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Application for the Admission of the Territory of Orleans into the Union as a State



To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled:

The inhabitants of the Territory of Orleans, become your countrymen by a combination of political events, but as satisfied with the title of citizens of the United States as if they had acquires it from choice, raise up to you, through the organ of their Representatives, their respectful remonstrances on the inconveniences which, no doubt against your intentions, have, been the inevitable consequences of the system of government which you have given them. They appear before your honorable assembly full of confidence in your justice not to vent any complaints, but to claim their rights. They bring you not testimony of their discontent, but the expression of their wishes and of their hopes; and they pray you, before you listen to their representations, to accept the homage of the fidelity which they again swear to the constitution of the United States, and the tribute of admiration which they pay to that sacred charter where the true principles of liberty are recorded in indelible characters. After this solemn protestation of their sentiments, they entreat you to lend an attentive ear to the object which they are going to submit to your consideration. Its importance claims that it interests the fate of a great number of men, whose happiness you have contracted the obligation to procure when you adopted them for your fellow-citizens.

A considerable portion of the inhabitants of this Territory thought some years ago that they had a right to solicit the incorporation of this country into the Union; They founded their claims on the stipulations of the treaty of April,1803, and demanded that this Territory should be erected into a State, not so much because of the utility of the measure, than because they considered it as secured by the treaty.

Things are now materially altered. The Legislature of this Territory came forward several years after to solicit that incorporation, not so much as a right than as a favor. Whatever may have been the political considerations which induced your honorable body to reject the application which was made to you in 1804, those reasons exist no longer. The loyalty of the whole population of this Territory has since then been put to the trial in circumstances sufficiently critical for you to be now convinced that the inhabitants of Lower Louisiana are not undeserving the confidence of the Federal Government. The devoted spirit of our militia, when war with Spain was on the eve of breaking out, our unshaken fidelity, in the midst of treasons and conspiracies, are irrefragable proofs of the incorruptibility of our honor, and of the sincerity of our affection to our common country.

But not only there is no longer any reason to oppose the wish of the citizens of this Territory, there exists powerful motives to induce your honorable assembly to see it in a favorable point of view. The system of government which you have given them, because you thought it would be convenient, does not suit either their physical nor their political situation. To use the expressions of the person who is at the head of our Executive, when speaking of a particular branch of our Government: “The ordinance of 1787, originally intended for a small agricultural society, was of hazardous experiment in a territory like ours, populous, wealthy, and commercial, where the landed property is holden by titles so various and complex, and where the principles of the common and civil law, the statutes of the United States, and the municipal regulations of France and of Spain,” mingle together to render the administration of our affairs more complicated and more embarrassing. Since the introduction of that ordinance a sad experience has shown us its imperfection and its insufficiency. As we have been endeavoring to conciliate it with our wants and our localities, the difficulties multiplied themselves so much, that we now think it impossible to establish harmony amidst the incoherent materials of which our present Government is composed.

We live, however, at the distance of six hundred leagues from your honorable assembly, who gave us those laws, and who alone has the right of remedying the evils which they may have created. Convened, moreover, for the general good of the Union, occupied with great political subjects, on which depends the safety of the whole nation, you cannot, nay, you ought not, to stop to the details of our local administration; and although you should consent to enter into the examination of those details, you are not sufficiently acquainted with our situation to have it in your power to ameliorate it.

Such were undoubtedly the reasons which determined your honorable body to give us an elective Legislature. You thought that, by granting us the privilege of making our own laws, you furnished us with the means of securing our happiness. No doubt, legislators, such were your benevolent intentions. But how far that institution fell short of the end for which it was established! From the bosom of that ordinance, which you had given us as a favor, inconveniences and difficulties have sprung which made our situation worse than it was before.

In almost all the measures which we attempt to take for the amelioration of the government of the Territory, the provisions of the ordinance shackle our efforts. It would be preposterous to entertain your honorable assembly with the particulars that form the mass of our grievances, and to conduct you through the windings of the labyrinths of our administration. Higher objects call your attention, and bid us to spare the precious time which you arc bound to employ for the general good of the nation. But without tiring your patience with useless details, if you will deign to cast an eye on the most striking inconveniences of our present situation, you will be forced to acknowledge the necessity of granting to us more extensive powers wherewith to clear our way amidst the innumerable difficulties which reiterated changes of government have heaped around us.

