The Louisiana Purchase

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Why was Jefferson hesitant to make the Louisiana Purchase?  

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The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was the greatest accomplishment of Thomas Jefferson's presidency. His reservations about the deal stemmed from constitutional questions.

The Louisiana Purchase came about by accident. The United States merely wanted to secure control of New Orleans and small areas adjacent to it. Jefferson's representatives, upon arriving in France, were surprised to learn that Napoleon wanted to sell the entire Louisiana territory. The sale was a bargain for the United States, and it doubled the size of the country.

Jefferson did not know if the deal was constitutional, however. The Constitution did not have any instructions on the purchase of territory. Jefferson thought about a constitutional amendment to authorize the purchase, but the passage of an amendment would have taken too much time, and Napoleon might have changed his mind. Jefferson decided that the power to make treaties was sufficient.

The Louisiana Purchase, constitutional issues aside, was one of the most important events in American history.

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Thomas Jefferson was hesitant to make the Louisiana Purchase even though it was a great deal for the United States. The United States originally offered France $10 million for New Orleans and West Florida. Napoleon, who had plans for a big war in Europe and no longer had a need for land in North America, countered with an even better offer. He would sell us the entire Louisiana Purchase for $15 million. If we agreed to this purchase, the size of the United States would double.

There are two ways to interpret the Constitution. Those who believe in a loose view of the Constitution believe it is acceptable to interpret the meaning of it. Those who believe in a strict view of the Constitution believe a person can only do what the Constitution specifically says you can do. Thomas Jefferson was a believer in the strict view of the Constitution. Since there was no wording in the Constitution that says that a President can buy land, Jefferson hesitated to make the Louisiana Purchase. Fortunately, Jefferson was persuaded to make the deal, doubling the size of the country in 1803.

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