When Napoleon successfully invaded Spain, he forced through the Treaty of San Il Defenso, the return of Louisiana (as it was when France first owned it, which meant the area known as West Florida remained Spanish). The Spanish official who formally represented the Spanish king in the transfer of the territory was Sebastion Calvo de la Puerta y O'Farril, the Marques de Casa Calvo, whose heritage goes back to an Irish soldier who came to Havana in 1717.

Initially Napoleon had serious plans for re-establishing a French presence in North America. He planned to begin this by sending a large military force into New Orleans which would then expand in directions open to them. He dispatched his brother- in-law, General LeClerc, with 20,000 troops for New Orleans. Enroute General LeClerc was to put down a revolt led by Toussaint L'Overture in Hispainola. Bonaparte arranged for transports for another 2,400 men to leave the now dormant campaign area of The Netherlands to join Le Clerc's forces in New Orleans.

A series of events forced Napoleon to reconsider his development of Louisiana. Toussaint L'Overture and yellow fever had decimated General LeClerc's force, including the general himself; the troop transports sent to move French troops from The Netherlands to New Orleans were frozen in place, in Holland, by the worst winter storm in decades. Finally, Napoleon's navy had been seriously damaged in the failed Egyptian and Syrian campaigns. Realizing the British fleet stood between him and his returned colony, the need to focus on European affairs and the pressures of American expansion, Napoleon, surprisingly, sold Louisiana to the United States during Jefferson's presidency. Daniel Clark, the Sligo born merchant and friend of Nolan's that Jefferson had appointed U.S. Consul in New Orleans played a part in the purchase of Louisiana. Clark's ties to France reached back to when he served as an agent for Jean Lafitte and later was a personal friend of Phillippe de Comines when he was in New Orleans in 1798. Comines became King Louise Phillippe of France. In 1806, Clark would become the first territorial delegate from Louisiana to the U.S. Congress and he once briefly served as the Acting Governor of Louisiana.

For a map of what made up the Louisiana Purchase and what later became Louisiana go to this link >

The United States initially organized the Louisiana Territory into two sections, Upper Louisiana which was above the 33rd parallel and Orleans, all the territory below the 33rd parallel. One can only imagine the feelings in Spanish Texas when they learned France regained Louisiana; and then, before they fully absorbed that fact, learned it was sold to the United States. To add to their confusion, the man President Jefferson sent to take control of Northern Louisiana, and act as military governor was General James Wilkinson.

Painting of the transfer ceremony of Louisiana to the United States

An interesting point is why Napoleon, who crossed his "t's" and dotted his "i's", did not resolve the western boundary of the Louisiana Territory before he accepted the treaty from Spain (the western boundary was conveniently never settled during the earlier French and Spanish colonial days because the kings of France and Spain were Bourbon cousins. The cousins tolerated each others conflicting terms rather than settle them. When France ceded Louisiana to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainbleu on November 3, 1762 it did delineate the eastern boundary but purposely omitted addressing the western boundary.). The fact that Napoleon again did not specify a western boundary when he sold Louisiana to the Americans, and the comment he made when one of his advisors pointed out the vagueness in wording describing the western boundary, suggested he knew well it would create a political situation between Spain and the United States. His comment, "If there was no obscurity in it, good politics would demand they be inserted," guaranteed Spain a problem. Tallyrand, Napoleon's negotiator with the United States, when asked by the U.S. negotiators about the undefined boundary, is said "to have shrugged his shoulders" and said, "I am sure you will make the most of it."

The United States did just that. Using claims going back to La Salle and the Cruzat Charter of 1712, the United States began by claiming Texas to the Rio Grande River. Spain reacted by reopening its settlement at Los Adaes, east of the Sabine River. Tension between the two countries was escalating. Realizing La Salle's claims of the extent of French territory were not supported by recent history, and that there was a history of Spanish settlements in east Texas, the United States claimed the border to be the Sabine River. Spain said no; it was farther east. General Wilkinson personally negotiated with the Spanish officer sent to east Texas to enforce its version of the border. Wilkinson also wrote the governor of Texas:

...operations are at issue a thousand miles

from the source of authority...the subject of

our test is scarcely worth the blood of one

brave man.

