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

By Roger G. Kennedy | Go to book overview

16

The Virginians of Louisiana Decide
the Future of the Land

As soon as the Louisiana Purchase had been achieved, President Thomas Jefferson turned once more to its final negotiator, James Monroe. Having sent James Wilkinson to raise the Stars and Stripes over the parade ground of New Orleans at the end of 1803, Jefferson sought a more respectable yet equally manageable agent to conduct the civilian business of his new empire. Though his first choice may have been the Marquis de Lafayette, his more practical preference was for Monroe. It was traditional in colonial management that governors find personal profit in the territories put in their charge. Monroe had earned such a plum, indeed he had ripened it by arranging the acquisition of Louisiana on terms satisfactory to those with slaves to put to work and slaves to sell. Jefferson offered Monroe the opportunity twice.

He was refused twice, for Monroe interpreted the offers as manifesting Jefferson's desire to get him out of Madison's path to the presidency. Jefferson kept his temper and his settled plan, showing his irritation only when Monroe sought too often to secure for Fulwar Skipwith a profitable role in the affairs of Louisiana. On May 18, 1803, Monroe wrote Jefferson requesting that Skipwith be relieved of his guerrilla duties in Europe and granted retirement in a patronage post in the new province. Skipwith had admitted being “desirous of an appointment (Collector of the Port) at New Orleans,” wrote Monroe, and “he has served long and faithfully here [Paris].… Having known the direct and upright line of his conduct, through a period of great political embarrassment, I feel much interest in his future.” 1

Jefferson was unmoved and told Monroe that Skipwith must stay on station. He was, wrote the President, “much fitter for any matter of business (below that of diplomacy) which we may have to do in Europe.” Below the level of diplomacy lay the tier of “scut work,” in the language of intelligence. There would be no coming in from the cold. The Skipwiths at Prestwould were receding into Virginia's past and were of little use to the imperial Virginia of the nineteenth century. 2

-217-

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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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