The secret treaty

In that same year, 1796, during which the Directorate tried in vain to get Spain to return Louisiana to France, the French general Collot navigated the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, describing and mapping for France the entire Spanish colony.

Map of the Baton Rouge plantation in 1796
Service Historique de Marine, Service Hydrographique, Recueil 66/7
Map of the Baton Rouge plantation in 1796
Service Historique de Marine, Service Hydrographique, Recueil 66/7

Bonaparte, who had been named First Consul, restarted negotiations and concluded the secret treaty of San Ildefonso (October 1800), according to which Spain, under Charles IV, agreed to return the colony to France in return for financial advantages granted to the Duchy of Parma.

Secret treaty with Spain, signed at Saint-Ildefonse in 1800
f° 8: signature and seal of the King of Spain
Archives du Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris, Traités, Espagne, Ratifications du Traité de Saint-Ildefonse, 1er octobre 1800
Secret treaty with Spain, signed at Saint-Ildefonse in 1800
f° 8: signature and seal of the King of Spain

Archives du Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris, Traités, Espagne, Ratifications du Traité de Saint-Ildefonse, 1er octobre 1800

In February of 1801, Bonaparte planned to send General Collot to Louisiana to prepare for this event, of which the English rapidly became aware. Bernadotte-the future king of Sweden-was suggested as governor. But war was declared with England, and all plans had to be changed: Collot's squadron remained in port and Bernadotte went off to fight in Europe. Only a small contingent, led by the colonial Prefect Laussat and the general Victor, left in January 1803 to take possession of Louisiana.

Laussat's first proclamation to the Louisianans, March 1803
CAOM, C13A 52, f° 304
Laussat's first proclamation to the Louisianans,
March 1803
CAOM, C13A 52, f° 304


the Lousiana purchase