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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Louisiana Purchase

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America has always been known as the land of the free and the home of the brave. It was those brave, living in the United States, who changed the future of the country when it was first developing. They were the ones who starved for adventure, who burned with desire to explore the unknown, who knew the West was waiting for them. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, was a perfect example of the dreams that he and many other Americans shared. It sat facing the land that everyone so desperately wished to know. In 178, settlers were determined to see what the rest of the unknown land they called home had in store for them. Starting in the Mississippi Valley, people began to organize land to move westward. Yet because the Spanish owned land west of the Mississippi and south of Georgia, it was difficult for people to migrate, as they desired. Eventually, in 180, Congress was persuaded to allow Lewis and Clark to lead an expedition into the West. The Louisiana Purchase over the years became the biggest factor of economic growth in United States history because it nearly doubled the size of the country.


France had claimed the Louisiana Territory since the 1680s. As a result of defeat in the French and Indian War, France ceded Louisiana to Spain In 175, Spain signed a treaty that agreed to give Americans the “right of deposit” at New Orleans (The Louisiana Purchase World Book). This granted the United States the right to ship goods originating in American ports through the mouth of the Mississippi without paying duty and also the right of temporary storage of American goods at New Orleans for transshipment (The Louisiana Purchase Britannica). Spain suspended the right to deposit in 178.This caused a strong reaction among Westerners. In 1800, Spain transferred Louisiana to France in the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso. Napoleon assigned an army and a general over the Louisiana Territory, but Spanish authorities continued to govern. In 1801 the right to deposit was reinstated for a short time.


Napoleon Bonaparte envisioned a great French empire in the United States, and he hoped to use the Mississippi Valley as a food and trade center to supply the island of Saint Domingue, which was to be the heart of this empire. First, however, he had to restore French control of Saint Domingue. Saint Domingue was France’s richest colony in the Caribbean. For over a century enslaved Africans had toiled there to cultivate sugar cane for the French. In 174 a slave named Pierre Dominique Toussaint l’Ouverture organized a rebellion. Toussaint and his followers fought for seven years before gaining control of Saint Domingue. In 180 a large army sent by Napoleon arrived on the island to suppress the Haitian rebellion. Despite some military success, the French lost thousands of soldiers, mainly to yellow fever, and Napoleon soon realized that Saint Domingue must be abandoned. Napoleon had failed disastrously in his efforts to reconquer the sugar-rich colony of Santa Domingo from the rebellious blacks, and he valued Louisiana primarily as a feeder for this colony (Napoleon The American Spirit). Without that island he had little use for Louisiana. Facing renewed war with Great Britain, he could not spare troops to defend the territory; he needed funds, moreover, to support his military ventures in Europe. Accordingly, in April 180 he offered to sell Louisiana to the United States.


Concerned about French intentions, President Thomas Jefferson had already sent James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to Paris to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans to the United States. The exploration of Lewis and Clark had excited Americans all over to move westward. The thought of gaining a farm, filled with layers of fertile soil for their crops, sparked an interest in many. The giant, powerful, Mississippi offered a world of opportunities for Americans for traveling, power, imports and exports. Jefferson knew that by making this addition to the United States, many immigrants would be even more apt to come to America if they had more room in which to live. If France refused Jefferson would consider an alliance with Great Britain. Time went by with no answer, causing Westerners to get restless. Andrew Jackson started organizing a militia and offered to take New Orleans by force. If Napoleon would not sell all of New Orleans, Livingston and Monroe were to bargain for just a part of the city where the United States could build its own docks and warehouses. If the French still refused to sell, they were to go to London to seek a British alliance.


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France had to face reality. They were on the verge of war with Great Britain. The French navy had been weakened by yellow fever. They could not protect their possessions in the Americas. If war came, Britain could seize New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory. So Napoleon decided to deal with the Americans.


Monroe arrived in France hoping to buy a city. Americans knew that by purchasing the Louisiana Territory, they would open up a world of possibilities for the country. Trade from the ports, transportation through the Mississippi, and fertile land located in the west all appealed to the building American economy. Upon arrival in France, offered as much as $,75,000 for the Floridas and New Orleans. Instead France offered all of Louisiana for 5 million. Jefferson had instructed the two envoys to purchase only the Floridas, but they felt confident that the United States would accept the larger offer. After weeks of bargaining in a treaty signed on April 0, 180, the United States agreed to buy all of Louisiana for about 15 million. It was agreed that the French and the Spanish were able to use the port of New Orleans and other ports within the territory for 1 years, as long as the ships were loaded with produce. No other country has these rights except Spain and France (“ The Louisiana Purchase” Our Nations Archive).


Exactly what it was the United States bought for 5 million was unclear. The wording of the treaty did not clearly explain the boundaries of the territory. Before the United States could establish fixed boundaries to Louisiana there arose a basic question concerning the constitutionality of the purchase. Personally, this kind of decision was hard for President Jefferson to make, being a strict interpreter of the Constitution. However, he knew that the purchase would do nothing but help the United States. Jefferson thought an amendment of the constitution to legalize the sale might be needed, but the Senate approved the treaty by a vote of 4 to 7.


The setting of fixed boundaries awaited negotiations with Spain and Great Britain. The dispute with Spain was over the ownership of West Florida and Texas. In the Adams-OnĂ­s Treaty of 181 with Spain, the United States acquired Florida and surrendered its claim to Texas. In return Spain gave up its claim to West Florida. The Rocky Mountains were accepted as the western limit of the Louisiana Territory and the Mississippi River was considered the eastern boundary of the great purchase.


Jefferson had by far made the best decision of his Presidential history. He had eliminated any chance of war with other countries by fairly purchasing the land. He had also increased the size of his country by almost twice its original size, and he had created the ability for better trade with the New Orleans ports. After making the purchase of Louisiana, it is easy to see an increase in area and population for the United States. In 1800, the land was estimated at 864,746 square miles, and by 1810 it had increased to 1,681,88 square miles (See Appendix A). It was known that the population of the United States was bound to increase as the land able to be offered to immigrants increased. In 180 the population was estimated at 5,870 people, and by 1810 it had increased to approximately 7,00. Jefferson knew he had stretched his power by making the purchase, however he also knew that Americans would be benefiting from his decision for the rest of their lives.


The final negotiations with France finalized the addition to the United States. This made the U.S. one of the largest nations in the world. It created approximately thirteen states across 600,000,000 acres.


Overall, the Louisiana Purchase over the years became the biggest factor of economic growth in United States history. Thomas Jefferson was President during a hard time in American History. He was faced with building a nation that had just recently gained its freedom, and was still just an infant compared to the rest of the world. Yet he accepted the challenge and went on to make some of the best decisions the United States Executive branch has ever known. By purchasing Louisiana, he doubled the size of the nation, opened up ports for American trade, opened the Mississippi River to exploration, eliminated the chance of foreign conflicts, and gave Americans the chance to benefit from the resources of the fertile land of the West.


“The Louisiana Purchase” Our Nations Archive. New York Black Dog & Leventhal, 1


Napoleon “Napoleon Conceals His Motives” The American Spirit. Lexington, Massachusetts D.C. Heath and Company


Milner, Clyde, O’Connor, Carol, Sandweiss, Martha. The American West. New York Oxford University Press, 14


“The Louisiana Purchase” The New Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 7 Chicago Encyclopedia Britannica.Inc.


“Louisiana Purchase” The World Book Encyclopedia Volume 1 Chicago World Book, Inc.


Lerner, William. Historical Statistics of the United States. Washington D.C U.S Bureau of Census


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