Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON AND JAMES MONROE. d. of s. mss. instr. - The Writings, vol. 7 (1803-1807)
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TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON AND JAMES MONROE. d. of s. mss. instr. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 7 (1803-1807) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 7.
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TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON AND JAMES MONROE.d. of s. mss. instr.
Department of State, March 2d, 1803.
You will herewith receive a Commission and letters of credence, one of you as Minister Plenipotentiary, the other as Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, to treat with the Government of the French Republic, on the subject of the Mississippi and the Territory eastward thereof, and without the limits of the United States. The object in view is to procure by just and satisfactory arrangements a cession to the United States of New Orleans, and of West and East Florida, or as much thereof as the actual proprietor can be prevailed on to part with.
The French Republic is understood to have become the proprietor by a cession from Spain in the year NA of New Orleans, as part of Louisiana, if not of the Floridas also. If the Floridas should not have been then included in the Cession, it is not improbable that they will have been since added to it.
It is foreseen that you may have considerable difficulty in overcoming the repugnance and the prejudices of the French Government against a transfer to the United States of so important a part of the acquisition. The apparent solicitude and exertions amidst many embarrassing circumstances, to carry into effect the cession made to the French Republic, the reserve so long used on this subject by the French Government in its communications with the Minister of the United States at Paris, and the declaration finally made by the French Minister of Foreign relations, that it was meant to take possession before any overtures from the United States would be discussed, shew the importance which is attached to the territories in question. On the other hand as the United States have the strongest motives of interest and of a pacific policy to seek by just means the establishment of the Mississippi, down to its mouth as their boundary, so these are considerations which urge on France a concurrence in so natural and so convenient an arrangement.
Notwithstanding the circumstances which have been thought to indicate in the French Government designs of unjust encroachment, and even direct hostility on the United States, it is scarcely possible, to reconcile a policy of that sort, with any motives which can be presumed to sway either the Government or the Nation. To say nothing of the assurances given both by the French Minister at Paris, and by the Spanish Minister at Madrid, that the cession by Spain to France was understood to carry with it all the conditions stipulated by the former to the United States, the manifest tendency of hostile measures against the United States, to connect their Councils, and their Colosal growth with the great and formidable rival of France, can never escape her discernment, nor be disregarded by her prudence, and might alone be expected to produce very different views in her Government.
On the supposition that the French Government does not mean to force, or Court war with the United States; but on the contrary that it sees the interest which France has in cultivating their neutrality and amity, the dangers to so desirable a relation between the two countries which lurk under a neighbourhood modified as is that of Spain at present, must have great weight in recommending the change which you will have to propose. These dangers have been always sufficiently evident; and have moreover been repeatedly suggested by collisions between the stipulated rights or reasonable expectations of the United States, and the Spanish jurisdiction at New Orleans. But they have been brought more strikingly into view by the late proceeding of the Intendant at that place. The sensibility and unanimity in our nation which have appeared on this occasion, must convince France that friendship and peace with us must be precarious until the Mississippi shall be made the boundary between the United States and Louisiana; and consequently render the present moment favorable to the object with which you [are] charged.
The time chosen for the experiment is pointed out also by other important considerations. The instability of the peace of Europe, the attitude taken by Great Britain, the languishing state of the French finances, and the absolute necessity of either abandoning the West India Islands or of sending thither large armaments at great expence, all contribute at the present crisis to prepare in the French Government a disposition to listen to an arrangement which will at once dry up one source of foreign controversy, and furnish some aid in struggling with internal embarrassments. It is to be added, that the overtures committed to you coincide in great measure with the ideas of the person thro’ whom the letter of the President of April 30-1802 was conveyed to Mr. Livingston, and who is presumed to have gained some insight into the present sentiments of the French Cabinet.
Among the considerations which have led the French Government into the project of regaining from Spain the province of Louisiana, and which you may find it necessary to meet in your discussions, the following suggest themselves as highly probable.
1st. A jealousy of the Minister as leaning to a coalition with Great Britain and consistent with neutrality and amity towards France; and a belief that by holding the key to the commerce of the Mississippi, she will be able to command the interests and attachments of the Western portion of the United States; and thereby either controul the Atlantic porttion also, or if that cannot be done, to seduce the former with a separate Government, and a close alliance with herself.
In each of these particulars the calculation is founded in error.
It is not true that the Atlantic states lean towards any connection with Great Britain inconsistent with their amicable relations to France. Their dispositions and their interests equally prescribe to them amity and impartiality to both of those nations. If a departure from this simple and salutary line of policy should take place, the causes of it will be found in the unjust or unfriendly conduct experienced from one or other of them. In general it may be remarked, that there are as many points on which the interests and views of the United States and of Great Britain may not be thought to coincide as can be discovered in relation to France. If less harmony and confidence should therefore prevail between France and the United States than may be maintained between Great Britain and the United States, the difference will be not in the want of motives drawn from the mutual advantage of the two nations; but in the want of favorable dispositions in the Governments of one or the other of them. That the blame in this respect will not justly fall on the Government of the United States, is sufficiently demonstrated by the Mission and the objects with which you are now charged.
