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Louisiana Purchase Signing

SKU: 0014
  • Louisiana Purchase Treaty signing

    Missouri Capitol Riverfront

    “The Signing Of The Treaty”

            By:  Karl Bitter, N.A.


    The great relief commemorating the signing of the treaty by which the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase was designed and executed in staff by the eminent sculptor Karl Bitter.  It formed

    an important part of the decorative sculpture of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.


    Since Jefferson’s acquisition of Louisiana was epoch-making for this whole western country, and without this purchase Missouri as we know it could never come into being, it was deemed fitting that this group should be cast in imperishable bronze and placed among the decorations of the Capitol.  Mrs. Bitter, widow of the sculptor, graciously gave her approval of this plan.


    No more appropriate locations could be found than the one the relief now occupies.  It is on the brow of the bluff overlooking the great river which drains a large part of the territory purchased by Jefferson.  Up the river and past the point where the group stands, Lewis and Clark traveled on their journey across the continent.


    By conquering Spain, napoleon had secured all her possessions in North America, including what is now known as “The Louisiana Purchase”.  The United States could ill afford to see a strong European power in control of New Orleans and of the commerce of the Mississippi River.  Therefore, President Jefferson authorized Robert Livingston, our Ambassador to France, to negotiate with Napoleon for the purchase of New Orleans by this country.  James Monroe, afterwards President, was sent to Paris to assist our Ambassador.


    In 1803 Napoleon was in need of money.  England, Mistress of the Seas, was on the eve of declaring war with France.  The first act of that war would be the seizure by England of these new possessions of France in the New World.  Marbois, Napoleon’s treasure, advised their sale, saying:  “Why should we hesitate to make a sacrifice of that which is slipping from us?”  So not New Orleans, but the entire possessions of France in North America, were offered to our Commission for $15,000,000.  Neither Jefferson nor the Commissioners had authority to make the purchase.  Nevertheless, the purchase was made.


    The relief show the climax of the discussion.  The artist has eliminated all unnecessary accessories and superfluous figures.  The audience chamber is suggested by the table.  Three figures only are represented.  But what figures they are!  These men belong to the immortals.  Livingston is standing, Monroe is seated and marbois, for France, is signing the document.  This is one of the crises in the world’s history.  By that signature a vast empire, with resources richer than the dreams of avarice, changed hands.  By that signature the United States of today became possible.  With what consummate skill the artist, by the omission of non-essentials, drives home this one great thought.  The group is a masterpiece in composition and in expression.


    The designing of the setting for Bitter’s relieve, the superintendence of the casting of his group, and the entire construction of the fountain and its decorative sculpture were entrusted to Adolph Alexander Weinman of New York.


    The massive granite, with its tinge of ruddy color, forms a superb background for the “Signing of the Treaty”.  The oval fountain adds the attraction of water to the scene. 

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