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Old March 28th, 2015, 03:06 PM   #1

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Western Mississippi River Basin under French and Spanish "Rule"


This thread is about political sovereignty and control. Apparently, the French claimed the whole Mississippi river basin in the late 17th century, which now includes most of the Midwestern United States. This vast territory passed to Spanish "rule" after the Seven Years' War, was returned to France in 1802, and in 1803 was "purchased" by the United States government.

However, within this vast territory, there were only two areas which saw any considerable European settlement before the 19th century: (1) the Illinois Country, and (2) Lower Louisiana (which includes the modern U.S. state of Louisiana). Even within these two areas, indigenous Amerindian populations outnumbered Europeans for the entire period of French and Spanish "rule". The reason I am using quotes around terms like "rule" and "purchase" is because I don't see how any state with such a limited presence in such a vast territory can truly be said to have "sovereignty" or any effective control over the said territory. The native Amerindians continued to move back and forth across the imaginary boundaries of "New France", and did not recognize any French or Spanish authority. Certainly, neither the French nor Spanish had any monopoly of force in the Mississippi river basin. Given such a situation, can either nation be said to have effective "sovereignty" over this territory? In my view, it was only with the large-scale European settlement of the 19th century, the organization of the Mississippi river basin into clearly demarcated American states, and the systematic relocation of the native Amerindians into circumscribed spaces of "tribal sovereignty", that we can begin to meaningfully speak of a single, centralized political entity exercising effective control over the Mississippi river basin. Would other members agree with this opinion?

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Old March 28th, 2015, 03:13 PM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by civfanatic View Post
This thread is about political sovereignty and "control". Apparently, the French claimed almost the entire Mississippi river valley in the late 17th century, which now includes most of the midwestern United States. This vast territory passed to Spanish "rule" after the Seven Years' War, was returned to France in 1802, and in 1803 was "purchased" by the United States government.

However, within this vast territory, there were only two areas which saw any considerable European settlement before the 19th century: (1) the Illinois Country, and (2) Lower Louisiana (which includes the modern U.S. state of Louisiana). However, in these two areas, indigenous Amerindian populations outnumbered Europeans for the entire period of French and Spanish "rule". The reason I am using quotes around terms like "rule" and "purchase" is because I don't see how any state with such a limited presence in such a vast territory can truly be said to have "sovereignty" over it, let alone effective control. The native Amerindians continued to move back and forth across the imaginary boundaries of "New France", and did not recognize any French or Spanish authority. Certainly, neither the French nor Spanish had any monopoly of force in the Mississippi river valley. Given such a situation, can either nation be said to have effective "sovereignty" over this territory? In my view, it was only with the large-scale European settlement of the 19th century, the organization of the Mississippi river valley into clearly demarcated American states, and the systematic relocation of the native Amerindians into circumscribed spaces of "tribal sovereignty", that we can begin to meaningfully speak of a single, centralized political entity exercising effective control over the Mississippi river valley. Would other members agree with this opinion?
Yes, I agree. It irks me when people say something like "well Colorado was under Spanish rule". Anyone can color in a piece of paper yellow, it's another thing to have actual control over the area.

In addition to the French presence in the Pays d'en Haut and Louisiana, Spain did have a presence west of the Mississippi in Santa Fe. That is to say, actual settlement beyond hollow claims or the token mission.
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Old April 12th, 2015, 06:32 PM   #3

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Yes, I agree. It irks me when people say something like "well Colorado was under Spanish rule". Anyone can color in a piece of paper yellow, it's another thing to have actual control over the area.

In addition to the French presence in the Pays d'en Haut and Louisiana, Spain did have a presence west of the Mississippi in Santa Fe. That is to say, actual settlement beyond hollow claims or the token mission.
How would you characterize the Louisiana Purchase? If France didn't have actual control over the territory that it "sold" to the United States, then it seems to me like the "purchase" was merely a diplomatic formality that had political relevance only within the confines of the Western geopolitical world. For a Dakota tribesman in Iowa, the "purchase" had no immediate consequences, and as far as he was concerned, there was no "transfer" of authority from France to the U.S., because the Dakota tribesman was never really a subject of France in the first place.
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Old April 12th, 2015, 07:58 PM   #4
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How would you characterize the Louisiana Purchase? If France didn't have actual control over the territory that it "sold" to the United States, then it seems to me like the "purchase" was merely a diplomatic formality that had political relevance only within the confines of the Western geopolitical world. For a Dakota tribesman in Iowa, the "purchase" had no immediate consequences, and as far as he was concerned, there was no "transfer" of authority from France to the U.S., because the Dakota tribesman was never really a subject of France in the first place.
The orange part sounds about right. I think by going through the legal process of purchasing the land from France, it prevented unwanted political tension (and possible warfare) with France.

