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The Louisiana Purchase

Updated on November 22, 2010

French Louisiana

The Louisiana Purchase concerns an enormous territory in North America, purchased in 1803 by the United States from France.

Approximately two million km2 in area, this area included the current states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, the part of Minnesota west of the Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, almost all of Kansas, the parts of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains, and finally the part of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, including the city of New Orleans.

The vast province of Louisiana was colonized by the French in the early 18th century.

In Spanish Possession

In 1762 France sold Louisiana to Spain, except for the city of New Orleans, by a secret agreement, to avoid losing it to the British.

In 1763 and at the end of the Seven Years War, all of the territories east of the Mississippi, again except for New Orleans, were lost to Great Britain.

La Louisiane
La Louisiane

Once more in French Possession

In 1800 Emperor Napoleon I forced the Spaniards to return Louisiana to France.

In 1802 he took two measures that President Thomas Jefferson found unfavorable to American interests.

The first was that French troops were sent to New Orleans and Santo Domingo in Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic), to crush an insurrection.

The second was that the Privilege of Deposit was withdrawn. This privilege was previously awarded to American traders , and allowed them put merchandise in tax-free storage in New Orleans (Nouvelle Orléans), pending their dispatch.

American - French Negotiations

Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris to help Ambassador Robert Livingston realize one of the following four plans.

  • The purchase of East and West Florida and New Orleans.
  • The purchase of New Orleans.
  • The purchase of land on the east bank of the Mississippi River to build an American port.
  • Obtaining perpetual rights for navigation and storage.

The French Political Situation

Previous negotiations between Livingston and the French foreign minister de Talleyrand-Perigord had been unsuccessful. However, the international French position had deteriorated considerably.

The French army in Santo Domingo was practically wiped out by yellow fever and revolutionaries, and on the other hand a new war with England seemed inevitable.
This would mean the immediate occupation of Louisiana by the British.

Napoleon tried to make the best of a bad situation, and he gave new instructions to Talleyrand.

On 11 April 1803, the French minister of Foreign Affairs made a new proposal to Monroe and Livingston. Either they bought the whole of Louisiana, or they would get nothing at all !

An extraordinary Acquisition

Although they actually didn't have the permission to act on their own, they enthusiastically agreed to an immediate purchase !

In early May, the three documents for the sale of Louisiana (carefully predated to 30 April 1803...) were signed.

In one formidable coup, the land surface of the USA was doubled !

Politics, politics...

The price was fifteen million dollars, of which $ 11,250,000 was immediately paid to the French government. The balance of $ 3,750,000 was to be paid to (some...) French citizens, as a refund for outstanding French debts.

After the sale, President Jefferson was worried about the constitutionality of the land purchase, which had taken place without the agreement of Parliament, and without a parliamentary amendment to the Constitution.

However (and as usual...), a convenient political solution was boxed together !By law, the President was arbitrarily allowed to close a treaty, and so the entire Louisiana Purchase was considered to be a treaty, and was ratified as such by the Senate !

It is by far the largest land purchase ever of the United States !

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    • profile image

      sophia 5 years ago

      this also has wrong information

    • slusterbubble profile image

      slusterbubble 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi again Sophia, what is wrong ? Please specify, so that I can examine the problem.

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