The French Government is not less mistaken if it supposes that the Western part of the United States can be withdrawn from their present Union with the Atlantic part, into a separate Government closely allied with France.
Our Western fellow citizens are bound to the Union not only by the ties of kindred and affection which for a long time will derive strength from the stream of emigration peopling that region, but by two considerations which flow from clear and essential interests.
One of these considerations is the passage thro’ the Atlantic ports of the foreign merchandize consumed by the Western inhabitants, and the payments thence made to a Treasury in which they would lose their participation by erecting a separate Government. The bulky productions of the Western Country may continue to pass down the Mississippi; but the difficulties of the ascending navigation of that river, however free it may be made, will cause the imports for consumption to pass thro’ the Atlantic States. This is the course thro’ which they are now received, nor will the impost to which they will be subject change the course even if the passage up the Mississippi should be duty free. It will not equal the difference in the freight thro’ the latter channel. It is true that mechanical and other improvements in the navigation of the Mississippi may lessen the labour and expence of ascending the stream, but it is not the least probable, that savings of this sort will keep pace with the improvements in canals and roads, by which the present course of imports will be favored. Let it be added that the loss of the contributions thus made to a foreign Treasury would be accompanied with the necessity of providing by less convenient revenues for the expence of a separate Government, and of the defensive precautions required by the change of situation.
The other of these considerations results from the insecurity to which the trade from the Mississippi would be exposed, by such a revolution in the Western part of the United States. A connection of the Western people as a separate state with France, implies a connection between the Atlantic States and Great Britain. It is found from long experience that France and Great Britain are nearly half their time at War. The case would be the same with their allies. During nearly one half the time therefore, the trade of the Western Country from the Mississippi, would have no protection but that of France, and would suffer all the interruptions which nations having the command of the sea could inflict on it.
It will be the more impossible for France to draw the Western Country under her influence, by conciliatory regulations of the trade thro’ the Mississippi, because regulations which would be regarded by her as liberal and claiming returns of gratitude, would be viewed on the other side as falling short of justice. If this should not be at first the case, it soon would be so. The Western people believe, as do their Atlantic brethren, that they have a natural and indefeasible right to trade freely thro’ the Mississippi. They are conscious of their power to enforce their right against any nation whatever. With these ideas in their minds, it is evident that France will not be able to excite either a sense of favor, or of fear, that would establish an ascendency over them. On the contrary, it is more than probable, that the different views of their respective rights, would quickly lead to disappointments and disgusts on both sides, and thence to collisions and controversies fatal to the harmony of the two nations. To guard against these consequences, is a primary motive with the United States, in wishing the arrangement proposed. As France has equal reasons to guard against them, she ought to feel an equal motive to concur in the arrangement.
2d. The advancement of the commerce of France by an establishment on the Mississippi, has doubtless great weight with the Government in espousing this project.
The commerce thro’ the Mississippi will consist 1st of that of the United States, 2d of that of the adjacent territories to be acquired by France.
The 1st is now and must for ages continue the principal commerce. As far as the faculties of France will enable her to share in it, the article to be proposed to her on the part of the United States on that subject promises every advantage she can desire. It is a fair calculation, that under the proposed arrangement, her commercial opportunities would be extended rather than diminished; inasmuch as our present right of deposit gives her the same competitors as she would then have, and the effect of the more rapid settlement of the Western Country consequent on that arrangement would proportionally augment the mass of commerce to be shared by her.
The other portion of commerce, with the exception of the Island of New Orleans and the contiguous ports of West Florida, depends on the Territory Westward of the Mississippi. With respect to this portion, it will be little affected by the Cession desired by the United States. The footing proposed for her commerce on the shore to be ceded, gives it every advantage she could reasonably wish, during a period within which she will be able to provide every requisite establishment on the right shore; which according to the best information, possesses the same facilities for such establishments as are found on the Island of New Orleans itself. These circumstances essentially distinguish the situation of the French commerce in the Mississippi after a Cession of New Orleans to the United States, from the situation of the commerce of the United States, without such a Cession; their right of deposit being so much more circumscribed and their territory on the Mississippi not reaching low enough for a commercial establishment on the shore, within their present limits.
There remains to be considered the commerce of the Ports in the Floridas. With respect to this branch, the advantages which will be secured to France by the proposed arrangement ought to be satisfactory. She will here also derive a greater share from the increase, which will be given by a more rapid settlement of a fertile territory, to the exports and imports thro’ those ports, than she would obtain from any restrictive use she could make of those ports as her own property. But this is not all. The United States have a just claim to the use of the rivers which pass from their territories thro’ the Floridas. They found their claim on like principles with those which supported their claim to the use of the Mississippi. If the length of these rivers be not in the same proportion with that of the Mississippi, the difference is balanced by the circumstance that both Banks in the former case belong to the United States.
