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to join in the recognition of neutrality. In order to prevent any misapprehension as to the views and position of the administration on this question the secretary of state issued a circular of instruction to the American minister in France and other capitals, in which, while disclaiming any purpose to interfere with the commercial enterprise of the citizens of France or of other nations or to seek exclusive privilege for American vessels, it was insisted that the United States would exercise her right to take all needful precautions against the possibility of the isthmus transit being in any event used offensively against her interests upon the land or upon the sea. Any attempt to supersede the guarantee already made by the United States by an agreement between European powers, it was stated, would be regarded as an indication of unfriendly feeling.
The various decrees of the French government restricting and suspending, on alleged sanitary grounds, the importation of that very important class of American commodities, pork products, has furnished the theme for continuous diplomatic correspondence for twenty years, during which time a suggested reprisal of an extra duty on French wines has met with considerable favor. Upon the passage of an act by Congress providing for a thorough inspection of all meats intended for exportation, the American minister, Mr. Whitelaw Reid, was enabled in 1891 to secure the repeal of the prohibition.
The French Spoliation Claims.
The so-called French "spoliation" claims have had continued prominence in both the diplomatic and domestic history of this country longer than any other matter of diplomacy. They grew out of the depredations committed by French cruisers upon American shipping, commencing in 1793. When, as has been recited, the war between England and France began, the latter nation called upon the United
States to comply with the terms of the treaty of alliance made in 1778, when our fathers were seeking aid to carry on the Revolution. Under this treaty the United States bound itself to render military aid to France when required; to permit French privateers and vessels of war the same privilege in their harbors that were given to their own shipping; and to protect the French possessions in America. The reasons why the provisions of the treaty could not be complied with have been explained, but the failure of the United States to comply with the expectations of France exasperated that nation to such a degree that retaliation was resorted to. sels belonging to citizens of the United States to the number of one hundred and three were forcibly detained in the harbor of Bordeaux ; many other vessels were overtaken at sea by French privateers and were captured or destroyed with their cargoes; supplies were forcibly taken in the ports of the United States by French men-of-war, and payment was refused for those that had been contracted for and delivered. The ministers and commissioners who went to Paris from 1793 to 1800, vainly endeavored to persuade the French government to prevent these depredations, and to pay the damages they had caused, but it was not until the latter year that the privateering was stopped, nor was it until 1803 that France would admit that any indemnity was due for the losses suffered. When Louisiana was bought, the United States were permitted to deduct 2,000,000 francs (about $400,000) from the purchase money, and to use it in the settlement of such claims; but after that date the plundering continued, and the effect upon American commerce was disastrous. Again claims for damages were made by America. After much discussion the French government finally agreed in 1815 to pay an indemnity of 25,000,000 francs ($5,000,000), while the United States were to be released from all French claims by the pay
ment of 1,500,000 francs ($300,000); but the legislative chamber failed to make the necessary appropriations. The continued delay of France was complained of by the United States until at last in 1835 matters took a serious turn and diplomatic relations were severed. When the French government realized that this country would brook no further hesitation, the appropriations were passed.
Thus the diplomatic history of the spoliation claims ended. Not so the domestic, for though the bills that have been introduced in Congress authorizing the President to pay the claims have received no less than forty-three favorable reports against three that were adverse, it was not until the act of January 20, 1885, that provision was made for settlement. This act referred the petitioners to the Court of Claims, and in May, 1886, Judge John Davis delivered an elaborate judgment in favor of the claimants and reviewed the entire history of the affair. The first appropriation on account of the claims was made in the deficiency act of March 3, 1891, and the money is now being distributed among the heirs of those who owned the vessels that were destroyed.
The Purchase of Louisiana.
When in 1800 the United States government learned of the secret treaty by which Spain had agreed to return to France her vast Louisiana territory, there was a general feeling of apprehension. The power controlling the Mississippi River was a natural enemy to our government. Spain as a comparatively weak nation was not greatly to be dreaded, but France, an old friend, would be a formidable rival. Then again the possession of Canada by England, the enemy of France, would in case of war make the northwestern part of the United States a battle ground. Probably, however, the conviction that the best interests of this government were im
periled by the presence on American soil of any foreign power was the fundamental idea of the American people.
Mr. Robert Livingston, who was minister to France, presented to the authorities of the French republic a proposition for the purchase of New Orleans. It was received with so much favor that Mr. Monroe was sent to Paris in March, 1803, bearing instructions to carry out that project if possible. The original plan was to purchase only that part of the French possessions lying east of the Mississippi River, but Talleyrand suggested the cession of the whole French domain in North America, and asked how much would be given for it. Mr. Livingston intimated that twenty millions of francs might be a fair price, but Napoleon Bonaparte said this was too low, and named one hundred and twenty-five millions of francs. In a very short time however, after negotiations began between Mr. Livingston and Talleyrand, the American commissioners agreed to pay eighty millions of francs for the vast territory along and beyond the Mississippi River. This act, although unauthorized and unexpected, was agreed to by the President, Congress was at once summoned to consider the proposition, and on the 20th of the following December the province of Louisiana was officially surrendered to Governor Claiborne of Mississippi and General Wilkinson of the United States Army, who were empowered to take charge and assume command. It was afterwards disclosed that the territory could have been obtained for fifty millions of francs had our commissioners insisted upon that sum, for the instructions of Napoleon to his agents fixed that as the lowest limit. The transfer took place on the 30th of November in the council chamber at New Orleans, where M. Laussat, the plenipotentiary of the French republic, who twenty days before had received the transfer of authority from the Spanish government, handed Governor Claiborne the keys of the city and at the same time hauled
down the flag of France, which had floated from the mast on the building. The American flag was then raised to its full height and the agents of the two governments in the transaction exchanged congratulations. The transfer of upper Louisiana to the United States took place at St. Louis on the 8th and 10th of March, 1804.)
The actual cost of the Louisiana purchase was $27,267,621.98, of which $15,000,000 was the purchase money, $8,529,353 represented the interest upon that amount to the redemption of the bonds that were issued to cover it, and $3,738,268.98 the French spoliation claims which were paid by the United States under the treaty.
For this money 1,182,755 square miles were obtained.