Sidebilder
PDF

Louisiana was accordingly ceded in general terms. What other provisions this treaty may have contained, we do not know. It has been said, that from the want of a just equivalent, in the cession of this vast territory, (Spain having only incurred losses in consequence of her express stipulations in the family compact, which had proved still more ruinous to France) and from the intimate connection between the two sovereignties, it may be presumed, that it had been agreed, at some future favourable opportunity, to replace France in the same situation, as she had been, before this unfortunate war. To this, it is answered, that the family compact, had been entirely in favour of France, and that the losses of Spain had been altogether on her account; that Louisiana was of little value to the forImer; and to the latter could not be considered as more than a just equivalent. It is certain, that such an opinion prevailed in Louisiana, where the cession was notified in the year 1764, two years after it was made, but possession was not taken, for several years subsequent to that period. The cruel and treacherous conduct of Creilly, in butchering a number of the principal inhabitants, suspected of disaffection, is mentioned, to show the understanding of the colony as to its fate. It had continued during this long interval, under the government of officers appointed by France, and the inhabitants fondly hoped that the transfer was not real. Perhaps, deception might have been practised by the French government, to reconcile the minds of the people, who were thus transferred without having been consulted. When these things are noticed, it is not with a view of giving them importance in the

discussion; nothing better than mere conjecture, can be drawn from them on either side. Topics which are themselves involved in doubt, can be of little service in elucidating others. In pursuance of the treaty of 1762, ratified in 1763, England took possession of the part of Louisiana, which had been ceded to her, and which included the territory now in dispute. The limits beyond the Mobile, as we have seen, had been in doubt: it was probably in allusion to this, that the king of France, made use of the words, “ and every thing which he flossesses, or ought to fossess,” implying, that this was a matter still to be settled and ascertained. This ceded country, had moreover, no definite boundary towards the English colonies of Georgia, Carolina and Virginia. Great Britain continued to hold this territory, for twelve or fifteen years, forming several settlements on the banks of the Mississippi, and on the Mobile. She extended the name of Florida to the Mississippi, dividing it into east and west, but as has already been said, its limits to the north were undetermined. Thus, the name of Louisiana on the east side of the Mississippi, may be said to have been extinguished, and that of Florida resumed something of its former extent. Spain taking part with the United States, in their struggle to throw off the yoke of Great Britain, was enabled to regain, not only Pensacola, St. Augustin, and all of Florida, that she had lost in the former war, but also to obtain possession of a considerable portion of what had been held by France as Louisiana. She took possession of the left bank of the Mississippi, for several hundred miles above the Iberville, and of all the country which lay between the great river, and the Mobile. As the United States succeeded to the territorial rights of England this possession could only be held for their benefit; and as they had contributed to the retaking Pensacola and East Florida, there was no ground for a claim of indemnity. These things, were however amicably adjusted by the treaty of peace in 1783. By the provisional treaty between the United States, and Great Britain of the same year, the northern boundary between the Canadas and the United States, having been fixed, they proceed to say, “thence due west, to the Mississippi; thence by a line drawn along the middle of the said river, until it should intersect the northernmost part of the thirtyfirst degree of north latitude: south (that is the south. boundary of the United States) by a line due east, from the termination of the line last mentioned, in the latitude of 31 degrees north of the Equator, to the middle of Appalachicola, thence &c.” Here was a new boundary, different from what is contained in any former treaty, and differing from the boundary (the Iberville) assigned to the part of Louisiana, which had been ceded to Spain. It also gave to the United States, a southern, and south western boundary, and settled what before had been indefinite. In this treaty, the

existence of an East and West,

Florida was acknowledged. By the definitive treaty between England and Spain, the Floridas were ceded to the latter, making the 31st degree of latitude, the northern limit. Spain bound herself by the same treaty, to abandon all conguests not recognised by it. She continued in possession, notwith

