Sheet size: 21 4/8 x 41 2/8 inches. Ink and watercolour wash on paper. A FINE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT MAP showing portions of the provinces of Louisiana, West Florida and Texas and their respective boundaries during a time of challenge and attempted definition.
As reflected in the map and related documents, the issue of international borders became acute beginning in 1803 in the context of the formal Spanish retrocession of Louisiana to France, the French sale of Louisiana to the United States, and a near military clash between American and Spanish forces in an area highlighted by the map, the northeastern corner of Texas. Following the wave of Spanish engineer-cartographers of the 1760s through the 1780s, with their rich, exuberant water colours and detail, Spanish mapmakers became more sparing and also less visible in their authorship, as evidenced by this one map. No signature or author identification appears. Yet, like so many other maps from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, this one provides an excellent example of the importance of such documents as symbols of authority and possession in a part of the world (North America) where nation-states and empires competed with one another for control of territory, people, and resources. Maps provided significant visual complements to written documents when arguing ownership or claims for ill-defined borders.
The focus and colouring of the map highlight two borders: the first, on the righthand side is the straight line of the thirty-first parallel or line of latitude beginning at the Mississippi River and running due east to the edge of the map above Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans. The second highlighted border is the ninety-degree corner following what writers have identified as an Arroyo Hondo (not shown on the map) separating Los Adais (Los Adaes) in the province of Texas from Natchitoches in Louisiana. The line then runs south from the thirty-first parallel following the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Bayou Manchac (Iberville River), and then east to Lake Maurepas along that lake's north shore to its connection with Lake Pontchartrain, and finally along that lake's north, a line agreed upon in the treaty between Britain and France at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763. The territory encompassed is prominently identified as "Territorio del Dominio de S.M. pertenence a la Florida" (Territory of the Dominion of His Majesty belonging to Florida").
This focus reveals local Spanish officials and the mapmaker's attempt to provide by way of a vivid illustration their ongoing effort to clarify and establish borders in a region where Spain, France, and Great Britain had competed with one another for over a hundred years. After achieving independence from Britain in 1783, the United States entered the game. When it purchased Louisiana from France in 1803, it began aggressively to claim as part of its acquisition lands the Spanish continued to regard as
theirs. Diplomatic resolution of the issue between those two countries did not occur until 1819 by means of the Adams-Onis, or Transcontinental, Treaty, and its ratification in 1821.
CHARLES WEEKS WRITES:
“Plano de una parte de la Provincia de la Luisiana y de otra de la Florida Occidental y de la Provincia de Texas,” (“Map of a part of the Province of Louisiana and the other of West Florida and the Province of Texas,”) ca. 1803-1806. Ink and watercolor wash on paper: 21½" X 41¼".
This Spanish map—Spanish as evidenced by handwriting, orthography, cartographic style, ink tones, and paper—shows portions of the provinces of Louisiana, West Florida and Texas and their respective boundaries during a time of challenge and attempted definition. As reflected in the map and related documents, the issue of international borders became acute beginning in 1803 in the context of the formal Spanish retrocession of Louisiana to France, the French sale of Louisiana to the United States, and a near military clash between American and Spanish forces in an area highlighted by the map, the northeastern corner of Texas. Following the wave of Spanish engineers-cartographers of the 1760s through the 1780s, with their rich, exuberant water colors and detail, Spanish mapmakers became more sparing and also less visible in their authorship, as evidenced by this one map. No signature or author identification appears. Yet, like so many other maps from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, this one provides an excellent example of the importance of such documents as symbols of authority and possession in a part of the world (North America) where nation-states and empires competed with one another for control of territory, people, and resources. Maps provided significant visual complements to written documents when arguing ownership or claims for ill-defined borders.
The focus and coloring of the map highlight two borders: the first, on the right-hand hand side is the straight line of the thirty-first parallel or line of latitude beginning at the Mississippi River and running due east to the edge of the map above Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans. The second highlighted border is the ninety-degree corner following what writers have identified as an Arroyo Hondo (not shown on the map) separating Los Adais (Los Adaes) in the province of Texas from Natchitoches in Louisiana. The line then runs south and connects with the Sabine River. Another less well highlighted border continues south from the thirty-first parallel following the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Bayou Manchac (Iberville River), and then east to Lake Maurepas along that lake’s north shore to its connection with Lake Pontchartrain, and finally along that lake’s north, a line agreed upon in the treaty between Britain and France at the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763. The territory encompassed is prominently identified as “Territorio del Dominio de S.M pertenece a la Florida” (“Territory of the Dominion of His Majesty belonging to Florida”). This focus reveals local Spanish officials and the mapmaker’s attempt to provide by way of a vivid illustration their ongoing effort to clarify and establish borders in a region where Spain, France, and Great Britain had competed with one another for over a hundred years. After achieving independence from Britain in 1783, the United States entered the game. When it purchased Louisiana from France in 1803, it began aggressively to claim as part of its acquisition lands the Spanish continued to regard as theirs. Diplomatic resolution of the issue between those two countries did not occur until 1819 by means of the Adams-Onís, or Transcontinental, Treaty, and its ratification in 1821.
