Saturday, October 17, 2015

Louisiana Purchase

We left off just after the French Revolution was quieting down and Napoleon Bonaparte became a key player.  You can read that blog post here.

Here is the story of the greatest real estate deal in the history of the US to date.  With the wrap up of the French and Indian War in 1762 (the French lost Quebec to the Brits in this war and was nearly bankrupt) France ended up deeding the Louisiana territory to Spain to cover their enormous debts.  In October 1800, Spain ceded the Louisiana territory back to France in a secret arrangement.

This land was a massive 828,000 square miles.  Bonaparte planned to revive the French Empire in the New World.  He thought the Louisiana territory would be the perfect place to do just that.

So in 1802, the French took possession of the Louisiana territory (officially).  The French sent an army ship to St. Domingue and another to New Orleans (a huge French settlement at the time).  This was a source of apprehension for the westerns that were already there.  They were not excited by the fact that the French would have more power and control.  Thomas Jefferson (president at the time) sent James Monroe (5th President of the US) to meet Robert Livingston (US minister to France) in France to purchase West Florida and New Orleans from the French for $10 million dollars.  When that plan did not pan out, they went to England to try and form a military alliance.

In the meantime, the entire French army stationed in St. Domingue was decimated by yellow fever and France and England were still in war mode.  It was because of this and financial problems that Napoleon decided to offer Monroe and Livingston all of the Louisiana territory for $15 million dollars (about three cents an acre).  This was approximately double the land that President Jefferson had originally asked for but Napoleon wanted the money and Jefferson wanted the land so it was a good deal for both parties.  This transaction is called the Louisiana Treaty.

The Louisiana Territory included the Mississippi River, westward to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Gulf of Mexico in the New Orleans area all the way up to the Red River to the Canadian border.  There are historians that believe Napoleon had no right to sell this land to the US since he made secret dealings to get the land back from Spain.

There was a problem with this, however.  Jefferson had a policy of strict adherence to the Constitution but according to the Constitution, Jefferson did not actually have the power to purchase the Louisiana Territory so he tweaked the Constitution just a bit to make it legit, shhhh!!!

This is the point that President Jefferson hires Lewis and Clark to explore this unknown territory. And this is the point where we stop because Lewis and Clark need their own blog post so that will be up next.  Check out the great links below.

Meriwether Lewis
William Clark
More facts
Science of Lewis and Clark

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