Spain's Immigration Policy in Louisiana and
the American Penetration, 1792-1803
GILBERT C. DIN'
I WISH A HUNDRED THOUSAND OF OUR INHABITANTS WOULD ACCEPT
the invitation. It may be the means of delivering to us peaceably
what may otherwise cost a war."' With these words Thomas Jefferson,
writing to President George Washington, greeted the Spanish invita-
tion of 1788 to Anglo-Americans to settle in Louisiana. This change in
Spanish policy signalled the beginning of Anglo-American penetration
of Louisiana. Because settlement with Spaniards and European Catho-
lics had proved to be too costly, Spain was resorting reluctantly to
Anglo-American colonization. The government planned, in permitting
entry of Anglo-Americans, to Hispanize them, convert them to Cathol-
icism, and instill in them sufficient loyalty so that they would defend the
colony against all invaders-even invaders from the United States.?
However the implementation of this new and potentially dangerous
policy required an era of peace, and peace did not exist in that region
during the 179o's. Instead Louisiana experienced numerous crises as
it was menaced in turn by the French, the British, and the Anglo-
Americans. Concurrently, the rapid growth of the western settlements
of the United States brought Anglo-Americans closer to Louisiana. As
they entered and threatened to inundate the colony, worried Spainsh
officials began to doubt that the Anglo-Americans in Louisiana would
defend the province against attack from the United States. As early as
1792, Louisiana governors sought ways to augment the colony's non-
American population. For a decade local authorities struggled with the
question of Anglo-American immigration and promoted colonization
* Mr. Din, associate professor of history at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado,
is the author of articles on Spanish colonial and Spanish medieval history.
1 Quoted in Isaac Joslin Cox, "The New Invasion of the Goths and Vandals," Proceed-
ings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, VIII (1914-1915), 185.
2 For Spanish immigration policy in Louisiana before 1792, see Gilbert C. Din, "The
Immigration Policy of Governor Esteban Mir6 in Spanish Louisiana," Southwestern His-
torical Quarterly, LXXIII (October, 1969), 155-175; see also Mattie Austin Hatcher,
"The Louisiana Background of the Colonization of Texas, 1765-1803," ibid., XXIV (Jan-
uary, 1921), 169-194.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/. Accessed October 2, 2014.