory believed that Louisiana would quickly be incorporated into the Union and that they would soon enjoy rights as citizens. In March of 1804, however, Congress passed the Act for the Organization of Orleans Territory, which divided Louisiana into two sections: Orleans Territory, which lay southwest of the Mississippi Territory; and the Louisiana District. Under this act, President Jefferson possessed the power to appoint the government of Orleans Territory and its thirteen-man legislative council. The act also prohibited importation of most slaves. Anxieties about their livelihoods and an unrepresentative government drove some Louisiana merchants and planters to organize protests. At first this group used petitions and newspaper editorials to demand revisions; later they pressed for reforms as a political faction within the territorial government.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-931-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    With the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, Thomas Jefferson and the government of the United States faced a new problem: how to transform a territory dominated by a foreign population into a state. “Previous American territories had been inhabited by people who spoke the English language, who were Protestant, and who had experience in representative government. The people of Louisiana were predominantly French in culture; they were Catholic; and nothing in their history had given them experience in representative government.”¹

    In 1804 Congress divided the Louisiana Purchase into two parts, at the thirty-third parallel. The sparsely populated northern section became...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “An Object So Dear to the Heart of Every American”: American Interests and the Purchase of Louisiana
    (pp. 12-30)

    In comparison to other French colonies of the mid-eighteenth century, Louisiana was an economic failure. Efforts to establish a profitable trade in cash crops such as tobacco and indigo were hindered by climate, shortages of slave labor, skeptical merchants in France, and the duties of the Farmers General and the Crown. The capital of the colony, New Orleans, was founded in 1718. Located 100 miles up the Mississippi River, it was an Atlantic gateway to the interior of North America.

    French officials and merchants at New Orleans found it difficult to profit from the valuable North American interior fur trade...

  6. CHAPTER TWO A Conquered People: The View from Washington
    (pp. 31-53)

    Jefferson declared that the purchase of Louisiana enlarged America’s “empire of liberty,” despite the fact that the American government established for Louisiana lacked any representative features. The president considered the acquisition of this new western territory as essential to the future prosperity of the United States. “I look to this duplication of area for the extending a government so free and economical as ours, as a great achievement to the mass of happiness which is to ensue.” When he wrote this in January 1804, Louisianans clearly did not yet enjoy any of the benefits of a free government. The territory...

  7. CHAPTER THREE “A Flame in the District”: The Organization of Protest against Territorial Government in Orleans
    (pp. 54-74)

    As Congress began to debate the Breckinridge Bill in January 1804, a new wave of American immigrants set out for New Orleans. Many of these sought to increase their fortunes through the establishment of commercial enterprises in that city. Others hoped to obtain a position in the future territorial administration of Louisiana. These Americans, however, faced competition from established native Louisianans. Governor Claiborne recognized that a total distribution of political appointments to Americans would alienate Louisianans and make his rule difficult. Because of this, he made efforts to retain the services of many of those who had served the Spanish...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR “Pestered with Intriguants”: Territorial Administration under Attack in Orleans and Washington
    (pp. 75-96)

    On August 30, 1804, the same day that Claiborne wrote to President Thomas Jefferson to complain about the difficulty of finding suitable men to serve in government, Jefferson sent Claiborne a list of appointments to the Legislative Council. The president named Etienne de Boré, Benjamin Morgan, Daniel Clark, Dr. John Watkins, Evan Jones, Joseph Bellechasse, John Roman, and William Wykoff “absolutely” to the Legislative Council, but he also gave Claiborne limited power in appointment choices. Out of a pool of five others that Jefferson recommended for council that included “Derbigne, Detrehan, Dubuys, Cantarelle of the Acadian coast & Sauve,” Claiborne was...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE “A Severe Shock to W. C. C. and His Gang”: The Opposition’s Representatives in Territorial and National Government
    (pp. 97-115)

    Aaron Burr enjoyed a pleasant stay in New Orleans in the first weeks of July 1805. He met many of the elite of New Orleans society and was especially friendly with Governor Claiborne’s political opponents. He stayed with Edward Livingston and was “lavishly entertained by Daniel Clark.” Claiborne noted that Burr, while he was in New Orleans, was in “habits of intimacy with Livingston, Clark and Jones,” but the governor gave no hint of the reason for the amicable relations between these men.¹

    “Burr’s visit to New Orleans in 1805 coincided with the activities of the ‘Mexican Association.’” This organization...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Folly and Failure: The Fall of the Opposition Faction
    (pp. 116-134)

    Throughout the spring and early summer of 1806, Aaron Burr made final preparations to move a military expedition down the Mississippi to capture New Orleans. Burr was certain that this object could be accomplished without spilling blood because Louisianans wanted to separate from the United States and would welcome him as a liberator. At least this is what Burr had told British minister Anthony Merry in his efforts to obtain British financial and naval support for his attack. While Burr did not specifically name those who had provided him with intelligence on the sentiments of Louisianans toward the United States,...

  11. Chapter 7 Jefferson Triumphant: Republican Orleans and American Louisiana
    (pp. 135-151)

    Daniel Clark and Edward Livingston, already implicated in the Burr Conspiracy, further damaged their reputations when they participated in an effort to blame Wilkinson for the plot to conquer Orleans Territory and invade Mexico. When the U.S. District Court of Virginia convened in May 1807 to try Burr on charges of treason, his counsel decided to attempt to focus the court’s attention on Wilkinson, and sent James Alexander to New Orleans to ask Livingston and John B. Prevost to collect evidence against the general. Livingston gathered depositions and subpoenaed Daniel Clark to appear in Richmond to testify about Wilkinson’s past...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 152-164)

    Protest against territorial government in Orleans Territory occurred in three stages. The first stage of organized protest against territorial government lasted from March 1804 until October 1805. Leaders organized supporters, and the territorial government administered by Claiborne was criticized in letters to officials in the Jefferson administration, in New Orleans newspapers, and in a petition to Congress.

    In the second stage of protest, which lasted from approximately November 1805 until the final arrest of Aaron Burr in January 1807, opponents of territorial government were influential in the territorial House of Representatives established by an act of Congress in 1805. They...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 165-193)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 194-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-210)