restricted access 10. What the Louisiana Purchase Meant
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7  0 What the Louisiana Purchase Meant AFTER BERNARDO DE GALVEZ’S CONQUEST of British West Florida in 799, Bayou Manchac remained a feature on contemporary maps, although it was no longer an international boundary and the back route had lost its allure. In 802, however, political turmoil in Europe and uneasiness about the ultimate intentions of the United States combined to provoke Spain to cut off the fledgling nation’s access to New Orleans and the lower Mississippi. Angry residents from the American west—Kentucky, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and Tennessee—threatened to resort to force to reclaim access to the vital port city. In the meantime, after a difficult war with France, the Spanish government had negotiated a secret retrocession of territory, returning the Isle of Orleans and Louisiana to their original claimant . Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had long wanted to restore his country’s position in North America; he should have been elated. But it soon was evident that the immense colony would impose an immense financial and political burden that France could not support ; its resources were stretched thin in response to provocations from Austria and England and the demands of dealing with the slave rebellion in their Caribbean colony of Saint Domingue. WINDING THROUGH TIME 72 In803,AmericanpresidentThomasJeffersondispatchedRobert Livingston and James Monroe to Paris to try to purchase the Isle of Orleans and so gain unimpeded use of the port of New Orleans. Livingston had previously, and unsuccessfully, tried to buy New Orleans after the United States had learned of the secret retrocession . But now, Napoleon’s treasury minister, the Marquis de Barbe-Marbois, made an astonishing offer: France would sell not only the Isle of Orleans but also the vast, unmapped expanse of Louisiana—the unknown lands that France had formally claimed after Iberville’s journey. The price was, ultimately, $5,000,000 for what was found to be almost 828,000 square miles. Jefferson chose William C. C. Claiborne, former governor of the Mississippi territory , to oversee transfer of Louisiana to the United States and then to serve as governor of the Territory of Orleans. This extraordinary transaction infused Napoleon’s coffers with needed monies and proved a remarkable boon to the United States. The land acquisition strengthened the status of the American republic in relation to Great Britain, which controlled Canada, and offered the opportunity of great westward expansion as well as securing the Mississippi River. Among its most unnoticed effects was that Bayou Manchac had once again become an international boundary. Now, it formed the border between the United States and Spanish West Florida, which was not included in the Louisiana Purchase.  The restoration of the bayou as an international boundary may have influenced its selection as the site of a famous duel between two New Orleans political luminaries in 807. Governor Claiborne and Mr. Daniel Clark, delegate to Congress from the Orleans Territory, met on the West Florida bank of the bayou to settle an enduring hostility. 73 Clark was an Irish immigrant with a reputation as a dominant, complex,difficultman.HehadbeenappointedregularconsulinNew Orleans in 80 and was disappointed and resentful when Claiborne, nothe,wasnamedgovernor.TheLouisianaGazettereportedthatClark had said that“the militia of theTerritory had been neglected and had seen a black corps preferred to them.” This constituted an insult to Claiborne, who demanded a retraction from Clark. Clark refused. The men engaged in insults and affronts for years, and both gossip and history have suggested assorted reasons for their duel. But whatever the ultimate provocation, it compelled the enraged Claiborne to challenge Clark to settle the matter. The Old World tradition of dueling, a gentlemanly engagement , was still lawful in New Orleans, but perhaps the two men chose to meet across the bayou because it was neutral territory, beyond Claiborne’s jurisdiction, and less conspicuous than the environs of New Orleans. ThemenandtheirsecondsarrivedwithpistolsonMonday,June8, 807,near where old Fort Bute had stood.Their weapons—pistols— represented a very American choice; Creoles would have preferred dueling swords—colichemards. The south Louisiana day would have been warm and humid as the four men gathered in a muddy clearing surrounded by a stand of great forest. The duelists were probably clad as gentlemen of the day would have been—in knee breeches, white linen shirts, and boots, having shed their traditional vests, coats, and hats to be battle ready. Shots rang out almost simultaneously from both pistols. In a letter to a friend after the duel, Clark...


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