Louisiana Purchase: Historical Review

“Louisiana, which translates to La Celina Mario in French, was the name of an administrative district of New France. Under French control from the 17th century to the 18th century, the area was named in honor of Louis XIV of France by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. Originally covering an expansive territory that included most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River and stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains” (Thomas 23).

Louisiana was divided into two regions namely: Upper Louisiana to the north and Lower Louisiana which presently is United States, state of Louisiana. During the reign of Louis xiv of France, the French explored and settled in this area in 1682 naming the place after the king.

In 1763, as result of France’s defeat in seven years’ war, it ceded the northern side America (Canada) to Britain and the southern side (the New Orleans) to the Spain.

“The Louisiana Purchase was the acquirement by the United States of America of 828,000 square miles which was at least 2.1km2 of the French territory Louisiane in 1803” (Thomas 25). During the French revolutions in 1800, a treaty was signed secretly which saw France regain Southern Louisiana in exchange for Parma. Napoleon II wanted to settle French farmers in the area inorder to increase food production to feeds slaves who were working in France’s sugar plantations. Napoleon II the then, the emperor of the re-gained Louisiana, decided not to keep the whole territory and offered USA to buy in 1803.

The purchase of Louisiana took place when Thomas Jefferson was the president of USA (Sonntag 166). At this time America was a small and growing and Jefferson thought the presence of France posed threat to his young nation. Although, the constitution of USA didn’t allow acquisition of new territories, he decided to buy Louisiana because, he considered Spain, and Britain as the impediments to America’s trade through port of New Orleans. At some point a conflict would erupted between USA and Spain when Spain denied USA access to the port of New Orleans (Kukla 46).

President Jefferson sent Livingstone to France for negotiations, but Napoleon rejected for the first time. Then Jefferson again sent Monroe to France for further negotiation. In 1801, just days before the arrival of Monroe in France napoleon offered to sell the whole of Louisiana to the United States. France decided to sell the territory to the Americans at cost of 60 million francs. With the deal reached between America and France, then all the debts which French owned to American citizens were canceled (Thomas Jefferson foundation).

“Napoleon sent large military to re-gain lost sugar rich Santo Domingo. Many French soldiers were killed in war and other died of yellow fever” (Kukla 44). Without the sugar rich Santo Domingo, napoleon saw there was no need to have Louisiana alone. Again, napoleon feared that incase of another war, he might end up loosing Louisiana for good. It’s because of these reasons; he decided to buy out Louisiana to United States of America.

The ownership of Louisiana exchanged hands for number of times. First it was who discovered and settled there, and then France ceded the northern side to Britain and southern to Spain. By the time United States acquired Louisiana, Spain still claimed ownership of the southern part although a deal had been reached between Spain and France for France to re-gain ownership. From the look of things we can say that it was not America alone who had interest on Louisiana.

Jefferson advocated for strong central government controlled by constitution. He stood by the fact that one could not act beyond what the constitution of the country stipulated. Due to necessity and urgency of the matter in contention, he cedes his principles on central government inorder to purchase Louisiana. The constitution of USA at that time did not allow acquisition of new territory, but Jefferson went ahead to buy Louisiana. So it is in his belief that, for the better and benefit of the country at large, one can act against the law.

Jefferson was in dilemma whether to purchase Louisiana from France or use power to force them out. Opting to buy the land from France would imply that, France had the legality to be in Louisiana. Going into war, as the federalist wanted would result to loss of many lives and eventually, lose Louisiana completely. With dire need of New Orleans to ease trade through river Mississippi, he finally purchased Louisiana from France despite strong domestic opposition from the federals(Thomas Jefferson foundation).

We can say he exercised good judgement in his decisions. Though his decisions were unconstitutional, the end result was justifiable. It was because of him going against the constitution that Americans farmers were able and freely move their output through river Mississippi to New Orleans port. His decision is ethical although his action is unconstitutional. Initially people were against his idea of purchasing Louisiana but at the end many appreciated his efforts (Sonntag 165)

To my opinion, I think his decision had a lasting impact on the role of president, because at some point in time a situation may arise in a country which requires a present to act beyond constitution. It’s evidenced in today’s world; countries have amended their constitution to accommodate situations which require urgency when they arise. A good example is with Kenya, was faced with post election the post election violence forced her to form a government of national unity accommodating a post of prime minister, which was not in constitution.

Works cited

Fleming, Thomas. The Louisiana Purchase. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2003. 23-29.

Kukla, Jon. A wilderness so immense: the Louisiana Purchase and the destiny of America. New York: A. A. Knopf, 2003. 44-47.

Sonntag, Margaret M. “An Expedition through the Louisiana Purchase.” journal of geography 90(1991): 164-167.

Thomas Jefferson foundation. Time line of Louisiana Purchase. Web.