Did you know that the state of Louisiana was not always a part of the United States?
It was frequently under the rule of different nations just the previous decade or two. French, English, and Spanish had control over this territory until Napoleon Bonaparte finally sold it to the United States.
At first, Jefferson was only interested in the purchase of New Orleans, but he was offered all the Territory. It was a step in the process of solidifying America’s place as a growing power and a challenge to the British, something France encouraged.
However, Napoleon had an entirely different plan for Louisiana. What he wanted was to reestablish France’s presence in the New World, but this was something the country could not afford after the colonial wars that followed the French Indian War between 1754 and 1763. So, he opted to sell it to the most logical interested party – the US.
The Louisiana purchase in 1803 is an important event in the history of the United States of America because it almost doubled the land mass of the young nation. We will look closer to this historic event below and share all the important and interesting details
Louisiana Before the Purchase
The part of North America where Louisiana lies had been long considered a very attractive land for settlement. The Mississippi Valley became fertile farmlands, pastures, forests and prairies after the red rivers and the Missouri drained the region. Moreover, the land was rich in mineral deposits as well as an abundant food supply for the native people of the area and the ones who settled there later.
The French claimed the territory in the mid-fifteenth century, and their presence in the middle of North America was high. The desire for land made France engage in the famous French and Indian War against Britain over the property disputes in the Ohio Valley. But in the end, Louisiana was given back to Spain as compensation for the Spanish assistance to France during the war with the Treaty of Paris from 1763.
Later in the early 1800s, Spain gave free access to Americans to transport goods on the Mississippi River which encouraged them to settle in this territory. President Thomas Jefferson saw this area as politically unstable and hoped that Americans would people it, which will improve the situation there, and thus the potential war for Louisiana would be averted.
The United States increased its size by 828,000 square miles after paying $15 million to France. The area covers the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River and from New Orleans to the Red River.
The Mississipi River became increasingly important as the US spread. It was a major waterway which was used for transportation of goods. The territory of Louisiana was owned by Spain since 1762. There are fifteen modern states or parts of them in this area today. A treaty of 1795 gave the right to the United States to navigate the river and transfer goods. With this deal and the weakening power of the Spanish empire, American statesmen saw an opportunity to expand in the future.
As we already mentioned at that time, Napoleon Bonaparte started planning a revival of the French Empire, and Louisiana was part of that plan. France acquired the state from Spain in 1802. Jefferson considered the French an enemy and was preparing a military operation, but he first sent Robert Livingston and then James Monroe to France to mediate the purchase of New Orleans for the price of $10 million. Their attempt failed, so they decided to join forces with England. At that time the French Army at New Orleans was suffering from illness, and the threat of war with England was increasing.
At this point, Napoleon made a sudden decision to stop the military operation and not follow with his plans for Louisiana and surprised Livingston and Monroe with an offer for the entire territory for $15 million. At first, they were stunned at his proposal, but they agreed.
When the news of the purchase reached the United States, it put President Jefferson in a controversial situation. The President had always followed the Constitution strictly, and in it, he was not empowered to sell or buy territory. However, the public supported the purchase and Louisiana were crucial for the future of the United States and the growth of the country. In the end, Jefferson ignored the Constitution and initiated changes which would make the purchase legally valid.
They were approved quickly by the Congress, and a bond issue was authorized to raise the money necessary for the transaction. The transfer documents were signed on 30 April 1803, and the region formally became part of the United States on 20 December.
Consequences of the Purchase
The purchase of Louisiana was often referred as one of the greatest real estate deals in history. Despite that, it raised many issues at the time it happened, and many Americans were concerned. Defending this massive land was one of the problems they saw coming. Was their country able to keep this territory to its land holdings?
The balance of power was another thing they were worried about and to be more precise how the new addition was going to influence that aspect of the nation’s political life. Meanwhile, Jefferson and Monroe had to struggle with some theoretical implications of the way in which the purchase took place.
Especially so in the lights of previous debates the President took part as he focused on the limits of presidential and constitutional powers. However, in the end, the desire to purchase this vast territory outweighed all the objections.
The effect of this purchase was an increase in commerce, mining, population, agriculture which helped to strengthen the nation as a whole. This endeavor was also considered one of the situations in which the American character was shaped because individuals and families could now go into the new territory and create lives for themselves enforcing the spirit of cooperation, independence, and curiosity.