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The Napoleon Series > Government > Governments and Politics

Treaty of San Ildefonso

October 1, 1800

By the Treaty of San Ildefonso (not to be confused with the earlier Treaty of San Ildefonso of 19 August 1796 which formed an alliance between France and Spain against the British) and the Treaty of Madrid, 21 March 1801, Spain returned to France the territory of Louisiana which France had ceded to Spain in 1763. "Let the Court of Madrid cede these districts to France," Talleyrand had written, "and from that moment the power of America is bounded by the limit which it may suit the interests and the tranquillity of France and Spain to assign here. The French Republic... will be the wall of brass forever impenetrable to the combined efforts of England and America." Spain was compensated by the creation in Tuscany of the kingdom of Etruria, which was given to the duke of Parma, son-in-law of Charles IV of Spain.

It was some time before the government of the United States became aware of the transfer. Having the mouth of the Mississippi, and the outlet for the produce of the western states, in the hands of the active and powerful France of Napoleon posed a potential threat to the United States. When the Spanish Intendant at New Orleans closed the navigation of the Mississippi to American citizens, forbade trade and withdrew the right of deposit at New Orleans (a right guaranteed in the treat of 1795), Pres. Jefferson ordered Robert Livingston to approach the French government about the purchase of the "island of New Orleans."

Although Napoleon Bonaparte agreed never to transfer Louisiana to a third power, he disregarded the treaty and sold Louisiana to the United States (see the documents on the "Louisiana Purchase") Spain filed a protest against the transfer, claiming that by express provision of the articles of cession to her, France was prohibited from alienating it without Spanish consent. However, Spain being in no position to undo the transfer, reluctantly acquiesced in the fait accompli.


Preliminary and Secret Treaty between the French Republic and His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain, Concerning the Aggrandizement of His Royal Highness the Infant Duke of Parma in Italy and the Retrocession of Louisiana.

His Catholic Majesty having always manifested an earnest desire to procure for His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma an aggrandizement which would place his domains on a footing more consonant with his dignity; and, the French Republic on its part, having long since made known to His Majesty the King of Spain its desire to be again placed in possession of the colony of Louisiana; and the two Governments, having exchanged their views on these two subjects of common interest, and circumstances permitting them to assume obligations in this regard which, so far as depends on them, will assure mutual satisfaction, they have authorized for this purpose the following: the French Republic, the Citizen Alexandre Berthier General in Chief, and His Catholic Majesty, Don Mariano Luis de Urquijo, knight of the Order of Charles III, and of that of St. John of Jerusalem, a Counselor of State, his Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary appointed near the Batavian Republic, and his First Secretary of State ad interim, who, having exchanged their powers, have agreed upon the following articles, subject to ratification:

  1. The French Republic undertakes to procure for His Royal Highness the Infant Duke of Parma an aggrandizement of territory which shall increase the population of his domains to one million inhabitants, with the title of King and with all the rights which attach to the royal dignity; and the French Republic undertakes to obtain in this regard the assent of His Majesty the Emperor and King and that of the other interested states so that His Highness the Infant Duke of Parma may be put into possession of the said territories, without opposition, upon the conclusion of the peace to be made between the French Republic and His Imperial Majesty.
  2. The aggrandizement to be given to His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma may consist of Tuscany, in case the present negotiations of the French Government with His Imperial Majesty shall permit that Government to dispose thereof; or it may consist of the three Roman legations or of any other continental provinces of Italy which form a rounded state.
  3. His Catholic Majesty promises and undertakes on his part to retrocede to the French Republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the above conditions and provisions regarding His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma, the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain and that it had when France possessed it, and such as it ought to be according to the treaties subsequently concluded between Spain and other states.
  4. His Catholic Majesty will give the necessary orders for the occupation of Louisiana by France as soon as the territories which are to form the arrandizement of the Duke of Parma shall be placed in the hands of His Royal Highness. The French Republic may, according to its convenience, postpone the taking of possession; when that is to be executed, the states directly or indirectly interested will agree upon such further conditions as their common interests and the interest of the respective inhabitants require.
  5. His Catholic Majesty undertakes to deliver to the French Republic in Spanish ports in Europe, one month after the execution of the provision with regard to the Duke of Parma, six ships of war in good condition built for seventy-four guns, armed and equipped and ready to receive French crews and supplies.
  6. As the provisions of the present treaty have no prejudicial object and leave intact the rights of all, it is not to be supposed that they will give offense to any power. However, if the contrary shall happen and if the two states, because of the execution thereof, shall be attacked or threatened, the two powers agree to make common cause not only to repel the aggression but also to take conciliatory measures prosper for the maintenance of peace with all their neighbors.
  7. The obligations contained in the present treaty derogate in no respect from those which are expressed in the Treaty of Alliance signed at San Ildefonso on the 2d Fructidor, year 4 (19 August 1796); on the contrary they unite anew the interests of the two powers and assure the guaranties stipulated in the Treaty of Alliance for all cases in which they should be applied.
  8. The ratifications of these preliminary articles shall be effected and exchanged within the period of one month, or sooner if possible, counting from the day of the signature of the present treaty.

In faith whereof we, the undersigned Ministers Plenipotentiary of the French Republic and of His Catholic Majesty, in virtue of our respective powers, have signed these preliminary articles and have affixed thereto our seals.

Done at San Ildefonso the 9th Vendemiaire, 9th year of the French Republic (October 1, 1800).




American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. Editorship varies. Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1832, 1861. 38 vols.


Placed on the Napoleon Series 9/00


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