Thomas Jefferson: A Biography

By Nathan Schachner | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 54 Pell-Mell

THE formal cession, however, left some matters of the highest importance undetermined. What, for example, were the exact boundaries of the territory thus delivered to the United States? This was a matter of the greatest interest to the South. The West was well taken care of by the accession of New Orleans and the uninterrupted navigation of the Mississippi along its whole length to the open sea. New England looked sourly on the whole business and feared that the collapse of her early predominance would now become permanent. But New England was largely Federalist and the Republicans were not concerned over her misgivings. The South was another matter. All the rivers that flowed southward into the Gulf were useless unless the Floridas--and particularly West Florida, comprising the littoral of what are now the states of Mississippi and Alabama --belonged to the United States.

In Europe, Livingston and Monroe insisted that West Florida was a part of the bargain and advised sudden seizure, on the theory that possession made good title. Jefferson and Madison toyed with the idea, but preferred first to see if Spain could not be induced to yield. Unfortunately, they ran into an unexpected snag.

Livingston had originally believed that France would support American pretensions to the Floridas; but the strong reaction from Madrid caused Napoleon to think twice. The envoy was now told by Talleyrand that he was willing to aid in negotiations to purchase East Florida; but he kept a discreet silence about West Florida. However, Livingston confidentially insisted to Madison that "the moment is so favorable for taking possession of that country, that I hope it has not been neglected, even though a little force should be necessary to effect it. Your minister must find the means to justify it."1

Livingston's advocacy of violent measures stemmed from a complex of causes. But the hidden motive lay in his resentment over the way in which Monroe had taken the lion's share of the glory, and his belief that, should his advice be followed in this particular, he could recapture what had been rightfully his from the beginning.

Several significant items militated against his position. For one thing Laussat, in formally turning over Louisiana, had "confidentially signified that it did not comprehend any part of West Florida"; though he did admit that it extended westward to the Rio Bravo, sometimes called the Rio Norte.2 For a second, Talleyrand positively assured the Spaniards that he


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thomas Jefferson: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 1074

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?