Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 2.djvu/64

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1803.
47
THE LOUISIANA TREATY.

this convention was framed to execute; not only were the specifications arbitrary, and even self-contradictory,—but the estimate of twenty million francs was far below the amount of the claims admitted in principle; no rule of apportionment was provided, and, worst of all, the right of final decision in every case was reserved to the French government. The meaning of this last provision might be guessed from the notorious corruption of Talleyrand and his band of confidential or secret agents.

Doubtless Livingston was right in securing his main object at any cost; but could he have given more time to his claims convention, he would perhaps have saved his own reputation and that of his successor from much stain, although he might have gained no more than he did for his Government. In the two conventions of 1800 and 1803 the United States obtained two objects of the utmost value,—by the first, a release from treaty obligations which, if carried out, required war with England; by the second, the whole west bank of the Mississippi River and the island of New Orleans, with all the incidental advantages attached. In return for these gains the United States government promised not to press the claims of its citizens against the French government beyond the amount of three million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which was one fourth part of the price paid for Louisiana. The legitimate claims of American citizens against France amounted to many million dollars; in the result, certain favored