Every school kid knows, or at least used to be taught, about Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of “Louisiana” from France for15 million dollars in 1803. That was $18 per sq sq mile or a little under 3 cents per/acre. Wow!
School kids also are taught, or were taught, about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, from 1804 to 1806, taking almost 30 months, which was the camping trip of all camping trips, with a total “Corps of Discovery” of 35 men.
Their mission was to follow the Missouri River to its source, and map its tributaries, meet and make friends with all the Indian tribes along the way, and finally find the best route to the Pacific Ocean, which turned out to be the Columbia River, which forms most of the boundary between Oregon and Washington.
It was one of the most important events in world history. Not American history, nor North American history, but World history. And most of the better strategic minds of Europe of that era knew it then. Europe knew, or would come to see within a century of so, that the United States would be a world power, contesting with them for international trade and supremacy of the seas, only supported by a new form of government they had no true knowledge about, since, in the two thousand years that Europe had existed as a political whole, no such government had never been tried there. Europe had always been an amalgam of “divine right” kings, who in theory, owned every inch of ground there. (From the 9th Century on, about 10% of those lands were ceded to the Catholic Church, in exchange for those “Divine Rights.”) There were no history books they could consult, no track records or prior democracies and only a general understanding of what a nation that was owned and operated from the bottom-up must be like, for it was generally made up of people from their own stock, but of the peasant class. And what royal knew anything about the peasant class other than they grew food, cooked and washed for the royals, and generally did what they were told. In America they had become landed freeholders (farmers) and small businesses…simply by moving there and starting from scratch…with never a single royal to bow and curtsy for.
At the time of the Louisiana Purchase the Americans had been there almost 200 years. With about 5 million people, Less than Persia.
For a quick review of the history of the Purchase you can read Wikipedia for the basics. Just be warned, I’m sure there are by now some left-leaning offerings there who want to distort history, so be careful. For a more detailed background I’ve relied on Bernard DeVoto’s The Course of Empire (1952) which was his finale of a 3-volume history of the mapping of all North America; Spanish, French and England, and the filling in the blanks on the map by the Americans thank largely to the subtle miscalculations of Bonaparte and the subtle but totally alien to Napoleon’s thinking calculations in Jefferson’s long term vision for America. A lover of wilderness this is my favorite period in our history.
So I’m back here again 50 years later.
I want to touch on matters of this transfer of territory from France to America which mirrors the current attempt to divide our nation today, for they are instructive about the ancient mindsets involved. There is nothing new here about what exists in either the thinking of globalist-corporate “hostile” takeover artists in business that had not one single ounce of intellectual property in conceiving it, nor a drop of sweat equity involved in its building, yet intellectually claimed some greater right to it simply because it had the knowhow to learn it was ripe for takeover, plus the knowhow and financial means to acquire it…
Or, a few notches below that level of sophistication, the modern Democrat’s model for “revolution” would last about as long as the first phase of the French Revolution (the Girondins), did in France before the Jacobins swallowed them up (including our Thomas Paine) followed by the Reign of Terror, which right on cue, invited the rescue of Bonaparte, to restore law and order.
Which Napoleon did, and which was about all he needed to do to gain the support of the French people and to secure the absolute silence of any organized opposition. Napoleon Bonaparte was a singular mind, with a single ambition, world dominion. But it was a European mind which likely could not conceive of the things that were important to Thomas Jefferson, newly elected president of the United States in 1801.
They were both of very great subtle minds.
Today Bonaparte would have been more suited for Davos, and the corporate model, only he would not have been long for a “corporate committee” approach. But he was a globalist in his thinking, and in that thinking he was matched by no single man; his empire was to include all of Europe and their possessions on every continent, India, Asia, Africa, South and North America, each element compartmentalized and known only to himself.