The absolute veto of the Executive; a judiciary placed above the authority of the Legislature; provisions only obscure, sometimes contradictory, which furnish individuals whose private interests is in opposition to the public welfare, with the means of creating doubts upon the most important subjects; powers and functions imperfectly defined; a complicated jurisprudence; an entangled chicane, in the vortex of which our business and fortunes are precipitated; public officers who often have no idea of our municipal laws, and do not understand the language of the great majority of our population; no voice in their election; no check on their conduct; no confidence, no harmony; such is, legislators, the present state of government in the Territory of Orleans. It would even be more grievous if the chief of our Executive, to whom we owe this public testimony of our acknowledgment, had not united his efforts to ours to better our situation.

But the palliative measures to which we recur offer little resistance to the torrent of disorder which flows from our constitution itself. The only efficacious means to employ is to drain the source of the evil, by changing entirely the actual system of our government

That remedy, legislators, is in your hands. No constitutional obstacle prevents you from using it. The condition which you have put to our admission into the Union, that of waiting until the Territory should possess sixty thousand inhabitants, can be repealed by the same authority which has imposed it. It does not emanate from the constitution of the United States, it emanates from your will. If you think the emancipation of this Territory to be a necessary measure because of the physical and of the political situation of this country, because of its remoteness from the seat of the Federal Government, where we are now obliged to apply even for the details of our local administration, because of the confusion into which that administration has been plunged by the successive changes which it has experienced; if you think that emancipation to be a salutary measure, as tending to bind more closely to the interests of the Union a population already known by their loyalty; if you think that emancipation to be a just measure as the recompense of the irreproachable conduct which that population has pursued in critical and tempestuous times; nothing can, nay, nothing ought, to prevent you from .pronouncing the decree which we solicit.

In vain would it be objected that our demand is premature; that our population does not yet amount to sixty thousand free inhabitants, as is required by the ordinance of 1787, originally made for the territory northwest of the Ohio. The articles of compact, which are included in that ordinance, cannot be considered as obligatory on us, since we stipulated, approved, accepted nothing; and the ordinance with regard to us, is a law like the others emanating solely from your will. If those articles are obligatory on your part, they can be, so only as containing an engagement not to retard our incorporation into the Union beyond the epoch when our population shall amount to sixty thousand inhabitants; but by contracting the obligation, not to deprive us of certain advantages, you did not part with your right of granting to us further favors.

Such was your consideration of the subject, even with respect to those who were considered as contracting parties in the ordinance of 1787, when you erected in 1802 the Territory of Ohio into a State, long before it possessed the number of inhabitants required by the ordinance.

But although the law which you have established over us can be revoked by the same power that has dictated it, if through respect for ancient institutions, if through attachment for a plan of government which was successively applied to your several territories, you should persist in requiring, as a condition of our incorporation, that our population should amount to sixty thousand free inhabitants, then we might abandon the hope ever to see the change which is the object of our wishes, Our Territory, though vast, cannot admit of any large increase of population. Nearly all the lands conveniently situated are occupied; immense swamps cover a great proportion of the remaining part of the country, and such uninhabited lands as are cultivable are chiefly to be found towards the limits of our Territory. Such a situation threatens, therefore, at least, the present generation, never to see the epoch of their emancipation, if your honorable assembly should not yield to the powerful reasons which now make it convenient, or rather necessary.

Must we add to what has been above represented, that we are capable of appreciating the advantages of the Government which we pray you to extend to us? Do you suppose it possible that we should have enjoyed during several years a portion of that precious liberty which you alone have preserved, amidst the subjection of all the civilized nations, and that we should not wish to possess it entirely? Do you doubt that we would receive with transport the favor which we solicit from your liberality and your justice? And do you hesitate to believe that, once in possession of our independence, it shall not be wrested from us but with our lives? No, legislators, your reason must persuade you that the emancipation of the Territory of Orleans is ardently desired by its inhabitants; and your heart must tell you that, by extending independence to them, you will forever secure their friendship and their devotion


Speaker of the House of Representatives.


President of the Legislative council


Clerk to the House of Representatives.

Attest: P. DERRIGNY,

Secretary to the Legislative council

Annals of Congress, 11th Congress Session 2nd 2270-74

American State Papers: Miscellaneous 2:51