The Louisiana Purchase

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Why Did Napoleon Sell The Louisiana Territory To Jefferson

Why did Napoleon sell the Louisiana Purchase to the United States?

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The above answer is only partially correct. Napoleon was indeed in need of funds to prosecute his ongoing wars with Britain and other European powers, and the sale of land to the United States did provide some revenue for him; but it was more of a "fire sale" than anything else. The final purchase price was less than two cents per acre, an excellent price even in those days. Napoleon was not so desperate at that point in time that he had to "sell the farm," so to speak. His real motive for selling to the U.S. is still vague, but several circumstances shed light on the issue:

Napoleon had only acquired the territory himself three years earlier in a Treaty with Spain. He had made promises to the Spanish which he frankly did not intend to keep. It is quite likely that Napoleon had no interest in ever retaining the property. In the meantime, Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United States, was concerned that the French might try to close the port of New Orleans to American traffic. The Mississippi River at that point was the nation's primary port; if the U.S. were to lose access to New Orleans, the country might be strangled economically. Although Jefferson was something of a Francophile and had little use for the British, he realized that such a situation might require him to negotiate with the British, simply because they were at war with France and Napoleon. Jefferson was so concerned that he wrote to his ambassador in France:

The day that France takes possession of New Orleans, we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.

Although Napoleon's true motives are still a matter of conjecture, a major factor was a slave revolt in the French island of Santo Domingue (present day Haiti,) the only truly successful slave revolt in the Americas. It is entirely possible that the loss of this island possession caused Napoleon to further ose interest in North...

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