The Louisiana Purchase is among the most significant achievements of a presidency in the US. Executed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803, the project encompassed the acquisition of approximately 830 million square miles of land for $15 million (The Jefferson Monticello, 2020). The purchase remains the most ambitious territorial expansion by the US, whose effects continue to reverberate in today’s American foreign policy. According to Blakemore (2020), the four-cents an acre deal was more than the purchase of land because it defined the westward expansion, national wealth, international relations that continue to date. President Jefferson envisioned an expansive sovereign territory devoid of economic and political wrangles that characterized the New World. Cerami (2004) wrote that the principals involved in the purchase were apprehensive of the fact they engaged in a complete transformation of the size and the prospects of the US. Napoleon envisioned that the withdrawal of France might set in motion events that would transform the world ( Cerami , 2004). The essay contends that the Louisiana Purchase was a calculated move by the US to strengthen and sustain its economic, political, and foreign policy frameworks domestically and internationally.
The Louisiana Purchase features as the largest ever real estate deal in the world’s history, but its implications traverse many economic and political discourses. The event, which doubled the size of the US and removed the influence of a formidable enemy in France, is irrefutable evidence of Jefferson’s vision for the “survival of the republican government in the US” ( Balleck , 1992, p. 679). The argument centers on the observation that Jefferson suspended the fundamentals of states’ rights and strict constructionism and used an unorthodox method to secure republicanism. The president’s decision likely resulted from the mounting pressures to grant America, a young nation at the time, sovereignty. Cerami (2004) noted that the 1790s saw high interests among the French and Spaniards to expand their territories to the west. The tussle, which started before the war, escalated towards the end of 1781 following the British surrender. American quest for freedom was a phenomenon envisioned in the Declaration of Independence that called for a united people. Cerami (2004) observed that the struggle borrowed from the 1774 ideology of Patrick Henry that implored Americans to acknowledge their landmarks, colonial boundaries and to reject the distinctions that continued to divide a unified effort to forge forward as one nation. The observations above illustrate that the landmark event sought to create a healthier nation unified by the knowledge that all its people were Americans.
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The Louisiana Purchase intended to reduce and eliminate the influence of the colonial powers in the US. Louisiana, which at the time covered most of the Mississippi Valley, became the center of the tussle for colonial power in the 18 th century. The ownership of Louisiana, which France initially had a claim to, changed hands after the French and Indian war. France ceded Louisiana to Britain and Spain in 1763 (Blakemore, 2020). The subsequent British surrender in 1781 and the re-emergence of France as a mighty folly under Napoleon Bonapart e returned Louisiana to the French. Napoleon struck the deal in 1800 after convincing King Charles IV of Spain to cede possession in a secret treaty (Blakemore, 2020). President Thomas Jefferson foresaw the deal in an 1802 letter to Pierre Samuel du Pont , terming it as the little event of France possessing Louisiana with an explosive potential to influence the destinies of the countries in the shores of the Atlantic (The Jefferson Monticello, 2020). Therefore, the details acquisition of Louisiana, which came as a surprise for the US envoy in France and President Jefferson, depicts a calculated move to use the most opportune moment to expand American territories.
The accounts on Jefferson’s motivation to strike the deal indicate significant concerns about the growing influence of colonialists as the driving factor. One can argue that Napoleon’s acceptance of the deal stemmed from a reverse application of the principles advocated by Jefferson as governing the relationship and conduct of Americans towards Indians – justice and fear ( Keller, 2000). After the injustices done to Americans by the colonialists, Napoleon predicted that the relationship between American and the French would not materialize into that of peace. The French would live in fear of attacks from Americans. The deal to dispose of Louisiana was an opportunity to rid France of a pressurizing issue. On the contrary, Jefferson’s move was from fear of the growing influence of France in the US. The presence of Spain in Louisiana accommodated the US interest, which primarily centered on the right to use of the Mississippi River for goods in transit to ocean vessels, a deal struck in 1795 (The Jefferson Monticello, 2020). France’s repossession of Louisiana was a threat to the US because the two had a provocative relationship. Due to events that unfolded as Louisiana changed hands, a conflict over the use of the Mississippi ensued immediately after.
