President Jefferson put the interests of the nation above ideological considerations when confronted with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. When Robert Livingston and James Monroe returned from Paris with the 1803 Louisiana Territory Purchase Treaty, President Thomas Jefferson was faced with a dilemma. Jefferson had sent Monroe to Paris to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans for $2 million. A treaty selling the United States all of the territory was another matter and posed Constitutional issues for the leader of a party that believed in strict construction (interpretation) of the Constitution. Jefferson and the Congress had already authorized the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but not with the intent of owning the vast lands.
Constitutional Issues and Federalist Opposition
The Constitution did not appear to give direct assent to the purchase of land from another country. To remedy this, Jefferson, not wishing to violate his views of Constitutional construction, drafted two Amendments, the first one being lengthy and detailing all aspects of the purchase. His Cabinet rejected the notion of an Amendment, pointing out that the deadline for ratification of the treaty was October, not nearly enough time to ratify a Constitutional Amendment. Further, the Congress was not in session.
Congress was called into a special session to deal with the issue. It was Jefferson’s Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, who pointed out that the Constitution allowed for th
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