The History-Altering Louisiana Purchase of 1803



In 1803, the United States government acquired about 828,000,000 square miles of land from France. Parts or all of 15 states were created from the purchase. Many even say that this was Thomas Jefferson’s best act as president.

France originally owned the land on which the purchase was made. When the Seven Years’ War ended, France gave the land to Spain.  In 1795 the Pinckney Treaty was passed and Americans were able to use the Spanish land for ships going down the Mississippi River.

However, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to take this land from Spain. First, his plans were to take the colony of St. Domingue. At that time, St. Domingue was very valuable for the sugar being grown by slaves. After that, Napoleon’s plans were to take Louisiana from Spain, and he did just that. Louisiana was acquired by the French in 1800 and became officially French in 1802 after a treaty was signed. Americans had been moving in the direction of the land, but when France took it over they were worried of what Napoleon would do.

Soon, Thomas Jefferson sent his minister to France, Robert Livingston, to negotiate with a French minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, for the land.

Shortly before France had taken over the land, Spain had the treaty revoked. They claimed to be under French orders. So, Jefferson sent James Monroe (future U.S. president) to Paris to help Livingston negotiate for the land. Right before Monroe arrived, France asked Livingston if the U.S. would like to purchase the Louisiana land.

There are many supposed reasons Napoleon finally decided to sell the land to the U.S., some being the fact that Britain and France were about to go to war, France had failed to stop a slave rebellion in Haiti, and financial issues.

By the end of April, France and the U.S. had negotiated and made a deal. About $11, 250,000 just for the land. The U.S. was finally in possession of it. The treaty was dated April 30 but not signed until May 2. The U.S. senate did not ratify the purchase until October so the land was not transferred to the U.S. until December.