National Geographic : 1953 Jun
New National Geographic Map Marks the 150th Anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase BY EVELYN PETERSEN AND WELLMAN CHAMBERLIN 751 "in HIS is the noblest work of our whole lives," said Robert R. Livingston as he signed the Louisiana Purchase treaty of cession on May 2, 1803. "From this day," he continued propheti cally, "the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank." In honor of the 150th anniversary of that most momentous real-estate deal in history, the National Geographic Society presents its members all over the world with a large 10 color Historical Map of the United States. More than 2,185,000 copies of this map, a special supplement to the June NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, have rolled from the big lithographic presses. Its preparation was the largest-and pleasantest-project ever undertaken by The Society's cartographers in their 55 years of mapping the earth. Here, compressed into 912 notes on one handsome, highly readable sheet of paper 41 by 26/2 inches, is the story of how our Nation has grown to a strength, prominence, and glory which even the outermost reaches of Livingston's imagination could hardly have encompassed. Smaller maps in color, largely reconstructed from centuries-old charts of enduring historical value, supplement this graphic picture of the growth of a nation (pages 756-769). Named for a Man Who Never Saw It As members unfold the large 10-color map and run their eyes south to the Mississippi River Delta, they will find the first reference to the Louisiana Territory: a note citing the arrival of the explorer La Salle in 1682. He gave the whole central area of what is now the United States the name "Louisiana," for his King, and claimed it for France. The French, however, suffered heavy finan cial losses in trying to colonize the area and happily ceded it to Spain in 1762. Later, in 1800, Spain passed it back to France again in the Treaty of San Ildefonso. Though the treaty was secret, rumors of it trickled to America. To find out if these reports were true be came a primary task of Robert Livingston, whom President Jefferson dispatched as his Minister to Paris. As the first Chancellor of New York State, Livingston had sworn in President Washington. He now had the mis sion of protecting his country's interest in the mouth of the Mississippi. The matter was vital, for through New Orleans passed the produce of three-eighths of the new Nation's territory.* Livingston reached France just in time to see Napoleon's brother-in-law Leclerc set sail for Santo Domingo to quell the native revolt there. He also learned that it was true Napo leon had acquired Louisiana and intended to occupy it. This news so alarmed Jefferson that he threatened war. "The day that France takes possession of New Orleans," he wrote Living ston, "we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." Jefferson spoke differently a few months later, however, when the Spanish Intendant at New Orleans closed the port to Americans. The western States went wild and demanded war. But the long, gangling President re strained them. "Peace," as he said later, "is our passion." To prove it he selected James Monroe, who was especially popular with the West, to join Livingston in Paris and try to buy New Orleans and the Floridas. At the least, the two envoys were instructed, they were to se cure the use of a port. Napoleon Changes His Mind At the same time Monroe was appointed, Napoleon learned in Paris that Leclerc had followed almost his entire army to the grave in Santo Domingo. Having lost the valuable island, the heart of his colonial system, Napo leon now saw Louisiana as a liability. To add to his troubles, he also faced war with England; and he needed money. The Monday following Easter, April 10, 1803, found Livingston still hard at work on the French and still unaware of Napoleon's change of mind. He went again, as was his habit, to ask Talleyrand if France would sell New Orleans and West Florida. This time, however, when he put the usual question he got the shock of his life. For the usually taciturn Talleyrand turned and asked: "What will you give for the whole?" Two days later, after Monroe had arrived, he and Livingston were entertaining at dinner when they spied Count Francois Barbe Marbois, Napoleon's finance minister, through the window, strolling in the garden. They invited him to join them for coffee. Later that night, when they were alone, Barbe * See "New Orleans: Jambalaya on the Levee," by Harnett T. Kane, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1953.