Letter to a friend:
“And Bonaparte sold Louisiana”

My dear friend,

The choice of New Orleans as the SubOptic 2019 venue pleased me and I now try to understand the reason. It is a fact that the words Orleans, Pontchartrain, Maurepas or Lafayette are very familiar name in the French History. The name Louisiana was given by Cavelier de la Salle as a recognition to the French king Louis XIV. But all the French are learning at school that Bonaparte, the future emperor, in 1803 “sold Louisiana to the American for a symbolic dollar” Shame on him?

Louisiana was then a huge territory extending from Canada to the Mexican gulf and from the Mississippi to the Rockies! The Cavelier de la Salle expedition coming from the North, reached the Mexican gulf in 1682. Looking at a map of the USA today, a naive Frenchman dreams that this Louisiana, covering 12 of the today states could have been French! He thinks “What a mistake! Why Bonaparte sold such a piece of jewellery?”

The very young American republic was very keen to find an access to the Mexican gulf! The president Jefferson sent Livingstone and Monroe to Paris with the mandate to obtain the free right of navigation on the Mississippi, the possibility to commerce with Caribbean’s islands and also to eventually buy New-Orleans.

Livingstone was stunned to be offered the acquisition of the full Louisiana territory against the sum of 80 million Francs. For this very modest amount, the American were doubling the size of their country!!

Through this move Bonaparte was not only realistic but was following its anti-British strategy! He had realized that he did not have the means to control and develop such a large territory and above all that the risk to see the British taking it over was real. So he choose to “offer the British a powerful rival”. His view was that “a more powerful America will surely become for England a maritime rival who, soon or later will push down its pride”

Conclusion: Napoleon did not always take good decisions but this one was clearly wise and smart! In our activity today we would say “Louisiana is not in our business plan” or “do not fit with our business model”. But let us point out that the Bonaparte’s decision was an element of a strategic vision. Good for him but also the best solution for Louisiana!

This is why I forgive Napoleon for the fact that I would need to speak English if attending SubOptic 2019!

Jean Devos

AQEST Senior Advisor

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