Saturday, September 1, 2012

Louisiana Purchase

By a treaty signed on Apr. 30, 1803, the United States purchased 
from France the Louisiana Territory, more than 2 million sq km 
(800,000 sq mi) of land extending from the Mississippi River 
to the Rocky Mountains. The price was 60 million francs, about 
$15 million; $11,250,000 was to be paid directly, with the 
balance to be covered by the assumption by the United States of 
French debts to American citizens.In 1762, France had ceded 
Louisiana to Spain, but by the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso 
(1800) the French had regained the area. Napoleon Bonaparte 
(the future Emperor Napoleon I) envisioned a great French empire
 in the New World, and he hoped to use the Mississippi Valley as 
a food and trade center to supply the island of Hispaniola, which 
was to be the heart of this empire. First, however, he had to 
restore French control of Hispaniola, where Haitian slaves under 
TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE had seized power (1801; see HAITI). 
In 1802 a large army sent by Napoleon under his brother-in-law, 
Charles Leclerc, arrived on the island to suppress the Haitian 
rebellion. Despite some military success, the French lost thousand
of soldiers, mainly to yellow fever, and Napoleon soon realized 
that Hispaniola must be abandoned. 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 1803 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 a tract of land on the lower Mississippi or, 
at least, a guarantee of free navigation on the river. Surprised and
delighted by the French offer of the whole territory, they 
immediately negotiated the treaty.
Jefferson was jubilant. At one stroke the United States would double 
its size, an enormous tract of land would be open to settlement, and 
the free navigation of the Mississippi would be assured. Although 
the Constitution did not specifically empower the federal government 
to acquire new territory by treaty, Jefferson concluded that the 
practical benefits to the nation far outweighed the possible violation 
of the Constitution. The Senate concurred with this decision and 
voted ratification on Oct. 20, 1803. The Spanish, who had never 
given up physical possession of Louisiana to the French, did so in a 
ceremony at New Orleans on Nov. 30, 1803. In a second ceremony, 
on Dec. 20, 1803, the French turned Louisiana over to the United States.

Click Map For Larger More Detailed View
Barry, James P., The Louisiana Purchase, April 1 803 (1973); 
Chidsey, Donald B., The Louisiana Purchase (1972); DeConde, 
Alexander, This Affair of Louisiana (1976); Lyon, Elijah Wilson, 
Louisiana in French Diplomacy (1934); Sprague, Marshall, 
So Vast So Beautiful a Land: Louisiana and the Purchase (1974); 
Whitaker, Arthur P., The Mississippi Question, 1795-1803 (1934; repr. 1962)

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