Napoleon especially wanted North America for two reasons; its potential for income growth, which France had been lacking, the old royals spending it faster then they could rake it in (and impoverishing the actual wealth-facilitators in the process). Furs in old French Canada and agriculture in the brand new”, just ten-years old, United States” could replenish that wealth, by restoring the old French empire in Canada, which they had lost to England in the French and Indian War (1757-1763) and that part of America that had been claimed by the French in the 17th Century, roughly everything west of the Appalachians, the Great Lakes (Huron, Michigan and Superior), the Ohio River drainage, and the Mississippi and Missouri River drainages, which carried to the Rocky Mountains.
And they had the perfect port to buy and sell, New Orleans.
All that land that had been explored by Frenchmen in the 1600s; Marquette, Joliet, LaSalle, and taught to us in grade school in the ’50s, and claimed by France, but never really occupied, was what was Louisiana in 1803. New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, was, and still is, the focus of Louisiana in 1800. In 1762 France had given/sold Louisiana to Spain (to keep them from entering an alliance with England against France). Spain still claimed the American Southwest and southern California, but although the Spanish flag flew over New Orleans and St Louis for 40 years, both cities were still very French. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were largely aimed at French and Spanish intrigues in this part of the American Republic.
Probably with good cause, for when General Bonaparte returned to France and became First Consul in 1800, he cut a secret deal with Spain to cede back to France the Louisiana territories, only at a public time of his choosing. Spain had already denied the new United States rights to trade and ship from New Orleans, and the Americans were trying to buy New Orleans once Jefferson became president in 1801.
At the same time that Jefferson was trying to buy New Orleans, Bonaparte was staging about 50,000 troops in San Domingo (Haiti) to invade the US at New Orleans. He thought he had a fool-proof plan. With his 50,000 troops invading New Orleans, from the south and west, and the US having fewer than 10,000 total, all along the east coast, it should have been a cake walk.
But first he had to clear out the slave riff raff that had revolted and thrown out the French government there in the early days of the French Revolution. The Haitian leader was a genius named Toussaint Louverture, and although the French captured Toussaint and carried him back to France to die, Napoleon’s troops were unable to defeat the slaves in a very ugly, scorched-earth war, and then the French army was stricken down by yellow fever.
Napoleon’s plans for America’s capture were dashed before the first French troop could set foot on the North American continent. At the drop of a hat, Napoleon wheeled his strategy toward Europe and into a “world war” that would last 15 years and end at Waterloo. Suddenly he needed cash.
As Napoleon explained it, “They asked of me a town and I give them an empire.”
His plan to take back the French Empire in the New World quashed, he immediately looked forward a hundred years, knowing what America would become as both an economic power but also a maritime power, and one that would likely surpass England, his most bitter rival. He also knew unlike the French or English, the Americans would rush forward across the Mississippi River to grow things. by the millions. He didn’t know about gold in California or silver in Nevada, or even amber waves of grain in the prairie, just that the Americans would come, while neither French nor Spanish, after 200 years of opportunities to occupy, never did.
So while Robert Livingstone was trying to get the French minister Talleyrand to agree to a deal on selling New Orleans, Talleyrand suddenly asked if America would be interested in buying all of Louisiana.
* * *
Napoleon Bonaparte, the most subtle military thinker of the millennium, knew nothing of this “empire” he had “gifted” to the United States, nor of the subtle mind he had sold it to and who had planned for many years even before our Republic was formed to acquire as much of it as possible. Both men compartmentalized their plans so that no one person, a best friend, an aide or minister, could know their entire thoughts, but in simpler terms, Jefferson knew the continental world view of history that Napoleon lived under better than Napoleon could have known the American world view or its potential, in part because there was no prior history of democratic republics to measure it by.
It’s that way today. While we can know the thinking of empire-builders, from the subtle minds of the high-tech corporatists to the ham-fisted clowns of the Left and the craven puppets of the middle, they still, after all these years, don’t understand the simple ingredients that make us free and unbeatable in the contest of ideas.
And that they can’t be sold for a bowl of porridge or robbed because a pistol had been pointed at us.
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