The Treaty of the Louisiana Purchase
Jefferson Expands The Nation
Largest Single Land Purchase in U.S. History
For President Thomas Jefferson it was
a diplomatic and political triumph. In one fell swoop the purchase of
Louisiana ended any threat of war with France and
opened up the land west of the Mississippi to settlement.
By any measure the purchase of Louisiana was the most important action of
Jefferson's two terms as president. Jefferson knew that acquiring the very
heart of the American continent would prove to be the key to the future
of the United States.
Initially Jefferson, through his Minister to France, Robert Livingston, offered
Napoleon $2 million for a small tract of land on the lower
Mississippi. There Americans could build their own seaport. Impatient at the
lack of news, Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris to offer $10 million for
New Orleans and West Florida. Almost at the same time, and unbeknownst to Jefferson,
France had offered all of Louisiana to Livingston for $15
Though the transaction was quickly sealed, there were those who objected to
the purchase on the grounds that the Constitution did not provide for purchasing
territory. However, Jefferson temporarily set aside his idealism to tell his
supporters in Congress that "what is practicable must often control what is
pure theory." The majority agreed.
Jefferson later admitted that he had stretched his power "till it cracked"
in order to buy Louisiana, the largest single land purchase in American
history. As a result, generations of Americans for nearly 200 years
have been the beneficiaries of Jefferson's noble vision of America and his efforts
at expanding the continent.