Father Jose Maria de Jesis Puelles
and the Maps of Pichardo's Document 74
IN 1803 THE UNITED STATES ACQUIRED "LOUISIANA" FROM NAPOLEON
Bonaparte, with the understanding that the purchase covered all ter-
ritory ceded by France to Spain in 1762 and retroceded to France in
18oo. France, by failing to specify its historic boundary in the sales
agreement, placed the burden of proof on Spain. As the line between
France and Spain in the New World had never been clearly established,
Thomas Jefferson's administration seized the opportunity to make the
most of its claim to a vast, uninhabited, and largely unexplored land.
Soon after the United States flag went up in the Place d'Armes in New
Orleans on December 20, 1803, Americans began to scurry about the
frontier at Jefferson's direction. Their purpose was to gather informa-
tion, conduct explorations, and make maps.
While Jefferson's agents were busy testing the elastic boundaries of
the Purchase, Spaniards were not idle. Wary of their new neighbor and
fearful for their vulnerable possessions in the Floridas, Texas, and New
Mexico, Spanish officials in New Orleans and beyond hastened to es-
tablish their line of demarcation. Boundaries had to be defined, a mul-
titude of jurisdictional problems resolved, and the Americans kept out
of lands that France had never owned-Spanish lands. Imagine, then,
the anxiety stirred in December of 1803, when the French prefect of
Louisiana, Pierre Clement de Laussat, declared that the western bound-
ary of the Louisiana Purchase lay at the Rio Grande!'
*Jack Jackson is a free-lance historian and historical illustrator living in Austin. His most re-
cent work is Los Mestetos, a study of Spanish ranching in Texas, 1721-1821. The author wishes
to thank Maria Carolina Flores of the Old Spanish Missions Research Library, Our Lady of the
Lake University, San Antonio, where he first encountered and was allowed to study several of
the Bibliotheque Nationale maps that led to this paper; Lora Fountain, who located the original
documents in Paris and obtained microfilm copies, and the Kathryn O'Connor Foundation,
whose grant enabled him to pay the costs of microfilming.
'Although Prefect Laussat refused to become embroiled in the matter of demarcations, he
did advise both Spanish and American officials at New Orleans that his Instructions specified
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed November 28, 2015.