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|Pierre Clement Laussat, Colonial Prefect, Commissioner of the French Republic,
To the Louisianians.
LOUISIANIANS: The Mission which brought me across 25000 leagues of sea to your midst, that mission in which I have for a long time placed so many honorable hopes & so many wishes for your happiness, is changed today: that of which I am at this time the minister & the executer, less pleasing, though equally flattering to me, offers me one consolation, that is, that in general it is much more advantageous to you.
In virtue of the powers & the respective orders, the Commissioners of H.C.M. have just turned the country over to me, & you see the standards of the French Republic floating & you hear the repeated sound of its cannons announce to you on all sides of this day the return of its sovereignty over these shores: it will be, Louisianians, only for a short time, & I am on the eve of transferring them to the United States Commissioners charged with taking possession of them, in the name of their Federal Government: they are about to arrive; I am awaiting them.
The approach of a war begun under bloody & terrible auspices & threatening the four quarters of the globe has led the French Government to turn its attention and its thoughts to these regions: views of prudence & humanity, allied with views of a broader and firmer policy, worthy, in brief, of the genius who at this very hour is swaying such great destinies among the Nations, have then given a new turn to France’s beneficent intentions toward Louisiana: she has ceded it to the United States of America.
Thus you become, Louisianians, the cherished pledge of a friendship between these two Republics that can not fail to keep on getting stronger from day to day & that must contribute so strongly towards their common tranquility and their common prosperity.
Article III of the Treaty will not escape you: “The inhabitants, it is said in that article, of the ceded territories shall be incorporated into the union of the United States, & admitted, as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages & immunities of Citizens of the United States; &, while waiting, they shall be maintained & protected in the enjoyment [of] their liberties and possessions & in the practice of the religions that they profess.”
Thus, Louisianians, you are at one stroke invested with an acquired right to the prerogatives of a constitution & of a free government, erected by might, cemented by treaties, & tested by experience & years.
You are going to form part of a People already numerous & powerful, renowned also for its activity, its industry, its patriotism and its enlightenment, & which, in its rapid advance, promised to fill one of the most splendid places that a people has ever occupied on the face of the globe.
Its position is, at the same time, so fortunate, that neither its successes nor its splendor can for long detract from its felicity.
However benevolent and pure the wishes for a mother country may have been (you understand, do you not?), an immense distance is an impregnable rampart favoring oppression, exactions & abuses: frequently the very facility & certainty of covering them up will corrupt a man who first viewed them with the greatest hate & fear.
From this time on you cease to be exposed to that fatal and disheartening drawback.
By the nature of the government of the United States & the guaranties into the enjoyment of which you enter immediately, you will have, even under a provisional system, popular leaders, subject with impunity to your protests and your censure, & who will have permanent need of your esteem, your votes & your affections.
Public affairs & interests, far from being prohibited to you, will be your own affairs & interests, over which wise & impartial opinions will be sure to obtain preponderant influence in the long run, & to which even you could not remain indifferent without experiencing bitter repentance.
The time will soon come when you will give yourselves a special form of government which, while respecting the sacred maxims recorded in the constitution of the federal union, will be adapted to your manners, your usages, your climate, your soil and your location.
But in particular you will not be long in experiencing the precious benefits of full, impartial and incorruptible justice, where uniform procedure, publicity, and the restrictions carefully placed on injustice in the application of the laws will contribute, with the high & national character of the judges & juries, toward effectively being responsible to the citizens for their safety and their property; for that is one of the attributes peculiarly characteristic of the government under which you are passing.
Its principles, its legislation, its conduct, its care, its vigilance, its encouragement, to the interests of agriculture & commerce, & the progress which they have made are well known to you, Louisianians, by the very share you have derived from them with so much profit during these last few years.
There is not & can not be a mother country without a more or less exclusive colonial monopoly: on the contrary, you have to expect from the United States only unbounded freedom of exportation, & import duties devised solely to suit your public needs or your domestic industry: through unlimited competition, you can buy cheaply, you will sell at high prices and will also receive the benefits of an immense market: the Nile of America, this Mississippi, which bathes, not deserts of burning sand, but the most extensive, the most fertile, the most fortunately situated plains in the New World, will shortly be seen to be covered, along the wharves of this other Alexandria, with thousands of vessels of all nations.
Among them your glances, Louisianians, will, I hope, always pick out with gratification the French flat, & the sight of it will not fail to rejoice your hearts: such is our firm hope; I profess it formally here in the name of my country & my Government.
Bonaparte, in stipulating by Article VII of the treaty that Frenchmen should be permitted for twelve years to trade on your shores under the same conditions as & without paying other charges that the citizens of the United States themselves, had as one of his principal aims that of giving opportunity and time for the old ties between the French people of Louisiana and the French people of Europe to be renewed, reinforced, perpetuated. A new correspondence of relations is going to be established between us, from one continent to the other, all the more satisfactory and lasting as it will be based purely on constant reciprocity of feelings, services & advantage. Your children, Louisianians, will be our children, & our children will become yours: you will see them perfecting their knowledge & their talents amongst us, & we shall see them amongst you increasing your powers, your labor, your industry, & wresting with you their tribute from a still unconquered Nature.
I am pleased, Louisianians, to contrast rather fully this picture with the touching reproaches of abandonment & the tender regrets which the ineffaceable attachment of a multitude among you to the country of their ancestors has made them breathe forth under these circumstances: France and her Government will listen to the recital of them with love & gratitude; but you will do them before long, from your own experience, this justice that they have distinguished themselves with respect to you by the most eminent & the most memorable of benefits.
The French Republic in this event, the first in modern times, traces the example of a colony which she herself voluntarily emancipates, the example of one of those colonies the image of which we discover with charm in the fine ages of antiquity: so in our days & in the future may a Louisianian and a Frenchman never meet, anywhere in the world, without feeling affected and giving each other the sweet name of brother; may that title alone be capable of representing from this time on the idea of their eternal attachments & their free dependence!
New Orleans, Frimaire 8, Year XII of the French Republic & November 30, 1803.