French Louisiana, 1682-1762

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french louisiana 1682-1762

On April 9, 1682, having explored the Illinois River, and the Mississippi from the mouth of the Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, in search of a water route across North America, René-Robert Cavalier, Lord of La Salle (1643-1687), claimed,

in the name of His Majesty [Louis XIV (1643-1715)] and of his successors to the crown, possession of this country of Louisiana, the seas, harbors, ports, bays, adjacent straits, and all the nations, people, provinces, cities, towns, villages, mines, minerals, fisheries, streams, and rivers comprised in the extent of said Louisiana, from the mouth of the great river St. Louis on the eastern side, otherwise called Ohio, . . . as also along the river Colbert, or Mississippi, and rivers which discharge themselves therein, from its source, . . . as far as its mouth by the sea, or Gulf of Mexico, about the twenty-seventh degree of the elevation of the North Pole . . . upon the assurance which have received from all [Indian] nations that we are the first Europeans who have descended or ascended the said river Colbert; hereby protesting against all who may in future undertake to invade any or all of these countries, people, or lands, above described, to the prejudice of the rights of His Majesty, acquired by the consent of the nations herein named.

Thus, without any belligerent confrontations, but for lack of clear communication and sympathetic understanding between men, began the decline of one already ancient metaculture, and the rise of a succession of new empires.

At any rate, La Salle could not possibly have drawn such a map as this, nor would anyone else within the next 200 years. Meanwhile, the geographical and political history of the west was linked with the process of defining boundaries, ownerships, and histories.