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A Brief History Lesson on Haiti and the Louisiana Purchase
On October 1, 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France, concluded the Treaty of San Ildefonso with Spain, which returned Louisiana to French ownership in exchange for a Spanish kingdom in Italy.
Napoleon’s ambitions in Louisiana involved the creation of a new empire centered on the Caribbean sugar trade. By terms of the Treaty of Ameins of 1800, Great Britain returned ownership of the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe to the French. Napoleon looked upon Louisiana as a depot for these sugar islands, and as a buffer to U.S. settlement. In October of 1801 he sent a large military force to retake the important island of Santo Domingo, lost in a slave revolt in the 1790s.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was disturbed by Napoleon’s plans to re-establish French colonies in America. With the possession of New Orleans, Napoleon could close the Mississippi to U.S. commerce at any time. Jefferson authorized Robert R. Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, to negotiate for the purchase for up to $2 million of the City of New Orleans, portions of the east bank of the Mississippi, and free navigation of the river for U.S. commerce.
An official transfer of Louisiana to French ownership had not yet taken place, and Napoleon’s deal with the Spanish was a poorly kept secret on the frontier. On October 18, 1802, however, a strange thing happened. Juan Ventura Moralis, Acting Intendant of Louisiana, made public the intention of Spain to revoke the right of deposit at New Orleans for all cargo from the United States. The closure of this vital port to the United States caused anger and consternation, and commerce in the west was virtually blockaded. Historians believe that the revocation of the right of deposit was prompted by abuses of the Americans, particularly smuggling, and not by French intrigues as was believed at the time. President Jefferson ignored public pressure for war with France, and appointed James Monroe special envoy to Napoleon, to assist in obtaining New Orleans for the United States. Jefferson boosted the authorized expenditure of funds to $10 million.
Meanwhile, Napoleon’s plans in the Caribbean were being frustrated by Toussaint L’Ouverture, his army of former slaves, and yellow fever. During ten months of fierce fighting on Santo Domingo, France lost over 40,000 soldiers. Without Santo Domingo Napoleon’s colonial ambitions for a French empire were foiled in North America. Louisiana would be useless as a granary without sugar islanders to feed. Napoleon also considered the temper of the United States, where sentiment was growing against France and stronger ties with Great Britain were being considered. Spain’s refusal to sell Florida was the last straw, and Napoleon turned his attention once more to Europe; the sale of the now-useless Louisiana would supply needed funds to wage war there. Napoleon directed his ministers, Talleyrand and Barbe-Marbois, to offer the entire Louisiana territory to the United States – and quickly.
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If you’d like to see what the country looked like before the Louisiana Purchase, please click on the map below to enlarge.
Click on the map to enlarge
Check out A Tribute to Haitian Soldiers for Heroism in the American Revolution 1797
UPDATE: Haitians react to televangelist Pat Robertson’s ‘devil pact’ remarks
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