Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase

President Thomas Jefferson expanded the bounds of his time as president and betrayed his republican tendencies by favoring desired results over executive self-control. Those that showed this viewpoint often brag their claim by pointing to Jefferson’s own look on the matter, which held that the Louisiana Purchase was not allowed short of an amendment in the Constitution. But was the Louisiana Purchase truly going against something in the constitution? In 1803, Jefferson sent two very important figures, Robert Livingston and James Monroe to France to talk with them about the purchase of New Orleans. New Orleans was most desirable because it would allow easy ways to travel up the Mississippi River and the opportunity to expand in the west. This mission was so important to Jefferson that he said to Monroe All eyes, all hopes, are now fixed on you, for on the event of this mission depends the future destinies of this republic.

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        Jefferson’s management was shocked when Napoleon Bonaparte offered all of the land of Louisiana to the U.S rather than New Orleans. Seeing the area as wrong and meaningless in comparison to France’s war with Britian, Napoleon’s offer would give up Louisiana for 15 million dollars. After agreeing to terms with Napoleon, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the peacekeepers sent word of this amazing deal they just struck to the White House. Receiving Louisiana for such a low price seemed like a miracle gift for the U.S. Jefferson didn’t think it was constitutional. Jefferson very firmly maintained the government didn’t have the power to buy foreign territory even though he wanted to buy it.

        However, he admitted that there was a fix available to legalize the Louisiana Purchase by way of adding a constitutional amendment. Jefferson sent a change to the congress that said: Louisiana, as given up by France to the United States is now the United States territory. Its white residents will be citizens and stand, as to their rights and duties, on the same footing with other citizens of the U.S in the same situations. Saved as only a portion of it lying north of an east and west line drawn through the Arkansas River, no state will be established or make money off the land other than Indians in exchange for equal amounts of land occupied by them, until authorized by further change to the Constitution will be made for these purposes. Jefferson thought that the United States did not have the power of holding foreign land and so a change to the Constitution seemed necessary to buy the area. Several of Jefferson’s cabinet members wrote letters that gave a good reason for the treaty on constitutional grounds, and did not agree with Jefferson. As Jefferson remained unwilling to accept the treaty short of the addition, James Monroe made steps to convince Jefferson to drop his objections and accept the treaty. The chief leaders working against the diplomats at this time and after receiving cross continental warnings, Madison became concerned that Napoleon might go back on his word. Unfortunately, the process through which a change to the Constitution was approved was completely opposite to the interests of the hurrying. Even the Bill of Rights in 1791 took over two years to get approved by the states, and the fast mobilization of the states to accept the change couldn’t be promised that something will happen.

        In the end, Thomas Jefferson agreed with his cabinet and James Madison, hoping that the treaty’s benefits are worth it in the end. Just as he did this some Congress members launched a campaign to deliberately destroy the deal. Some alleged that Louisiana belonged to Spain instead of France, but these concerns were calmed when records proved the recent transition between the two. Believing that Louisiana would reduce the power of New England and Massachusetts, Senator Timothy Pickering suggested that his state should break off from the union if Louisiana were bought. Senator James Hillhouse from Connecticut joined, declaring that the eastern states must and will end the union and form a separate government. Even though the senate made anti treaty rumblings from New England, most of the senate thought the treaty was agreeing with the Constitution. The body agreed to approve it by a large margin of 24 to 7 and the treaty started to take affect legally. Among those in favor James Randolph from Roanoke, who would later split with Jefferson over perceived the treaty’s wrong actions. Doubling the size of the country for three cents per acre.

        The federal government often started bad behavior even during the first Congress that interfered with the original plan of the Constitution. Under the Constitution the president has the power to make treaties with the advice and permission of the senate. Working out this power demands a dividing line of two thirds of the senators vote to put any treaty into legal affect. When the Constitution was approved in the 18th century, four types of treaties were common: treaties of friendly partnership, peace, commerce, and land purchase. During the approval campaign in the states the treaty making power was often described in terms that included all types of agreements between countries, but several federalists suggested that the same power held in England by the king would be divided in the U.S. by the president and senate. Of course treaties get land from foreign countries were within the extent of this power.

        In 1795, the treaty of Basal saw the transition of many areas of land between kingdoms in Europe, a result of the French Revolutionary Wars. Just years before the Purchase, Louisiana was sold to France by Spain in 1800. Each of these land based exchanges were proper under and understanding of the treaty’s power as it was related to the laws of nation a set of legal normal behaviors that were accepted greatly. As treasury secretary Albert Gallatin wrote The existence of the U.S. as a nation believes the power enjoyed by every nation of extending their territory by agreements between countries and the power given to the president and senate of making treaties selects the organ through the purchase may be made. Why was an agreement to buy the city of New Orleans was not considered a constitutional deed by Jefferson? Jefferson did not show any constitutional doubts to buy New Orleans before the offer to buy all of Louisiana came up. He never defined a difference between the two, though land treaties were permitted by the Constitution it seemed obvious that it was a constitutional act before Jefferson ever said anything about it.

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Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. (2019, Aug 16). Retrieved February 2, 2023 , from

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