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In 1682, LaSalle descended the Missisippi to the Gulf of Mexico. and in the name of the King of France took formal possession of all the immense region watered by the great river and its tributaries from its source to its mouth, and named it Louisiana, in honor of his master, Louis XIV. At the close of the seventeenth century, France claimed, by right of discovery and occupancy, the whole valley of the Mississippi and its tributaries, including Texas, as far as the Rio del Norte.
In 1719, Phillipe Francis Renault arrived in Illinois with two hundred miners and artisans. The war between France and Spain at this time rendered it extremely probable that the Mississippi Valley might become the theater of Spanish hostilities against the French settlements; to prevent this, as well as to extend French claims, a chain of forts was begun, to keep open the connection between the mouth and the sources of the Mississippi. Fort Orleans, high up the Mississippi River, was built as an outpost in 1720.
The Mississippi scheme was at the zenith of its power and glory in January, 1720, but the gigantic bubble collapsed more suddenly than it had been inflated, and the Company was declared hopelessly bankrupt in May following. France was impoverished by it, both private and public credit was overthrown, capitalists suddenly found themselves paupers, and labor was left without employment. The effect on the colony of Louisiana was disastrous.
While this was going on in Lower Louisiana the region about the lakes was the theater of Indian hostilities, rendering the passage from Canada to Louisiana extremely dangerous for many years. The English had not only extended their Indian trade into the vicinity of the French settlements, but through their friends, the Iroquois, had gained a marked ascendancy over the Foxes, a fierce and powerful tribe, of Iroquois descent, whom they incited to hostilities against the French. The Foxes began their hostilities with the siege of Detroit, in 1712, a siege which continued for nineteen consecutive days, and although the expedition resulted in diminishing their numbers and humbling their pride, yet it was not until after several successive campaigns, embodying the best military resources of New France, had been directed against them, that they were finally defeated at the great battles of Butte des Morts, and on the Wisconsin river, and driven west in 1746.
The Company, having found that the cost of defending Louisiana exceeded the returns from its commerce, solicited leave to surrender the Mississippi wilderness to the home government. Accordingly, on the 10th of April, 1732, the jurisdiction and control over the commerce reverted to the Crown of France. The Company had held possession of Louisiana fourteen years. In 1735, Bienville returned to assume command for the King.
A glance at a few of the old French settlements will show the progress made in portions of Louisiana during the early part of
the eighteenth century. As early as 1705, traders and hunters had penetrated the fertile regions of the Wabash, and from this region, at that early date, fifteen thousand hides and skins had been collected and sent to Mobile for the European arket.
In the year 1716, the French population on the Wabash kept up a lucrative commerce with Mobile by means of traders and voyageurs. The Ohio river was comparatively unknown.
In 1746, agriculture on the Wabash had attained to greater prosperity than in any of the French settlements besides, and in that year six hundred barrels of flour were manufactured and shipped to New Orleans, together with considerable quantities of hay, peltry, tallow and beeswax.
In the Illinois country, also, considerable settlements had been made, so that, in 1730, they embraced one hundred and forty French families, about six hundred "converted Indians," and many traders and voyageurs.
In 1753, the first actual conflict arose between Louisiana and the Atlantic colonies. From the earliest advent of the Jesuit fathers, up to the period of which we speak, the great ambition of the French had been, not alone to preserve their possessions in the West, but by every possible means to prevent the slightest attempt of the English, east of the mountains, to extend their settlements towards the Mississippi. France was resolved on retaining possession of the great territory which her missionaries had discovered and revealed to the world. French commandants had avowed their intention of seizing every Englishman within the Ohio Valley.
The colonies of Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia were most affected by the encroachments of France in the extension of her dominion; and particularly in the great scheme of uniting Canada with Louisiana. To carry out this purpose the French had taken possession of a tract of country claimed by Virginia, and had commenced a line of forts extending from the lakes to the Ohio River. Virginia was not only alive to her own interests, but attentive to the vast importance of an immediate and effectual resistance on the part of all the English colonies to the actual and contemplated encroachments of the French.
In 1753, Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, sent George Washington, then a young man just twenty-one, to demand of the French commandant "a reason for invading British dominions while a solid peace subsisted.' Washington met the French commandant, Gardeur de St. Pierre, on the head waters of the Alleghany, and having communicated to him the object of his journey, received the insolent answer that the French would not discuss the matter of right, but would make prisoners of every Englishman found trading on the Ohio and its waters. The coun. try, he said, belonged to the French, by virtue of the discoveries of LaSalle, and they would not withdraw from it.
In January, 1754, Washington returned to Virginia, and made his report to the Governor and Council. Forces were at once raised, and Washington, as Lieutenant Colonel, was dispatched at the head of a hundred and fifty men, to the forks of the Ohio, with orders to "finish the fort already begun there by the Ohio Company, and to make prisoners, kill or destroy all who interrupted the English settlements."
On his march through the forests of Western Pennsylvania, Washington, through the aid of friendly Indians, discovered the French concealed among the rocks, and as they ran to seize their arms, ordered his men to fire upon them, at the same time, with his own musket, setting the example. An action lasting about a quarter of an hour ensued; ten of the Frenchmen were killed, among them Jumonville, the commander of the party, and twentyone were made prisoners. The dead were scalped by the Indians, and the chief, bearing a tomahawk and a scalp, visited all the tribes of the Miamis, urging them to join the Six Nations and the English against the French. The French, however, were soon re-enforced and Col. Washington was compelled to return to Fort Necessity. Here, on the 3d day of July, De Villiers invested the fort with 600 French troops and 100 Indians. On the 4th, Washington accepted terms of capitulation and the English garrison withdrew from the valley of the Ohio.
