The negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase involving French and American
diplomats, Robert Livingston, James Monroe and Marbois
Painting 19th Century
(Picture courtesy of Louisiana Old State Capitol)
While the treaty for Louisiana was being negotiated, debates on its constitutionality were raging at home. Many people questioned the PresidentÕs actions as well as his motives. There was a split between the New England based Federalists who argued that acquiring the land was done in haste and would cause decreased property values, a favoring of Western states in Congress, bankruptcy, and even a break up of the union; however the Jeffersonian Republicans countered that the president was trying to preserve republicanism and prevent societal decay in the country caused by overpopulation. They argued that Jefferson acted for the common good. Both groups, as well as others were, in debate over whether the Constitution even allowed for the sale of Louisiana without a majoirty of approval from the states. Following the purchase, Spain began to protest, first citing that France did not have the right to sell the land and then that the United States was claiming wider borders then had been agreed. They feared that the door to Spanish lands in Mexico, Texas and California had been opened and a flood of U. S. aggressions would follow. These disagreements nearly turned into a full-scale war between the two countries, which was averted by SpainÕs capitulation in the face of American force done by the handing over of the disputed areas to the United States. Finally, with the Louisiana Purchase, the country had doubled its territory almost overnight and it enabled the push to the Pacific. While Jefferson and his supporters claimed the treaty was solely commercial, many saw it as the beginning of American Imperialism, which had begun in the early settlement period with the unquenchable need for new lands.1
Ò It is the case of a guardian investing money of his
ward in purchasing an important adjacent territory and saying to him, I
did this for your own goodÉ I thought it my duty to risk myself for you.Ó
Thomas Jefferson- Painted by Rembrandt Peale
1805- Courtesy of Jeff Eyler
|Jefferson seemed to have mixed feelings during the course of the negotiations. He claimed that the countryÕs interest in Louisiana was purely commercial and that the primary goal was to acquire free navigation in the Gulf of Mexico which had been closed earlier by the Spanish. Jefferson was also a supporter of state's rights and strict constructionism (extremely literal interpretation of the Constitution) and he knew that in order to be a legal treaty, an amendment to the Constitution would be needed. France, however fearing an English- American combining force demanded a definite answer quickly or threatened to withdraw the treaty. Jefferson attempted to draft an amendment but was pressured by advisors to abandon this idea because they feared his Òratify then amendÓ plan would seem like he knew he was in direct violation of the Constitution and had proceed regardless. Jefferson agreed, he wanted to extend the country because he thought expansion was morally right and assumed that most of the country agreed. He submitted the Treaty of Cession to Congress on October 17, 1803 under the theory of national necessity, which claimed that the President or Congress could ignore the Constitution in order to protect the nationÕs interests.2|
The front page and preamble
of the United States Constitution
What were the powers given to the President by the Constitution? It did give the government the right to make treaties but it did not give authority for new territory acquisition without approval from the states, which was the situation with the Louisiana Purchase. There were many different responses to this problem; some said to acquire the territory simply by changing the known boundaries of the country and eliminating the need to receive approval from the Congress and some claimed the Louisiana Purchase was a national emergency which justified stretching the constitution. Jefferson agreed with the latter opinion and eventually after two days debate and no thorough examination, the treaty was rammed through the Senate by 24-7 and ratified on October 20, 1803.3
|Problems with the treaty were not only national
scope; Spain began to protest the acquisition before the treaty had been signed. In 1762 France had given Louisiana to Spain but later had demanded it back when the Spanish empire began to crumble. Spain agreed but only if France promised never to sell the lands, which would protect Spanish interests in North America. Spain feared AmericaÕs aggressiveness towards Texas and Mexico, and in April 1803 Carlos Martinez de Irujo, the Spanish minister to America said that France had no right to sell Louisiana because the two countries had never agreed on a transfer and the land still technically belonged to Spain. They declared the treaty null and void and it was seen as a personal insult to King Carlos IV. While France and the United States basically ignored these justified protests, Spain prepared for war in the areas of West Florida, Texas and the frontier. They developed a four-fold plan, which involved banning foreigners, colonizing Texas, gaining support from the Indians and intercepting American exploration expeditions. America also feared that a war was inevitable and mobilized troops along the Mississippi River. Eventually Spain realized the hopelessness of their legally strong but strategically weak position and capitulated to American demands. Louisiana went to French rule temporarily for twenty three days and on December 20, 1803 Lassaut, the French minister to the United States, delivered the rights to the territory to the country. Spain hoped that by appeasing Jefferson they could save East and West Florida and Texas from future expansion.4
Spain viewed the United State's actions as a personal insult to the country and to the king.
