Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Produced by Gary Martens and Laurie Saikin

Part 4


The work left unfinished by Joliet--the discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi-was accomplished by the indomitable La Salle. The discovery of a water-route to China, the planting of colonies in the West, the building of a fort at the point where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico--these were the magnificent schemes revolving in his mind while at Fort Frontenac, Canada. Having first obtained a royal commission for perfecting the discovery of the great river, La Salle, with the necessary companions and stores, ascended Lake Ontario, entered the Niagara River and, passing around the falls, selected a spot at the mouth of a stream now known as Cayuga Creek, on the America site, about two leagues above the cataract, where he commenced building the "Griffin," a bark of sixty tons. This craft, after many delays, was finally fully equipped, and spreading her sails, boldly stood on her way westward--the first vessel to navigate Lake Erie. This was in August, 1679.

A pleasant and rapid run brought them to the mouth of the Detroit River. Thence they passed into Lake Huron, and, after a rough voyage upon that lake, the "Griffin" was safely moored in the Straits of Mackinaw. In September, La Salle passed westward into Lake Michigan, and cast anchor, finally, near one of the islands at the entrance of Green Bay. From this point the vessel was sent back with a rich cargo of furs, under orders to return with provisions and supplies, to be conveyed to the head of Lake Michigan. But the "Griffin" and her crew were never more heard of. She probably foundered and all on board perished. La Salle, with fourteen men, after parting with his vessel, started up Lake Michigan in four canoes deeply laden. After terrible hardships, he reached the head of the lake, and, circling around it, paddled his way into the mouth of the river. St. Joseph--called by him the "Miamis."

From this river, La Salle crossed to a branch of the Illinois, down which he floated to the main stream, on whose banks, below what is now Peoria, he finally rested. Leaving all his companions except five, he then determined to return to Canada to bring forward supplies. This return trip was undertaken on foot in the month of March, 1680; and has been much commented upon for the daring and hardihood necessary for its successful accomplishment, but more especially as to the route pursued. La Salle followed up the Illinois, crossed over to Lake Michigan and was soon at the mouth of the St. Joseph. Here he was assured of the fate of the "Griffin" by two men whom he found; so he pushed onward with his big party through the unknown wilds of what is now Southern Michigan. Finally, the Detroit River was reached and crossed, and the persevering Frenchmen, taking a direct line thence to Lake Erie, came to its northern shores at a place not far from Point Pelee, he having sent two of his men from the Detroit to Mackinaw. Upon the lake he embarked in a canoe made as best he could, and in it reached the Niagara River in safety. Thence he made his way without accident to Fort Frontenac, at the foot of Lake Ontario, after sixty-five days of incessant toil from his place of starting on the Illinois--the most ardous journey perhaps ever made by Frenchmen in all their expeditions, either in the valley of the St. Lawrence or the Mississippi.


Previous to LaSalle's leaving the Illinois, Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan friar, had been sent down that river to explore it to its mouth, and, after reaching the Mississippi, to move up that river and report his discoveries. Hennepin journeyed as far as the Falls of St. Anthony, which he named, and returned after much suffering and many narrow escapes by way of the Wisconsin River to Lake Michigan--wintering (1680-81) upon the Straits of Mackinaw, and finally, in the last-mentioned year, reaching, by way of Lake Huron and the lower lakes, the River St. Lawrence in safety.

On the 6th day of February, 1682, there stood at the mouth of the Illinois River, gazing out upon the silent waters, La Salle. He had returned from Canada by way of the lakes to the point where he then was, his destination being the mouth of the Mississippi. Although fully satisfied that the great stream flowed onward to the gulf, yet, as before mentioned, he was resolved to complete the work begun by Joliet and explore it to its mouth. Boldly he and his party embarked in their canoes. Onward they floated, every stage of their adventurous progress being marked with strange sights, but they hesitated not. They had many adventures with the savages; many hardships to encounter; many obstacles to overcome; but, finally, in the early part of April, the great gulf opened before them. They had reached what the sad followers of De Soto had seen 150 years previous--the mouth of the Mississippi. Thereupon the whole country drained by the Mississippi was taken possession of in the name of the French King. In the autumn of 1683, La Salle, by way of the Illinois, once more returned to the St. Lawrence. Thus Europeans explored, from the Falls of St. Anthony to the Gulf of Mexico, a country to which La Salle gave the name of Louisiana. "We have given the name Louisiana to this great discovery," said Hennepin to the King of France, in 1682, "being persuaded that Your Majesty would not disapprove that a part of the earth watered by a river more than eight hundred leagues in length, and much greater than Europe, which we may call the Delight of America, and which is capable of terming a great Empire, should henceforth be known under the august name of Louis, that it may thereby have some show of right to aspire to the honor of your protection, and hope for the advantage of belonging to you."