Of the two multi-colored borders or boundaries, the somewhat less important—given the abrupt cut-off of the map—seems to be the eastern one, the thirty-first parallel. Establishing that border and securing navigation and port access for rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico—particularly the Mississippi—became after 1783 a major diplomatic goal of the United States. The Treaty of Paris, 1783, between the United States and Great Britain acknowledged the western border for the new country as the Mississippi River and a southern border as the thirty-first line of latitude extending from the Mississippi River east to the Apalachicola and Flint rivers and then east along the St. Mary’s River to the Atlantic. Spain, which had aided the young republic in its struggle, was not a party to that treaty. Perhaps quite intentionally, Britain did not clarify the boundaries of the Floridas in its separate treaty with Spain. The Spanish, who had conquered all of British West Florida including the Natchez District north of the thirty-first parallel, challenged the American claim for the next twelve years.
Americans began moving in substantial numbers across the Appalachians to settle in areas north and south of the Ohio River. The southern incursion posed a challenge to both Spain, which had claimed the region during the American Revolution, and its most numerous inhabitants, Native-Americans. Local Spanish officials saw their continued presence in the area as essential to provide a barrier to any who might threaten the Spanish position in North America. At the same time, American incursions alarmed many Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, Cherokees, and other native groups. Both the Spanish and many Native Americans easily found common ground for cooperation. As a consequence, the Spanish and representatives of numerous native groups formed in 1793— on paper at least—a confederation, and the Spanish were allowed to establish new posts as far north as present-day Memphis, none of which with the exception of Natchez appears on the map.
That absence can be explained by a major reversal of fortune for Spain in 1795. By means of the Treaty of San Lorenzo, or Pinkney’s, Treaty, of that year between Spain and the United States, Spain agreed to the thirty-first parallel as the southern border of the United States and the opening of the Mississippi River to free navigation for Americans with right of deposit in New Orleans. In agreeing to that boundary, it gave up Natchez and other posts it had established along the east bank of the Mississippi River and along the Tombigbee River above Mobile. And, in effect, it agreed to abandon its commitment to help native groups in their effort to check increased pressure to cede land. The map reflects those changes. Along with the absence of Spanish posts, the names of no Indian groups appear in a space labeled simply as Territorio Americano (American territory).
Actual survey of the border did not begin until the summer of 1798 and took two years to complete. As required in the San Lorenzo treaty, a joint Spanish and American commission undertook the work. From the start, it met challenges from Native-American opponents of the treaty. Shortly after the survey began, Americans began construction of the fort identified on the map as Fuerte Americano (American fort) just above the line on the east bank of the river. The fort took the name Adams after the then American president, John Adams. It became the scene in 1802 of an important meeting of Americans and Choctaws that produced an agreement by Choctaws attending to cede some land and allow Americans to build a road through their land to help connect Natchez and Nashville, a road now commemorated as the Natchez Trace Parkway. Four years later, in 1806, Fort Adams became the starting point for a successor to the much better-known Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806. A surveyor, Thomas Freeman, who had served as the other American commissioner with Ellicott to survey the thirty-first parallel, led a group, which included the naturalist, Peter Custis, to follow an earlier 1804 exploring expedition headed by William Dunbar - naturalist, astronomer, plantation owner in the Natchez region, and another associate of Ellicott in the survey of the southern boundary of the United States - to explore more of the Red River in Louisiana and beyond. A Spanish military force from Nacogdoches in the sensitive Texas-Louisiana border area forced the Custis – Freeman group to turn back.
During the two years of the survey much happened in Europe to set the stage for continued border disputes between the United States and Spain. European and imperial politics then, as long before, continued to be fluid and provide important context for understanding the title of the map and its emphasis on a Texas-Louisiana boundary. Spain withdrew from an alliance with Britain; an alliance brought about by the French Revolution and what it portended in the early 1790s, and allied itself with republican France when the United States and Britain seemed to be joining forces in the Treaty of London, or Jay’s Treaty, of 1794, an event that Spanish officials perceived with apprehension. In the context of the completion of the survey of thirty-first parallel in 1800, Spain agreed in the secret treaty San Ildefonso with France to retrocede what had been called Louisiana, in honor of the French king, Louis XIV, by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, for France during his exploration of the lower Mississippi valley in the early 1680s. At the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War, or French and Indian War, Spain agreed in 1762 by means of the Treaty of Fontainebleau to accept Louisiana as a way to avoid its falling into the hands of Great Britain. It might be noted here that it was La Salle’s trip and claim that prompted Spain ultimately to create a province of Texas and locate its capital in Los Adais.
