Negotiating the Louisiana Purchase

Robert Livingston’s Mission to France, 1801–1804


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About the Book

The transaction that changed the course of U.S. history and gave America an undisputed outlet to the Pacific Ocean did not come without a certain amount of trepidation and negotiation. The second half of the 18th century found the newly formed nation with Spain as its primary neighbor. In 1763, after a disastrous war with Britain, France had ceded all of its North American mainland territory to Spain. Through Pinckney’s Treaty of 1795, the Spanish guaranteed U.S. access to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River, providing a trade outlet for the westernmost states. The 1801 discovery of a secret treaty between France and Spain and the resultant possibility of Spain’s retrocession of Louisiana to the French sent panic throughout American ranks, pushing the government to quick action to stop this change of neighbors and the possible hostile consequences.
This work details the political maneuverings that took place between the United States and France during their negotiations over the Louisiana territory from 1801 to 1804. Through primary sources such as letters and memoranda, the book closely examines the role Robert Livingston, U.S. minister to France, and other politicians played in bringing the issue to a successful conclusion for the United States. Topics discussed include the economic and military ramifications that would have resulted from a French return to North America, the threat of domestic dissension and the ways in which a French Louisiana would have affected the international political landscape. Appendices provide summaries of Livingston’s Louisiana memorandum and two Talleyrand-Napoleon memoranda as well as an analysis of Marbois’s book on Louisiana.

About the Author(s)

The late Frank W. Brecher was a historian and former career senior officer of the U.S. Foreign Service. He lived in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Frank W. Brecher
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 200
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2395-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface: An Overview      1
1. The Political Setting      7
2. The Failed Negotiations of 1802      30
3. The Monroe Mission and a Diplomatic Breakthrough      53
4. Factors Underlying the Breakthrough      67
5. A Nasty Competition for the Credit      80
6. A Balance Sheet      106
7. Consequences and Controversies-An American Historical Perspective      113

Appendix A: Summary of Livingston’s Louisiana Memorandum, July 1802      127
Appendix B: Two Talleyrand-Napoleon Memoranda      130
Appendix C: Summary and Analysis of Selected Sections of Barbé-Marbois’s Histoire de la Louisiane…      140
Chapter Notes      149
Bibliography      189
Index      193

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Useful”—The Journal of Military History