The vast area watered by the Missouri was, as yet, an undiscovered country. "As we were descending the river," wrote Marquette of his voyage down the Mississippi, in 1673, with Joliet, "we saw high rocks with hideous monsters painted on them and upon which the bravest Indians dare not look. They are as large as a calf, with head and horns like a goat; their eyes red; beard like a tiger's and a face like a man's. Their tails are so long that they pass over their heads and between their forelegs under their belly and ending like a fish's tail. They are painted red, green and black. They are so well drawn that I cannot believe they were made by the Indians. And for what purpose they were made seems to me a great mystery. As we fell down the river, and while we were discoursing upon these monsters, we heard a great rushing and bubbling of waters, and small islands of floating trees coming from the mouth of the Pekitanoni [the Missouri] with such rapidity that we could not trust ourselves to go near it. The water of this river is so muddy that we could not drink it. It so discolors the Mississippi as to make the navigation of it dangerous This river comes from the northwest and empties into the Mississippi, and on its banks are situated a number of Indian villages. * * The Indians told us that by ascending the Pekitanoni, about six days' journey from its mouth, we would find a beautiful prairie twenty or thirty leagues broad, at the end of which, to the northwest, is a small river which is not difficult to navigate. This river runs toward the southwest for ten or fifteen leagues, after which it enters a small lake, which is the source of another deep river, running to the west, where it empties into the sea." Such was the first description ever given to civilized man of the country of the Missouri; vague and indefinite it is, but bearing some resemblance to the region as it was afterward seen.

The hope entertained by Father Marquette was to find communication with the California Sea, "in order to be able to publish the Gospel to all the nations of this New World, who have so long been plunged in heathen darkness." This avenue, he was led to believe, might be found through what are now called the Missouri and Platte Rivers; for, from the Indians he had learned that by advancing up the Missouri five or six days, "you come to a beautiful prairie twenty or thirty leagues long, which yon must cross to the northwest. It terminates at another little river, on which you can embark, it not being difficult to transport canoes over so beautiful a country as that prairie. This second river runs southwest for ten or fifteen leagues, after which it enters a small lake, which is the source of another deep river running to the west, where it empties into the sea." The brave Christian worker was not correctly informed as to the geography of the region beyond Nebraska, but his spirit shines out as one of the most glorious in the annals of devout endeavor through the pages of his journal. Such men are the rare exemplars for the people of all time to shape their lives by. Patient, hopeful, courageous, sincere--the name of Marquette is one to be cherished because of what he was, as well as what he did.

The first effort at cartography in the West was made by Father Marquette, in 1673. This crude map contains a much closer resemblance to the later and more scientifically designed charts than does that of any of the early maps to the regions attempted to be described.

"We found," says the historian of La Salle's voyage down the Mississippi, in 1682, " the Ozage [Missouri] River coming from the west. It is fully as large as the River Colbert [Mississippi], into which it empties, troubling it so that from the mouth of the Ozage the water is hardly drinkable."

