The Treaty of Fontainebleau was a secret agreement of 1762 in which France ceded Louisiana (New France) to Spain. The treaty followed the last battle in the French and Indian War in North America, the Battle of Signal Hill in September 1762, which confirmed British control of Canada (New France). In Europe, the associated Seven Years' War continued to rage. Having lost Canada, King Louis XV of France proposed to King Charles III of Spain that France should give Spain "the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the island in which the city is situated." Charles accepted on November 13, 1762.
This agreement covered all of "Louisiana": the entire valley of the Mississippi River, from the Appalachians to the Rockies. The Treaty of Fontainebleau was kept secret even during the French negotiation and signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the war with Britain.
The Treaty of Paris (1763), made between France and Great Britain following the Seven Years' War, divided La Louisiane at the Mississippi: the eastern half was ceded to Britain, while the western half and New Orleans were nominally retained by France. Spain did not contest Britain's control of eastern Louisiana, as it already knew it would rule in western Louisiana. Also, under the Treaty of Paris, Spain had ceded Florida to Britain, and western Louisiana was its compensation.
The Treaty of Paris provided a period of 18 months in which French colonists who did not want to live under British rule could freely emigrate to other French colonies. Many of these emigrants moved to Louisiana, where they discovered later that France had ceded Louisiana to Spain.
The cession to Spain was finally revealed in 1764. In a letter dated April 21, 1764, Louis informed the governor, Charles Philippe Aubry, of the transition:
- Hoping, moreover, that His Catholic Majesty will be pleased to give his subjects of Louisiana the marks of protection and good will which only the misfortunes of war have prevented from being more effectual.
The colonists in western Louisiana did not accept the transition, and expelled the first Spanish governor in the Rebellion of 1768. Alejandro O'Reilly (an Irish émigré) suppressed the rebellion and formally raised the Spanish flag in 1769.
The acquisition of Louisiana consolidated the Spanish empire in North America. When the United States returned Florida to Spain in 1783 following its victory in the American Revolutionary War, Spanish territory completely encircled the Gulf of Mexico, and stretched from Florida west to the Pacific Ocean, and north to Canada west of the Mississippi River.
- Herbermann, Charles. The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church. Encyclopedia Press, 1913, p. 380 (Original from Harvard University).
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