The Cession of Louisiana to Spain

In America, the war between Great Britain and France was known as the “French and Indian War.” It was decided by the victory of Wolf on the plains of Abraham in 1759. Montreal fell, in 1760, and the campaign that year convinced France that she was defeated in America. On the 15th of July, 1761, she proposed terms of peace by which Canada and that part of Louisiana east of the Mississippi should be ceded to England. Negotistions proceeded for nearly two years. A treaty had been virtually concluded between Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal in 1762. It was made definitive, as affecting these powers, at Paris, on February 10th, 1763. By its terms New France disappeared. The British bounds were extended to the Mississippi.

The calamity of France was far greater than was made known at the conclusion of the treaty. For at Fontainbleau, on the 3d of November, 1762, the island and City of New Orleans and all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi were ceded by France to Spain. This was a secret cession, and knowledge of it was not made public for more than a year. This treaty changed the sovereignty of the country now embraced in Kansas. And Spain secured by treaty through the stress of France what she might have had more than two centuries before for the mere taking, but which she lost then through indolence and indifference.

Upper Louisiana had grown in commercial importance under the rule of France. Its trade began to attract the attention of those engaged in large enterprises. In 1762 Maxent, Laclede & Co. secured from the Governor-General the grant of a monopoly of the fur trade with the Missouri Indians and tribes to the north of them. The junior member of the company was sent up the Mississippi with boats laden with goods suitable for the trade of their venture in Upper Louisiana. His name was Pierre Laclede Liguest, but after the manner of the French, he chose to be popularly known by the name of Laclede. Failing to find storage for his goods at St. Genevieve, he went on to Fort Chartres. From this point he examined the east bank of the Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri for a suitable site for a trading-post. As he returned he gave his attention to the west bank, when the choice for the location of his post fell upon the site now occupied by the City of St. Louis. In February Auguste Chouteau, then but thirteen, was sent in charge of a party to begin the erection of buildings on the spot marked by Liguest. He arrived on the 14th of February, 1764, and on the 15th he began to clear away the forest and put up some temporary shelter for his men.

The selection of the site for the trading-station was most fortunate. When the French inhabitants of the Illinois country learned that they had been made British subjects by the fortunes of war, they moved in large numbers to the west of the Mississippi. St Louis soon became a post of importance. It became the point of supply for all the country drained by the Missouri. The pressure of white population upon the Indian lands on the western waters threw many tribes beyond the Mississippi. The Delawares, Shawnces, Mohegans, Iroquois and other Eastern Indians were forced across the Alleghenies, pushing the Illinois, Kaskaskias, Miamis and other Western aborigines into the Spanish possessions. This movement was not of sudden origin for it began in fact with the founding of the English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. It continued until the aboriginal population had been pushed out of all the country east of the Mississippi. This migration was the more marked after the British had taken possession of Eastern Louisiana. For the English occupation of the country required an absolute title to the soil, with no troublesome Indian neighbors. The Indians had to move off or be exterminated. It became the policy of the Americans after the Revolution to require cessions from the tribes in return for “reservations” to the westward. But prior to the adoption of this course the Indians were forced to migrate into countries already occupied by aboriginal people, twenty-one tribes having crossed the Mississippi in the time from 1804 to 1825. Many tribes had crossed over in whole or in part before. Most of these crossed into Louisiana near St. Louis, adding more than thirty thousand to the Indian population of what is now Missouri. In 1820 there were eighteen hundred Shawnees in the vicinity of St. Louis.

The presence of this additional Indian population on the west side of the Mississippi brought trouble to the town of St. Louis, but it also tended to increase the trade of that town in such commodities as the Indian life produced and required. While the Spaniards could never develop trade with the Indians as could the French, it must be remembered that there remained in Louisiana the French inhabitants found on the soil at the time of the cession. French Canadians continued to come in ever increasing numbers, for the Spanish power was never exacting on the prairies, and along the streams, and over the Great Plains. St. Louis became the trading-point for Upper Louisiana and grew in wealth and importance during the Spanish regime.

It was during the Spanish rule of Louisiana that those conditions arose which made it possible—necessary—that the United States should acquire all of Louisiana.

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