The Purchase Of Louisiana

he prospect that France would establish a colonial empire in America was not pleasing to the United States. To counteract its influence Jefferson believed it would be necessary to form a close alliance with Great Britain. For France was then at the zenith of her power. She did not take immediate possession of Louisiana, but left the administration in the hands of Spain. In 1802 the Spanish Governor suspended the right of the Americans to deposit commercial products in New Orleans. This action caused intense excitement. President Jefferson was compelled to take notice of the state of mind in the West. He wrote Mr. Monroe that it “threatens to overbear our peace.” He realized that some remedy would have to be found, and he again wrote Monroe: “The agitation of the public mind on occasion of the late suspension of our rights of deposit at New Orleans is extreme. Remonstrances, memorials, etc., are now circulating through the whole country.” The Federalist party advocated war with both Spain and France. But the President determined to rely upon diplomacy. He instructed Robert R. Livingston, our Minister to France, to buy West Florida and New Orleans. In furtherance of this plan to satisfy the people of the West and protect the rights of the United States he appointed, in January, 1803, James Monroe special envoy to France to aid Livingston.

Conditions favored the design of Jefferson. It had been the plan of France to suppress the rebellion in Santo Domingo, and then take possession of Louisiana. The campaign against the Island failed. War with Great Britain was impending. Napoleon knew he could not retain Louisiana in a war with that power. To sell the province to the United States would place it forever beyond the reach of the English. The price of it would help him prepare for the inevitable conflict. And he believed, too, that, having Louisiana, the United States would be strong enough to ultimately curb the British power. He expressed the hope that it would be so. And when the negotiations were got well under way he proposed to sell not only West Florida and New Orleans, but the whole of Louisiana. The American Ministers had not been accredited for so great a transaction. A purchase of such vast dimensions had not been thought of by any American. It was the idea of Napoleon. There was no time to secure additional advices from home, and our ministers decided to ignore the instructions they had. On the 30th day of April, 1803, they concluded a treaty by which all of Louisiana should pass to the United States for the sum of fifteen million dollars. The treaty was ratified at a session of Congress convened the following October. Spain contended that France had no right to sell Louisiana, and protested to our Government, but when the representative of the French Government arrived at New Orleans the Spanish officials turned over the province and withdrew. The authority of France was permitted to continue for twenty days. On the 20th of December, 1803, the French put the United States in possession of Louisiana and the American representative proclaimed to those assembled there:

The cession secures to you and your descendants the inheritance of liberty, perpetual laws, and magistrates whom you will elect yourselves.

Of all the great events in the history of the United States the purchase of Louisiana was one of the most important. Henceforth there would be no contest among the European powers for the mighty Valley of the Mississippi. For the addition of Louisiana doubled the area of the United States, increasing its bounds to imperial dimensions and insuring the existence of the Republic to remote ages.

So was Louisiana reunited and made whole under the sovereignty of a power which had risen since its proclamation and establishment at the mouth of the Mississippi. The conception of La Salle was consummated. The soil to become Kansas became the property of the United States to forever remain a part of the great Republic of North America.

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