In the 1700's France began to explore and claim many areas of land in, and to the west of,
the Mississippi River Valley. (1) By the beginning of the 19 th Century the French controlled more of
the modern United States than any other European nation. This made France a very important
asset in acquiring the modern American territories.
In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson sent U.S. Minister, Robert Livingston, to France in
an attempt to obtain the port of New Orleans from the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
However, after extreme difficulties in Europe, he was in desperate need of money and offered
New Orleans and the entirety of the Louisiana territory (2) for fifteen million dollars, or “about four
cents an acre, was a breathtaking bargain.” (3) Being signed on May 2, 1803, the Louisiana
Purchase instantly doubled the size of the United States. (4)
The Louisiana territory was absolutely enormous; stretching from the northern tip of
modern Texas north to the Canadian border, and west to the Rocky Mountains, totaling well over
eight hundred thousand square miles (5) . The Louisiana Purchase was also massively important
because the United States might have gone to war for the Louisiana territories, greatly damaging,
and possibly destroying, the infant Republic’s relations with the French empire.
(1) History. “Louisiana Purchase.” History.com. (Accessed May 1, 2019) https://www.history.com/topics/westward-
(2) Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “The Louisiana Purchase.” Monticello.org (Accessed May 1, 2019)
(3) Harris, Joseph. A. “How the Louisiana Purchase Changed the World.”Smithsonianmag.com (Accessed May 1,
(4) Harris. “How the Louisiana Purchase Changed the World.”