LOUISIANA PURCHASE - Pierre Clément de LAUSSAT
[Manuscript letter signed, from Laussat, the French Colonial Prefect of Louisiana, to Captain Guillermo Duparc, Commandant of the Point Coupee Post, informing him of the Spanish retrocession of Louisiana to the French, and instructing him to take the necessary measures to exert control over his parish]
New Orleans: December 9, 1803 [17 Frimaier an 12]. p. letter on a folded folio sheet, with engraved scene entitled "Republique Francaise" at the top of the first page. A few manuscript notes and calculations on the second and fourth pages. Old folds. [With:] [Printed invitation, sent by the French Colonial Prefect of Louisiana, Laussat, for a gala in honor of the Spanish Commander in Louisiana, and in anticipation of handing the Louisiana Territory over to the United States]. December 11, 1803 [19 Frimaire an XII]. p., printed on a folded quarto sheet, addressed in manuscript on the fourth page. The pair in a half morocco clamshell case, cloth chemises.
Making the Louisiana Purchase happen, and an invitation to the ball in honor of the transfer of Louisiana.
A remarkable pair of documents, announcing to a local French commander the completion of the transfer of Louisiana from Spanish to French control, and inviting him to an upcoming gala in honor of the local Spanish commander and the forthcoming transfer of the Louisiana Territory to the United States. The letter and invitation are both addressed to Captain Guillermo Duparc, Commandant of the Point Coupee military outpost, just northwest of Baton Rouge.
Pierre Clément de Laussat, the last French Colonial Prefect of Louisiana, arrived there in late March, 1803, just a month before the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed in Paris (on April 30). Spain had ceded Louisiana to the French in the Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800, though the provisions of the treaty had remained a secret; his immediate responsibility was to oversee the transfer from Spain to France. Laussat had been hearing rumors since his arrival of a potential sale of Louisiana from France to the Americans, and those rumors were officially confirmed to him in August. In May, 1803, the Spanish commanders of Louisiana, including the Marquis de Casa Calvo, announced the forthcoming retrocession of Louisiana from Spanish to French control, a process that was formally completed on November 30, 1803.
In the present letter, dated just nine days after the completion of the Spanish retrocession, Laussat writes Duparc, sending him (in translation from the French) "the order which I have issued concerning taking possession of the French Republic of Louisiana in your district. I reached an agreement on it, in advance, with the Commissioners of S.M.C. [Sa Majeste Catholique, i.e. King Charles IV of Spain] dated the 12th of Frimaire [December 4, 1803]." Laussat writes that, along with the proclamation, he is sending Duparc various decrees regarding the circumstances of French control and asks him to redouble his efforts for tranquillity, peace, and order in his district. The proclamation and decrees mentioned by Laussat are not present with this letter. The manuscript letter is on Laussat's official letterhead, with the seal of the French Republic and the engraved text "Marine. Coloniea. Louisiane." Interestingly, Laussat has annotated the pre-printed portion of the letter, changing his title from "Colonial Prefect of Louisiana" to "Colonial Prefect Commissioner of the French Government," reflecting the new political situation after the Spanish hand-over of the territory to the French just nine days earlier.
The printed invitation is also addressed to M. Duparc, and is very rare, located by Jumonville in only one other copy, at the Historic New Orleans Collection. Dated December 11, 1803, it invites Duparc to a soiree hosted by Laussat on "next Thursday," the 15th of December. The party is being held to commemorate the transfer of Louisiana from Spanish to French control, and its impending transfer to the United States. More specifically the party is in honor of the Spanish commander, the Marquis de Casa-Calvo, Brigadier of the Spanish armies, in thanks for the Spaniards' efforts in recent days, and as a sign of the union and friendship between the Spanish and French governments. On December 20, 1803, just eleven days after writing this letter and five days after his gala in honor of Casa-Calvo, Laussat presided over the ceremony officially transferring the Louisiana Territory to the United States.
Laussat's manuscript letter and printed invitation of Captain Duparc are rare survivals, and fascinating evidence of the political, military, and social aspects of events in Louisiana in 1803, from the Spanish transfer of control of the territory to France, to the official completion of the Louisiana Purchase by the United States.
Jumonville 86 (printed invitation).