Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase

By Roger G. Kennedy | Go to book overview

14

Destiny by Intention

When Fulwar Skipwith arrived to take title to his plantation in what is now Louisiana, then within the Baton Rouge district of Spanish West Florida, the plantocracy in the United States and the textile colonial-imperialists of Great Britain were in one of their sympathetic phases. The American Revolution was over. The comb-like cotton gin was the technological wonder of the age. Steam-powered mills were sucking up every fluff of cotton plucked between Columbia, South Carolina, and the Mississippi River. Skipwith had become the willing instrument of those forces. His shift of venue permitted him to continue to be useful to them. A little time had passed since he came from the “focus”—but he could still serve the Virginia Dynasty.

By the time the phrase “Manifest Destiny” became common currency in the 1840s, the planters' government had frequently helped destiny along. Scarcely a year passed without some new “state,” “republic,” or changeling enterprise appearing upon the southern or western frontier of the United States. Repeatedly, agents of the federal government would suggest to a chosen set of citizens of Spanish Florida (or, later, Spanish Texas) that they pretend independence just long enough to provide to the American government what is known as a “call” in investment terminology. Control was imperfect, however, so some of them, including Skipwith, allowed their individual fantasies to expand enough to rupture their instructions. Then, in their presumption, they acted as though they had been provided, instead, a “put,” as though they could require their “principal”—the United States government—to complete the transaction at their request, rather than the other way round.

While President, George Washington had set forth a policy against using private armies to assault the territory of nations with which the United States was at peace. His intention was to frustrate assaults upon neighboring Indians and against Spanish Florida. After his death his Indian policy and his Neutrality Act of 1794 still stood for a time against cotton wars fought by private and regular armies. Then those inhibitions were perforated by Jefferson and his successors, though the Neutrality Act remained on the books.

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Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chronology xiii
  • Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause *
  • Part One - The Land and Mr. Jefferson 1
  • 1 - Choices and Consequences 5
  • 2 - Washington, Jefferson, Three Worthies,and Plantation Migrancy 17
  • 3 - The Way Not Taken 26
  • 4 - Independence 43
  • 5 - Powers of the Earth 60
  • 6 - Jefferson's Opportunities and the Land 73
  • Part Two - The Invisible Empire and the Land 85
  • 7 - Colonial-Imperialism 87
  • 8 - Textile Colonial-Imperialism 97
  • Part Three - Resistance to the Plantation System 115
  • 9 - McGillivray 119
  • 10 - Resisters, Assisters, and Lost Causes 129
  • 11 - The Firm Steps Forward 144
  • 12 - Jeffersonian Strategy and Jeffersonian Agents 152
  • Part Four - Agents of the Master Organism: Assistants to the Plantation System 169
  • 13 - Fulwar Skipwith in Context 173
  • 14 - Destiny by Intention 193
  • 15 - Louisiana and Another Class of Virginians 205
  • 16 - The Virginians of Louisiana Decide the Future of the Land 217
  • Epilogue 235
  • Appendix 245
  • Notes 262
  • Bibliographic Note 307
  • Bibliography 312
  • Index 336
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