Source: The Louisiana Purchase: Letter from 10 Downing Street

Date: 1803Number: 91Record office number: NP1.A4.28


Before it was purchased by the USA, the Louisiana Territory was owned by France. Negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase began during a short period of peace between Britain and France in 1802 (the two countries had been at war since 1793). However, when hositilites resumed, the British government began to worry: should the transaction go through, the funds raised by the Purchase might be used to finance the war effort of the enemy.

In this letter to Sir Francis Baring, the British Prime Minister, Henry Addington, expresses his concerns.


Downing Street
December 16th 1803

Dear Sir,

Having reflected very seriously on the subject of our conversation on
Wednesday last, I am decidedly of the opinion that, considering the
peculiar circumstances of the present war with France and the avow'd
purpose of the Enemy to employ all their resources with a view to their
projected invasion of this Kingdom, His Majesty's Government would not
be justified in allowing any subjects of this Country to facilitate at this time such pecuniary arrangements as may subsist between other foreign powers and the Government of France.

I have therefore to desire that you would decline being Party to any Remittances to France on Account of the Debt owed(?) from the United States of America in consequence of the Cession* of Louisiana, and if there should be any sums of money on the Continent destined by you to the liquidation of this debt and you should have the means of withdrawing them, or of diverting them into other channels, I fully rely on your doing so.

There is no objection to your stating to your correspondents, as your
justification if you shall deem any justification necessary, that you have adopted this line of conduct in consequence of the direct interposition of His Majesty's Government.

I have the honour to be with great Regard, Dear Sir,
Your Faithful 

and obedient servant

Henry Addington


Sir Francis Barings Bar

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