General Wilkinson offered Simón de Herrera, the Spanish official sent to command the situation, that he would pull back to the line claimed by the Spanish (the Arroyo Hondo and Calcasieu River), if Herrera would pull back to the line claimed by the United States, the Sabine River. Herrera agreed. This buffer zone between the two contesting armies became known as the Neutral Ground (to see the agreement use this link). Its creation averted a war between the two countries; but it also created a haven for thieves, smugglers, and others wanting to be under the jurisdiction of neither government.








When Wilkinson was made Governor of Upper Louisiana, he made Saint Louis his headquarters. Aaron Burr came to his headquarters to confer in 1806. Burr and Wilkinson had been meeting and corresponding since 1796. Incidentally, the man financing Burr's scheme was an Irishman named Harmon Blennerhasset. Blennerhasset was born in County Kerry, Ireland.

U.S. history came very close to dramatically different outcomes because of Burr. Burr could easily have been President of the United States in 1800. He missed this distinction by only one vote. The election rules then stated the man getting the most votes was to be President and the candidate getting the next most votes became the Vice President. In the previous election (1796) this gave the United States a President of one party, Adams; and a Vice President of the opposition party, Jefferson. To prevent a reoccurrence of that, the electors voted along party lines against Federalist and incumbent John Adams and his partner Charles Pinckney. The problem was, Jefferson won 73 votes over Adam's 64, but Burr received the same number of votes. Jefferson and Burr were tied with electoral votes for the presidency. The election of 1800 was thrown into the House of Representatives. The Federalist controlled the House of Representatives. They met to elect the next President between Jefferson and Burr. For twelve weeks the situation was deadlocked. Federalist Alexander Hamilton found himself in the strange position of working for political enemy Jefferson's election, as he thought Burr a rogue. Burr could and should have withdrawn, as Jefferson was his party's candidate for President. He did nothing and the stalemate continued. On the 36th ballot, Irishman Matthew Lyon of Vermont, against his constituency's wishes, voted for Jefferson. This made Thomas Jefferson the President of the United States and Aaron Burr the Vice President. The election rules were changed after this election.

Consider what Jeffersonian Democracy brought to United State's history because of Irishman Lyon's action. Consider, too, what would have been the result of the duplicitous Burr's election to the office of President of the United States of America. What, for instance, would have happened to the Louisiana Purchase with Burr at the helm?

One person who recognized this danger was Alexander Hamilton, the son of a Scottish merchant. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury in 1789, a Major General and Inspector General of the U. S. Army in 1798. Hamilton assisted his father-in-law's campaign for the U. S. Senate from New York in 1791. They lost to Aaron Burr.

In 1792, Hamilton called Burr "unprincipled". Hamilton was among the Federalist leaders attempting to influence the lame-duck House of Representatives of 1800 to choose Jefferson and not Burr for President. In 1801, a Burr supporter, George I. Eacker, made public negative remarks about Alexander Hamilton which came to the attention of Hamilton's eldest son, Philip Hamilton. Philip Hamilton and a friend named Price then published an attack on Eacker. The Burr supporter challenged them both to a duel to settle the matter.

In November of 1801, George Eacker stood ready at the agreed place to duel, in turn first Price and then Hamilton. Four shots, two each, all of which missed were fired in the first round between Price and Eacker. It was decided that honor had been satisfied between them. Eacker then faced Philip Hamilton. Apparently thinking the duel was wrong afterall, or perhaps because of what had just passed between Price and Eacker, young Hamilton shot into the air. He was then killed by Eacker's first shot. Alexander Hamilton was devastated over the loss of his son. His oldest daughter, Angelica became insane, unable to contain her grief. Alexander's wife was pregnant at the time and a baby boy that was born later was named Philip.