standing, of a great extent of territory, which evidently did not fall within the limit assigned to her, and this for more than twenty years. Her unfriendly deportment to the United States, which almost led to an open rupture, gave rise at length to the treaty, 1795. By the 2d article of this treaty, “ the southern boundary of the United States, which divides their territory from the Spanish colonies of East and West Florida, shall be designated by a line beginning on the river Mississippi, at the northernmost part of the 31st degree of latitude, north of the Equator, which from thence shall be due east,” &c. corresponding with the line established by the treaty 1783. By the 4th article of this treaty, “the western boundary of the United States which separates them from the Spanish colony of Louisiana, is in the middle of the channel or bed of the Mississippi, from the northern boundary of the United States, to the thirty-first degree of latitude, north of the Equator,” &c.—The colonies of East and West Florida, were at this time, under a government distinct from that of Louisiana. According to other provisions of the treaty of 1795, Spain was to have surrendered the American posts within six months after its date, and commissioners were to be appointed to ascertain the 31st degree of latitude, and to run the line. This was delayed, principally on the part of Spain, as will appear from Mr. Ellicott's Journal, for several years, and she at last surrendered the American territory, with great reluctance. The line was at length completed about the year 1800, and the United States obtained possession. We now come, after having stated all the facts relied upon by the parties in their construction of the contested article of the treaty, to the treaty itself. By the treaty of Ildephonso, 1st October, 1800, “His Catholic majesty promises and engages, on his part, to give back, (retroceder) or to retrocede to the French republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the condition and stipulations, relative to his royal highness the duke of Parma, the colony, or province of Louisiana, with the same extent (avec la méme étendu) that it now has in the hands of Spain, (qu’elle a actuellement entre les mains de L’Esfiagne) and that it had when France possessed it, (qu’elle avoit lorsque la France la possedoit) and such as it ought to be (doit etre) after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states.” This treaty was confirmed by the treaty of Madrid of 1801; and by the treaty of cession between the United States and France of 1803, Louisiana is ceded to the former, and the clause before recited, referred to as descriptive of its limits. The United States, therefore, stand precisely in the situation France did after the confirmation of the treaty of Ildephonso, and whatever she would have been entitled to claim at that time, the United States are entitled to now. As it is my wish, as well to present every thing material, as to free the case from any thing foreign, I will notice several topics which have been sometimes connected with it, very improperly. In the pamphlet of Verus, which has been attributed to a Spanish gentleman of high standing, much is said of the fraudulent conduct of Bonaparte, and of the unfairness of his conduct in the purchase of Louisiana; that he obtained it by what was little better

than swindling; in fact, that in justice, the treaty ought not to bind Spain; that Bonaparte has acted contrary to express agreement in transferring the colony to another power, without her consent. Verus may be right in all this; the king of Spain may have been miserably duped or betrayed; but this objection applies, not to the occupation of West Florida, but of any part of Louisiana. This is a distinct question from that now under examination, and it is unnecessary to enter upon it. The present question takes for granted, that the cession was fair, or, at least, that it is not to be disputed; else, a discussion, respecting boundaries, would be absurd. It is, besides, a question of mere boundary; the clause refers to nothing else, and this between France and Spain; therefore, the dispute between the latter and the United States, on the subject of the right of deposit, or the propriety of the conduct of the president in subsequently occupying West Florida, has nothing to do with it. The case is confined to the interpretation of the clause before cited in the treaty of Ildephonso. Under that clause, what extent of territory had France a right to claim of Spain, by a just interpretation? Not what she did claim, or, what she has declared, since her interest has passed into the hands of another, she would have claimed. The justice of these principles appears to me incontestable.— Before I enter upon the arguments of the contending parties, I will venture to lay down a plain rule of interpretation, which cannot be disputed, and that is, the words of the treaty are to govern, as the best evidence of the meaning and intentions of the parties;

that if doubt exists on this score, their situations at the time, their meaning otherwise, clearly expressed before, or, at the moment of contracting, or the evidence of circumstances over which they can have no control, may be admitted to explain the apparent ambiguity; to this, if we add, the subsequent admissions of a party interested, we shall have a rule as liberal as either side can claim. To go further, would be to render written stipulations useless, as one of the parties might afterwards understand them according to the convenience of the Inonment. The arguments by which Spain contends against the including West Florida in the cession of Louisiana, under the treaty of Ildephonso, are thesc: 1. By the dismemberment of Louisiana, in 1762, its boundaries were fixed in the most certain and definite manner; and, as they were then settled, they must continue for ever, unless specially and expressly altered by the possessor. The name of Louisiana, on the left bank of the Mississippi, was entirely extinguished by the cession to Great-Britain. This name, then, was expressly agreed to by all parties then interested, and the boundaries of states, once fixed, ought not to be altered without some convention for the special purpose. The whole country on both sides of the Mississippi was once called Florida; but this name was extinguished by those of Louisiana, Georgia, Carolina, &c.; the name of Louisiana was once attached to the left bank of the river, but was extinguished by those of Florida, Mississippi Territory, Tennessee, Kentucky, &c. The boundaries of East and West Florida were equally well settled,

