Module 3 - The Formative Years of the New Nation, 1820-1860
The Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the largest land transaction for the United States, and the most important event of President Jefferson's presidency. Jefferson arranged to purchase the land for $11,250,000 from Napoleon in 1803. This land area lay between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. The purchase of this land greatly increased the economic resources of the United States, and proved Jefferson had expansionist dreams by doubling the size of the United States. Jefferson believed that the republic must be controlled by ambitious, independent, property-holding farmers, who would form the incorruptible bedrock of democracy (LaFeber 179). In order to complete his vision the country needed more land.
The Constitution did not authorize the acquisition of land, but it did provide for the making of treaties, so that Jefferson felt the acquisition of new territory was constitutional, with an amendment. He had mixed feelings about this issue and warned that American liberty would be threatened if the Constitution was distorted (LeFeber 181). He was not willing to loose the opportunity to expand the United States. The purchase of Louisiana from France had long been a favorite project with Mr. Jefferson. He viewed it as essential to removing from the United States a source of continual conflicts with the European possessors of the land, besides securing the use of the Mississippi River and the fertile land itself. When Napoleon became head of the French government, he planned to use the territory for his own gain. In view of the threatening crisis, President Jefferson immediately sent Mr. Monroe as envoy extraordinary to the French court, with instructions to negotiate the purchase of Louisiana from France.
In April 1803, the negotiation was concluded and the entire region of Louisiana was ceded to the United States for the sum of $11,250,000 dollars (LeFeber 182). The American negotiators seized the favorable circumstances to urge the claims of American merchants on the French government for $3,750,00. This important acquisition more than doubled the territory of the United States. The great majority of the nation received the treaty with jubilation, but there were some particularly in the eastern States that disclaimed strenuously against it. They saw in the great enlargement of our territory and was nogthing more thatn a great waste, a wilderness unpeopled with any beings except...