Louisiana Purchase Treaty : Hunter Miller's Notes


This treaty and the two conventions of the same date (Documents 29 and 30) formed together one transaction; they were concurrently signed; and by the express terms of Article 9 of the treaty their ratifications were interdependent and were concurrently exchanged.

The English and French texts of the signed originals of each of the three agreements in the Department of State file are separate papers. In the respective attestation clauses it is declared, in somewhat varying forms of wording in the English texts, that the agreements were first drafted and agreed on in French; but the alterant was observed throughout; in each original in the file the United States of America is named before the French Republic, the President before the First Consul, and the signatures of the American plenipotentiaries (except in the French text of Document 30) are at the left. Accordingly, the respective English texts are here printed in the left column.

Each written page of the French text of this treaty prior to the page of signature, is initialed by Livingston and Marbois; those initials are not shown in the print here; and such of the dates mentioned in either text in two styles as are written one above the other and bracketed in the original, are here printed with a shilling mark. It may be added that the original texts of all three agreements, especially in the English, indicate haste in their preparation; as examples may be noted the year 1793 given in the preamble (French) of this treaty as the date of the treaty of 1795 with Spain (Document 18), and "present" for "preceding" in Article 2 of Document 30.

There were three French instruments of ratification, one for each agreement. They recited the respective French texts only. The three instruments were forwarded by Livingston and Monroe to Secretary of State Madison under date of June 7, 1803, for delivery to the French Charge d'Affaires, Louis Andre Pichon; and thus ratifications were agreed to be exchanged at Washington, although the texts left the point open (see Article 7 of this treaty and also American State Papers, Foreign Relations, II, 563-65).

The attested copy of the Senate resolution of October 20, 1803, which is in the Department of State file, differs slightly in wording from that printed in Executive Journal, I, 450.

One instrument of ratification on the part of the United States included the three agreements. There is a quite incomplete duplicate of it in the file, signed by Jefferson; some parts of the paper have been torn away, including the imprint of the Great Seal and the attest of Madison; and the texts of the three agreements are not now with that single sheet of paper.

The protocol of the exchange of ratifications on October 21, 1803, is affixed to the French instrument of ratification of this treaty. It is in simple form, in French and English, signed and sealed by Madison and Pichon. A French proposal and an American counter proposal to insert in the text declarations regarding the delivery of Louisiana to the United States were abandoned (D. S., 14 Domestic Letters, 213).

The message of President Jefferson to Congress of October 17, 1803 (Richardson, I, 357-62), communicated the fact of the cession of Louisiana, on the same day that the treaty and the two conventions were submitted to the Senate. The texts of the three agreements were published in the press immediately following the Senate action on October 20; thus in the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser of October 22, an article dated the previous day said, "Yesterday at about 5 o'clock P. M. the senate ratified the Louisiana Treaty," and the English texts of the agreements were printed.

The original proclamation of the three agreements has not been found, but it was published at the time; its provisions (without the texts) appear in the issue of the newspaper above mentioned of November 4, 1803.

The proclamation is printed in full in The Laws of the United States Folwell ea., VII, 167-95 (that volume is dated 1806, but its first part, including the acts of the first session of the Eighth Congress, doubtless appeared as early as 1804); it includes both texts of the treaty and of the two conventions and is dated merely "in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three, and of the sovereignty and independence of the United States, the twenty eighth "; but there is little doubt that the actual date was October 21, 1803; on that day the three agreements were communicated to both Houses of Congress (American State Papers, Foreign Relations, II, 507; Richardson, I, 369-63).

Also in the treaty file is a note of Pichon to the Secretary of State, dated January 25, 1804, enclosing the original protocol of the delivery of Louisiana by Spain to France on November 30, 1803, at New Orleans; that document is in French and Spanish, signed and sealed by the representatives of the two countries. The English text of the similar document of December 20,1803, when Louisiana was delivered by France to the United States, is printed in American State Papers, Foreign Relations; II, 582.

In the meantime statutes for the execution of the agreements on the part of the United States had been enacted (act of October 31, and two acts of November 10, 1803, 2 Statutes at Large, 245-48), and the question of the limits of the ceded territory, which in its various phases was destined to be discussed for the next fifteen years, was kept in the background (see the letter of Madison to Livingston, March 31, 1804, American State Papers, Foreign Relations, II, 575-78; and also the letter of Jefferson to William Dunbar of September 21, 1803, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, X, 20-21).


