The Louisiana Purchase

As the United States continued to grow, people needed more land for farming and agriculture. Lands in the Northwest Territory started to become crowded and so people began to set their sights on westward expansion. In 1803, The United States purchased 828,000 square miles of territory in North America from France. This was known as The Louisiana Purchase.

President Thomas Jefferson sent Robert Livingston, the U.S. Minister to France, to Paris to negotiate the purchase of the New Orleans settlement from the French Minister Talleyrand and French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon refused to sell the land at first. He wanted the land to create an empire in the Americas.  

However, France was facing an impending war with Great Britain and was experiencing other economic difficulties and Napoleon soon found himself in need of money. James Monroe was sent to France to assist Robert Livingston in the negotiations and purchase. To their surprise, Napoleon and Talleyrand offered to sell all of the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million. Today that would be approximately $233 million.

Fifteen states were eventually created from the Louisiana Purchase, and it is considered one of Thomas Jefferson’s most important achievements. Americans expanded to the western territory immediately. President Jefferson commissioned explorations of the newly acquired territory led by Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. The first state to be created from the territory was Louisiana in 1812, becoming the 18th state of the United States.