Yet much of what Spain feared in 1762 in the way of a disruption to a balance of power in North America came to pass during the formal retrocession to France in 1803. In that context the French government—then headed by Napoleon Bonaparte—agreed to sell it to the United States. Spain vigorously objected to the sale arguing that it violated a pledge by France in the San Ildefonso retrocession agreement that Louisiana would not be allowed to pass into the hands of a another power, The position taken by Pierre Clément Laussat, Napoleon’s prefect for Louisiana and later adopted by the American president, Thomas Jefferson, that Louisiana included the province of West Florida to the Perdido River in the east and stretched all the way west to the mouth of the Río Bravo (Rio Grande) and thereby included the Spanish province of Texas strengthened that objection. In 1806 Spanish and American forces confronted each other in the area of Los Adais and Nacogdoches. Those events and others made a strong case for establishing the legitimacy of a clear boundary between Texas and Louisiana. Implicit, if not explicit, in the case was the view long expressed by many Spanish officials that Louisiana extended as far north as the mouth of the Missouri River and included such posts as San Luis (present-day St. Louis) and needed to be vigorously held as an effective shield for all of its empire to the south.
Despite this ample view of Spanish Louisiana, St. Louis became shortly after the Louisiana purchase the starting point for two well-known American exploring expeditions - those of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (1804-1806) and Zebulon Pike (1806-07) - to know more about what Americans regarded now as their own. Before those trips began, however, the Spanish launched one of their own. In April, 1803, the lieutenant governor of Alta Luisiana (Upper Louisiana), Carlos de Hault de Lassus, ordered Regis Loisel to explore the Missouri River. It turned out to be primarily a diplomatic mission to win the support of Native-Americans before the Americans could get to them.
Clearly, however, the map was done mainly to delineate a Texas-Louisiana boundary to divide Los Adais from Natchitoches and then follow southward the course of the Sabine River. A square corner multi-colored border divides Los Adais from Natchitoches. Los Adais remained the capital of Texas until the 1770s when a new governor located his residence in San Antonio de Béxar, identified clearly on the west side of the map and connected to Los Adais and Nacogdoches by a slightly hatched trail or road. By then the French had given Louisiana to the Spanish as part of a decision to abandon their North-American imperial enterprise at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War. That border remained, however, to divide Texas from the now Spanish province of Louisiana within the captaincy-general of Cuba.
For a former Spanish military governor of Louisiana and a commissioner appointed to assist in the retrocession to France, the Marqués de Casa Calvo, the events of 1803-06 demanded clarification and re-affirmation of that border. Between 1804 and 1806, Casa Calvo led a major Spanish expedition that included among its members the talented French engineer Nicolas de Finiels, to explore, research, and ultimately define a western border of Louisiana and eastern border of Texas. Finiels’ report of that expedition, submitted in 1810 to Luis de Onís, the Spanish minister to the United States, included discussions of the area highlighted by the square corner of the map as well as the Red River region earlier traversed by Dunbar and then Freeman and Custis.
The Casa Calvo-Finiels expedition also generated a number of charts and maps. This map may have been one. José Martínez, a sergeant in the Royal Corps of Engineers and Casa Calvo’s principal associate on this expedition, informed Dunbar of possession of a sketch based upon a Spanish chart showing a boundary line running in an east-northeast direction from the Sabine River to a point about two leagues from the Red River where it made the right angle to include the post of Los Adais in the province of Texas, and then trended northwest. Martínez went on to suggest that the boundary continued an indefinite length to the “Northern Andes” where both the Red and Missouri rivers had their sources.
Despite - or possibly even because of - that expedition, Spanish claim to the area remained fragile. The still vast open spaces in the Texas part of the map, in contrast to the much more detailed eastern, or Louisiana portion, exposed a dearth of Spanish settlement, and along with that, mapmaking and maps. The only Native-American group identified on the whole map, “Yndios Apaches” to the southeast of San Antonio, is that of a group that remained hostile to the Spanish despite some success by them in enlisting Comanches to the north to aid them in reducing that threat. To the east, the greater richness of detail attests to the fact that the mapmaker had access to many more maps and what they could tell him. The many place names connect with settlements made by French, French-Canadians, Germans, Spaniards, and Anglo-Americans during the time of French and Spanish colonization in areas that could be settled, as opposed to the coastline stretching from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Balize at the mouth of the Mississippi River, a coast on which the Spanish expended much effort and resources to survey and map. The names of Indian groups prominently displayed there, “Atakapas” and “Opelusas,” identify a region that became one of Spanish puestos or settlements.
Final resolution for Spain of a border with the United States had to await another treaty, that of Adams- Onís in 1819, but, by the time of its ratification in 1821, Spain’s days as an imperial power in both North and South America were ending. In that year, what had been the Viceroyalty of New Spain became for a short time the independent Empire of Mexico. As an “empire,” Mexico challenged the Sabine River as a boundary, but in 1824 the empire gave way to a Republic of Mexico. The new republic signed a treaty with the United States in which both parties agreed to the Sabine, ostensibly settling that particular boundary question.
Charles A. Weeks
Draft of February 17, 2011
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