The Louisiana Purchase

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1. Describe the events leading to the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. Discuss the terms of the treaty and how Jefferson reconciled his strict interpretation of the Constitution with the acquisition of the territory.

Before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the entire Louisiana territory covered what is today known as the Midwest. The purchase of the land was a monumental step in the expansion of the United States. Thomas Jefferson became the 2nd president of the United States in 1800 and assumed control in 1801. He envisioned a society of independent farmers that were free from the restraints of industrial towns and the mobs of European cities (Brinkley p. 181).

In 1763, France lost control of the Louisiana Territory to Great Britain. Under the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800, France regained control of Louisiana in an acquisition that Napoleon Bonaparte hoped would become the heart of the great French empire in America (Brinkley p. 200). Napoleon envision a French empire that would control much of the trade and establish French dominance in the New World. All was not well within the French empire though; African slaves in San Domingo would revolt under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture in the West Indies. Napoleon would have to send an army to restore order in the Indies. This revolt was but the start of the problems of Napoleon realizing his ambitions in America (Brinkley p. 200).

Thomas Jefferson had begun to reconsider his association with France after he learned of the secret treaty in which France regained Louisiana. Jefferson had become even more alarmed in the fall of 1802 when he learned that the Spanish intendant who controlled the Louisiana Territory had announced a new regulation (Brinkley p. 200). American vessels had long used the Mississippi River as a supply route to get cargo to New Orleans in order to load ocean bound ships for export. The new regulation revealed by the Spanish forbade the use of the...
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