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Strangers on Their Native Soil

Opposition to United States' Governance in Louisiana's Orleans Territory, 1803-1809

Julien Vernet

Publication Year: 2013

After the United States purchased Louisiana, many inhabitants of the new American territory believed that Louisiana would quickly be incorporated into the Union and that they would soon enjoy rights as citizens. In March of 1804, however, Congress passed the Act for the Organization of Orleans Territory, which divided Louisiana into two sections: Orleans Territory, which lay southwest of the Mississippi Territory; and the Louisiana District. Under this act, President Jefferson possessed the power to appoint the government of Orleans Territory and its thirteen-man legislative council. The act also prohibited importation of most slaves. Anxieties about their livelihoods and an unrepresentative government drove some Louisiana merchants and planters to organize protests. At first this group used petitions and newspaper editorials to demand revisions; later they pressed for reforms as a political faction within the territorial government.

Outside of Louisiana, the conflict became a harbinger for the obstacles to westward expansion and clashes ahead. American politicians became alarmed about the future of American governance, territorial expansion, and the growth of slavery, all issues raised by the Orleans protesters. John Quincy Adams, for example, worried that the government established for Louisianans violated the principles of the American Revolution. Federalist Fisher Ames believed that Jefferson's power over Louisiana would allow him to establish a western Republican empire ensuring the national demise of the Federalist Party. Slaveholders and supporters of slavery in the Congress attacked the restrictions on importation of slaves, using arguments in debates with opponents of slavery that were repeated until the outbreak of the Civil War. Because they caused politicians in the Congress to reconsider how people in areas acquired by the United States should be governed and because they reinvigorated the national discussion about the future of slavery in the United States, the Orleans protesters played a significant role in influencing the shape of American territorial expansion.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-6

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pp. vi-9

The research for and writing of this book were only possible because of the support of many people over the years. I would like to thank my colleagues in the History Department at the University of British Columbia Okanagan for their consideration as I worked to complete this project. The archivists and librarians at the Historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans Public Library, ...

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pp. 3-11

With the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, Thomas Jefferson and the government of the United States faced a new problem: how to transform a territory dominated by a foreign population into a state. “Previous American territories had been inhabited by people who spoke the English language, who were Protestant, and who had experience in representative government. The ...

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Chapter 1. “An Object So Dear to the Heart of Every American”: American Interests and the Purchase of Louisiana

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pp. 12-30

In comparison to other French colonies of the mid-eighteenth century, Louisiana was an economic failure. Efforts to establish a profitable trade in cash crops such as tobacco and indigo were hindered by climate, shortages of slave labor, skeptical merchants in France, and the duties of the Farmers General and the Crown. The capital of the colony, New Orleans, was founded in 1718. Located 100 miles up the Mississippi River, it was an Atlantic gateway French officials and merchants at New Orleans found it difficult to profit ...

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Chapter 2. A Conquered People: The View from Washington

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pp. 31-53

Jefferson declared that the purchase of Louisiana enlarged America’s “empire of liberty,” despite the fact that the American government established for Louisiana lacked any representative features. The president considered the acquisition of this new western territory as essential to the future prosperity of the United States. “I look to this duplication of area for the extending a government so free and economical as ours, as a great achievement to the mass of happiness which is to ensue.” When he wrote this ...

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Chapter 3. “A Flame in the District”: The Organization of Protest against Territorial Government in Orleans

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pp. 54-74

As Congress began to debate the Breckinridge Bill in January 1804, a new wave of American immigrants set out for New Orleans. Many of these sought to increase their fortunes through the establishment of commercial enterprises in that city. Others hoped to obtain a position in the future territorial administration of Louisiana. These Americans, however, faced competition from...

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Chapter 4. “Pestered with Intriguants”: Territorial Administration under Attack in Orleans and Washington

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pp. 75-96

On August 30, 1804, the same day that Claiborne wrote to President Thomas Jefferson to complain about the difficulty of finding suitable men to serve in government, Jefferson sent Claiborne a list of appointments to the Legislative Council. The president named Etienne de Boré, Benjamin Morgan, Daniel Clark, Dr. John Watkins, Evan Jones, Joseph Bellechasse, John Roman, and William Wykoff “absolutely” to the Legislative Council, but he also gave Claiborne limited...

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Chapter 5. “A Severe Shock to W. C. C. and His Gang”: The Opposition’s Representatives in Territorial and National Government

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pp. 97-115

tAaron Burr enjoyed a pleasant stay in New Orleans in the first weeks of July 1805. He met many of the elite of New Orleans society and was especially friendly with Governor Claiborne’s political opponents. He stayed with Edward Livingston and was “lavishly entertained by Daniel Clark.” Claiborne noted that Burr, while he was in New Orleans, was in “habits of intimacy with Livingston, Clark and Jones,” but the governor gave no hint of ...

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Chapter 6. Folly and Failure: The Fall of the Opposition Faction

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pp. 116-134

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1806, Aaron Burr made fi-nal preparations to move a military expedition down the Mississippi to capture New Orleans. Burr was certain that this object could be accomplished without spilling blood because Louisianans wanted to separate from the United States and would welcome him as a liberator. At least this is what Burr had told British minister Anthony Merry in his efforts to obtain British financial and naval support for his attack. While Burr did not specifi-...

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Chapter 7. Jefferson Triumphant: Republican Orleans and American Louisiana

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pp. 135-151

Daniel Clark and Edward Livingston, already implicated in the Burr Conspiracy, further damaged their reputations when they participated in an effort to blame Wilkinson for the plot to conquer Orleans Territory and invade Mexico. When the U.S. District Court of Virginia convened in May 1807 to try Burr on charges of treason, his counsel decided to attempt to focus the court’s attention on Wilkinson, and sent James Alexander to New Orleans to ask Livingston and John B. Prevost to collect evidence ...

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pp. 152-164

Protest against territorial government in Orleans Territory occurred in three stages. The first stage of organized protest against territorial government lasted from March 1804 until October 1805. Leaders organized supporters, and the territorial government administered by Claiborne was criticized in letters to officials in the Jefferson administration, in New Orleans newspapers, ...


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pp. 165-193


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pp. 194-204


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pp. 205-210

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039310
E-ISBN-10: 1621039315
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037535

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 813568129
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Strangers on Their Native Soil

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Subject Headings

  • Louisiana -- History -- 1803-1865.
  • Louisiana -- Politics and government -- 1803-1865.
  • Government, Resistance to -- Louisiana -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- Territorial expansion -- Political aspects.
  • Slavery -- United States -- Extension to the territories.
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