The Louisiana Purchase was one of the most important land acquisitions ever to be made by the United States and many say that it was what really qualified the U.S. as a preeminent world power and rival of Europe.
1. What it was?
The Louisiana Purchase was the purchase of land by the United States from France. It was made up of about 828,000 square miles that was taken from the French territory of Louisiane in 1803. It was one of the most important land acquisitions in the history of the country and many say that it allowed the United States to expand even further westward and to become the nation it is today.
2. What was included
The Purchase contained what now equates to portions of 15 states in the US and 2 Canadian provinces. The land that was bought enclosed all of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and of course Louisiana. The land purchased also included parts of what is now Alberta and Saskachewan in Canada. The land that was purchased in the Louisiana Purchase now makes up about 23% of the territory of the United States.
3. What did the French want
The French had long been plagued by wars that had become very costly. Their financial situation was in a wreck and Napoleon Bonaparte realized that opportunity was fading in the New World. His attempts at maintaining the territories in the Caribbean were failing and he wanted a presence in the West for the lucrative sugar trade. After his failed attempts at maintaining order there, he decided that keeping all the territory in North America simply wasn’t worth the trouble.
4. What did the U.S. want
The U.S. understood the importance of the port of New Orleans and had already made previous negotiations to use the port and not be harassed there. The desire of the U.S. was to purchase the port outright so that they could control this very important marketplace. The U.S. went to Paris to negotiate the purchase of the port of New Orleans but was unsuccessful the first time.
5. Thomas Jefferson was president at the time
As President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson faced much opposition to the purchase of the land and many said that it was unconstitutional and undermined the authority of the states in the government. The U.S. constitution didn’t have any provisions for acquiring territory, so he was exploring new bounds of governmental control. He didn’t want France and Spain to have the ability to block American trade across the port of New Orleans.
6. Napoleon recognized it was an important move
While Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t want to just give away his conquered territories, the rivalry between France and England was still very strong. Bonaparte saw selling the land to the U.S. as an opportunity to block the power of England on another front and it was worth it to him. He said that the United States would eventually humble the pride of England.
James Monroe and Robert Livingston went to negotiate the purchase in Paris in 1803. They only wanted the port at the time and didn’t imagine how much land they would really end up getting. Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours helped them with the negotiations and had strong political ties to Jefferson and the French authorities. He brought up the idea that the area be much larger to keep Napoleon and the U.S. from going to war over North America.
8. How much
The U.S. negotiators were prepared to spend $10 million on the port of New Orleans, so they were pleasantly surprised when the entire region was offered to them for only $15 million. At the time, purchasing the territory meant doubling the size of the United State. The price of the land included in the purchase was less than 3 cents per acre.
9. Louisiana Purchase Treaty
The Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed by Robert Livingston, James Monroe, and BarbÃ© Marbois in Paris on April 30, 1803. Thomas Jefferson announced the treaty to the American people on July 4th of that year. It was stated that the Louisiana Purchase was a noble work and that the U.S. could now take its place among the powers of the first rank.
The American government made a down payment on the land in gold totaling $3 million. The rest was financed in bonds by some of the most important banks in Europe at the time and then France cashed the bonds to use the money to pay debts.
Learn more with these Louisiana Purchase websites.