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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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4826. LOUISIANA, French possession of.—[further continued].
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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4826. LOUISIANA, French possession of.—[further continued].

The cession of Louisiana
and the Floridas by Spain to France, works
most sorely on the United States. On this
subject the Secretary of State has written to
you fully, yet I cannot forbear recurring to it
personally, so deep is the impression it makes
on my mind. It completely reverses all the
political relations of the United States, and
will form a new epoch in our political course.
Of all nations of any consideration, France
is the one, which hitherto, has offered the
fewest points on which we could have any
conflict of right, and the most points of a
communion of interests. From these causes,
we have ever looked to her as our natural friend, as one with which we never could
have an occasion of difference. Her growth,
therefore, we viewed as our own, her misfortunes
ours. There is on the globe one
single spot, the possessor of which is our
natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans,
through which the produce of three-eights
of our territory must pass to market,
and from its fertility it will ere long yield
more than half of our whole produce, and
contain more than half of our inhabitants.


Page 514
France, placing herself in that door, assumes
to us the attitude of defiance. Spain might
have retained it quietly for years. Her pacific
dispositions, her feeble state, would induce
her to increase our facilities there, so that her
possession of the place would be hardly felt
by us, and it would not, perhaps, be very long
before some circumstance might arise, which
might make the cession of it to us the price
of something of more worth to her. Not so
can it ever be in the hands of France. The
impetuosity of her temper, the energy and
restlessness of her character, placed in a point
of eternal friction with us, and our character,
which, though quiet and loving peace and the
pursuit of wealth, is high-minded, despising
wealth in competition with insult or injury,
enterprising and energetic as any nation on
earth; these circumstances render it impossible
that France and the United States can continue
long friends, when they meet in so irritable
a position. They, as well as we, must be
blind if they do not see this; and we must
be very improvident if we do not begin to
make arrangements on that hypothesis. The
day that France takes possession of New Orleans,
fixes the sentence which is to restrain
her forever within her low-water mark. It
seals the union of two nations, who, in conjunction,
can maintain exclusive possession of
the ocean. From that moment, we must
marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.
We must turn all our attention to a
maritime force, for which our resources place
us on very high ground; and having formed
and cemented together a power which May
render reinforcement of her settlements here
impossible to France, make the first cannon,
which shall be fired in Europe, the signal for
tearing up any settlement she may have made,
and for holding the two continents of America
in sequestration for the common purposes
of the united British and American nations.
This is not a state of things we seek or desire.
It is one which this measure, if adopted
by France, forces on us, as necessarily as any
other cause, by the laws of nature, brings on
its necessary effect. It is not from a fear of
France that we deprecate this measure proposed
by her. For, however greater her force
is than ours, compared in the abstract, it is
nothing in comparison of ours, when to be
exerted on our soil. But it is from a sincere
love of peace, and a firm persuasion that
bound to France by the interests and the
strong sympathies still existing in the minds
of our citizens, and holding relative positions
which ensure their continuance, we are secure
of a long course of peace. Whereas,
the change of friends, which will be rendered
necessary if France changes that position, embarks
us necessarily as a belligerent power in
the first war of Europe. In that case, France
will have held possession of New Orleans
during the interval of a peace, long or short,
at the end of which it will be wrested from
her. Will this short-lived possession have
been an equivalent to her for the transfer
of such a weight into the scale of her enemy?
Will not the amalgamation of a young, thri
ving, nation continue to that enemy the health
and force which are at present so evidently
on the decline? And will a few years' possession
of New Orleans add equally to the
strength of France? She may say she needs
Louisiana for the supply of her West Indies.
She does not need it in time of peace, and in
war she could not depend on them, because
they would be so easily intercepted. I should
suppose that all these considerations might,
in some proper form, be brought into view
of the government of France. Though stated
by us, it ought not to give offence; because
we do not bring them forward as a menace,
but as consequences not controllable by us,
but inevitable from the course of things. We
mention them, not as things which we desire
by any means, but as things we deprecate;
and we beseech a friend to look forward and
to prevent them for our common interests.
If France considers Louisiana, however, as
indispensable for her views, she might perhaps
be willing to look about for arrangements
which might reconcile it to our interests. If
anything could do this, it would be the ceding
to us the island of New Orleans and the Floridas.
This would certainly, in a great degree,
remove the causes of jarring and irritation
between us, and perhaps for such a length of
time, as might produce other means of making
the measure permanently conciliatory to
our interests and friendships. It would, at
any rate, relieve us from the necessity of taking
immediate measures for countervailing
such an operation by arrangements in another
quarter. But still we should consider New
Orleans and the Floridas as no equivalent for
the risk of a quarrel with France, produced
by her vicinage.—
To Robert R. Livingston. Washington ed. iv, 431. Ford ed., viii, 144.
(April. 1802)