"Strangers on their native soil?": Opposition to United States territorial government in Orleans, 1803--1809

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




William Stinchcombe


Territorial government, Louisiana, Orleans Territory

Subject Categories

History | Political History | United States History


The Act for the Organization of the Territory of Orleans passed by Congress in 1804 disappointed Louisianians who had hoped that Louisiana would enter the Union as a self-governing state. Jefferson believed that Louisianians were not yet prepared to govern themselves, rejected the Northwest Ordinance as a model for territorial government and appointed a Governor and Legislative Council for Orleans. In addition, many Louisianians were upset that the act prohibited importation of slaves to Louisiana.

This dissertation examines the formation of the protest movement against Orleans territorial government. Those who led the protest movement were primarily wealthy planter/merchant/land speculators. First they attacked the territorial government through editorials and petitions. Later they formed an opposition within territorial government.

The protest movement organized in Orleans Territory was not only important to Louisianians. Informed of discontent in the territory by his appointed officials, Jefferson worked to ensure nothing upset his plan to make Louisiana a loyal Republican state. The Federalists were also concerned about the future of Louisiana. John Quincy Adams saw the unrepresentative Orleans government as a betrayal of the American Revolution. Fisher Ames feared that Jefferson's control of Orleans was the first step toward creation of a western Republican empire that would be the death of Federalist Party. In Congress, slaveholders and opponents of slavery expressed opinions about the restrictions on slave imports to Orleans. Debate on this issue included arguments repeated until the Civil War.

Through his appointed Governor and Legislative Council, Jefferson ensured that the interests of territorial inhabitants never jeopardized those of the Union. In this sense, Orleans Territory was a model for future American territorial expansion.


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