Political Rationale and the Louisiana Purchase

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Location of Louisiana Purchase

American commerce had been forced to cease along the Mississippi River due to the Treaty of IIdefonso between Spain and France. Buying Louisiana provided the solution.

The United States depended upon the ports along the Mississippi River for commercial use. Spain owned Louisiana. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte desired to obtain this expanse of land west of the Mississippi River to rejuvenate a French empire, to prevent the United States from furthering its western boundaries, and to secure provisions for the French colonies located in the West Indies.

The King of Spain desired a kingdom for his son-in-law. Thus, covertly, Napoleon and the King of Spain forged an agreement stipulating, that if Louisiana was returned to France, than this land expanse would become the Spanish kingdom.

However, due to a slave revolt in the French colony of what is now known as Haiti, French troops retreated home. If French troops were unable to restore order in Haiti, how would they protect Louisiana?

United States Commercial Reasoning for Obtaining Louisiana

The young republic saw promises with the acquisition of Louisiana. Owning, specifically New Orleans, would guarantee the new country’s right to sail its ships along the Mississippi River for distribution of goods to the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and to Europe. Problems did not exist until Spain signed the Treaty of IIdefonso with France. Once this transaction was completed, Spain choked American commerce by closing the ports.

To say the least Americans were furious regarding this particular shutdown in commerce, thus, obtaining Louisiana would reopen the ports for continued commercial use and calm the escalating furor. Additionally, this land expanse boasted a great number of American settlers, thus adding another reason for securing it.

Discovery of the Treaty of Ildefonso

The United States discovered the Treaty of IIdefonso signed between Napoleon and the King of Spain. Robert Livingston, then Minister to France, was appointed to travel to France and attempt a purchase of New Orleans. Napoleon declined the offer. The U.S. then sent James Monroe. Evidently, Napoleon had a change of mind and decided to sell all of the Louisiana territory thanks to the counsel of his Minister of Finance, Francois de Barbé-Marbois. This gentleman persuaded Napoleon to give up the territory due to political reasons.

Napoleon Relinquishes the Louisiana Territory

Though France relinquished the territories it possessed after the French and Indian War, as aforementioned, Napoleon entertained notions of rejuvenating a dominion for France. However, it appeared that war with England was on the threshold, and trying to protect the Louisiana territory was financially out of the question. Thus, Napoleon decided to sell the territory to the United States.

President Thomas Jefferson Sends Negotiators to France

Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. president at the time, appointed James Monroe as a U.S. Minister to France to join Robert Livingston, already a U.S. Minister to France, to negotiate the terms of agreement/sale of the Louisiana Purchase with the Marquis de Barbe-Marbois. However, before Monroe arrived in France, Livingston had the sale formulated. The entire cost of the purchase totaled $15 million. This amount of money bought a land mass roughly measuring 827,000 square miles (lsm.crt.state.la.us, written for a website, no author or date).

The Louisiana Purchase Confirmed

The Louisiana Treaty/Purchase was confirmed by the United States Senate on Oct. 20, 1803 despite the disapproval of Spain, however, Spanish authority could do little to prevent the transaction (Monticello.org., written for a website, no author or date).

Consequently, American commerce was now secure on the Mississippi River and this set the stage for the Meriweather Lewis and William Clark Expedition to follow.