The despatches from Paris with the treaty and the two conventions were received at Washington on July 14, 1803. On the following day Jefferson wrote to Captain Meriweather Lewis (The Works of Thomas Jefferson, IX, 430), "Last night also we received the treaty from Paris ceding Louisiana according to the bounds to which France had a right." The National Intelligencer of July 18 contained a quite complete summary of the provisions of the three agreements, which was very likely given out by the Department of State and which certainly could not have been written except from the text of the documents; and a letter of Jefferson to William Dunbar of July 17, 1803 (The Works of Thomas Jefferson, X,19), reads in part as follows:

Before you receive this, you will have heard, through the channel of the public papers, of the cession of Louisiana by France to the United States. The terms as stated in the National Intelligencer, are accurate. That the treaty may be ratified in time, I have found it necessary to convene Congress on the 17th of October; and it is very important for the happiness of the country that they should possess all the information which can be obtained respecting it, that they make the best arrangement practicable for its good government. It is the most necessary, because, they wBI be obliged to ask from the People an amendment of the Constitution, authorizing their receiving the province into the Union, and providing for its government; and the limitations of power which shad be given by that amendment, will be unalterable but by the same authority.


The treaty of San Ildefonso of October 1 1800, was in French; the text in that language is in the memoir of Luis de Onis Memoria sobre las negociaciones entre Espana y los Estados-Unidos de America, Madrid, 1820, Appendix, 1-3); an English translation of that treaty is in the English version of the memoir of De Onis (Washington, 1821, 151-52) and is printed also in Malloy, I, 506-7. A revised translation is printed below. The vital article is of course Article 3, the original French of which is quoted in the French text of Article 1 of this treaty; the quotation in the corresponding English of Article 1 is of necessity a translation from the French. The exact meaning of the language was long debated in diplomatic correspondence because of its bearing on the limits of the province of Louisiana, and it has been much discussed by writers ever since. At least three different English words, for example, have been used to translate the French "retroceder"; in this treaty the word used is "cede"; in the translation first above mentioned it is "recede"; and in the translation here printed, as in Madison's long letter to Livingston of March 31, 1804 (American State Papers, Foreign Relations, II, 575-78), where the language is elaborately discussed, it is more correctly "retrocede."


Preliminary and Secret Treaty between the French Republic and His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain, Concerning the Aggrandizement of His Royal Highness the Infant Duke of Parma in Italy and the Retrocession of Louisiana.

His Catholic Majesty having always manifested an earnest desire to procure for His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma an aggrandizement which would place his domains on a footing more consonant with his dignity; and the French Republic on its part having long since made known to His Majesty the King of Spain its desire to be again placed in possession of the colony of Louisiana; and the two Governments having exchanged their views on these two subjects of common interest, and circumstances permitting them to assume obligations in this regard which, so far as depends on them, win assure mutual satisfaction, they have authorized for this purpose the foUowinz: the French Republic, the Citizen Alexandre Berthier General in Chief, and His Catholic Majesty, Don Mariano Luis de Urquijo, knight of the Order of Charles III, and of that of St. John of Jerusalem, 0a Counselor of State, his Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary appointed near the Batavian Republic, and his First Secretary of State ad interim, who, having exchanged their powers, have agreed upon the following articles, subject to ratification.


The French Republic undertakes to procure for His Royal Highness the Infant Duke of Parma an aggrandizement of territory which shad increase the population of his domains to one minion inhabitants, with the title of King and with all the rights which attach to the royal dignity; and the French Republic undertakes to obtain in this regard the assent of His Majesty the Emperor and King and that of the other interested states' BO that His Highness the Infant Duke of Parma may be put into possession of the said territories without opposition upon the conclusion of the peace to be made between the French Republic and His Imperial Majesty.


The aggrandizement to be given to His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma may consist of Tuscany, in case the present negotiations of the French Government with His Imperial Majesty shall permit that Government to dispose thereof; or it may consist of the three Roman legations or of any other continental provinces of Italy which form a rounded state.


His Catholic Majesty promises and undertakes on his part to retrocede to the French Republic, six months after the fun and entire execution of the above conditions and provisions regarding His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma, the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain and that it had when France possessed it, and such as it ought to be according to the treaties subsequently concluded between Spain and other states.


His Catholic Majesty will give the necessary orders for the occupation of Louisiana by France as soon as the territories which are to form the arrandizement of the Duke of Parma shall be placed in the hands of His Royal Highness. The French Republic may, according to its convenience, postpone the taking of possession; when that is to be executed, the states directly or indirectly interested will agree upon such further conditions as their common interests and the interest of the respective inhabitants require.


His Catholic Majesty undertakes to deliver to the French Republic in Spanish ports in Europe, one month after the execution of the provision with regard to the Duke of Parma, six ships of war in good condition built for seventy-four guns, armed and equipped and ready to receive French crews and supplies.


