When I was working on the post about Spanish California, I was shocked when I saw a map of the Viceroyalty of Nueva España. The iconic geography of the Great Lakes clearly marked that the majority of present day Minnesota once was part of Spanish Louisiana; Louisiana as in the purchase! I had no idea that the boundaries went that far north. Other people I know were as astonished as I was to learn of this historical geography. This post is dedicated to Minnesota schools. They’re doing a fair job, but about that time that Spain owned most of Minnesota? Might want to mention that.
First I’ll show a current map of the area around Minnesota, so you can compare it with the older maps below. See how the northeast point cozies up to Lake Superior. That section goes from the French to the British in 1763, shown in the map below.
Now, all you history buffs may still be stuck on the phrase Spanish Louisiana. You might be saying aloud that you thought the US bought Louisiana from the French. You are right, they did. The backstory is a secret treaty between cousins; Louis of France and Carlos III of Spain; the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau. The agreement was not revealed to the rest of the world until 1769. The yellow part of the map is Spanish in 1763.
Below is a map of Spanish Louisiana in 1800. Under Lake Superior in gray is part of Michigan and part of what became Wisconsin (where I currently live). That means that the other side of the Mississippi where two-thirds of Minnesota is today, was part of Spanish Louisiana. That shocked the heck out of me. Minnesota east of the Mississippi had already been given to Britain by France in 1763, which both the maps above and below indicate.
Napoleon bought Louisiana back from the Spanish with an exchange of lands in 1801. Then, he decided he needed money to counter the revolt brewing in Haiti and to fund his wars in Europe. In all this hot potato passing Louisiana back and forth, the people who already lived on the land were not consulted, in historically European self-serving fashion.
The head of France contacted President Jefferson to make a deal. When he made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it doubled the size of the United States, for the price of 15 million dollars ($375 million today). This raised Constitutional issues; could a President buy land? The House called a vote to stop the purchase, it failed by two votes 59 to 57. The New England Federalists, like Alexander Hamilton were strongly opposed to adding this territory to the States. They were worried about competition from western farmers. Concern about the division of states that allowed or did not allow slavery was also on their minds. Their position lost the fight, but they brought up salient problems.
Jefferson was thrilled to add agricultural land for his envisioned nation of farmers. The tribal people in those areas suffered a great deal when forced to move so the incoming settlers could till the land. That past, and enslaving African people over centuries are transgressions we have not reconciled yet as a country.
In terms of the United States organization today, when we compare the territory colored in brown with the first map of this article, we see the names of many of the states that were formed from this land. North and South Dakota, and Iowa would be three more states I don’t think of when I hear the phrase Louisiana Purchase. I had great hints that several of the states were under Spanish influence at some point, like Montana (Montaña=mountain) and Nevada (snowy). In the case of little ole Minnesota, I just never knew. When I look at the map, I see how small the US was before the purchase! It’s just the pink part above, from the Mississippi east on the map. How would US history have been different had the acquisition from France not been made?
I look forward to your comments about the Louisiana Purchase, the Spanish Empire, and the ideas this post brought to mind.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. ¡Olé! –Rebecca