Louisiana Territory: History, Facts & Map

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Brian Muhammad

The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory was one of the defining moments of American History. Learn more about the history of the Louisiana Territory and test your knowledge with a quiz.

We also recommend watching Thomas Jefferson's Presidency: Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark, and More and Gerald Ford: Biography, Presidency & Facts

Definition

The Louisiana Territory contained all (or at least some portion) of 15 present-day US states and two Canadian provinces. This land was acquired by the United States in 1803 for the sum of $15 million dollars.

The Louisiana Territory nearly doubled the size of the U.S.
Louisiana Territory

Before the Purchase

From the late 1600s, France had claimed the Louisiana Territory. In their desire for land, France fought Britain in the French and Indian War from 1754-1763. Once the war ended, France had to give Spain the Louisiana Territory. This was compensation for Spanish assistance to the French during the war. In 1800, Spain offered Americans free access to shipping and encouraged settlement in the Louisiana Territory. However, the Spanish governor of New Orleans, stopped allowing the export of produce and other goods through the city. A secret treaty was negotiated between Spain and France in which the Louisiana Territory was returned to France on October 1, 1800.

The Purchase

President Thomas Jefferson was well aware at the potential threat France posed in the Louisiana Territory. In April 1802, Jefferson instructed Robert R. Livingston, the U.S. Minister to France,to travel to France and negotiate with the French. Livingston's mission was to purchase New Orleans for $2 million dollars.

President Thomas Jefferson wanted to expand the size of the U.S.
Thomas Jefferson

Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France in 1799, and he wanted to use the Louisiana Territory as a source of food and trade. However, France was already engaged in war with Haiti, which Napoleon would later abandon. Napoleon had lost thousands of soldiers in battle and to the yellow fever in Haiti. Napoleon was in desperate need of cash if he wanted to engaged in other European conquests.

Napoleon no longer had use for the Louisiana Territory
Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon made a counter offer to Robert Livingstone and Secretary of State James Monroe. He was willingly to not only give up New Orleans but the entire Louisiana Territory. The documents were signed on April 30, 1803 and on December 20, 1803, the U.S. finally took possession of the Louisiana Territory.

Importance of the Louisiana Purchase

With the purchase of the new territory the land area of the America nearly doubled. The lands of the Louisiana Purchase were settled by the 1890s, and the country would now extend from coast to coast. No longer would the United States be worried about the French or Spanish being a threat along the border.

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