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The Trade That Changed America

By Luke Farberman

It has enough resources to support a country for centuries. It holds parts of 18 modern states and 48% of the United States population. For years after its discovery, brave adventurers dove into its depth to find unimaginable riches. The Louisiana Territory. This is the story of how it became a huge part of American history.

On May 2nd 1803 a paper known as the Louisiana Purchase was signed. It would grant the United States 828,000 square miles of fresh, unexplored land. It would have cost 11,250,000 dollars back then, 229,250,000 dollars today and 78,000,000 francs, but the United States was up to the task. To find out how France and the United States came to terms on the purchase we have to travel back 334 years to 1682.

On a canoe adventure in 1682, an explorer named Robert Cavelier de La Salle acquired the louisiana territory for france by placing a tablet along a riverbank near modern day New Orleans. It proclaimed that the louisiana territory was territory of King Louis XIV, the then-current king of France.

The Lousiana River valley


France held on to this territory until the end of the French and Indian war in 1762. As reparations for losing the war, France was told to give all land west of the mississippi to Spain. Finally a year later France gave up its mainland colonies, by giving the rest of its holdings east of the Mississippi to Great Britain.

The French and Indian War


In 1796, 33 years later France and Spain became allies to stop the growing might of the british empire in the new world. This alliance led to a secret treaty in 1801 called the Treaty of San Ildefonso between France and Spain. It stated that the Louisiana Territory would be handed back to france along with six Spanish warships.

The French and Spanish team up to fight the British 


But this was a problem for the Americans who had moved westward into Ohio and Tennessee. The problem was that Mississippi River was the lifeblood of the settlers. And under spanish control the settlers had access to the river. But under French control they would close access to New Orleans and the Mississippi for Americans.Which was vital to American settlers. This is where we have the beginnings of the idea to buy New Orleans and the Mississippi River came into play.

If in control of the Lousiana territory he French would not the american settlers across the Mississippi River into New Orleans.

So in 1802 US Minister France Robert Livingston was told by Us President Thomas Jefferson to negotiate with France for specific parts of the Louisiana Territory. It was then arranged that Livingston would meet with French minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand in Paris. The negotiations would rage on for 2 years with offers being thrown in for all sorts of things. Jefferson suggested 9.375 million dollars for just New Orleans but it was rejected.

Us Minister Frane Robert Livingstone is sent to Paris to negtiate the trade of New Orleans


Meanwhile back in the Americas the French were slow to take back control of New Orleans and in 1802 the Spanish were still in control. But sometime in 1802 the Spanish broke a previous treaty with the US by not letting Americans store goods in the city of New Orleans.  Did this worry Jefferson?


Americans are not aloud to store goods in New Orleans store houses due to Spanish law

It probably did so because he sent the future president of the US James Monroe to help continue negotiations with France. He also wrote a letter to Livingstone that stated: “The day that France takes possession of New Orleans…we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation”. This meant Jefferson was willing to ally with their former oppressors for control of louisiana. Another letter sent by Jefferson to Livingstone stated that a “French controlled louisiana” was a ‘Point of eternal friction.”


An Anglo-American Alliance would have been possible France continues to control the Lousiana territory

Even worse was the fact that several Us governors were ready to march on New Orleans. Alexander Hamilton suggested to Jefferson that the US should “seize at once on the Floridas and New Orleans and then negotiate.” Hamilton thought that if war was to happen they should take spanish florida. While the governor of Mississippi thought that he could take New Orleans with 600 soldiers. Another governor thought that was extremely too little of a force and 50,000 men must be used against the spanish defenders. Even Jefferson thought a solution of 80,000 men could be necessary.

An interseting and widely unkown fact was that sevral US officials were eager for  war and to snatch up New Orleans.

Back in paris, days before James Monroe arrived, a surprised Livingstone was asked if the United States would be willing to buy the whole of Louisiana for $11,250,000. This would mean buying land from the western rocky mountains up to the modern, cold Canadian border and down south to the gulf of Mexico. And it was only 3 million dollars more than Jefferson's original offer of 9.375 million for just New Orleans.

The Lousiana Territory becomes american Territory

The reason that the was offer made is still unknown to this day but two theories are: The failure of the french to put down a slave revolt in the Caribbean territory of Haiti or the need of money for france to survive the onslaught of the impending British blockade.

The two theories illlustrated

On April 30th the terms of purchase had been agreed on by both nations. This leads us back to May 2nd, the day when the paper was signed. The signatures from the United States were Robert Livingston and James Monroe. For France it was Barbé Marbois, The then-current treasury minister of france.

The Lousiana Purchase being signed and the date of the signing.

On July 4th Thomas Jefferson announced the purchase to the American public and on October 20th the document was ratified was by the US congress. Finally by December 30th 1803, the last day of 1803, the Louisiana Territory was American territory. In early 1804 the territory was granted territorial status and a territorial government as part of the United States. As it was humongous it was also split in two. Upper louisiana and lower louisiana.



On the day of the purchase livingstone said this  "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives...From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank."

But there was still a problem. When France and other European nations claimed the lands for their own, they didn't bother to explore the land. They just wanted territory in the new world for resources.They thought that they could just explore the land later. This is where the adventures of lewis, Clark and Sacagawea come into our story.Thomas Jefferson said this when talking about the meaning of the expedition;  “to find direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce with Asia.” But that's a tale for a another time.


Trade between Asia and North America

18 States would have parts in the Louisiana territory. They are Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota, Louisiana, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and parts of the canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. That is certainly a lot of states. The first one, Louisiana, was created exactly 9 years after the purchase on April 30th 1812. The last, New Mexico, was created on January 9th 1912. One whole century after the last state.

States in the Lousiana Purchase

In conclusion the Louisiana Purchase was a land trade between the nations of france and and the Unite States in the year 1803. It consisted of 828,000 square miles of land and cost the united states 11,250,000 dollars then. Which is 229,250,000 dollars in today's money but that is still dwarfed by the purchase of Mojang by Microsoft in 2014 which was sold for 2.5 Billion dollars. This means the lousiana purchase would have been incredibly cheap if it happened today! Anyway, the Louisiana Purchase changed american history forever in multiple ever lasting ways.

Thomas Jefferson

Born: April 2nd 1743

Died: July 4th 1826

Party: Democratic-Republican

# POTUS: 3rd

Presidential Term: 1801-1809















Napoleon Bonaparte

Born: August 15th 1769

Died: May 5th 1821

Party: Emperor

Reign: 1804-1814

Appendix 1




France Regains control over the lousiana teritory

The Lousiana Purchase is signed in Paris.

Slave Revolt in Santa Domingue in Hatiti. (French Territory). Postponing negotiations.

France loses the rest of the territory by giving the rest to Great Britan

France claims the Lousiana territory.

May 2nd 1802

Appendix 2 

Appendix 2 


Lousiana Teritory becomes a territory of the United States

United States enters negotiations with France for the Lousiana territory.

Terms are agreed on in Paris by US minister France Robert Livingstone and Barbé Marbois.

France and spain team up against britan to combat there growing power in the new world

France Loses most of the lousiana territory to spain after the losing the French and Indian War.


December 30th 1802


April 30th 1802