Upper Louisiana

The inaptitude of the Government of the United States to comprehend the needs of a people of foreign origin living under a government devised by another country was well illustrated in the early days of its occupancy of French Louisiana. To govern well in a subject country requires that the tendencies, needs, laws, language, social customs, legal usages, and government should be thoroughly studied and completely comprehended. Reforms should never be too sudden nor to radical, for a people can be moved only after its members have reached a common conclusion and attained a common mind. The administration of civil and political affairs demands the closest attention. The neglect of these details begets discontent, and discontent is the mother of trouble. In a democracy the eminent man seldom had much voice in public affairs. It is the strong, the bold, the ruthless, the ignorant, the criminal, the sycophant, and the demagogue who usually attain high political positions. Among these there is an occasional student, sometimes a man of deep reflection, and once in a generation a patriot with an astonishing intuition—a comprehension of the needs of humanity apart from nationality. No such man appeared in this instance. Every mistake possible was made in the first efforts of the United States to govern the Louisiana purchased from France by Jefferson.

In this old French Louisiana there were three centers of population. The largest of these was in and about New Orleans. Each of them was to develop into a state of the American Union. And following the American plan of local self-government, it was necessary that Louisiana be divided. By an act of Congress passed March 26th, 1804, this French Louisiana was cut in twain. The territory of Orleans was established. It embraced all of Louisiana east of the Mississippi and all that portion west of that stream south of the thirty-third parallel—the present north boundary of the State of Louisiana. By right and justice the Territory of Orleans extended to the Rio Grande, but by the malevolent abandonment of Texas it was restricted to the Sabine. With that portion of the old empire of La Salle, and its perplexities, its problems, and the results of the early errors of our government plainly discernible on it to this day, we shall have nothing further to do in this work. It developed into the great State of Louisiana—a proud Commonwealth entrusted with the ocean door of our Great Valley.

The unfolding of Kansas is connected with the second portion, division or part of Louisiana as defined and set off by the act of March 26, 1804. After establishing the Territory of Orleans, the residue of Louisiana—Upper Louisiana—was erected into the District of Louisiana. This vast domain was attached to the Territory of Indiana for judicial purposes. Major Amos Stoddard was made Governor and military commandant, with headquarters at St. Louis, then the capital of Upper Louisiana. And Lewis and Clark, starting on their expedition to the Pacific, began the exploration of the District of Louisiana.

Two of the centers of population of the old French Louisiana purchased by Jefferson were in Upper Louisiana, or the District of Louisiana. The one about Arkansas Post was the nucleus for the coming State of Arkansas, and numbered three hundred and sixty-eight souls. The remaining settlement was chiefly about St. Louis, extending south to Cape Girardeau, and contained some six thousand people. It developed into the State of Missouri. The remainder of the District of Louisiana was a vast realm of barbarism, a savage wilderness comparatively unknown.

By the act of Congress of March 3, 1805, the District of Louisiana was erected into the Territory of Louisiana. The government was improved. A Governor and Territorial Judges were provided. The President appointed General James Wilkinson Governor and Military Commandant of the Territory of Louisiana. He was succeeded by Meriwether Lewis, who was appointed Governor on return from that famous expedition.

The Territory of Louisiana passed out of existence by act of Congress of June 4, 1812, when it was erected into the Territory of Missouri. It was defined as extending from latitude thirty-three to forty-one, north. Its western limits were the Mexican boundaries. St. Louis was continued as the seat of government and General William Clark, of the exploring expedition, was appointed the first Governor of the Territory—of the Territory with a new name. He was also Superintendent of Indian Affairs. A Legislative Council was the “upper house” of the Legislature, and was composed of nine members appointed by the President. There was a “house” elected by the people—one member for each five hundred free white male inhabitants. That was the first local representative body with jurisdiction over the soil which became Kansas. And with the inauguration of the government there began the American ascendency over the old French life in Upper Louisiana. On the 19th day of January, 1816, the Legislature made the Common Law of England the law of the Territory of Missouri.

After the admission of Missouri as a State there was a period of a quarter of a century when there was no direct local government with jurisdiction over the territory to become Kansas. On the 30th of June, 1834, Congress erected all the territory west of Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana into the “Indian Country.” It was attached to Missouri for judicial purposes. This was the status of the soil of Kansas until 1854. Whatever laws were provided for its government were enacted by Congress, and its tribunal was the United States District Court of Missouri. In that arrangement there was a design. Notwithstanding the terms of the Missouri Compromise, the “Indian Country” was the future hope of the slave-power.

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