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|Messrs. De Salcedo and Casa Calvo had exercised an absolute authority: but,
far from their being reproached with any abuse of power, it was admitted that they had administered the
government with wisdom, moderation, and justice; the inhabitants, indeed, only waited till the cession was
made to the United States, and their authority had entirely ceased, to render them a public proof of affection
and gratitude. Thenceforth no favour was hoped for from them, and these testimonies of respect had a
much more certain character of sincerity than those which are invariably addressed to rulers on their
accession to power.
The United States had garrisons on the frontier posts. General Wilkinson, having taken command of them, advanced to the left bank of the Mississippi, and established his camp, on the 17th and 18th of December, 1803, at half a league from New Orleans. As soon as this division was in sight, the Spanish troops embarked and set sail for the Havannah.
The next day, discharges of artillery from the forts and vessels in the road announced the farewell which the French magistrates were then taking of the colony. They became for ever strangers to a province alternately Spanish and French, and which bore the name of one of our greatest kings; they once more addressed as countrymen those whom they were never again to see. This colony, which had been always exposed to inevitable vicissitudes under the laws of a state, from which it was separated two thousand leagues, was now undergoing its last crisis. This event put an end to uncertainties that had lasted for a century., and fixed for ever the fate of these fine regions. The spontaneous acknowledgment of the independence of Louisiana, its annexation to the confederacy of a prosperous people were the acts of the wisest policy; and those who shall hereafter be in a condition to observe their consequences, will admit that they ought to rank with the most important occurrences in the history of our times.
On the 20th of December, the day fixed for the delivery of the colony to the United States, Laussat, accompanied by a numerous retinue, went to the City Hall. At the same instant the American troops were, by his orders, introduced into the capital.
Claiborne and Wilkinson were received in form in the City Hall, and were placed on the two sides of the prefect. The treaty of cession, the respective powers of the commissioners, and the certificate of the exchange of ratifications were read. Laussat then pronounced these words: "In conformity with the treaty, I put the United States in possession of Louisiana and its dependencies. The citizens and inhabitants, who wish to remain here and obey the laws, are from this moment exonerated from the oath of fidelity to the French republic." Mr. Claiborne, the governor of the territory of Mississippi, exercising the powers of governor general and intendant of the province of Louisiana, delivered a congratulatory discourse, addressed to the Louisianians.