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signed, Choiseul called Grimaldi to his apartments and informed him privately that the French monarch was extremely anxious to indemnify his Catholic cousin of Spain for the sacrifice of Florida. To this end, declared Choiseul, enthusiastically, his royal master was ready to give up any part of his dominions. As a proof of this willingness Louis XV had determined to cede Louisiana to Spain. He had not made the offer of that province to England more tempting by the inclusion of St. Lucia, asserted Choiseul, because he feared the possible consequences to both the French and Spanish colonies of any increase of English power in the neighborhood of the Antilles. But should his Bourbon relative deem Louisiana insufficient to atone for the loss of Florida, the French monarch would evince his gratitude and good will by the addition of St. Lucia as well. Choiseul thereupon handed Grimaldi the royal letter and the act of cession of Louisiana. The Spanish ambassador signed the act tentatively, awaiting the pleasure of his royal master. In this letter of transmission to Wall, however, he intimated his suspicion as to the real nature of Choiseul's enthusiasm over the prospect of relinquishing Louisiana to Spain, and declared that under the circumstances he thought that the province had better stay in French hands. The preliminaries of the cession to Spain having thus been concluded, nothing further about them is mentioned in the diplomatic correspondence of the time. Only the royal signatures, the one of ratification, the other of confirmation, were formally lacking to make the transaction complete.
Cf. the letter of Louis XV, p. 449, note 7. ? Archivo Histórico-Nacional, Madrid. Estado, Legajo, 3889 A. Wall to Grimaldi, November 13, 1762, citing Grimaldi's letter to him of November 3.
3 The text of the act is given in French, Historical Collections of Louisiana, V, 235-36. It is practically a repetition of what is contained in the letter of Louis XV, p. 449, note 7.
• Archivo Histórico-Nacional, Madrid. Estado, Legajo, 3889 A. Wall to Grimaldi, November 13, 1782, citing the latter's letter to him of November 3.
6 Writing to Ossun, November 3, 1762, all that Choiseul has to say about the cession is the following: “La lettre du Roy à sa Majesté Catholique et l'acte que je veux de signer avec M. de Grimaldi par rapport à la Louisiane rempliront tout ce que j'aurois à vous dire sur la matière intérésante, dont il s'agit. Les lumières supérieures et le coeur du roy d'Espagne suplieront à tout le reste.” Simancas, Estado, Legajo, 4552.
On November 10 the French ambassador at Madrid informed Charles III of the proposed gift of Louisiana, and handed him the letter of his Bourbon kinsman. “The reply of his Majesty, in his first impulse," wrote Wall to Grimaldi,
I assure you was worth any province whatever: "I say, no, no, my cousin is losing altogether too much; I do not want him to lose anything in addition for my sake, and would to Heaven I could do yet more for him.” 1
The sentimentality was quite characteristic of Charles III at this time, and Wall had some difficulty in persuading him to accept the offer. On November 13, however, the Spanish king affixed his signature to the act of cession, and ten days later Louis XV confirmed the deed of gift. Not until December 2 did Charles
2 III send a personal acknowledgment of the favor.
The act of France, first in offering Louisiana, almost the last vestige of her colonial dominions, to England, as a means of saving Florida for Spain, and then of ceding it outright to her ally as a partial recompense for what Spain had lost in the common struggle, was a singular mixture of Gallic impulsiveness with Gallic policy. The apparent generosity of the deed is almost pathetic. It would be so in fact had France really valued Lou
1 Ibid. Wall to Grimaldi, November 13, 1762.
? “This stroke of generosity is one of great policy, and we have had some trouble to make the king accept it, and let himself be persuaded for the same political reason that actuated its offer.” Wall to Roda, November 16, 1762, quoted in Danvila, Historia del Reinado de Carlos III, t. ii, p. 80. “When once the king had overcome his first generous repugnance that his cousin should lose even a hand's breadth of land, he at length acquiesced and ratified the cession.” Archivo Histórico-Nacional, Madrid. Estado, Legajo, 3889 A. Wall to Grimaldi, November 13, 1762.
