The Formative Years Of The Louisiana Purchase

1087 words - 4 pages

To buy or not to buy, that is the question. Although it was the greatest “real estate” deal, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was perhaps one of the most controversial events in American History. President Thomas Jefferson, although he was a Founding Father and the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence, faced major opposition with his decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory from the French. Most of the opposition he faced, however, was domestic.
Jefferson was the founder of the Democratic-Republic Party and believed in an agrarian society with strong local governments (i.e. a weak central government). He thought that the states should yield most of the power so that the citizens could control what happens to them (i.e. citizens wouldn’t have to follow the potential dictatorship of the central government). Soon enough, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican policies clashed with the Federalist policies of Alexander Hamilton, who believed in an urban-based society and a strong central government. In addition, Jefferson was a believer in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. When he decided to buy the Louisiana Territory from France, however, he had to compromise his beliefs—the Constitution didn’t have a provision for the purchase of land. Therefore, the first major question that arouse from the purchase of the Louisiana Territory was whether or not the purchase was constitutional.
There are two methods one can use when interpreting the Constitution. The first method includes not doing something unless the Constitution says that one can (i.e. unless the Constitution says one can do something, then one cannot). The other is where one can go ahead and do something if the Constitution doesn’t say one can’t do it (i.e. if the Constitution doesn’t forbid it, it’s ok to do it). Although Jefferson usually followed (and preached) the former, when is came to the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, he chose to follow the latter (pretty hypocritical). Some argued that the purchase was unconstitutional because the Constitution didn’t say that Jefferson could purchase the land. Others argued that the purchase was indeed constitutional because the Constitution didn’t say Jefferson couldn’t purchase the land. Also, like said above, Jefferson had an aversion to big moves by the central government. Again, he compromised his beliefs by purchasing a territory from a foreign nation (obviously a huge move by the central government (not by the states)). It is seemingly understandable, however, that Jefferson decided to compromise his beliefs. He was afraid that the French would give up the deal in the time it would take to pass an amendment saying that he could purchase the land. Jefferson also resolved the issue (of constitutionality, his personal beliefs, etc.) by deciding that the growth of the nation (at a modest price) was more important than his own political aversion to big moves by the central government. In addition,...

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