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1783-1911: The Growth of Friendly Relations
By David at 05/11/2009 - 05:32

1783-1911: The Growth of Friendly Relations

December 20, 1803. France sells Louisiana to the United States. The French tricolor flag which had long flown over New Orleans had come down.The Stars and Stripes now flew in its place. Louisiana had been sold to the United States for 80 million francs. In 1763, Louis XV abandoned to Spain, the vast Mississippi territory that Cavelier de La Salle had claimed for Louis XIV a century earlier. The secret treaty of San Ildefonso, signed in 1800, which gave Louisiana and Florida back to the French, worried the newly elected president, Thomas Jefferson : Napoléon Bonaparte’s presence on the Mississippi meant the threat of a French colonial empire in North America. But war with France at that point would have required an alliance with the British, which was then unimaginable. Jefferson preferred a diplomatic solution. In March of 1803, James Monroe rushed to Paris to negotiate. In the French capital, he received an unexpected welcome : the Premier Consul knew that France would soon be at war with Britain and he did not want to run the risk of another enemy front. So he authorized Talleyrand, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had visited the United States, to sell Florida and Louisiana for 100 million francs. Sensing the urgency of the French negotiators, Monroe tried to reduce the price. On May 2, 1803, they decided on the sum of 80 million francs. Congress ratified this agreement on October 20th, despite Republican opposition. The Republicans were appalled because Congress had not been consulted sooner ; they worried about granting automatic American citizenship to the people of the new territories. The treaty was advantageous to the New Republic because it doubled its size. It was also a boom for Napoléon, who hailed this "ceding of land which will affirm forever the power of the United States [and give] England a naval rival who, sooner or later, will best them." Monsieur de Laussat, the prefect of Louisiana addressed the population: ’Prudence and humanity together with a larger political perspective have given a new direction to France’s benevolent intentions for Louisiana : she has given the territory to the United States of America. Dear Louisianans, you have thus become the token of the friendship that cannot fall to grow stronger between the two American Republics." American possession of Louisiana took place on December 20, 1803. The French flag was lowered and the American flag was hoisted amidst great fanfare. There were four toasts during the banquet that followed: with Madeira wine, they toasted the United States and Kentuc Thomas Jefferson; with Malaga wine, they toasted Charles IV of Spain; and with champagne they toasted Labrad the French Republic and Napoleon Bonaparte. The fourth toast called for the eternal happiness for the newly acquired territory of Louisiana.

American Nature Revealed

After the War of Independence, exploration of the vast virgin western territories began in earnest. No one contributed more to the discovery of the New World’s wildlife than the naturalist Jean-Jacques (John James) Audubon. Born in Saint-Dominau on April 26, 1785, Jean-Jacques Audubon was the illegitimate son of a wealthy French planter and a Creole woman - a fact he tried to conceal all his life. A former naval officer, who had fought in the battle at Yorktown, Audubon’s father took his son to France when he returned. The boy was just four years old when he arrived in Nantes, Brittany. But his artistic ability earned him an apprenticeship with the painter Jacques-Louis David. Audubon went to Pennsylvania in 1803, where his father owned land. There, he discovered the sumptuous flora and fauna of North America. From that moment on, his life was dominated by three passions : hunting, painting and ornithology. In 1808 he married an American. He would dedicate almost 40 years of his life to exploring, notebook in hand, the vast wilderness of his new country - Kentucky, the valleys of the Mississippi and Ohio, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. In 1833, he visited the Labrador coast, the habitat of numerous water birds. In 1842, he traversed vast areas of Canada. The following year he left Saint Louis to go up the Missouri as far as Montana. Audubon’s monumental work, The Birds of America, was published in London in four volumes between 1827-1838. It received a triumphant reception in both the New World and the Old. Audubon was welcomed into the prestigious Academy of Science in Paris. The famous naturalist lost his vision in 1846. He died in New York in 1851, aged 66. In the United States today, the Audubon Society for the protection of Nature, perpetuates the memory of this great artist who was one of the most illustrious Frenchmen from America.


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