The Napoleonic coinage for New France, 1803
As we know from our history books, the military dictator and self styled “emperor” Napoleon Bonaparte of France, acquired titular rights to the western part of the watershed of the Mississippi river from Spain in 1801.
His plan, according to historians, was to use the vast resources of this territory as a springboard to cross the Pacific and conquer Asia and the world. His plans were thwarted however, by a seemingly unlikely foe.
A slave uprising on the island of Hispanola (more recently known as Haiti) diverted the troops Napoleon intended to occupy New Orleans, and by 1802 had sapped his strength. He was now faced with a difficult decision with regard to the North America he liked to call “New France”. If his forces attempted to control New Orleans in their now-weakened condition, he feared the Americans under Thomas Jefferson would attack to restore their back-door on the river.
This fear appears justified given Jefferson’s memoirs. This would be a war that Napoleon knew he could not win… it would cost him much and he would lose his toehold in North America… dashing his plan of world conquest in the bargain. On the other hand… if he were to SELL the rights to the Americans… they would both avoid a war and he might obtain enough money to fund his battles to at least gain control of Europe. Thus began the negotiations for the sale that would unlimately be known as the Louisiana Purchase.
In our creative interpretation of events, we surmise that Napoleon may have ordered coinage struck for his colony, and indeed, even after negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase had begun, he might have been promoting the idea to the Americans that he still intended to occupy.
The introduction of coinage as currency for the New Orleans colony would certainly be seen as an indication of such intent! The result might be a significant rise in the monetary offer for the territory! So here we offer it… a copper 5-centimes piece of 1803, made and circulated to goad Thomas Jefferson into making a significantly higher offer in order to avoid an even more costly conflict.It could have happened!!!