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The French

While the Spaniards were searching for wealth in the southern part of North America the French were trading with the Indians in the northern part along the St. Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. Among the French were many Catholic priests, called Jesuits, who came to carry their religious faith to the Indians. In 1673, one of these Jesuits, Father Marquette, accompanied a trader named Joliet on an expedition to explore the Mississippi River. They launched their canoes on the great river and floated downstream for hundreds of miles, between shores that in some places were thickly wooded, and in others were grassy plains. They went as far south as the mouth of the Arkansas River, and then turned and began the long, hard task of paddling back.

La Salle and Louisiana, 1682

Among those who heard of the journey of Marquette and Joliet was a young Frenchman, La Salle. He planned to explore the whole Mississippi basin and to take possession of it in the name of the King of France. In 1682, with a few companions, he floated down the Mississippi to its mouth. Here, with much ceremony, they planted a cross, buried a leaden plate inscribed with the arms of France, and declared that all the land drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries should belong to France, and should be named Louisiana in honor of the French King, Louis XIV. Thus in 1682, nearly two centuries after the discovery of America, Kansas came into the possession of the French.

The End of Spanish and French Explorations

The French soon planted a few colonies and forts along the Mississippi River and sent out explorers, some of whom may have entered the present bounds of Kansas. This roused the Spaniards in Mexico, who wished to hold the territory for Spain, and they also sent expeditions. The armies of both nations suffered severely at the hands of the Indians and the exploration of the Kansas country was given up by both Spain and France, and for nearly a century more it lay almost forgotten. The next exploration of this territory was by people of another nation. The English. While the Spaniards were busy in the South and the French in the North, another people, the English, began to make explorations in the new continent. They did not come to hunt for gold, nor to trade with the Indians, but to found homes. They settled along the Atlantic coast between the French in Canada and the Spaniards in Florida, and claimed the country westward to the Pacific Ocean.

Conflict of French and English Claims

As time went on and the settlements increased in number, the claims of the French and the English conflicted and caused much strife between the colonies of the two countries. The question of the ownership of the land was not settled until the close of the French and Indian War in 1763. As a result of this war France gave up all her claims in America, practically everything east of the Mississippi to England, and that west of it to Spain. In 1800 Spain ceded her portion of America back to France. The Louisiana Purchase, 1803. In the meantime the English colonies had fought the Revolutionary War and •become an independent nation. In 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was President, the United States bought from France her tract of country lying west of the Mississippi River. This was known as the Louisiana Purchase, and the date is one to be remembered, for it marks the end of French claims in America, and it marks the time when what is now Kansas became a part of the United States.^ One Century More. More than three centuries of American history had passed and the country west of the Mississippi River remained unsettled and practically unknown. The Spaniard and the Frenchman had come and gone, but the Indian still hunted the buffalo on the prairies. The white man had not yet made his home in the Kansas country.


Spain explored in the South in search of wealth, France in the North to trade in furs with the Indians, and England along the coast between these two to establish homes. Spain claimed the Kansas country because of the exploration by Coronado, France through the claims of Marquette and La Salle, and England through the ocean-to-ocean claim. None of the nations succeeded in accomplishing anything here, and the Kansas country was left alone for nearly a century after it came into the possession of France, At the close of the French and Indian War the country west of the Mississippi was ceded to Spain. Later it came again into the hands of France, and was purchased by the United States in 1803.


Elson, History of the United States, pp. 161, 384.

Fiske, Discovery of America, vol. li, chap. xil.

Foster, A History of the United States.

Prentis, History of Kansas, pp. 24-40.

Parkman, La Salle and the Great West.

Spring, Kansas, pp. 19-20.

Historical Collections, vol. IX, p. 250; vol. X, p. 336.

Wilder, Annals of Kansas, pp. 15-18.

1. In 1819 the United States gave to Spain that part of Kansas

lying south of the Arkansas River and west of the 100th meridian.

This territory again became a part of the United States by the

annexation of Texas in 1845.


1. Who were the Jesuits? What can you say of Marquette? Joliet? La Salle?

2. Contrast the motives of the French and Spanish in coming to America.

3. Why did the English come to the New World?

4. What territory was claimed by the French? By the Spanish? By the English?

5. To what nations did what is now Kansas successively belong? How and when did it first become a part of the United States? How long was this after the discovery of America? Generated


Source: A History of Kansas / Anna E. Arnold. pp. 15-19