* Text in French, Historical Collections of Louisiana, v, p. 239.
• Following is the portion that concerns Louisiana: "j'ay été charmé que V. M. ait saisie le moment de faire la paix, et je ne me souviendrai des pertes que par le regret que j'auray toujours, quelles n'ont pas été aussi utiles à la france et à la gloire de V. M., que je me l'étois proposé, en partageant ses dangers et d'avoir été obligé de céder aux pressants instances de V. M. dans l'acceptation de la Louisiane! le M' D'ossun, son ambassadeur, sçait combien mon Coeur a combatu contre la sagesse des vues politiques qui ont engagé V. M. à m'en faire la cession, et cependant sans l'espoir que j'ay de pouvoir un jour Marquer à la France les mêmes sentimens je m'y serois constament refusé.” Simancas, Estado, Legajo, 4552.
isiana,' and were one able to prove the sincerity and disinterestedness of the motives that called it forth. Rather than pathetic, the performance was almost ludicrous in its precipitation of what must have been a foregone conclusion ever since the offer to England was made. Even prior to this last event France had averred her willingness to part with Louisiana. After the English had rejected the province, to tender it to Spain was assuredly a most natural and logical proceeding. The precipitation, furthermore, lay not merely in shifting the cession from one country to another, but rather in the actual eagerness with which the French shuffled off their ancient possession. Indeed they were actually afraid that Spain might not take Louisiana, or that Charles III might revoke his acceptance of it. The ludicrous character of the French share in the cession also appears in the absolute transparency of the economic and political motives involved. Men of less diplomatic discernment than those old masters of statecraft, Wall and Grimaldi, could have fathomed them without great effort.
In view of the facts and deductions already considered, therefore, the actual cession of Louisiana to Spain ought to occasion no more surprise now than it entailed diplomatic negotiation in 1762. To begin with, the French experiment at colonization in Louisiana had been a flat failure. The province was a useless and costly burden. If France could only shift it from her own
1 “Une colonie française pleine d'avenir, vierge du fer ennemi, dernier reste de notre empire continental d'Amérique était cédée comme un troupeau.” Martin, Histoire de France, t. xv, p. 595.
Cf. supra, p. 447 and note 3.
Gayarré describes the precautions taken by the French government to ward off this distressing possibility. He says: “When Kerlerec, the former governor, sent to the French government from the Bastile a memorial showing the utility for France to convert Louisiana in concert with Spain into a commercial depot, in order to render the colony profitable, the minister to whom the memorial was referred endorsed it: 'considering that there are in this memorial some details which might point out to the Court of Madrid proximate causes of conflict with the English, and therefore render the cession of Louisiana less acceptable to Spain, it seems proper that this memorial be recast so as to produce a favorable impression upon that government.'” History of Louisiana, 3d ed., ii, p. 107.
* At the very time of the cession, d'Abbadie, the governor of Louisiana, had notified the French government on repeated occasions that the colony was in a "state of complete destitution," a veritable “chaos of iniquities," and that to re
shoulders to those of Spain, it would be a wise stroke of economy. Could that be done under the guise of a magnanimous appreciation of services performed, it would be still wiser as a political
But if the donation of Louisiana would tend to quiet the querulous grumblings of Spain about contraband trade in the Gulf of Mexico, and to keep that colonial beldame faithful to the Family Compact, in case of a renewal of the contest with England
and all of it in exchange for practically less than nothing that would be a masterly stroke of statesmanship indeed.
