Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the U.S.

J. H. Osborne • May 6, 2019 at 12:30 PM

At $15 million, the Louisiana Purchase might sound like a relatively small real estate deal in today’s market. But it nearly doubled the size of the United States when it was signed on April 30, 1803.

According to the National Archives:

• In this transaction with France, the United States purchased 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million.

• That amounts to roughly four cents an acre.

• The lands acquired stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. Thirteen states were carved from the Louisiana Territory.

• Robert Livingston and James Monroe signed the Louisiana Purchase Treaty in Paris on April 30, 1803.

• They had been authorized to pay France up to $10 million for the port of New Orleans and the Floridas.

• When offered the entire territory of Louisiana — an area larger than Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal combined — the American negotiators swiftly agreed to a price of $15 million (80 million francs).

• President Thomas Jefferson was a strict interpreter of the Constitution who wondered if the U.S. government was authorized to acquire new territory.

• But Jefferson also was “a visionary who dreamed of an ‘empire for liberty’ that would stretch across the entire continent.”

• Jefferson moved forward with deal the when Napoleon (France’s leader) threatened to take the offer off the table, clearing the way for the westward expansion of the U.S. to “occupy a land of unimaginable riches.”

The Louisiana Purchase Agreement is made up of the Treaty of Cession and the two conventions regarding the financial aspects of the transaction.

• Details of the two conventions: the first for payment of $11,250,000; the second to settle claims American citizens had made against France for $3,750,000.

Source: The National Archives, citing information excerpted from Stacey Bredhoff, American Originals (Seattle: The University of Washington Press, 2001), p. 26.

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