In 1804, Aaron Burr campaigned for governor of New York. The office was open because Jefferson did not trust Burr after the events of 1801 and offered the Vice Presidency to Irishman George Clinton, Governor of New York. Clinton's son, DeWitt was Mayor of New York City. Between them, the Clintons were very influential in New York politics. They worked against Burr. Alexander Hamilton again joined the campaign against Burr. Hamilton called Burr, "a man of irregular and unsatiable ambition", a dangerous and despicable person, "who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government." Burr took offense to the remarks and asked for satisfaction in the form of a duel. Dueling was still a practice in the United States, although it was coming under increased criticism. Alexander Hamilton was one of its critics: "My religious and moral principles are strongly opposed to the practice of dueling...."

Nevertheless, Hamilton reluctantly agreed to the duel. Hamilton fired his shot into the air, Burr fired his shot into Hamilton, killing Hamilton, but not before he suffered greatly. The general public was outraged at the killing of Hamilton. Burr hid in the home of Charles Biddle, a personal friend of Wilkinson. Burr alienated Jefferson, President and leader of his political party, by his inaction in 1801. In killing Hamilton, he killed the leader of the Federalist Party. His political career over, Burr spent full time on what has become known as the Burr Conspiracy.


It is said that Wilkinson sent artillery Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike on his surveying expedition into the southwest in 1806, on a spy mission as part of the Burr plot. Lieutenant Pike's mission was a legitimate one. Like the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, Pike's explorations were approved by the President and Congress anxious to know what was within and bordered the Louisiana Purchase. Wilkinson sent Pike to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi River. If there was more to it, it was between Pike and the general. Traveling with Pike, at least during the initial phases, was Lieutenant James Biddle Wilkinson, General Wilkinson's son. Others known to have been on the expedition include: Doctor John Hamilton Robinson and Corporal Jeremiah Jackson and six other soldiers. Irishman Pike's (the name is originally believed to have been McPike) trip took him into Texas. Pike's Peak in Edwards County, Texas is named for him, as is the famous peak in Colorado. Pike was found in Spanish territory and captured by Spanish authorities below the Rio Grande. He was formally escorted back to the United States via Texas. He explained to Spanish authorities when he was discovered that he was lost and did not intend to be in Spanish territory. As an officer in the United States Army, and on official business, the Spanish decided to formally accept his story (privately they believed he was purposely in Spanish territory as part of a U.S. plan to acquire Spanish territory).The Spanish officials accorded Pike their hospitality as he was moved across Spanish Territory to the United States.

< Zebulon Pike

In Santa Fe, Pike saw Zalmon Cooley, one of Nolan's men, he saw others when he was in Chihuahua. In 1806, Pike was in Béxar where he met a Father McGuire, an Irish priest. After his return to the United States, Pike wrote a report on Texas based on his observations. In it he wrote, "twenty thousand auxiliaries from the United States under good officers joined to the independents of the country are at anytime sufficient to create and effect a revolution." This language makes one believe that Wilkinson did give some additional instructions to Pike's original orders. This was also ammunition for those out to expose General Wilkinson. They accused him of plotting against the United States.

The same accusers said Philip Nolan's trips were a part of the conspiracy. In 1806, Wilkinson played his same old song, third stanza. Seeing that his co-conspirator Burr had talked too much and was no longer cautious about what he was doing, Wilkinson told the U.S. government about Burr's plot. Burr's latest plan was to seize New Orleans, take the money from the bank there and fund an invasion of Mexico. A Colonel Fitzpatrick, a Major Flaharty and a Captain Burney of the United States Army seized supplies and provisions Burr's group stockpiled. In fact, men and supplies were on the move when the federal authorities acted. A map of Texas was found among Burr's papers. When Burr was arrested, he had with him Robert Ashley, who was with Nolan on his last trip into Texas. Jefferson, and the nation, were eager to find something on the killer of Alexander Hamilton. They were most appreciative of Wilkinson's information. Wilkinson was treated as something of a hero. While basking in the American limelight - Wilkinson once again asked Spain for a reward for having saved its territory from invasion.

< General Wilkinson

Wilkinson informed Spain about the plot. John Kelly, an Irish American merchant in Mexico City, translated the message sent in English by Wilkinson to Viceroy José de Yturrigaray describing Aaron Burr's activities.

Philip Nolan's possible connection to the Burr conspiracy and Spain's trepidation of American expansion colored Spain's attitude to their new border with the United States.