From the St. Lawrence, La Salle returned to France to make arrangements for colonizing the country he had explored. In July, 1684, he left Rochelle with a fleet of four vessels for the mouth of the Mississippi. Being ignorant of the coast, his vessels went too far westward and landed at Matagorda Bay, Texas. This was February 14, 1685. He was fully 120 leagues away from the great river he was in search of. His expedition proved a failure; for one of his vessels was shipwrecked and, on the 14th of March, his principal associate determined to abandon the project of establishing a colony. He left La Salle without mechanical implements and other necessary articles to commence operations with in an uncultivated region. He was in an unknown country, on an inhospitable shore, surrounded by savages and exposed to the most imminent dangers. A fort was erected to protect them on the Rivere aux Vaches, which was named St. Louis, in honor of the French King. Early in 1686, La Salle decided to return to Canada, taking with him seventeen persons, and leaving twenty at Fort St. Louis, including men, women and children--the wretched remnant of the 180 persons who had accompanied him from France. On his journey from Fort St. Louis, La Salle was assassinated by one of his own men and his colony left behind was afterward broken up--nearly all perishing miserably at the hands of merciless savages. Thus ended the first attempt at colonizing Louisiana.

Any further attempt at colonization of the Lower Mississippi was interrupted by a war between the Iroquois and the British colonies on the one side and the French of Canada on the other, commencing in 1689, which was terminated by the peace of Ryswick in 1697; however, several Canadians, attracted by the beauty and fertility of the country had, meanwhile, established themselves during this period along the shores of the great river. Settlements were also formed in the Illinois country, east of the Mississippi. As soon as peace was re-established on a solid and permanent basis, the French court bestowed its attention upon the affairs of the New World. On the 27th of February, 1699, Iberville, with a small colony consisting mostly of Canadians, entered the Mississippi from the Gulf. In May, he planted his colony on the Bay of Biloxi, within the limits of the present State of Mississippi. Sauvolle was the first Governor. He was succeeded by Bienville.


On the 17th of September, 1712, the entire province of Louisiana including the vast country between the Rocky Mountains on the west and the Alleghanies on the east--in short, the entire area drained by the Mississippi--was granted to Anthony Crozart, a wealthy French merchant. Of course, within his grant was the whole of the territory now constitutingthe State of Nebraska. Crozart agreed to send every year two ships from France with goods and emigrants. In his grant, the river "heretofore called Mississippi," is named "St. Louis;" the "Missourys" is called '' St. Phillip;" and the ''Ouabache" (the Ohio and Wabash united) is named "St. Jerome." Louisiana was made dependent upon the General Government of New France (Canada). The laws of Paris were to be observed and enforced in the province. Crozart's patent extended sixteen years, but was resigned after five years. A short time after its relinquishment, the colony of Louisiana was granted to the Mississippi Company, projected by the celebrated John Law, with authority to monopolize all the trade and commerce of the province--to declare and prosecute wars and appoint officers. The company built Fort Chartres, about sixty-five miles below the mouth of the Missouri, on the east side of the Mississippi. Miners and mechanics were encouraged to emigrate, and the city of New Orleans was founded in 1717. Settlements now began to extend along the banks of the "mighty river," and the Illinois country received a considerable accession.

Dutisne, a French officer, was sent from New Orleans, in 1719, by Bienville, the Governor of Louisiana, into the country west of the Mississippi. He visited a village of the Osage Indians, five miles from the Osage River, at eighty leagues above its mouth. Thence he crossed to the northwest 120 miles, over prairies abounding with buffaloes, to some Pawnee villages. Fifteen days more of westward marching brought him to the Padoucahs, a brave and warlike nation. Here he erected a cross with the arms of the king, September 27, 1719. If Dutisne did not actually set foot upon what is now the State of Nebraska, he could not have been very far away on that day.

"On the 10th [of October, 1721], about 9 o'clock in the morning, after we had gone five leagues on the Mississippi," writes Charlevoix, "we arrived at the mouth of the Missouri, which is north-northwest and south-southeast. I believe this is the finest confluence in the world. The two rivers are much of the same breadth, each about half a league; but the Missouri is by far the most rapid, and seems to enter the Mississippi like a conqueror, through which it carries its white waters to the opposite shore, without mixing them; afterward, it gives its color to the Mississippi, which it never loses again, but carries it quite down to the sea."

"The Osages," continues Charlevoix, "a pretty numerous nation, settled on the side of a river which bears their name and which runs into the Missouri about forty leagues from its junction with the Mississippi, send, once or twice a year, to sing the Calumet amongst the Kaskaskias, and are actually there at present. I have also just now seen a Missouri woman, who told me that her nation is the first we meet with going up the Missouri, from which she has the name we have given her, for want of knowing her true name. It [the Missouri nation] is situated eighty leagues from the confluence of that river [the Missouri] with the Mississippi.