and as distinct from Louisiana, as from Georgia: to this arrangement the United States had been parties, by the treaties of 1783 and 1795. It would, therefore, be as absurd to claim in a cession of Florida, a part of Louisiana, as a part of Florida in a cession of Louisiana. To the whole world it was well known that West Florida had, for almost half a century, ceased to bear the name of Louisiana; and, surely, if meant to be included in the cession, it ought to have been particularly named. Here is, professedly, a cession of Louisiana, not of what had ceased to be such. 2. The word retrocede, clearly proves the intention of the parties. It implies, that Spain was about to restore what she had received from France, that is, the west side of the Mississippi and the island of Orleans. How then could she restore West Florida, which she never received from France? It belonged to Spain by right of conquest; it had never been re-attached by her to Louisiana, but was always kept distinct and under a separate government. With respect to it, she had never any transactions with France; as respected her, it was the same as if it had continued in the hands of another state. France might as well claim East Florida, or New Spain. The name of Louisiana, on the left side of the Mississippi, had been blotted out of the map, and cannot be restored in this manner. Suppose that Spain should cede all the Floridas, would it be contended that Spain had ceded Georgia and Carolina? Louisiana was not obtained gratuitously, in the the first instance, from France; she was not demanding what she had ceded to Spain, or parted with

r

on her account; a just equivalent had been given; and, as to her cession of the country on the east side of the river to Great-Britain, it was her own act, with which Spain cannot be considered as having any concern. The landmarks of states are of too much importance to be removed with so little ceremony. Again, if the intention had been to cede West Florida, would there not have been a boundary fixed between it and East Florida, which Spain still retained? The word retrocede, is, therefore, to be taken in conjunction with the name of the country ceded, and proves that nothing more was intended than a restoration of what Spain had obtained from France herself. There is nothing to contradict this in subsequent parts of the clause. 3. And that it had when France fossessed it.—Its limits had been settled by France previously to the transfer to Spain, and, as thus settled, did she receive it. The only common form in which it was ever held by them, is that which it possesses at present.— When Spain ceded it, she did not cede what might once have been Louisiana, but what she then really held as such. In its present form it was held by France, how long, it matters not; otherwise, how could she have so transferred it to Spain? This is, therefore, the true meaning of the expression, that it had when France flassessed it. The other expressions which have been considered doubtful, may be perfectly reconciled with the explanations already given. 4. And such as it ought to be, after the treaties subsequently entered into between Shain and other states.—Louisiana was ceded to Spain on the 3d of November, 1762, and on the 10th of February

following, jointly with France, she ceded all her possessions, east of the Mississippi, making this river the boundary to the Iberville; this may, therefore, be considered a subsequent treaty; for, although framed on the same day with the treaty ceding Louisiana, it was not ratified until several months afterwards. Again, the treaties of 1783, and 1795, make the middle of the Mississippi the boundary between Louisiana and the territories of the United States; it is true, they also relate to the boundaries of Florida, but we are not, by a forced construction, to make them relate to more than is necessary, for the explanation of this transaction. 5. Although this interpretation is regarded as sufficient to satisfy any rational person, there are other arguments, which may be deemed conclusive. “If Spain denies that she sold it, and if France denies that she bought it, or that she disflosed of it to the United States, ne intelligent person will justify the violent step which Mr. Madison has taken.” M. Laussat, authorised by the French government to take flossession of Louisiana, was perfectly satisfied with the manner in which it was delivered to him. As the United States received it in no greater extent than France, the act of Laussat must bind them; or, if France has not delivered the country to them, as she engaged to do, it is of France the United States have to complain for failing in her engagements. But the French government has declared, that it was not understood that any part of Florida was included in the cession. M. Talleyrand expressly says, that the eastern limits of Louisiana are described by the

"Sce the pamphlet of Verus.

« ForrigeFortsett »