Painted by T.J. Lopez Enguidanes- Early 19th Century
(Image courtesy of Louisiana State Museum)
Map of the United States and North America in 1803-The
United States area is outlined in red.
Map printed in 1803, Jean Baptiste Poirson
(Image courtesy of Louisiana Old State Capitol)
Spain may have appeased the United States and avoided
war but new conflicts soon arose. In the Treaty of Cession, the boundaries
of the new land had been vague. They ran south from CanadaÕs Lake of the
Woods, in central Southern Canada, to New Orleans and then west from the
Mississippi River to the Rocky Mts. In an area that held 100,000 people
with only half that population being white, most were concentrated around
New Orleans with other areas being covered by wilderness. In trying to
decide how to govern the area, Congress passed a bill in March 1804 dividing
the land into two parts with the northern half being the District of Louisiana
and the southern part, the Territory of New Orleans. Jefferson wanted to
have exploration of the borders for three more years but in the meantime
took advantage of the frontier ambiguities.
The area in question concerned West Florida, a strip of land on the Gulf Coast containing the mouths of many rivers and Mobile Bay, a navigable port. Marbois, French minister in charge of the negotiations for his country, said that France had not given this area over in the treaty, however Robert Livingston of the U.S.A. urged Jefferson to take it anyway. This was part of the new American attitude of boundaries; most people did not want any impediment to expansion. Jefferson offered to purchase West and East Florida for 2.5 million dollars in 1804 and even sent James Monroe to Spain to negotiate. Spain still refused, claiming that the Floridas had been received from England in 1783 and France did not legally have the right to give them to any country. Irujo, the Spanish minister continued to protest the boundaries even as America started to absorb quietly the area in West Florida with settlers and troops. Also, France had recently joined SpainÕs position that the U.S.A. was not correct in interpreting the land boundaries as a war with England had made France dependent on Spain and situated them as allies. This created a powerful front against America and in May 1804 Monroe was forced to admit his negotiations with Spain were a failure. President Jefferson was ready for war and many in the country felt that expansion was assured.5
An 1810 map which now shows the new boundaries of the United States after Spain had conceded the territories in question- This new area is shown through the grey line on the map extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the edge of California
Map printed by Thomas Condor- 1810
(Image courtesy of the Louisiana Old State Capitol)
Conflict and Resolution
Images courtesy of The Louisiana State Museum
Spain continued to respond to the American threat by posting
troops in Texas and East of the Sabine River, which was territory the U.S.
had claimed. In New Orleans, Governor Claiborne, who was in charge of that
area, called up the militia and in West Florida a failed coup was started
against Spanish rule. The Spanish retaliated by sending more troops into
the Floridas and preparing to block the ports of Texas to the Americans.
Spain was ready for war and figured that they would have little to loose.
Jefferson again urged the country to fight claiming the national honor
had been insulted. It was at this point that Napoleon attempted to step
in and arbitrate peace by offering the U.S. a secret deal to buy the Floridas,
with the money going to France. When put before Congress, this action was
met with cries of selling out to the French and accusations of creating
national dishonor but Jefferson managed to bypass this majority of negative
voices and pass the Two Million Dollar Act in 1806, two million dollars
being the sum to be paid to France for the acquisition of the Floridas.
