Little Bits of History

Louisiana Purchase

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 30, 2013
Louisiana Purchase in green and shown over a current map of the US

Louisiana Purchase in green and shown over a current map of the US

April 30, 1803: The United States under President Jefferson purchases a large tract of land from France under Napoleon Bonaparte. The Louisiana Purchase encompassed 828,000 square miles. The cost was 60 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of 20 million francs in debts ($3,750,000). The $15 million plus interest came to $23,213,568. Using today’s currency values, that would be a $214 million price tag and $332 million in total cost. That means the land was purchased for less than three cents per acre.

The Louisiana Purchase was at first seen as unconstitutional, but no reference to expansion protocols was mentioned in the revered document. The land purchased contained portions of at least fifteen future US states and two Canadian provinces. With the acquisition of the land, the young country doubled in size. The land is about ¼ of the total area of the US today. The Alaska Purchase of 1867 increased the US by 586,412 square miles at a cost of $7.2 million.

Jefferson was the third President of the US and held that office from 1801 to 1809. The election of 1800 between Jefferson and Aaron Burr ended with the electoral college in a tie. Alexander Hamilton convinced the House of Representatives Jefferson was a lesser evil than Burr. After 36 ballots were cast, the House finally gave the Presidency to Jefferson with Burr becoming the Vice President.

Obtaining the territory from France essentially ended the threat of expanding French territories close to the new nation. There was still the problem of Spain owning territory, but it was not taken to be as serious as the threat from Napoleon and France. James Monroe and Robert Livingston signed the Purchase Treaty on April 30. Americans were told of the purchase on July 4 when the official announcement was made. The Senate ratified the treaty on October 20 with a vote of 24 to 7. France officially transferred the territory on December 20 and the US took formal possession on December 30. However, the land was mostly settled by Native Americans and many more treaties and exchanges of funds would follow.

“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.”

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

“Information is the currency of democracy.”

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” – all from Thomas Jefferson

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The land included in the Louisiana Purchase was variously owned by different European powers. Both Spain and France laid claim to areas of what is now the contiguous US. In 1795, Spain was in control of New Orleans and a treaty was signed allowing Americans to use the port with “right of deposit” meaning they could store goods for export. However, that treaty was revoked in 1798, much to the chagrin of traders along the Mississippi and government officials. In 1800, in a secret treaty, Spain ceded the land to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso. It remained a secret until the French finally took power and control in November 1803.

Also on this day Oh, Hail – In 1888 the deadliest hailstorm in history strikes in India.
Father of Our Country – In 1789, George Washington took the Oath of Office and became the first President of the United States.
Super – In 1006, a supernova was observed.

2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on April 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

    “govern themselves without a master”: Thomas Jefferson considered himself to be exempt from being called a master even though he himself owned several slaves throughout his entire life- he merely ordered his slaves to stop refering him as “master”. I say that in the same sense as Abraham Lincoln “freed the slaves” by merely saying so-considering that at least 90% of the former slaves had already left their owners in search of food when the cotton gin had put them out of work. The Louisiana Purchase meant only new owners not a stop of owners- Thomas Jefferson was full of great-sounding words but he himself was short of intergrity. Barack Obama,Junior, who grew up learning to be a son of a slave trader, is now being found to be short of intregrity by his use of empty but grand ideas. To control others is addicting to some.

    • Sherry said, on February 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm


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