In 1803, the United States, under the leadership of President Thomas Jefferson, acquired the Louisiana territory from the French. The exchange of ownership of the land involved the transfer of approximately 828 thousand square miles for $15 million (Lass 27). The purchase Lousiana was historical because it enabled the United States to double its size by creating an additional fifteen modern states. However, the sale of the piece of land was procedural and important to both the United States and France, as will be revealed in the discussion.
History of the Louisiana Territory
Initially, the Louisiana territory covered the vast land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River towards the west. In fact, the land had a long history of ownership, with the French being the first ruler, then Spain, and back to the French before the grand purchase by the United States (Gleijeses 1). Under the Spanish sovereigns, America felt restricted from using the territorial waters of the Mississippi river, a situation that triggered a conflict between Spain and the U.S. Consequently, the issue was resolved in 1795 by the Pinckney treaty, which transferred the ownership of the disputed Louisiana territory to the Spanish Empire. However, France captured the land from Spain in 1800 before taking full possession in 1802. Nevertheless, Thomas Jefferson was apprehensive of the ownership of the land by the French and decided to plan the purchase (Gleijeses 3). Therefore, the third president of the United States was the main brain behind the Louisiana Purchase that occurred on October 20, 1803.
The Purchase Negotiation
It is worth appreciating that the transfer of the Louisiana territory from France back to Spain was arguably silent, as fear of eventual French invasion would grow gradually. On the other hand, the Southerners feared that Napoleon would free all slaves in Louisiana, a situation they believed would incite other slaves to revolt (Valelly 145). Nevertheless, Jefferson did not share the same thoughts. Therefore, he encouraged for moderation against the hostility towards France as initiated by the federalists. However, the president was updated with the latest intelligence on the operations of Napoleon and his military before approaching France for a purchase deal. The initial offer of President Jefferson was to buy New Orleans and possibly another adjacent land in 1803, but the French declined the offer (Lass 27). However, at the second bargain of $10 million, Napoleon was willing to sell the territory to the United States. In fact, to the advantage of President Jefferson and the United States, Napoleon agreed to sell the territory and other nearby lands to the west of Louisiana with an additional of $5 million (Lass 30). Finally, the two leaders, President Jefferson and Napoleon, finalized the deal in 1803.
The real purchase of the Louisiana territory was to take about a hundred years, according to the consent of the French and the United States. However, the ceremonial transfer of the land occurred in 1803 in New Orleans (Valelly 145). In a well-organized party, the documents to seal the purchase deal were exchanged, and the keys to the city were given to the Americans. Therefore, at the cost of fifteen million dollars, the Americans purchased the Louisiana territory and the adjacent lands to the west (Valelly 145). Under this arrangement, the purchase would add fifteen new states to the larger United States, a situation that necessitated the adoption of a new flag for the country. Currently, the size of the land acquired through the Louisiana Purchase equals 23% of the total United States territory.
Importance of the Louisiana Purchase
Although the purchase was considered circumstantial, the process held great importance to both the United States and France. Firstly, President Jefferson was interested in securing the country from possible invasion from the Western territories (Gleijeses 7). Secondly, the United States would have the privilege of using the waters in the Mississippi River for navigation and trade purposes. In addition, the United States wanted to possess New Orleans as a getaway to the Mississippi River. Besides, the region was regarded as productive for various crops, including tobacco and corn. Again, the need to expand the territorial land of the U.S. was deeply rooted in the mind of President Jefferson. Accordingly, the Louisiana Purchase was very important to realize the expansion of the territory (Gleijeses 7). On the other side, the French still required Louisiana territory, as explained by the purchase in 1800. However, when the slaves defeated the French army, Napoleon was willing to abandon the American empire and hence sold it to the U.S. Therefore, the Louisiana Purchase had great significance between the two parties involved.
The Louisiana Purchase was well planned by Thomas Jefferson and actualized by paying fifteen million dollars to the French. In fact, the acquisition made the United States realize an additional territory of 828 thousand square miles from the Louisiana region and the adjacent lands. The newly acquired land almost doubled the size of the U.S. territory. Therefore, the purchase of Louisiana has been considered one of the largest deals in the history of land purchases. In essence, the French and the U.S. would confirm the importance of the purchase of Louisiana.
Gleijeses, Piero. “Napoleon, Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase.” The International History Review, 2016, pp. 1-19.
Lass, William E. “The Northern Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase.” Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 35, no. 1, 2015, pp. 27-50.
Valelly, Rick. “Slavery, Emancipation, and the Civil War Transformation of the U.S. State.” Perspectives on Politics Vol. 12, no. 01, 2014, pp. 145-152.