As early as 1719, the Spaniards in New Mexico, alarmed at the rapid encroachments of the French in the Upper and Lower Mississippi Valleys, made strenuous exertions to dispossess them. In order to accomplish this, they thought it necessary to destroy the Missouri nation, who were in alliance with the French. Their plan was to excite the Osages against their neighbors--the Missouris--and then take part in the contest against the latter. An expedition was fitted out in 1720 at Santa Fé; it was a moving caravan of the desert. The Spaniards were led to the very tribe they would have destroyed, supposing them to be Osages. The result was that all were killed except one, who succeeded in making his escape. This boldness of the Spaniards caused the French under M. de Bourgmont to erect a fort on an island in the Missouri, above the mouth of the Osage River, which post was called "Fort Orleans." But the stockade was attacked after its completion and occupation, and all the garrison slain--by whom was never known. The builder of Fort Orleans, before its destruction, passed many leagues up the Kansas River, and made firm friends of the Padoucahs--who had previously been seen by Dutisne. The Indians had previously traded with the Spaniards in New Mexico.

The first information extant of the tribes of Indians inhabiting the Missouri River above the Missouri nation, is that given by Charlevoix in 1721: "Higher up we find the Cansez [Kansas]; then the Octotatas [Otoes], which some call Mactotatas; then the Ajouez [Iowas] and Panis [Pawnees], a very populous nation, divided into several cantons, which have names very different from each other. * * All the people I have mentioned inhabit the west side of the Missouri, except the Ajouez, which are on the east side, neighbors of the Sioux, and their allies." It is evident, that, during the first half of the seventeenth century, the country now forming the State of Nebraska was inhabited along its southern border by the Kansas Indians; that the Platte River, then called the Rivere des Panis, was the home of the Pawnees, who had also villages to the northward--at a point a considerable distance up the Missouri River. But to the westward, on the head-waters of the Kansas River, of the Platte River and of the Niobrara, lived the Padoucahs--a tribe long since extinct.

In the beginning of her history, the State of Kansas is more fortunate than her sister State north. We know to a certainty that as early as 1719, Dutisne visited her territory and that Bourgmont was there in 1724. Now, while it is almost as certain that what is now Nebraska was visited by Frenchmen not long subsequent to this period, yet the names of these visitors we shall never know. They were traders, hunters and trappers from the Mississippi River and from Canada. They cannot be called explorers, much less colonists. They left no record behind them of the Missouri country and its various tribes.

The Mississippi Company, in 1732, surrendered their charter to the French Government. Then it was that the "Mississippi bubble" burst. The company had held possession of Louisiana for fourteen years and left it with a population of 5,000 whites and half as many blacks. The French King, on the 10th day of April of that year, declared the province free to all his subjects, with equal privileges as to trade and commerce. But, though the company of the West did little for the enduring welfare of the Mississippi Valley, it did something; the cultivation of tobacco, indigo, rice and silk was introduced; the lead mines of Missouri were opened, and, in the Illinois country, the culture of wheat began to assume some degree of stability and importance; but the immediate valley of the Missouri still remained wholly in possession of native tribes. For the next thirty years, very little transpired in the upper portions of Louisiana worthy of especial mention. St. Genevieve, on the west side of the Mississippi, within the present limits of the State of Missouri, was founded, and, during the year 1762, the first village was established on the Missouri River within the same State, named "Village du Cote," now St. Charles. In the same year, the Governor General of Louisiana granted to Laclede and others a charter under the name of the "Louisiana Fur Company," which, among other things, conferred the exclusive privilege of trading with the Indians of the Missouri River. But, just before this time, momentous events had transpired in Canada. This country was conquered by the English, and, as we shall now see, Louisiana became the property of other powers.


