During the two centuries following the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, three European nations - Spain, France, and England - tried to get possession of North America.  Spain had colonies in the south.  France took possession of the St. Lawrence Valley and the Great Lakes.  The English settled along the Atlantic coast in what we call the Thirteen Colonies.

Before long the French explorers worked their way across from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, but it was not until 1682 that Robert de la Salle reached the mouth of the Mississippi River.  There he drew his sword and took possession of the whole Mississippi Valley for France.  In honor of the French king, Louis XIV, he named the country Louisiana.

For eighty years France ruled over the Mississippi Valley.  All the land from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi belonged to it.  If you look this up on the map, you will see that the French territory lay like a great arc or cresent around the thirteen English colonies.

But England, too, wanted this fertile land west of her colonies.  The English and the French soon quarreled over the Ohio Valley and there were many battles between the soldiers of the two countries.  At last the French general, Montcalm, was defeated at Quebec, and France knew that the English would take away all its American possessions.  In November, 1762, the French king gave all that part of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to his friend and relative, the King of Spain.  This gift included the city of New Orleans.

The following year, 1763, France was compelled to surrender all of Canada and all of Louisiana east of the Mississippi River to England.  From this time on, the name Louisiana was applied only to the country west of the Mississippi River.  The white people who lived west of the river were chiefly French and they were sorry that their country no longer belonged to France.  They liked the gay French officers.  For six years more France ruled Louisiana.  Then, in 1768, the Spanish governor arrived and the red and yellow flag of Spain was raised over the region of which Iowa was a part.

During the American Revolution a boat loaded with American goods was captured by Indians at the mouth of Turkey River.  A little later some Americans and Spaniards were taken prisoner at the lead mines.  The Spanish helped the Americans against the English, because they did not want England as a neighbor.   It was not very long, however, before they began to fear that the Americans would seize New Orleans and the territory across the Mississippi River.

The Americans, however, had plenty of land east of the river.  What they wanted was to be able to take their flat-boats, loaded with flour, pork, whisky, furs, corn, honey, and the many things they had to sell, down the river to St. Louis or New Orleans.  Some of these boats came from far up the Ohio River, for it was easier to float a boat down the river than it was to take the goods in wagons across the mountains to New York or Boston.

While the Spanish and the Americans were arguing about whether the Americans should be permitted to sell their goods at New Orleans, a great change had taken place in France.  The French king had been put to death and before long Napoleon Bonaparte became the chief man in the French Republic.  They called him the First Consul, but he was really a king.

On March 21, 1801, Lucien Bonaparte, a brother of Napoleon, secured a treaty restoring Louisiana to France. Of course this was only the part of the Mississippi Valley west of the river.  You may imagine that Spain did not want to give up beautiful Louisiana.  The Spanish officers kept making excuses for keeping the territory.  Napoleon was angry about the delay, but he had many enemies and could not pay much attention to a territory so far away.

Just at this time the Spanish officer refused to permit the Americans to trade at New Orleans.  everyone became excited and angry, because the Americans felt they they had a right to go down the Mississippi River to the Gulf.  Some Americans wanted to send an army to take New Orleans away from Spain and make it an American city.  But President Thomas Jefferson said that was not the right way to go about it.

He wrote to James Monroe and asked him to got to FRance and help Robert R. Livingston, the American minister to France, settle the difficulty.  The President named two million dollars as the price and told Monroe to buy New Orleans from France.  If the United States could get New Orleans, there would be no more trouble about the trade there.

Even before Mr. Monroe reached Paris, Napoleon had begun to realize that England was his enemy and that the English fleet could prevent him from sending officers, soldiers, or good to Louisiana.  He told Mr. Livingston and Mr. Monroe that he had decided to sell all of Louisiana if the Americans would buy it.

The Americans were surprised.  They were not sure that Congress would approve the purchase of so much territory when they had been told to buy only New Orleans.  Both Livingston and Monroe decided to accept the offer.  The price finally agreed upon was 80,000,000 francs, or about $15,000,000, of which 20,000,000 francs were to be used for paying claims of American citizens against France.

When the news came to America many people thought it was a waste of money.  How could the United States govern so large a country, they asked, even if there were ever enough Americans to settle it.  It was good  only for the Indians.  Others said the United States had no right to buy territory of any kind.

After a long debate, however, Congress decided to accept the treaty and voted the money to pay for Louisiana.  William C. C. Claiborne was appointed governor of the new territory, and he and General James Wilkinson were sent to New Orleans to receive the surrender of Louisiana.

On November 30, 1803, the Spanish governor gave Louisiana to France.  Three weeks later, on December twenty, Louisiana changed hands again, and for the last time.  The French and American officials met at the city hall of New Orleans.  it was a brilliant group.  There were the red uniforms of dragoons and the bright colored silks and velvets of the rich citizens - for men wore bright colors in those days.

The French governor, Laussat, read the treaty and announced in French that the people no longer belonged to France but to the United States.  The keys of the city were then presented to Governor Claiborne, who made a speech in English.  The flag of France with its red, white, and blue bars was slowly lowered halfway down the staff and the American flag was raised to meet it.  For a moment the two flags of France was lowered together in the breeze.  Then the flag of France was lowered and the Stars and Stripes was raised to the top of the mast.  The Americans and some of the people of Louisiana cheered, but some of the French people were sad to see their flag disappear from American soil.

In the spring of 1804 another ceremony was held at St. Louis.  On the ninth of March some American soldiers crossed the Mississippi River to St. Louis.  There the Spanish governor was still in command, for no French officer had been sent up the river to receive the transfer from Spain.  So it was from this Spanish governor that Captain Amos Stoddard, the American representative, received the surrender of Upper Louisiana and with it what is now Iowa.  The Spanish troops marched out of the fort and the American soldiers took their places.  The Stars and Stripes took the place of the standard of Spain.  All of Louisiana now belonged to the United States.


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