Louisiana Purchase qualified the United States as a pre-eminent world power, which could stand for its rivals from Europe. It involved acquisition of land, approximately 828,000 square miles which was under the control of France and was done in 1803. The Louisiana Purchase was a significant move as it made up approximately 23% of the U.S territory. The French regime which was long plagued by wars really needed some amount to salvage their wrecked financial situation. This was after the defeat of the Napoleonic expansion ambition which aimed at taking up opportunities in the new world. However, his constant expansion failure made him reconsider the worthiness of the northern American states including Louisiana. On the other hand the U.S understood the importance of Louisiana states considering its New Orleans port. The desire to out rightly purchase the port aimed at ensuring their control and making it their marketplace. The whole negotiation process was led by the then U.S president Thomas Jefferson.
The Jefferson’s plan to acquire the state was triggered by his efforts to expand and gain access to the international markets. He therefore so the French regained control over the state as a huge threat to his larger vision. The immediate gain of power by Napoleon in the French revolution however posed a great danger to the U.S as it could entirely block it from New Orleans port. According to Jefferson, the move could seriously have a negative implication to the American people who ferried their goods and farm produce to the port via the Mississippi river. The purchase raised a lot of controversies among the England federalists who later begun to negotiate on seceding from the U.S. and since the purchase overlooked some constitutional interpretation, the federalists criticized the move. They argued that the purchase was not in line with his commitment towards reducing the national debt, but instead it raised it. And although one would have considered the amount as relatively small comparing to the amount of land, it was still a significant amount to the modest federal budget of the time. They accused Jefferson of inconsistency which he later won as the treaty making provision allowed him to implement the purchase deal (Rodriguez, 2002).
Since the French regime used the port to facilitate its trade with the Hispaniola Haiti Island, which was under seize by the Haitian slave, Napoleon continued to send troops to suppress the rebellion. Quite a good number of the French troops however lost their lives due to yellow fever and other natural hazards, a move which made Napoleon to abandon the island. Without the island, he rarely saw the need of retaining Louisiana. And considering that he needed funds to support his military ventures in Europe, he agreed to sell it to the United States. Jefferson initiated the plans through initiating some anti-French alliances and altering their foreign policies to discourage the French penetration into the port. He also sent some American delegates to France to seek negotiation of the purchase of the port of the New Orleans.
Jefferson’s acquisition move was however much opposed and some even considered it unconstitutional. The U.S constitution did not have a clause which allowed state’s acquisition although this was due to the fact that they had not done so in the past. But Jefferson was exploring some new bounds which he thought could benefit the whole country in the long-run. He also didn’t like to possibility of France and Spain blocking the United States from the trade through retaining the ownership of the New Orleans Port. Despite his positive intentions some key politicians saw the acquisition process as a complete undermine of state’s authority and were therefore opposed to it.
The purchase of Louisiana territory by the United States was faced with some domestic opposition by the key federalists. To them the amount was significant and could only trigger war between America and Spain. They also termed it unconstitutional and they were able to convince the United States House of Representatives. The leader of the purchase opposition was John Randolph. It was so significant that the house called for a vote to deny the purchase which to their surprise lost by two votes. Throughout this time the federalists even proved that the land still belonged to Spain and not to France. But their arguments were defeated since the papers displayed the opposite and showed France as the true owners of the land. There was also a concern over the exacerbation of division between the north and the south since the new territory was considered to be a slave holding. This led to the idea of separate northern confederacy by the federalists.
Another concern was whether the American would abide by the treaty requirement and free the black slaves in New Orleans and also grant French and the Spanish the American citizenship. However, the domestic objections were politically solved at an early stage. Nonetheless, one problem still remained unsolved. It was argued that Napoleon did not have the right to sell Louisiana to the United States. And that the sale violated the 1800 Third treaty of San IIdefonso. Additionally, it was argued that the agreement between France and Spain restricted France to sell or alienate the state to any third party.
Despite all the leaders knowing these facts, they ignored them all and proceeded with the sale. Spain however tried to strongly protest the sale but they were never successful. The sale was however pointed out as an illegal act, because if the territory was truly a French property, then it could seek the consent of the Chambers before sale. But it was also argued that if the territory was Spanish property, it could not have been alienated in the first place. Spain therefore had no right to reclaim the land since they allowed its alienation (Brown, 1972).
Settling of these controversies allowed the Louisiana Purchase move to proceed which later yielded fruits to both the Americans and the French people. The Americans were able to expand their territory by almost double while the French benefited financially from the sale.
