Was the Louisiana Purchase a moral dilemma for President Jefferson?
The issue of whether to purchase Louisiana from France was something of a moral issue for President Thomas Jefferson. It was a moral issue because it challenged his beliefs about the Constitution. In the end, Jefferson put aside his moral qualms and completed the purchase.
Thomas Jefferson believed in what is called “strict construction” of the Constitution. That is, he believed the United States government could only do things the Constitution specifically said it could do. Jefferson believed this because he believed it was dangerous for the national government to have a lot of power. Because the government was dangerous, it was necessary to limit its powers to those explicitly spelled out in the Constitution.
This was a problem for Jefferson when he had the opportunity to buy Louisiana from France. Buying this huge mass of land would clearly help the United States greatly, but there was nothing in the Constitution that said the president could buy land from a foreign country. That meant making the purchase would be, in Jefferson’s eyes, unconstitutional. Because of this, Jefferson had a moral dilemma. Did he stick with his beliefs, or did he make this purchase that would clearly benefit his country?
In the end, Jefferson went ahead and bought Louisiana. He had to confront a moral dilemma when deciding whether to do so, though.