By the British conquest of Canada, in 1760, the province of Louisiana alone remained to France; but even this she was not in a position to hold. Therefore, it was, that, on the 3d of November, 1762, she ceded it to Spain, shorn, however, of its eastern half, which fell to the English. The entire region of the Missouri River, including, of course, all that is now the State of Nebraska, was thenceforth, for thirty-seven years, Spanish territory. But Spain did not at once take possession of her portion of Louisiana, as the sequel shows. On the 15th of February, 1764, Laclede's company established itself on the present site of St. Louis, where he founded that city and gave it its name. Two years after this, Don Antonio d'Ulloa, the Spanish Governor, arrived at New Orleans, but was so coldly received that he departed without having produced his credentials. Two years after, a company of Spanish troops took possession of St. Louis in the name of the King of Spain; and, in 1770, French sway was at an end in so mnch of Upper Louisiana as lay west of the Mississippi; for, in that year, a Lieutenant Governor arrived at St. Louis and extended his authority over the whole region. But Great Britain did not long remain the possessor of the country east of the Mississippi; for, by the definite treaty of peace, signed September 3, 1783, the United States was declared to extend from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the Mississippi River, and from a line along the great lakes on the north southward to the thirty-first parallel and southern border of Georgia. Still, the territory now constitnting the State of Nebraska was no part of the United States. The vast region bordering upon the Missouri (beginning a short distance above the confluence with the Mississippi) and watered by its tributaries, remained a possession of Spain, and the home of savage nations, visited only by the vagrant trader to traffic in furs with the different tribes. These traders were mostly Frenchmen. Sometimes they would have houses and remain stationary for one, two, and even more years; but, sooner or later, they all departed the country.

On the 1st day of October, 1800, by a treaty concluded at St. Ildefonso, between Napoleon and the King of Spain, the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it was then held by Spain, was re-ceded to France. This treaty was confirmed and enforced by a treaty at Madrid, March 21, 1801. Thus, after holding Louisiana thirty-seven years, Spain yielded its ownership to its original claimants, and subsequently the French flag waved over delighted New Orleans. Nebraska was again French territory. The year 1803 saw, however, another change. France ceded Louisiana to the United States, on the 30th of April, and the whole valley of the Missouri, even to the Rocky Mountains, was now under the ownership of our own country.


The full text of the treaty of cession between the United States of America and the French Republic is as follows:

The President of the United States of America and the First Consul of the French Republic, in the name of the French people, desiring to remove all sources of misunderstanding relative to objects of discussion mentioned in the second and fifth articles of the convention of the 8th Vendemaire, an 9, (30 September, 1800), relative to the rights claimed by the United States, in virtue of the treaty concluded at Madrid, the 27th of October, 1795, between his Catholic Majesty and the said United States, and willing to strengthen the union and friendship which at the time of the said convention was happily re-established between the two nations, have respectfully named their plenipotentiaries, to wit: the President of the United States of America, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the said States, Robert R. Livingston, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, and James Monroe, Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary of the said States, near the government of the French Republic; and the First Consul, in the name of the French people, the French citizen Barbe Marbois, Minister of the PublicTreasury, who, after having respectively exchanged theirfull powers, have agreed to the following articles:


WHEREAS, By the article the third of the treaty concluded at St. Ildefonso, the 9th Vendemaire, an 9, (1st October, 1800), between the First Consul of the French Republic and his Catholic Majesty, it was agreed as follows: "His Catholic Majesty promises and engages on his part to retrocede to the French Republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the conditions and stipulations herein relative to his royal highness, the Duke of Parma, the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it; and such as it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other States;" and

WHEREAS, In pursuance of the treaty, and particularly of the third article, the French Republic has an incontestible title to the domain and the possession of the said territory; the First Consul of the French Republic desiring to give to the United States a strong proof of his friendship, doth hereby cede to the United States, in the name of the French Republic, forever, and in full sovereignty, the said territory, with all its rights and appurtenances, as fully and in the same manner as they have been acquired by the French Republic in virtue of the above-mentioned treaty, concluded with his Catholic Majesty.


In the cession made by the preceding article, are included the adjacent islands belonging to Louisiana, all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks and other edifices which are not private property. The archives, papers and documents relative to the domain and sovereignty of Louisiana and its dependencies, will be left in the possession of the Commissioners of the United States, and copies will be afterward given in due form to the magistrates and municipal officers of such of the said papers and documents as may be necessary to them.


