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American History The Significance of the Louisiana Purchase

Updated on January 4, 2017


The Louisiana Purchase was a significant event in the history of our country perhaps the most significant event. It was one required specific conditions to be in place to have the opportunity to purchase this massive amount of land. It changed the landscape of our country in the early days of our existence. The boldness and details of what led up to the opportunity may not really be understood. In researching this action I found details that may have often not part of any history lesson in our schools either in the past or today as the case may be. Doubling the size of our country at that time seemed like an enormous undertaking but the benefits we have seen from such a decision cannot be denied. The mechanism involved with the Louisiana Purchase appears to have been utilized to purchase Alaska which also proved to be the right decision though not many thought so at the time. The purchase of Alaska has proven to be a blessing to our country.

A total of 15 states with all they have brought to the country also cannot be denied at this time in the history of our country. The list of states which became part of the United States as a result of this purchase is provided below:

Louisiana

Arkansas

Iowa

Missouri

Kansas

Oklahoma

Nebraska

Minnesota

New Mexico

South Dakota

North Dakota

Texas

Wyoming

Montana

Colorado

Jefferson was President at the time of purchase but how it came to pass involved two countries. Britain and France both had some involvement in acquiring this land for expanding our country. Britain’s involvement involved land south of the 49th parallel when it was decided that a straight line border between the two countries would reduce survey disputes and make border management easier than it had been in the past.

As part of the effort to acquire what started out as the port of New Orleans and West Florida developed into a much larger area. James Monroe was in Jefferson’s cabinet and was empowered to purchase these two areas for between two and ten million dollars but other situations played a part in what would become the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon had risen to power in the French Revolution and threatened to block American access to the port of New Orleans which was important to new American settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Napoleon at this time was embattled with Britain and offered the land France possessed in in North America for a total of $15 million dollars. This amount of money was no small change for a young country but purchase we did and the rest is history. The territory stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and more than doubled the size of the United States.

The price we paid was about 4 cents per acre which amounted to about 600 million acres.

The Louisiana Purchase was not without its controversy though as it is today New England Federalists with this purchase their political power was dramatically reduced. Politicians wherever they are do not like to see their political power reduced for any reason. Like agreements which have been negotiated the treaty-making provision of the Constitution allowed him room to act but the Senate had to agree and with a vote of 26 to 6.

The Louisiana Purchase demonstrates Jefferson's ability to make pragmatic political decisions. Although contrary to some of his central principles, guaranteeing western expansion was so important to Jefferson's overall vision that he took bold action. The gains were dramatic, as the territory acquired would in time add 13 new states to the union. In 1812, Louisiana became the first state to join the union from land bought in the purchase. Louisiana was allowed to enter the United States with its French legal traditions largely in place. Even today, Louisiana's legal code retains many elements that do not follow English common law traditions. The federal system could be remarkably flexible.

Several treaties were involved in the process to acquire the land identified as the Louisiana Purchase. One specific one was called The Treaty of San Ildefonso was a secret treaty between France and Spain, which set the stage for an expansion of Napoleon's empire into America. Many things changed as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. The capital of the country changed from New York to Philadelphia and eventually to Washington D.C. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in the new and lasting capital of Washington D.C. in 1801.

Looking at the states that were part of this purchase we can look back at how this action benefitted the country at the time and even today. The addition of this land purchase doubled the size of our country and created opportunities for many individuals but developing the land had some challenges. We have heard of the Louis and Clark expedition and it was an important part of not only gaining knowledge of the area but mapping the land.

We look at the resources of the states created by this land purchase and we wonder what our country would be today if this purchase had not taken place. As I stated previously it took bold action by Jefferson at the time and a series of events to bring this opportunity for expansion to our young land. Millions of acres overnight became a part of our country. The political structure and power of our country changed with this purchase. Politicians do not like to see their influence be impacted by decisions by the government and today with the election of Donald Trump it is the people who have altered the influence of politicians specifically Democrats with the results of the November 2016 election.

Decisions by the government is meant to be for the betterment of the country not political parties and this action definitely benefitted the country though some had concerns about the money spent and the debt at the time but it has proven to be the right decision.



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