Opposing Viewpoints: Jefferson and the Lousiana Purchase

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Jefferson Goes Against His Own Philosophy: Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America in 1803 of 828,000 square miles of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana. The Louisiana territory encompassed all or part of 15 current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. At the time, the purchase faced domestic opposition because it was thought to be unconstitutional. Although Thomas Jefferson agreed that the U.S. Constitution did not contain provisions for acquiring territory, he decided to go right ahead with the purchase anyway in order to remove France's presence in the region and to protect both U.S. trade access to the port of New Orleans and free passage on the Mississippi River. Thomas Jefferson was strongly anti-federalist. While he might have written the Declaration of Independence, he definitely did not author the Constitution. Instead, that document was mainly written by James Madison. Jefferson spoke against a strong federal government and instead advocated states' rights. He feared tyranny of any kind and only recognized the need for a strong, central government in terms of foreign affairs. He felt that all powers given to the National Government were enumerated. If they were not expressly mentioned in the Constitution then they were reserved to the states. By completing this purchase, Jefferson had to put aside his principles because the allowance for this type of transaction was not expressly listed in the Constitution. Jefferson's philosophical consistency was in question because of his strict interpretation of the Constitution. Many people believed Jefferson were being hypocritical by doing something they surely would have argued against with Alexander Hamilton. There were several effects of Jefferson's decision to go against his own philosophy. It can be argued that his taking liberties with the Constitution in the name of need would lead to future Presidents feeling justified...
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