Jefferson County Online
The Dividing of Louisiana

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa - A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement", Volume 1, Pages 9-10, published by the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company of Chicago in 1912 (in 1914 according to some citations).




For parts of the territory embraced in the Louisiana of La Salle there arose various claimants. In general the claims rested upon no substantial foundation. That they should take who have the power, and they should keep who can, was the law of suzerainty, or ownership and authority. A long struggle between France and England for supremacy in America finally terminated in favor of England. In 1762, France relinquished to England all of Louisiana east of the Mississippi from its source as far south as Iberville, a military post about one hundred miles north of New Orleans. This was the western boundary of the English colonies when later they became the United States. At the same time the part of Louisiana west of the Mississippi was ceded to Spain. It retained the name of the original province. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 confirmed these transfers.

The new and restricted Louisiana remained in the possession of Spain until 1800, when it was secretly traded to the Republic of France. The Treaty of Madrid in 1801 established the conveyance.

In 1803, the Republic of France being in serious difficulties, Napoleon, First Consul, offered to sell Louisiana, and Jefferson, President of the United States agreed to buy Louisiana. It was a strange transaction. Nevertheless the sale and purchase were duly ratified and in October became an accomplished fact. It was a memorable event in the expansion, growth and development of the United States.

Of that portion of Jefferson's purchase stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, little was known. Save for the small settlement of St. Louis with a motley population of a few hundred souls, no impression had been made upon its primeval state. It was only a great hunting-ground for savages and for an occasional white man who had wandered far beyond the frontier. Its latent possibilities for cultivated fields, for homes, for cities and for commerce filled no statesman's vision. None foresaw the marvellous (sic) transformation shortly to be wrought by brave and sturdy pioneers whose advance was a triumphant progress in spite of the privations, hardships and dangers with which they had to suffer and contend.

At Jefferson's instance (sic) the Lewis and Clark expedition was organized to explore the Missouri River to its source, cross the mountains and attain the Pacific Ocean. The long and famous voyage began on the fourteenth of May, 1804, with St. Louis as the starting-point. The expedition followed the Missouri River upward until the seventeenth of August, 1805, having travelled on its waters more than three thousand miles. It crossed the great divide and late in November reached the Pacific, having accomplished its main purpose. It arrived again at St. Louis on the twenty-third of September, 1806, with the loss of but two members of the party, one by death and one by desertion.

By act of Congress in 1804 the thirty-third parallel of north latitude was made a line to divide the newly acquired country into the Territory of Orleans, lying south of it, and the District of Louisiana, lying north of it. For judicial and administrative purposes the District of Louisiana was attached to the Territory of Indiana; but one year later its importance had so increased that this connection was dissolved and it was erected into the Territory of Louisiana. The change of designation meant a government more closely in touch with the needs of its people.

In 1812, the Territory of Orleans was admitted into the Union as the State of Louisiana. To prevent confusion, the Territory of Louisiana was given the name of its principal river and made the Territory of Missouri.

In 1819, the portion of the Territory of Missouri lying south of the parallel of 36 30' north was detached and organized as Arkansas Territory. This action was preliminary to the erection of a state north of that parallel.

After a bitter struggle lasting for three years over the question of slavery, a portion of the Territory of Missouri, in 1821, by the Compromise Act of Henry Clay, became the State of Missouri. The remaining portion of the territory received no attention and was left for thirteen years without any form of government.

In this "No Man's Land" stretched the fertile and beautiful plateau drained on the east by the Mississippi, on the west by the Missouri, and now included within the State of Iowa.

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