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MADISON, James (1751-1836), President. Document signed ("James Madison") as Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 1 March 1803. 1 page, folio, tipped on one edge to larger sheet, original paperered wax seal of the U.S. at lower left. In fine condition.
MADISON, James (1751-1836), President. Document signed ("James Madison") as Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 1 March 1803. 1 page, folio, tipped on one edge to larger sheet, original paperered wax seal of the U.S. at lower left. In fine condition.

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MADISON, James (1751-1836), President. Document signed ("James Madison") as Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 1 March 1803. 1 page, folio, tipped on one edge to larger sheet, original paperered wax seal of the U.S. at lower left. In fine condition.

MONROE'S STATE DEPARTMENT CREDENTIALS TO NEGOTIATE THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE

The official safe conduct pass for Monroe to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, which, to paraphrase Jefferson, planted "the empire of liberty" west of the Mississippi, and was arguably the most important achievement of Jefferson's presidency. The annexation of this immense territory constituted, according to Henry Adams, "an event so portentous as to defy measurement," ranking, he adds "in historical importance next to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution..." The treaty, agreed in Paris in April 1803, more than doubled the size of the United States, adding nearly a million square miles of territory at about four cents an acre. Monroe had been appointed--at the specific request of President Thomas Jefferson-- Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to France and Spain, to pursue diplomatic efforts to purchase a site at the mouth of the Mississippi for a U.S. port of deposit, negotiations which ultimately had an wholly unexpected outcome: the purchase of the vast territory of Louisiana.

The document reads: "James Monroe Esq, the bearer hereof, having been appointed Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to France and Spain; and being about to proceed to France, with his family, servants and baggage: these are to pray to all whom it may concern to give no hindrance to his voyage, but on the contrary, to render him every needful facility and accomodation [sic], as these United States would do in the like case."

Monroe sailed for Paris a week after this appointment, with Jefferson's confidential authorization to offer France up to $10 million for New Orleans and West Florida. Ironically, the day before Monroe's arrival, on April 11, Talleyrand, Napoleon's minister, stunned Robert Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, by asking what the United States might offer for all of Louisiana--not just the island of New Orleans, but the entire west bank of the Mississippi, still almost entirely unexplored. Livingston and Monroe put aside personal frictions in order to make the most of this diplomatic windfall and their negotiations bore fruit with the historic Treaty and two conventions signed on 30 April 1803. By this the United States agreed to pay the sum of $11,250,000 (60 million francs) plus up to $3,750,000 (20 million francs) to liquidate American maritime claims against France in return for the enormous, uncharted section of the Continent. "We have lived long," Livingston observed at the signing, "but this is the noblest work of our whole lives....From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the world." (quoted in Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation, 1970, p. 760).
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