Please explain the circumstances around the Louisiana Purchase.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

France had claimed the Louisiana Territory in the 1600's. However, in 1763, they ceded their right to most of the territory to Spain. The U.S. had a treaty with Spain that allowed the use New Orleans without paying a duty on their goods. In 1800, Napoleon arranged a treaty with Spain to retake the territory. This alarmed many Americans, including President Jefferson, because they were afraid of French control of such an important area to the the United States. Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris to try to buy the area from France. At first, Napoleon was reluctant but eventually he realized he needed money because he was about to fight a war with England. He realized his troops would not be able to defend Louisiana so the Americans might simply annex the territory. So, he agreed to sell the territory to the U.S. for $15 million. The only problem was that Jefferson did not believe he had the constitutional authority to make such a purchase. Eventually, after consulting with his advisors, Jefferson agreed that the powers given to the President to negotiate treaties were sufficient to allow him to make the purchase. The U.S. Government borrowed the money from English and Dutch banks and eventually paid $27 million in loans and interest for this huge amount of land which doubled the size of the United States.