The major reason for the European countries to control the region was to control the main waterways. Since in those days, the easiest and best way to get cargo from place to place was on the various waterways. I'm not entirely certain, but think there was access from the Atlantic through the St. Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, into the Ohio River, into the Mississippi down to the Gulf of Mexico - a great alternative interior route. There was very little, if any, overland travel required. Though travel may have been restricted during certain times of the year due to seasonal hazards. When France had complete access to the whole length of this "highway", it made sense to want it all. Once part of it firmly belonged to GB, and another part to the US, it probably made less sense to keep the Mississippi.

Without reading up on the treaties and such made specifically with the American Indians, I'd say those were intended (or not) to "satisfy" the Indians regarding their territories, since, as you point out, they wouldn't have been swayed by Spanish/French/British/American "sovereignty".

Last edited by R5 plus; April 12th, 2015 at 09:23 PM.
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Old April 12th, 2015, 09:20 PM   #5

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It was in many ways a diplomatic formality. The formality being the cessation of French claims to economic rights in the Mississippi River Valley, along with a generous added bonus of a handful of colonial settlements.
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Old April 12th, 2015, 11:41 PM   #6

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I think in modern parlance the U.S. purchased the rights to the territory relative to the European countries with interests in the region.
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Old April 13th, 2015, 02:07 AM   #7

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The over-whelming issue with all Spanish Empire territory in North America was they could never find any settlers in great numbers. Missions and presidios 'abounded' in a way, of course, but without non-native settlers it was never sustainable.

I dont agree with Mike in that the south west was definitely Spanish Empire even if missions and troops were few and far between. The Pueblo indians and the more hostile Apaches, Navajo and Commanche were 'subjects' and acted and were treated as such. Of course it all started going awry when the natives achieved horses and weapons - no longer possible to control the territory with 50 or 100 soldiers in thousands of square miles - or hunt down miscreants!

It's all in here for anyone who wants to read it, unfortunately not in English to my knowledge - though it should be.

BANDERAS LEJANAS: LA EXPLORACION, CONQUISTA Y DEFENSA POR ESPAŅA DEL TERRITORIO DE LOS ACTUALES ESTADOS UNIDOS - FERNANDO MARTINEZ LAINEZ, comprar el libro
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Old April 13th, 2015, 12:24 PM   #8

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The spanish had the tratado de tordesillas treaty of 1493 (the pope and his bulla intercaetera giving all of the western hemisphere to spain to colonize with giving the eastern hemisphere to portugal under his heavenly investment) to lean on, but in a similar situation to what happened in southern south america, the were a few random forts and penal colonies but no real population and much less any real longterm goals or ideas for vast swaths of land that were never of much interest to a crown that wanted gold, silver, and a lot of indigenous labor to work the gold and silver mines to feed the royal coffers. The lousiana purchase in this sense was essentially a diplomatic gesture from the US to France or essentially a marketing scam from colonial times.
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Old April 14th, 2015, 12:11 AM   #9

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The Illinois area was a bread basket for Quebec prior to losing the French & Indian War. There were alternate river connections back and forth. Fur trading was a big money maker. After the British won that war, most French settlers moved across the Mississippi River to what is now St. Louis. They preferred Spanish governance to the British.
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Old April 14th, 2015, 03:22 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark87 View Post
The spanish had the tratado de tordesillas treaty of 1493 (the pope and his bulla intercaetera giving all of the western hemisphere to spain to colonize with giving the eastern hemisphere to portugal under his heavenly investment) to lean on, but in a similar situation to what happened in southern south america, the were a few random forts and penal colonies but no real population and much less any real longterm goals or ideas for vast swaths of land that were never of much interest to a crown that wanted gold, silver, and a lot of indigenous labor to work the gold and silver mines to feed the royal coffers. The lousiana purchase in this sense was essentially a diplomatic gesture from the US to France or essentially a marketing scam from colonial times.
I think I read that Napoleon had absolutely zero interest in Louisiana and fancied a few quid from a quick sale!
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