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H E N R Y
ON THE LINE OF THE PERDIDO.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, DECEMBER 25, 1810.
[The region known as FLORIDA, though discovered by Sebastian Cabot, an Eng lish navigator, was first formally taken possession of by Ponce de Leon, a Spaniard, in behalf of the Spanish crown, and was thence deemed a possession of that crown A colony of French Protestants, who settled it in 1562, were overpowered and murdered by a Spanish force in 1565, in which year a Spanish colony was planted at St. Augustine. By the Treaty of Ryswick, in 1763, Florida was ceded to England, but restored to Spain by the Treaty of Paris, in 1783. It remained a Spanish possession down to its cession to the United States, for $5,000,000, in 1819. LOUISIANA, on the other hand—that is, the River Mississippi-was first discovered by the French, in 1688, and a settlement made by them in 1699. It was ceded to Spain in 1763, restored to France in 1800, and purchased of Bonaparte, by the United States, in 1803, for the sum of $15,000,000. And now a serious question soon arose as to the Boundary between the two Territories-Spain claiming that Florida extended to the Mississippi, embracing all the then wilderness which now forms the States of Alabama and Mississippi ; while our Government claimed that Louisiana extended east to the Perdido, a small river running South into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles east of Mobile, 150 east of New-Orleans and 20 west of Pensacola. President Madison solved the dispute in 1810 by taking possession of Baton Rouge and Mobile, and extending the jurisdiction of the United States to the Perdido. This act was assailed in Congress by the Federal Members, especially by OUTERBRIDGE HORSEY, an eminent Senator from Delaware, who regarded it as an unjustifiable and offensive demonstration against Spain, then putting forth all her energies in resistance to the treacherous usurpation and overwhelming force of Bonaparte. Mr. Clay replied in defence of Mr. Madison's course in the following Speech, demonstrating that the Perdido was the true boundary between the two Territories, and accordingly it has since remained the western limit of Florida.]
It would have gratified me if some other gentleman had undertaken to reply to the ingenious argument which you have just heard. (Speech of Mr. Horsey.) But not perceiving any one disposed to do so, a sense of duty obliges me, though very unwell, to claim your indulgence, whilst I offer my sentiments on this subject, so interesting to the Union at large, but especially to the Western portion of it. Allow me, sir, to express my admiration at the more than Aristidean justice, which in a question of Territorial title, between the United States and a foreign nation, induces certain gentlemen to espouse the pretensions of the foreign nation. Doubtless, in any future negotiations, she will have too much magnanimity to avail herself of these spontaneous concessions in her favor, made on the floor of the Senate of the United States.
It was to be expected that in a question like the present, gentlemen, even on the same side, would have different views, and although arriving at a common conclusion, would do so by various arguments. And hence the honorable gentleman from Vermont entertains doubt with regard to our title against Spain, whilst he feels entirely satisfied of it against France. Believing, as I do, that our title against both powers is indisputable, under the treaty of St. Ildefonso, between Spain and France, and the treaty between the French Republic and the United States, I shall not inquire into the treachery, by which the king of Spain is alledged to have lost his crown; nor shall I stop to discuss the question involved in the overthrow of the Spanish monarchy, and how far the power of Spain ought to be considered as merged in that of France. I shall leave the honorable gentleman from Delaware to mourn over the fortunes of the fallen Charles. I have no commiseration for princes. My sympathies are reserved for the great mass of mankind, and I own that the people of Spain have them most sincerely.
I will adopt the course suggested by the nature of the subject, and pursued by other gentlemen, of examining into our title to the country lying between the Mississippi and the Rio Perdido, (which, to avoid circumlocution, I will call West Florida, although it is not the whole of it,) and the propriety of the recent measures taken for the occupation of that territory. Our title, then, depends, first, upon the limits of the province, or colony of Louisiana, and secondly, upon a just exposition of the treaties before mentioned.
On this occasion it is only necessary to fix the eastern boundary. In order to ascertain this, it will be proper to take a cursory view of the settlement of the country, because the basis of European title to colonies in America, is prior discovery, or prior o@cupancy. In 1682, La Salle migrated from Canada, then owned by France, descended the Mississippi, and named the country which it waters, Louisiana. About 1698, D’Iberville discovered by sea the mouth of the Mississippi, established a colony at the Isle Dauphine, or Massacre, which lies at the mouth of the bay of Mobile, and one at the mouth of the river Mobile, and was appointed by France, Governor of the country. In the year 1717, the famous West India Company sent inhabitants to the Isle Dauphine, and found some of those who had been settled there under the auspices of D’Iberville. About the same period, Biloxi, near the Pascagoula, was settled. In 1719, the city of New Orleans was laid off, and the seat of government of Louisiana was established there; and in 1736, the French erected a fort on the Tombigbee. These facts prove that France had the actual possession of the country as far east as the Mobile at least. But the great Instrument which ascertains, beyond all doubt, that the country in question is comprehended within the limits of Louisiana, is one of the most authentic and solemn character which the archives of a nation can furnish; I mean the patent granted in 1712 by Louis XIV. to Crozat.
"FONTAINBLEAU, September 14, 1712. “ Louis, By the grace of God, &c.
“ The care we have always had to procure the welfare and advantage of our subjects, having induced us, &c. to seek for all possible opportunities of enlarging and extending the trade of our American colonies, we did, in the year 1683, give our orders to undertake a discovery of the countries and lands which are situated in the northern part of America, between New France and New Mexico; and the Sieur de la Salle, to whom we committed that enterprise, having had success enough to confirm a belief that a communication might be settled
from Nero France to the Gulf of Mexico, by means of large rivers, this obliged us, immediately after the peace of Ryswick, to give orders for establishing a colony there, and maintaining a garrison, which has kept and preserved the possession we had taken in the very year 1683, of the lands, coasts, and islands which are situated in the Gulf of Mexico between Carolina on the east, and Old and New Mexico on the west. But a new war having broke out in Europe shortly after, there was no possibility, till now, of reaping from that Colony the advantages that might have been expected from thence, &c. And whereas, upon the information we have received concerning the disposition and situation of the said countries, known at present by the name of the Province of Louisiana, we are of opinion, that, there may be established therein considerable commerce, &c. we have resolved to grant the commerce of the country of Louisiana to the Sieur Anthony Crozat, &c. For these reasons, &c., we, by these presents, signed by our hand, have appointed and do appoint the said Sieur Crozat, to carry on a trade in all the lands possessed by us, and bounded by New Mexico and by the lands of the English of Carolina, all the establishments, ports, havens, rivers, and principally the port and haven of the Isle Dauphine, heretofore called Massacre; the river of St. Louis, with the river St. Philip, heretofore called the Missouri, and of St. Jerome, heretofore called Ouabache, with all the countries, territories, and lakes