Jefferson knew that with the increasing financial difficulties that the Napoleonic Empire was facing, there was a high likelihood of acceptance of the port sale proposal. He therefore took this advantage to negotiate for the sale. To his surprise, Napoleon who was in dire needs of money offered to sell the whole Louisiana states to the U.S. To him the money could help him continue his lengthy battle against the British.
And since Napoleon hated the idea of giving up his conquered states to the rivals, he perceived the selling to be more productive as it could earn him some wealth. He also saw it as an opportunity to block England power over France and that is why he chose to settle the deal with the United States. According to him, selling Louisiana State to the U.S could humble the pride of England which was in the verge of expanding its territorial control (Hunter, 2007).
Signing of the Treaty
The United States therefore sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to Paris to negotiate Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Their initial intention at that time was to acquire New Orleans port which was very strategic to them. However, Frenchman by the name Pierre Samuel du Ponto assisted them through the negotiation process. He had a strong political friendship with Jefferson, a quality which really improved the whole process. It was his idea that the purchase ought to be enlarged in order to prevent the possibility of Napoleon and the U.S from going into war over North American territories (Hunter, 2007).
The negotiation which begun on April 1803, surprised the U.S convoy after the French foreign minister Charles Maurice asked Livingston what the United State was willing to offer for Louisiana state as a whole. And after some negotiations they settled to give $15 million which the U.S government also agreed to discharge. The treaty was signed and later ratified by the U.S Senate in October, same year and the U.S flag was later raised over New Orleans on December 20th 1803.
The Americans were however surprised as they were prepared to spend $10 million on the port of New Orleans, but now with only $15 million they could own the entire region. The massive territory stretched along the Mississippi river into the Rocky Mountains and was therefore a great deal for the U.S. It was a great deal to the U.S which so it as an opportunity to double up their territory. The price was also far much below what they expected since it involved a purchase of less than 3 cents per acre. It was therefore a too good deal to ignore on the side of the U.S. It was also settled that the main beneficiary of the sales proceeds was only France and not the actual territory, comprising of the people who inhabited in it. The land rights were however resolved after 100 years later in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. It is also believed that Napoleon did not use the money to construct new canals in France as he had promised, but instead he spent it in invading the United Kingdom expansion plan (Goldberg, 2003).
After agreeing on the key issues involving the sale, they came up with the Louisiana Purchase Treaty which was to be signed by Robert Livingstone, James Monroe and Barba Marbois on 30th of April 1803 in Paris. And on July 4th of the same year, Thomas Jefferson announced the treaty to the American people. The treaty stated that Louisiana Purchase was just but a noble role of the United State government and was to be immediately effected. The American government therefore made its first down payment of the land in form of gold which amounted to $3 million. The rest was to be financed through bonds by some of the reputable European banks at the time and France was to cash the bonds later.
Majority of the Senate therefore agreed to the move by passing its motion with 26 members supporting it and only 6 opposing the purchase. With the Louisiana Purchase president Jefferson was able to demonstrate his pragmatic political ability to make vital decisions for the country. The gain was also considered dramatic as it enabled the U.S increase the number of the acquired states to 13. Louisiana also became the first purchased nation to join the union in 1812. The newly acquired state was also allowed to be part of the United States with its French legal tradition still operational. And to date there are some legal codes which still do not follow the English common law tradition, but instead follows the French traditions (Hunter, 2007).
After the Sale
The Louisiana Purchase is still considered to be one of the crucial developments which the American government did in the early western expansion process. The Spanish administrators who had not yet given up the physical possession to the French practically did so at a ceremony organized at New Orleans on November 1803. After the purchase deal the French handed Louisiana to the United States on December 1803 still in a ceremony at St. Louis. The completion of the sale witnessed Napoleon confessing the American greatness and he was now pleased that it could offer a maritime rivalry to his England counterpart and eventually humble her pride. This was a true sign that Napoleon did not regret about the sale, instead he rejoiced, as it humbled his opponent’s pride which he had struggled to do for a long time (Brown, 1972).
It should also be noted that governing Louisiana was not an easy task at all. This is because, despite the abolishment of slave trade earlier, there was large slaves’ population in the region. This slave stalemate made the Americans to fear that they would end up having a revolt similar to the one experienced in St. Dominguez. There were still pressures from the southerners who supported slave trade while Jefferson regime vowed not to allow slavery in the newly acquired territory. These differences were the cause of the union crisis which proceeded for almost half a century.
Dispute however arose between the U.S and Spain regarding the extent of Louisiana territory. And since the boundary was never demarcated since 1762 in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, it created confusion between the two nations. Spain argued that Louisiana only comprised of the western bank of the Mississippi river and the two cities which included St. Louis and New Orleans. But the Americans on the other hand believed that the land stretched along the Mississippi river and into the Rocky Maintains, a land which approximated into 828,000 square miles.
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