Who sold the Louisiana Territory in 1803

Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase (English: Louisiana purchase) was the purchase of 2,144,476 km² of land that the USA acquired from France in 1803. The purchase price was US $ 15 million or French franc 80 million (US $ 7 / km²), which is a current (March 2006) value of approximately $ 250 million,[1] measured in terms of purchasing power.

The in Louisiana Purchase sold colony Louisiana (green)

The area of ​​the former Louisiana colony, which was west of the Mississippi River, was sold. It encompassed much more than the current state of Louisiana, and also includes today's states of Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, as well as parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico and parts the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. The land then purchased makes up more than a quarter of what is now the United States, doubling the state's territory.

The Louisiana Purchase was the largest real estate deal in history.


American President Thomas Jefferson wanted to buy the city of New Orleans in 1802. The city controlled the Mississippi, which at that time was already important for the shipping of agricultural goods from the areas of the USA that were west of the Appalachians. Due to the Pinckney treaty with Spain, American merchants had the right to use the port of New Orleans. In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte brought Louisiana, which had been a Spanish colony since 1762, back under French control. The Americans now feared that they might lose the right to use the port of New Orleans. The Jefferson administration came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to buy the city of New Orleans and its vicinity in order to secure long-term access to the Mississippi. Jefferson sent James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to Paris to negotiate the purchase.

The negotiations

Jefferson had paved the way for the purchase by sending Livingston to Paris in 1801 after it became known that Louisiana had reverted to France. Livingston was supposed to seek the purchase of New Orleans but received a rebuff.

In 1802, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours was won over to assist in the negotiations. Du Pont was living in the United States at the time and had close ties to both Jefferson and influential circles in France. During a private stay in France, he contacted Napoleon. He came up with the idea of ​​a much larger purchase than the one originally planned in order to avoid a possible conflict between Napoleon and the USA.

Jefferson disliked this idea because buying Louisiana from France would mean France had a right to be in Louisiana. Jefferson also believed that a president should not make such a deal because there was nothing about it in the Constitution and it would further undermine state rights. The French Foreign Minister Talleyrand was also strongly against the sale because it would mean an end to the French secret plans to take over North America.

Just before Monroe arrived in Paris in 1803, the French put all of Louisiana up for sale, not just New Orleans. The American negotiators were prepared to spend $ 2 million on New Orleans. Now they were speechless when they were offered the entire area from the Gulf of Mexico to Rupert's Land and from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains for only $ 22.5 million. This would double the area of ​​the United States. The price for the land would be seven dollars per square kilometer. Monroe and Livingston were not authorized to make such a large purchase. But they recognized the unique historical opportunity and accepted Napoleon's offer. The final negotiations were conducted with Napoleon's finance minister, the Marquis de Barbé-Marbois.

Napoleon, who at the time had the strongest army in Europe, viewed the sale of his American territories as a gesture of goodwill towards the US and a strategic move against the British. A strong America could serve as a buffer against Britain when the inevitable battle came. Perhaps he was also hoping for US support in his naval blockade against England.

Perhaps more importantly, Napoleon faced a defeat of his troops in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now the Republic of Haiti). An expeditionary army under his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc d'Ostin tried to regain control of France's most profitable colony. In June 1802 the French had successfully deported the revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture to France, but the yellow fever raged among the soldiers and in November also killed Leclerc. In addition, the racist policies of the French in Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue led to guerrilla warfare and the defection of leading French officers, such as the black general Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the officer Alexandre Pétion in October 1802. These setbacks led to it that Napoleon gave up his plans to rebuild the French empire in the new world. The French withdrew in November 1803, but their defeat was foreseeable a year earlier.

Napoleon added the sales proceeds to his large war chest and sought control over all of Europe. Between 1805 and 1807 he defeated Austria, Prussia and Russia and made himself master of most of the continent.

Opposition in the US

In the US, the federalists were strictly against buying the territory. They were in favor of close ties with Britain rather than Napoleon. In their opinion, the purchase was not constitutional and the US would have paid a lot of money just to declare war on Spain. There were also fears that the political influence of the states on the east coast might be limited by the new citizens in the west - a conflict between farmers in the west and merchants and bankers in New England. A group of federalists led by Massachusetts Senator Timothy Pickering went so far as to call for a separate Northern Confederation. Vice President Aaron Burr was offered the presidency of Separatist State if he could persuade New York State to participate. Alexander Hamilton turned against Burr. Their hostility grew with the election of 1801 and ended in 1804 with Hamilton's death in a duel with Burr.

Signing and implementation

The "Treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of France"

On April 30, 1803, the contract was signed by Robert R. Livingston, James Monroe and François Barbé-Marbois in Paris. Thomas Jefferson announced it to the American people on July 4th. The Senate ratified it on October 20 and authorized President Jefferson on October 31 to take possession of the territory and establish a provisional military government. Planning has also begun to explore and map the area. This later resulted in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

On December 20, 1803, France surrendered the city of New Orleans to the United States. On October 31, 1803, the US Congress passed laws that allowed the continuation of the existing civil administration and authorized the president to use the military to maintain public order. On March 10, 1804, an official celebration of the transition of the territory from France to the United States was held in St. Louis.

From 1815 onwards, on the instructions of James Monroe, who has since been elected President, the new areas were surveyed. For this purpose, a measuring point was specially constructed, in the place of which a memorial stone was placed in 1926 and in 1961 the reason for the creation of the Louisiana Purchase State Park.

Conflict with Spain

The Louisiana Purchase sparked a dispute between the US and Spain over the boundaries of the purchased area. According to the Spanish, Louisiana consisted roughly of the western half of the present-day states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri. The United States, on the other hand, claimed it extended to the Rio Grande and the Rocky Mountains. Spain couldn't accept that because it would have meant all of Texas and half of New Mexico, both Spanish colonies, were part of it. There was also disagreement about the owner of West Florida, a strip of land between the Mississippi and Perdido Rivers. The US also claimed that the area was part of the purchase. Spain contradicted this and took the view that east of the Mississippi only New Orleans belonged to the purchase. Incidentally, the whole sale is illegal because the treaty with which Louisiana was handed over from Spain to France (Treaty of Fountainebleau; on Nov. 3, 1762, the French King Louis XV. Signed a secret agreement with the Spanish King Charles III of Spain) , stipulated that France could not hand over the territory to a third power and because Napoleon had not fulfilled his part of this treaty, namely handing over a kingdom in Italy to a brother-in-law of the Spanish King Carlos IV.

After a revolt in West Florida, the United States annexed the area between the Pearl and Red Rivers in 1810 and the Mobile District in 1812. With the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, Spain finally ceded all of Florida to the United States. The border between the Louisiana Territory and the Spanish colonies was drawn along the Sabine River, Red River and Arkansas River and the 42nd parallel.


  1. ^ The relative value in U.S. Dollars

Web links

  • History of louisiana
  • United States History (1789–1849)
  • United States expansion
  • Consulate and Empire
  • 1803
  • James Monroe