With a view to perfect harmony between the two nations a cession of the Floridas is particularly to be desired, as obviating serious controversies that might otherwise grow even out of the regulations however liberal in the opinion of France, which she may establish at the Mouth of those rivers. One of the rivers, the Mobile, is said to be at present navigable for 400 miles above the 31° of latitude, and the navigation may no doubt be opened still further. On all of them, the Country within the Boundary of the United States, tho’ otherwise between that and the sea, is fertile. Settlements on it are beginning; and the people have already called on the Government to procure the proper outlets to foreign Markets. The President accordingly, gave some time ago, the proper instructions to the Minister of the United States at Madrid. In fact, our free communication with the sea thro’ these channels is so natural, so reasonable, and so essential that eventually it must take place, and in prudence therefore ought to be amicably and effectually adjusted without delay.
A further object with France may be, to form a Colonial establishment having a convenient relation to her West India Islands, and forming an independent source of supplies for them.
This object ought to weigh but little against the Cession we wish to obtain for two reasons, 1st. Because the Country which the Cession will leave in her hands on the right side of the Mississippi is capable of employing more than all the faculties she can spare for such an object and of yielding all the supplies which she could expect, or wish from such an establishment: 2d. Because in times of general peace, she will be sure of receiving whatever supplies her Islands may want from the United States, and even thro’ the Mississippi if more convenient to her; because in time of peace with the United States, tho’ of War with Great Britain, the same sources will be open to her, whilst her own would be interrupted; and because in case of war with the United States, which is not likely to happen without a concurrent war with Great Britain (the only case in which she could need a distinct fund of supplies) the entire command of the sea, and of the trade thro’ the Mississippi, would be against her, and would cut off the source in question. She would consequently never need the aid of her new Colony, but when she could make little or no use of it.
There may be other objects with France in the projected acquisition; but they are probably such as would be either satisfied by a reservation to herself of the Country on the right side of the Mississippi, or are of too subordinate a character to prevail against the plan of adjustment we have in view; in case other difficulties in the way of it can be overcome. The principles and outlines of this plan are as follows viz.
France cedes to the United States forever, the Territory East of the River Mississippi, comprehending the two Floridas, the Island of New Orleans and the Island lying to the North and East of that channel of the said River, which is commonly called the Mississippi, together with all such other Islands as appertain to either West or East Florida; France reserving to herself all her territory on the West side of the Mississippi.
The boundary between the Territories ceded and reserved by France shall be a continuation of that already defined above the 31st degree of North Latitude viz, the middle of the channel or bed of the river, thro’ the said South pass to the sea. The navigation of the river Mississippi in its whole breadth from its source to the ocean, and in all its passages to and from the same shall be equally free and common to citizens of the United States and of the French Republic.
The vessels and citizens of the French Republic may exercise commerce to and at such places on their respective shores below the said thirty first degree of North Latitude as may be allowed for that use by the parties to their respective citizens and vessels. And it is agreed that no other Nation shall be allowed to exercise commerce to or at the same or any other place on either shore, below the said thirty first degree of Latitude. For the term of ten years to be computed from the exchange of the ratifications hereof, the citizens, vessels and merchandizes of the United States and of France shall be subject to no other duties on their respective shores below the said thirty first degree of latitude than are imposed on their own citizens, vessels and merchandizes. No duty whatever shall, after the expiration of ten years be laid on Articles the growth or manufacture of the United States or of the ceded Territory exported thro’ the Mississippi in French vessels, so long as such articles so exported in vessels of the United States shall be exempt from duty: nor shall French vessels exporting such articles, ever afterwards be subject to pay a higher duty than vessels of the United States.
The citizens of France may, for the term of ten years, deposit their effects at New Orleans and at such other places on the ceded shore of the Mississippi, as are allowed for the commerce of the United States, without paying any other duty than a fair price for the hire of stores.
In the ports and commerce of West and East Florida, France shall never be on a worse footing than the most favored nations; and for the term of ten years her vessels and merchandize shall be subject therein to no higher duties than are paid by those of the United States and of the ceded Territory, exported in French vessels from any port in West or East Florida, [and] shall be exempt from duty as long as vessels of the United States shall enjoy this exemption.
The United States, in consideration of the Cession of Territory made by this Treaty shall pay to France — millions of livres Tournois, in the manner following, viz, They shall pay — millions of livres tournois immediately on the exchange of the ratifications hereof: they shall assume in such order of priority as the Government of the United States may approve, the payment of claims, which have been or may be acknowledged by the French Republic to be due to American citizens, or so much thereof as with the payment to be made on the exchange of ratifications will not exceed the sum of — and in case a balance should remain due after such payment and assumption, the same shall be paid at the end of one year from the final liquidation of the claims hereby assumed, which shall be payable in three equal annual payments, the first of which is to take place one year after the exchange of ratifications or they shall bear interest at the rate of six p Cent p annum from the date of such intended payments; until they shall be discharged. All the above mentioned payments shall be made at the Treasury of the United States and at the rate of one dollar and ten cents for every six livres tournois.
To incorporate the inhabitants of the hereby ceded territory with the citizens of the United States on an equal footing, being a provision, which cannot now be made, it is to be expected, from the character and policy of the United States, that such incorporation will take place without unnecessary delay. In the meantime they shall be secure in their persons and property, and in the free enjoyment of their religion.