Louisiana Purchase Treaty

(1803)

In 1803 the United States signed the Louisiana Purchase Treaty and thus was able to nearly double its size by purchasing the Louisiana territory, consisting of about 829,000 square miles between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, from France at a cost of about three to four cents an acre. The purchase took place during the administration of President Thomas Jefferson, who was convinced that the United States needed access to the Gulf of Mexico at the port city of New Orleans. Shortly after he took office in 1801, he learned that Spain had ceded the Louisiana territory to France, then under the control of Napoléon Bonaparte. France wanted the territory because it would serve as a kind of breadbasket for France's colonies in the Caribbean, principally Haiti. Jefferson instructed his minister to France, Robert R. Livingston, to negotiate with France in an effort to keep New Orleans open to American shipping.


The French, however, lost their colony in Haiti as a...

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Thomas Jefferson (Library of Congress)

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