In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle departed from present-day Fort Wayne with 18 Native Indians and canoed down the Mississippi River. He named the Mississippi basin La Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV and claimed it for France. At what later became the site of Memphis, Tennessee, La Salle built the small Fort Prudhomme. On April 9, 1682, at the mouth of the Mississippi River near modern Venice, Louisiana, La Salle buried an engraved plate and a cross, claiming the territory for France.
Louisiana originally covered an expansive territory that included most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River and stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.
Louisiana eventually was divided into two regions, known as Upper Louisiana (French: Haute-Louisiane), which began north of the Arkansas River, and Lower Louisiana (French: Basse-Louisiane).
The present-day U.S. state of Louisiana is named for this historical region, although it occupies only a small portion of the territory originally claimed by the French.
Then in 1763, as a result of the Seven Years’ War, France was forced to cede the eastern part of the Louisiana territory to the victorious British, and the western part to Spain as compensation for that country’s loss of Florida.
On August 19, 1796, the Treaty of Alliance was signed between Spain and the First French Republic, ending the War of Pyreness. As a result, France and Spain became allies and combined their forces against the British Empire.
It was this alliance that led to Spain’s entry into the war against Great Britain, leading to the loss of Trinidad and Menorca in 1798.
Spain’s financial system began facing serious trouble—from 1780 banknotes were circulating as legal currency, as a new form of government bonds invented by Francisco Cabarrús. The British attacks on Spain’s colonies and her convoys back from America, along with Britain’s commercial blockade, added to an already worsening economic situation, with the national debt increasing eightfold between 1793 and 1798. Charles IV and Maria Luisa of Parma ruled Spain, with Manuel Godoy as prime minister.
On November 9, 1799, (which was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII under the French Republican calendar) French General Napoleon Bobaparte won the French Revolution by coup d’état, overthrowing the French Directory, and replacing it with his own French Consulate.
Treaty of San Ildefonso
The Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800 (formally titled the Preliminary and Secret Treaty between the French Republic and His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain, Concerning the Aggrandizement of His Royal Highness the Infant Duke of Parma in Italy and the Retrocession of Louisiana) was a secretly negotiated treaty between France and Spain in which Spain returned the colonial territory of Louisiana to France.
The treaty was negotiated under some duress, as Spain was under pressure from Napoleon.
The Treaty agreements included:
The French Republic would establish a newly created territory on the Italian Peninsula on behalf of the ‘infante’ (prince) Louis Francis of Bourbon-Parma, son of Ferdinand I of Bourbon-Parma, Duke of Parma, where he would be acknowledged as ‘king’—the territory was not precisely determined but Tuscany was suggested.
- One month after the prince’s takeover, Spain would hand over six 74-gun ships-of-the-line to France.
- Six months after, Spain would retrocede the colony of Louisiana to France—under Spanish possession since the Treaty of Paris (1763) that ended the Seven Years’ War.
The treaty was concluded on October 1, 1800 between Louis Alexandre Berthier representing France and Don Mariano Luis de Urquijo for Spain.
Terms of the treaty, however, did not specify the boundaries of the territory being returned.
This agreement later became known as the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso to be distinguished from those signed in 1777 and 1796.
But, strained by obligations in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte decided to sell the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, ending France’s presence in Louisiana.
Then the United States ceded part of the Louisiana Purchase to the United Kingdom in the Treaty of 1818, following the War of 1812.
This section lies above the 49th parallel north in a portion of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.
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