George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services

By Temple Bodley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII
THE LOUISIANA EXPEDITION

AFTER some five years of retired life at Mulberry Hill, impending war with Spain caused General Clark to take active part in a public affair of great moment. When the people of France overthrew their monarchy and formed a republic, the national sympathy of America went out to them as friends and fellow freemen struggling against tyranny. Grateful for their aid during our own Revolution, and proud to see the influence of our pioneer example in free government extending to Europe, an overwhelming majority of the people of this country were for aiding the French, then fighting against nearly all the great monarchies of Europe. Many indeed thought we were bound to do so by treaty. When Spain joined their enemies, strong popular sentiment, nearly everywhere in the American states save in New England, favored war with that power. The French of Louisiana were eager to throw off Spain's galling yoke, and our western people were fired with desire to help them -- never doubting that a sister republic there would gladly open the Mississippi.

At this juncture there arrived in this country the French revolutionist, Genêt, who had been sent by the Republic of France as minister to the United States. He was received with wild enthusiasm at Charleston, and thence made a triumphal progress to Philadelphia, where he was welcomed with bonfires and fêtes. Intoxicated by these popular demonstrations, he conducted himself much as if this country and his own were already allies in war with Spain. He issued letters of marque for vessels to leave American ports to attack France's enemies, and planned an uprising of French revolutionists in Louisiana. Republicans everywhere in America, especially in the west, wished success for the revolution there; for they looked upon it as a stroke for liberty -- a blow aimed at despotism in the Mississippi Valley. They saw the French and many American settlers in Louisiana -- making perhaps five sixths of its population -- held in subjection by a handful of Spanish troops and ruled by hard Spanish officials; they saw

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