Why was Thomas Jefferson's authorization of the Louisiana Purchase controversial?  

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Jefferson’s authorization of the Louisiana Purchase was controversial. The decision was a hard one for Jefferson to make, even though, to many people, it seemed like the obvious decision was to buy the land that was being offered to us by France.

The Louisiana Purchase would have doubled the size of the country if we made the purchase. It would have given us control of the Mississippi River as well as the port at New Orleans. The Mississippi River and the port of New Orleans were essential for western farmers and for our western trade. The farmers depended on the river and the port to get their products to market. It seemed like it was an obvious decision to buy the land.

However, the Constitution said nothing about the President having the authority to buy land. Those who believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution, including Thomas Jefferson himself, believed we can only do what the Constitution specifically says we can do. Thus, a person who interpreted the Constitution in a strict manner felt it wasn’t possible to make the land purchase because the Constitution didn’t specifically say the President could buy land. Thus, for some people, the decision to buy this land was very controversial. Fortunately, the President was persuaded to buy the land, and the United States doubled its size for $15 million.