This attack of Washington upon Jumonville aroused the indignation of France, and war was formally declared in May, 1756, and the French and Indian War" devastated the colonies for several years. Montreal, Detroit, and all Canada were surrendered to the English, and on the 10th of February, 1763, by the treaty of Paris-which had been signed, though not formally ratified by the respective governments, on the 3d of November, 1762-France relinquished to great Great Britain all that portion of the province of Louisiana lying on the east side of the Mississippi, except the island and town of New Orleans. On the same day that the treaty of Paris was signed, France, by a secret treaty, ceded to Spain all her possessions on the west side of the Mississippi, including the whole country to the head waters of the Great River, and west to the Rocky Mountains, and the jurisdiction of France in America, waich had lasted nearly a century, was ended.
At the close of the Revolutionary war, by the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, the English Government ceded to the latter all the territory on the east side of the Mississippi River, and north of the thirty-first parallel of north latitude. At the same time, Great Britain ceded to Spain all the Floridas, comprising all the territory east of the Mississipi and south of the southern limits of the United States.
At this time, therefore, the present State of Iowa was a part of the Spanish possessions in North America, as all the territory west
of the Mississippi River was under the dominion of Spain. That government also possessed all the territory of the Floridas east of the great river and south of the thirty-first parallel of north latitude. The Mississippi, therefore, so essential to the prosperity of the western portion of the United States, for the last three hundred miles of its course flowed wholly within the Spanish dominions, and that government claimed the exclusive right to use and control it below the southern boundary of the United States.
The free navigation of the Mississippi was a very important question during all the time that Louisiana remained a dependency of the Spanish Crown, and as the fiual settlement intimately affected the status of the then future State of Iowa, it will be interesting to trace its progress.
The people of the United States occupied and exercised jurisdiction over the entire eastern valley of the Mississippi, embracing all the country drained by its eastern tributaries; they had a natural right, according to the accepted international law, to follow these rivers to the sea, and to the use of the Mississippi River accordingly, as the great natural channel of commerce. The river was not only necessary but absolutely indispensable to the prosperity and growth of the western settlements then rapidly rising into commercial and political importance. They were situated in the heart of the great valley, and with wonderful expansive energies and accumulating resources, it was very evident that no power on earth could deprive them of the free use of the river below them, only while their numbers were insufficient to enable them to maintain their right by force. Inevitably, therefore, immediately after the ratification of the treaty of 1785, the Western people began to demand the free navigation of the Mississippinot as a favor, but as a right. In 1786, both banks of the river, below the mouth of the Ohio, were occupied by Spain, and military posts on the east bank enforced her power to exact heavy duties on all imports by way of the river for the Ohio region. Every boat descending he river was forced to land and submit to the arbitrary revenue exactions of the Spanish authorities. Under the administration of Governor Miro, these rigorous exactions were somewhat relaxed from 1787 to 1790; but Spain held it as her right to make them. Taking advantage of the claim of the American people, that the Mississippi should be opened to them, in 1791, the Spanish Government concocted a scheme for the dismembership of the Union. The plan was to induce the Western people to separate from the Eastern States by liberal land grants and extraordinary commercial privileges.
Spanish emissaries, among the people of Ohio and Kentucky, informed them that the Spanish Government would grant them favorable commercial privileges, provided they would secede from the Federal Government east of the mountains. The Span
ish Minister to the United States plainly declared to his confidential correspondent that, unless the Western people would declare their independence and refuse to remain in the Union, Spain was determined never to grant the free navigation of the Mississippi.
By the treaty of Madrid, October 20, 1795, however, Spain formally stipulated that the Mississippi River, from its source to the Gulf, for its entire width, should be free to American trade and commerce, and that the people of the United States should be permitted for three years to use the port of New Orleans as a port of deposit for their merchandise and produce, duty free.
In November, 1801, the United States Government received, through Rufus King, its Minister at the Court of St. James, a copy of the treaty between Spain and France, signed at Madrid, March 21, 1801, by which the cession of Louisiana to France, made the previous autumn, was confirmed.
The change offered a favorable opportunity to secure the just rights of the United States, in relation to the free navigation of the Mississippi, and ended the attempt to dismember the Union by an effort to secure an independent goverment west of the Alleghany Mountains. On the 7th day of January, 1803, the American House of Representatives adopted a resolution declaring their "unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the River Mississippi as established by existing treaties.”
In the same month, President Jefferson nominated and the Senate confirmed Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe as Envoys Plenipotentiary to the Court of France, and Charles Pinckney and James Monroe to the Court of Spain, with plenary power to negotiate treaties to effect the object enunciated by the popular branch of the National Legislature. These envoys were instructed to secure, if possible, the cession of Florida and New Orleans, but it does not appear that Mr. Jefferson and his cabinet had any idea of purchasing that part of Louisiana lying on the west side of the Mississippi. In fact, on the 2d of March following, the instructions were sent to our Ministers, containing a plan which expressly left to France "all her territory on the west side of the Mississippi." Had these instructions been followed, it might have been that there would not have been any State of Iowa or any other member of the glorious Union of States west of the "Father of Waters."
In obedience to his instructions, however, Mr. Livingston broached this plan to M. Talleyrand, Napoleon's Prime Minister, when that courtly diplomatist quietly suggested to the American Minister that France might be willing to cede the whole French domain in North America to the United States, and asked how much the Federal Government would be willing to give for it. Livingston intimated that twenty millions of francs might be a