This amount was however three million short of what Napoleon had demanded
and he then used this as a cause to continue to urge Spain to war thus
rendering his peace talks a failure. Negotiations continued for a few more
months but none were successful and the border conflicts continued.6
|The final outcome of the crisis resulted in Spain losing all influence in the United State's territories. In 1810 Americans in West Florida rebelled, capturing the territory and asked for inclusion into the U.S. and in 1813 the final part of West Florida was annexed. This foreshadowed Spain's eventual loss of Texas and California, both of which fell victim to the insatiable desire for new lands by the Americans.7|
Hoisting the American Colors, Louisiana
Cession, 1803- Painted by Thure de Thulstrup- 1903
(Image courtesy of Louisiana State Museum)
Imperialism From 1803 to the Present
The Louisiana Purchase- The beginning of a national trend
(Image courtesy of Louisiana Tourism Board)
The American drive for expansion began in Jamestown when the settlers pushed into Indian lands, and it continued into the Revolution. In the peace talks, provisions for Westward expansion were included and in 1796, Federalists papers published by that political group, speculated on acquiring Louisiana. The idea of a country spanning the continent began to be developed and few questioned expansion in America, which they viewed as an Òanything goesÓ affair. With the additional 250,000 square miles, the Louisiana Purchase brought 1/3 of the continent into the hands of America. Jefferson was a supporter of expansion who ultimately brought the idea of an empire into reality and he was supported by Monroe and Livingston who purchased the land with no real authority other than good intentions. "The Louisiana Purchase placed the force of the Constitution behind that of an imperial thrust." (Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana) 8
A map of the United States and North America- 1853- In 50 years the
country had grown from coast to coast
Map printed in 1862- Johnson and Ward
(Image courtesy of Louisiana Old State Capitol)
The Louisiana Purchase helped launch the future expansion
of the country and gave form to the idea of Manifest Destiny, that is the
innate right of the U.S.A. to expand across the continent. By 1853 the
country went from coast to coast with the territory eventually becoming
the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota,
Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, eastern Wyoming and Montana,
parts of Colorado, a small part of New Mexico and also a bit of Texas.
This need for land eventually expanded to include foreign colonies but
begun in 1803 with the first major push west. 9
The Louisiana Purchase was ratified by three treaties.
1. The Treaty of Cession- established the price of duty France and Spain would pay for shipping into the port of New Orleans and made provisions for incorporating the people in the area as citizens.
2. The Convention for Payment- established the price the U.S. would pay for the land.
3. The Convention for the Payment of Claims- took up payment to U.S. citizens for French contracts which had been broken and resulted is a loss of property.10
2. Wilson E. Lyon, The Man Who Sold Louisiana: The Career of Francois Barbe-Marbois (Norman OK: University of OK Press, 1942), 119. ; Barry J. Balleck, Ò When the ends justify the means: Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase,Ó Presidential Studies Quarterly 22 (Fall 1992): 679.; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: LA State University Press, 1976), 185, 187.; Ibid, 184. ;Ibid, 185, 187, 188.
3. No author given, The Negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase Baton Rouge: LA Department of State, available from http://www.sec.la.us/purchase/purchase-iondex.htm.; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: LA State University Press, 1976), 182.; Ibid. 182, 184.; Ibid. 187, 188.
4. Wilson E. Lyon, Louisiana In French Diplomacy: The Career of Francois Barbe-Marbois (Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934), 231.; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: LA State University Press, 1976), 193. ; Ibid. 194; Ibid. 198, 201; Ibid. 202; Ibid. 205, 208;
5. Ibid. 209; Thomas Maitland Marshall, A history of the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase (Berkely CA: University of CA Press, 1914), 15.; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: LA State University Press, 1976), 213.; Ibid. 213-215; Thomas Maitland Marshall, A History of the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase (Berkely CA: University of CA Press, 1914), 18.; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: LA University Press, 1976), 223, 224.
6. Ibid. 227, 228; Ibid. 229-231; Ibid. 232-234; Ibid. 235;
7. Ibid. 239, 240;
8. Ibid. 245, 247; Ibid. 248; Page Stegner, ÒBeyond the Sunset,Ó Sierra 85 (May 2000) : 44.; Alexander DeConde, This Affair of Louisiana (Baton Rouge: LA State University Press, 1976), 250, 251.; Ibid. 252.
9. Ibid. 254.
10. No author given, The Negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase Baton Rouge: LA Department of State, available from http://www.sec.la.us/purchase/purchase-iondex.htm