Considered from the political standpoint, the purpose of France in ceding Louisiana to Spain was not, as has been commonly supposed, to grant Spain a compensation for the loss of Florida. That was merely the ostensible object of the cession. Intrinsically, to both France and Spain, Florida was worth nothing. As a bar to the entrance of contraband trade into the Gulf of Mexico, and as a station for guardacostas the port of Pensacola had been useful enough. But when the French had ceded to England the river and port of Mobile, the value of Pensacola became sensibly diminished, for the act brought with it precisely what the Spaniards desired most to avoid — the assignment to the English of a foothold upon the Gulf. Even with the retention of Pensacola Spain could no longer maintain her jealous policy of hermetically sealing the Gulf of Mexico against the commerce of other nations, if indeed, she ever had succeeded in enforcing it absolutely. A more cogent reason than the bestowment of an indemnity for the loss of Pensacola was that of suppressing the French contraband trade, both overland and maritime, with the Spanish colonies around the Gulf, which had had New Orleans as its centre. In
store a proper degree of order it would be necessary to employ “measures of an extreme character.” Cf. Gayarré, History of Louisiana, 3d ed., ii, 108.
1 The prevalent opinion is stated for example by Martin as follows: "Par une convention secrète signée le même jour que les préliminaires le roi de France promettait la Louisiane au roi d'Espagne pour le dédommager de la perte de la Floride, et de l'impossibilité où l'on était de rendre Minorque à l'Espagne.” Histoire de France, t. xv, p. 594. The last statement is wholly a conjecture, without documentary foundation. Like most of his Spanish confrères, the French writer interprets the cession very superficially. Cf. however the somewhat vague opinion of Danvila, infra, p. 454, note 3. Cf. also p. 456. ? Cf. supra, p. 441 et seq.
Cf. the statement of Ferrer del Rio, infra, p. 454, note 3.
this way France would dry up a source of chronic dispute with Spain. But the dominant purpose of France, after all, it would seem was to assuage the wounds and sorrows of war, and to assure the continued subservience of her whilom ally to the French dynastic policy.
On the part of the Spaniards the cession of Louisiana awakened neither surprise nor enthusiasm nor gratitude. Personal modesty and a sense of compassion for a kinsman in distress were commingled in the sentimental utterances of Charles III which apparently betokened a disinclination to accept the province. It is quite probable, however, that the king's Spanish pride recoiled from the tacit enactment of the role of a suppliant to French bounty, making him slow to accept the positive advantages, if any, the newly acquired American wilderness might bring. Through an analysis of this calculation of the Spanish monarch and his ministers one may arrive at the motives that caused the acceptance of the cession.'
1 Cf. infra, p. 156, note 4.
? A careful interpretation of the circumstances of the cession, and intensive reading of the letter of Louis XV, are quite sufficient to establish the truth of this assertion. For additional evidence of a documentary character, see infra, p. 456, note 4. Danvila, it will be observed, states this view of the cession negatively by showing what Spain should have avoided. Cf. infra, note 13.
* At this point it might be well to give the opinions of several of the more prominent Spanish historians, relative to the significance of the cession of Louisiana. “As a compensation for the loss of Florida,” remarks Lafuente, “ Spain obtained
what was left of Louisiana, which in fact was for Charles III a burden and a care rather than an indemnity or a recompense.” Historia de España, ed. 1862, t. x, p. 324. “The fact that Louis XV by a bit of crafty deceit forced the acqui. sition of Louisiana upon Charles III," declares Ferrer del Rio, “was far from affording any compensation for such a loss [i.e. of Florida). That new state not only troubled the king with the disagreeable task of governing subjects ill-disposed to his service, but threatened him also with the dangerous contingency of a war with Great Britain.” Historia del Reinado de Carlos III, ed. 1856, t. i, p. 377. Danvila is the most recent and best informed of the historians who have dealt especially with the reign of Charles III. He says: “The cession of Louisiana on the part of France as a means of rendering our misfortunes less acute remedied the situation and consequences of the past war in no respect. It served merely to demonstrate ... the necessity of modifying the course of policy, and for the future of relying wholly upon one's own resources when about to undertake those enterprises which every self-respecting nation is obliged to inaugurate when the question arises of defending the integrity of one's country." Historia del Reinado de Carlos III, t. ii, p. 84.
• See infra, p. 456, note 4.