The Louisiana Purchase
The 30th of April 1803 AD
In 1803 The USA still consisted of the original 13 states lost by Britain in the War of Independence . The Louisiana Purchase on April 30 1803 roughly doubled the size of the country at a stroke of the pen.
President Thomas Jefferson had wished to secure the port of New Orleans for his fledgling nation, as it was vital for export trade and for access to the interior of the continent via the Mississippi River. Negotiators were sent to Paris from the USA to try to purchase first that city, then the city and some of its hinterland. They were offered, however, the more than 800,000 square miles of Louisiana, which stretched from the Gulf Coast to Canada (even including two small areas now part of Canada), and west to the Rockies.
Napoleon had several reasons for the offer: he had failed to retake Haiti after its slave rebellion, damaging French hopes in the region; although the Treaty of Amiens still held, renewed war with Britain loomed and he required a boost to France’s finances accordingly; and he claimed that by strengthening the USA he was creating a future rival to British sea-power.
The Purchase only passed through Congress by two votes, arguments against it including that it was not covered by the constitution; that by adding more than 90,000 ‘foreigners’ to the population it would change the make-up of the country (likewise tipping the balance from traders towards farmers); and that France didn’t actually own the land (bypassed in a subsequent choreographed series of agreements including the supposed owners, Spain.
It is interesting to note that the financial exchange was handled by Barings of London, who thus helped bankroll Napoleon’s renewed European ambitions, for which the bankers were well rewarded.
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