The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the religion which they profess.


There shall be sent, by the Government of France, a Commissary to Louisiana, to the end that he do every act necessary, as well to receive from the officers of his Catholic Majesty the said country and its dependencies in the name of the French Republic, if it has not been already done, as to transmit it in the name of the French Republic to the Commissary or agent of the United States.


Immediately after the ratification of the present treaty by the President of the United States, and in case that of the first consul shall have been previously obtained, the Commissary of the French Republic shall remit all the military posts of New Orleans and other parts of the ceded territory, to the Commissary or Commissaries named by the President to take possession; the troops, whether of France or Spain, who may be there, shall cease to occupy any military post from the time of taking possession, and shall be embarked as soon as possible, in the course of three months after the ratification of this treaty.


The United States promise to execute such treaties And articles as may have been agreed between Spain and the tribes and nations of Indians, until by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes or nations, other suitable articles shall have been agreed upon.


As it is reciprocally advantageous to the commerce of France and the United States to encourage the communication of both nations, for a limited time, in the country ceded by the present treaty, until general arrangements relative to the commerce of both nations may be agreed on, it has been agreed between the contracting parties, that the French ships coming directly from France or any of her colonies, loaded only with the produce or manufactures of France or her said colonies, and the ships of Spain coming directly from Spain or any of her colonies, loaded only with the produce or manufactures of Spain or her colonies, shall be admitted during the space of twelve years, in the ports of New Orleans, and all other legal ports of entry within the ceded territory, in the same manner as the ships of the United States, coming directly from France or Spain or any of their colonies, without being subject to any other or greater duty on merchandise, or other or greater tonnage than those paid by the citizens of the United States.

During the space of time above-mentioned, no other nation shall have a right to the same privileges in the ports of the ceded territory; the twelve years shall commence three months after the exchange of ratifications, if it shall take place in France, or three months after it shall have been notified at Paris to the French Government, if it shall take place in the United States; it is, however, well understood, that the object of the above article is to favor the manufactures, commerce, freight and navigation of France and Spain so far as relates to the importations that the French and Spanish shall make into the said ports of the United States, without in any sort affecting the regulations that the United States may make concerning the exportation of the produce and merchandise of the United States, or any right they may have to make such regulations.


In future, and forever after the expiration of the twelve pears the ships of France shall be treated upon the footing of the most favored nations in the ports above-mentioned.


The particular convention signed this day by the respective Ministers, having for its objects to provide for the payment of debts due to the citizens of the United States by the French Republic, prior to the 30th of September, 1800 (8th Vendemaire, 9), is approved, and to have its execution in the same manner as if it had been inserted in the present treaty, and it shall be ratified in the same form and in the same time, so that the one shall not be ratified distinct from the other.

Another particular convention, signed at the same date as the present treaty, relative to a definite rule between the contracting parties is in like manner approved, and will be ratified in the same form and in the same time, and jointly.


The present treaty shall be ratified in good and due form, and the ratification shall be exchanged in the space of six months after the date of the signature by the Ministers Plenipotentiary, or sooner if possible. In faith whereof, the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed these articles in the French and English languages, declaring, nevertheless, that the present treaty was originally agreed to in the French language; and have thereunto set their seals.

Done at Paris, the tenth day of Floreal, in the eleventh year of the French Republic, and the 30th April, 1803.

JAMES MONROE,             [L. S.]
BARBE MARBOIS,            [L. S.]


On the 31st of October, 1803, an act of Congress authorized the President of theUnited States to take possession of Louisiana and form the temporary government thereof. By this act, the Government was vested in such person and persons and exercised in such manner as the President of the United States might direct. But the authority of the General Government really dates from March 10, 1804, on which day Amos Stoddard assumed the duties of Governor of Upper Louisiana. On the 28th of that month, Congress erected Louisiana into the Territory or Orleans and the District of Louisiana. The division line was the southern boundary of Mississippi Territory and the thirty-third degree of latitude. So Nebraska was then a part of the District of Louisiana, the latter being all of the French cession west of the Mississippi River, except the present State of Louisiana. The government of this large district was committed to the officers of the Territory of Indiana.

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