The Louisiana Purchase marked one of the largest, if not the
largest, land transactions in history. The persons who played
key roles in this transaction were Thomas Jefferson ,
Napoleon I of France,
Robert R. Livingston,
James Monroe, and
Lewis and Clark.
The actual Treaty
can be viewed.
The vast Louisiana Territory was purchased for 60 Million Francs or
about $15,000,000.00 of which $11,250,000.00 was to be paid directly. The
balance to be covered by the U.S. in the assumption of French debts
to U. S. citizens. This territory included 800,000 square miles of
The purchase of the Louisiana territory came about as a result of
concern to secure free navigation of the Mississippi River. President
Jefferson sent Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe to negotiate
with the government of the powerful Napoleon I for the sale of New Orleans.
Since the aggressive French leader roused fears once France had just
acquired Louisiana from the Spanish, Jefferson knew immediate action must be taken.
Surprisingly, Napoleon offered not only to sell New Orleans, but the
entire Louisiana territory.The treaty that Livingston and Monroe sent
home aroused constitutional worries in Jefferson's mind. A Constitutional
amendment would be extremely slow and Napoleon wanted the transaction
finalized by a specific date. Since the nation was so young, issues
such as the one at hand had not arisen before.
Jefferson had to make a decision and that he did. He acted without
hesitation and left the matter to the people to decide. With the exception
of a small number of Federalists in New England, the people overwhelmingly
accepted Jefferson's actions. The Louisiana Purchase was by far the greatest achievement
of his presidency.
This began exploration in the United States. Lewis and Clark were sent
by Thomas Jefferson to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase.
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