West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter X
From State Rights to Nationalism 1800-1829

THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE

AT THE OPENING of the nineteenth century, the right of Americans to navigate the Mississippi River was again a topic of discussion in TransAllegheny Virginia, as elsewhere in the Ohio Valley.1 The period during which goods might be deposited at New Orleans had expired; Spain had refused to extend it and was threatening to deny that privilege entirely. Without such a concession, the navigation of the Mississippi was valueless to American frontiersmen. Accordingly, they were insisting that the Federal Government secure this right for them. Because of the disturbed condition of Europe, they feared that either France or England might acquire Louisiana and be even more exacting with them than Spain had been. In the event of such a contingency, they asserted, the loss to the frontier would be incalculable. To prevent any possibility of loss, they were willing to arm themselves, to descend the Mississippi, to take New Orleans, and to hold it for their own use and that of their country.

The purchase of Louisiana by the United States made unnecessary the execution of these intentions. This opportunity came unexpectedly. Spain secretly transferred the territory to France; but Napoleon, realizing that he might not be able to hold it, offered to sell the land to the United States,

____________________
1
Ambler, Transportation in the Ohio Valley, pp. 71-72.

-120-

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