As the provisions of the present treaty have no prejudicial object and leave intact the rights of an, it is not to be supposed that they win give offense to any power. However, if the contrary shall happen and if the two states, because of the execution thereof, shall be attacked or threatened, the two powers agree to make common cause not only to repel the aggression but also to take conciliatory measures prosper for the maintenance of peace with all their neighbors.


The obligations contained in the present treaty derogate in no respect from those which are expressed in the Treaty of Alliance signed at San Ildefonso on the 2d Fructidor, year 4 (August 19, 1796); on the contrary they unite anew the interests of the two powers and assure the guaranties stipulated in the Treaty of Alliance for ad cases in which they should be applied.


The ratifications of these preliminary articles shall be effected and exchanged within the period of one month, or sooner if possible, counting from the day of the signature of the present treaty.

In faith whereof we, the undersigned Ministers Plenipotentiary of the French Republic and of His Catholic Majesty, in virtue of our respective powers, have signed these preliminary articles and have affixed thereto our seals.

Done at San Ildefonso the 9th Vendemiaire, 9th year of the French Republic (October 1, 1800)


The text of the Treaty of Alliance of August 19 (not 18), 1796, mentioned in Article 7 of the above treaty of October 1, 1800, is, in French, in Von Martens, Recueil de traits, 2d ea., VI, 255-59.

In Article 1 of the Treaty of Cession there is also reference to treaties made by Spain affecting Louisiana, after the previous possession of Louisiana by France; that ownership by France had terminated in 1762; Louisiana was ceded to Spain by France on November 3, 1762, and the cession was accepted ten days later, on November 13. The treaties "subsequently entered into between Spain and other States" were the following: first, the Preliminary [treaty of Peace between Spain and Great Britain, signed at Versailles January 20, 1783, the French text of which is in Von Martens, Recueil de traites, 2d ea., III, 510-14; second, the Definitive Treaty of Peace between Spain and Great Britain, signed at Versailles September 3, 1783, the French text of which is in the same volume of Von Martens, pages 541-51; and third, the treaty of October 27, 1795, between the United States and Spain (Document 18); English translations of the Preliminary and Definitive Treaties of Peace of 1783 between Spain and Great Britain are in The Parliamentary History of England, XXIII, 351-54 and 1173-82; the provisions of those treaties of special relevancy here are Article 3 of the Preliminary Treaty and Article 5 of the Definitive Treaty, which read in translation as follows:

ART. 3. His Britannic Majesty shall cede to his Catholic Majesty East Florida, and his Catholic Majesty shall keep West Florida, provided that the term of 18 months, to be computed from the time of the ratification of the definitive Treaty, shall be granted to the subjects of his Britannic Majesty, who are settled as well in the island of Minorca as in the two Eloridas, to sell their estates, recover their debts, and to transport their effects, as wed as their persons, without being restrained on account of their religion, or under any other presence whatsoever, except that of debts and criminal prosecutions. And his Britannic Majesty shall have [ower to cause all the effects that may belong to him in East Florida, whether artillery or others, to be carried away.

ART. 5. His Britannic Majesty likewise cedes and guarantees, in full right, to his Catholic Majesty, East Florida, as also West Florida. His Catholic Majesty agrees that the British inhabitants, or others who may have been subjects of the King of Great Britain in the said countries, may retire in full security and liberty where they shall think proper, and may sell their estates and remove their effects as well as their persons, without being restrained in their emigration, under any presence whatsoever, except on account of debts, or criminal prosecutions: the term limited for this emigration being fixed to the space of eighteen months, to be computed from the day of the exchange of the ratifications of the present treaty. but if, from the value of the possessions of the English proprietors, they should not be able to dispose of them within the said term, then his Catholic Majesty shad grant them a prolongation proportioned to that end. It is further stipulated, that his Britannic Majesty shall have the power of removing from East Florida all the effects which may belong to him, whether artillery or other matters.


See, in the notes to the treaty with Spain of 1795 (Document 18), the note regarding Article 5 thereof.


As the exchange of ratifications took place at Washington, the period of twelve years began to run three months after the date of formal notice to the French Government that the exchange had taken place. A letter of Madison to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs of November 4, 1803, seems to have been intended as such notice (American State Papers, Foreign Relations, VI, 179); and while the date of the delivery of the communication is not stated, it appears to have been just prior to January l, 1804 (ibid., 182). The act of February 24, 1804, section 8 (2 Statutes at Large, 253), provided that the term of twelve years should "commence three months after the exchange of the ratifications of the above-mentioned treaty shall have been notified, at Paris, to the French government," but did not otherwise fix the date.

Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller
Volume 2
Documents 1-40 : 1776-1818
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1931.


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