Page:Writings of Thomas Jefferson, III, IV.djvu/13

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iii
The Louisiana Purchase

territory which rested on its hither shore demanded an unchecked outlet to the sea. Jefferson was the first of our statesmen to appreciate the importance of free and untrammelled communication from the Ohio to the Gulf. Spain held New Orleans and commanded the mouth of the Mississippi. If she was to remain there she must grant unrestricted privileges. As early as 1790, when Jefferson was Secretary of State under Washington, he demanded unhampered transit. He saw as no other man so clearly saw at that time, the tremendous significance of that question. Through his efforts the free use of the port of New Orleans was granted. After that all went well until a few years later the right of deposit on the wharves and in the warehouses at New Orleans was withdrawn. Then the West was instantly aflame and it became apparent that there could be no sure and lasting peace until the control of the Mississippi was so fixed that the United States would not be dependent upon any foreign power for its absolutely free navigation.

Meanwhile Spain retroceded Louisiana to France and Jefferson became President. He had, all through his previous career, been in affiliation with France and his antipathy was England; but so strong was his conviction that there was an inevitable antagonism between the United States and any alien power holding New Orleans that he looked to an alliance with England, unless that foreign power could be removed. He instructed Livingston, already