Blakemore (2020) noted that the secret deal between France and Spain that revoked the deal allowing the US access to New Orleans caused substantial worry among the American leaders and residents of the affected cities that some threatened bloodshed. Justification of the fears is evident from the proclamation by Juan Ventura Morales . Morales, who accepted the administration duties of Louisiana awaiting the arrival of the French replacement, announced the expiry of the 1795 treaty between America and Spain (Harris, 2003). The implications of the proclamation were diverse and damaging. America had no right to use the Mississippi and could not store its goods in the warehouses in New Orleans (Harris). American goods remained exposed to thefts and damage from the weather. As a result, they were putting the economy of the entire territories of the country in jeopardy. Jefferson reiterated the need for New Orleans to remain open for America’s use, asserting that the possessor of the spot automatically became America’s number one natural and habitual enemy (Harris, 2003). The details highlighted to illustrate that the Louisiana Purchase was to preserve America’s economic interests, but the deal’s implications extended beyond this primary goal.
The impact the Louisiana Purchase had on America’s regional and global position was substantial. One can illustrate the developments by highlighting the extent of the land itself. Blakemore (2020) showed that Louisiana territory at the time stretched from the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico to the border with Canada. Therefore, in addition to ending the French colonial power and interests in American, the deal doubled the size of the country, allowing for the creation of fifteen additional states, while driving the westward expansion. The expansion ushered in a new era of social, economic, and political prosperity for America. However, the nation’s leaders subscribed to and advanced the same oppressive governance principles of the colonialists. Keller (2000) made a case of the Indian Removal campaign, which exacerbated the plight of Native Americans. The leaders developed an insatiable appetite for land that they developed policies to incorporate natives, purchase their land, or force them out through evictions (Keller). Also, the port at New Orleans, which then connected America to global trading routes, a major hub of the slave trade. According to Blakemore (2020), the Louisiana Purchase ushered in unfair treaties and genocidal and discriminatory policies that persist in today’s environment. It is evident that despite the noble intentions of the creator of the Louisiana Purchase, the deal became a double-edged sword that worsened the predicament of some minority groups in the US.
In conclusion, the Louisiana Purchase was a significant historical event that gave the US economic and political sovereignty. The deal was crucial in ending the influence of colonial powers that prohibited America to partake in economic and political discourses as it willed. The acquisition of Louisiana territory marked the beginning of America’s expansion towards economic and political maturity, a trend made possible by the increased direct contact with countries in Europe. However, the deal’s downside occurred following the persistence to acquire large tracts of land. This trend led to discriminatory practices that continue to create social, economic, and political inequalities across the US.
Balleck, B. J. (1992). When the ends justify the means: Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. Presidential Studies Quarterly , 679-696. https://www.jstor.com/stable/27551031
Blakemore, E. (2020). The Louisiana Purchase was a bargain. But it came at a great human cost. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/reference/united-states-history/louisiana-purchase-bargain-came-great-human-cost/
Cerami, C. A. (2004). Jefferson’s great gamble: the remarkable story of Jefferson, Napoleon and the men behind the Louisiana Purchase . Sourcebooks, Inc.
Harris, A. J. (2003). How the Louisiana Purchase changed the world . The Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-the-louisiana-purchase-changed-the-world-79715124/
Keller, C. B. (2000). Philanthropy betrayed: Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, and the origins of federal Indian removal policy. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society , 144 (1), 39-66. https://www.jstor.com/stable/1515604
The Jefferson Monticello. (2020). The Louisiana Purchase. https://www.monticello.org/thomas-jefferson/louisiana-lewis-clark/the-louisiana-purchase/