Diary

RedState's Water Cooler - 4/30/17 - Open Thread - "Three Cents Per Acre"

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Land costs being what they are today, how would you feel about doubling the size of your property for three cents per acre?

Today, the RedState Department of History looks back at when the United States did just that — the anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase is today.

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson learned of Spain’s intention to transfer Spanish Louisiana to France. Jefferson ordered Robert Livingston, the U.S. Minister to France, to broker a deal with Napoleon which would either give the United States land on the lower part of the Mississippi River or guarantee access to the Port of New Orleans. Worsening tensions between Spain and the United States eventually barred American ships entry into New Orleans, so Jefferson decided to “go big or go home’, as it were.

He instructed Livingston and James Monroe to purchase all of the Louisiana Territory — with France needing capital to fund a pending war with Great Britain, they certainly needed the money — and at a stroke, the United States of America roughly doubled in size.

The purchase involved the territory of all or part of 15 future states as well as two Canadian provinces:

The territory contained land that forms Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River (plus New Orleans); and small portions of land within the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its non-native population was around 60,000 inhabitants, of whom half were African slaves.”

The agreement, which was signed in Paris on April 30, 1803, faced opposition from Federalists, who argued that it was unconstitutional for the United States to acquire territory. Jefferson countered that the Constitution’s vesting the President with the power to negotiate treaties was sufficient, and eventually Congress agreed. A House resolution denying the purchase failed 59-57, and the sale went forward.

The end results were these:

Approximately 828,000,000 square miles of territory was transferred from French to American control for $15,000,000 — $11,275,000 in purchase price plus $3,725,000 in outstanding French debt to the United States. That works out to about three cents per acre.

Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery Expedition from 1804-06. Americans know this better as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, designed to explore the territory purchased from France.

Other historical notes from today:

April 30, 1789 – George Washington is inaugurated as the first President of the United States.

April 30, 1945 – Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin bunker, as Soviet troops close in. The exact circumstances of his suicide remain shrouded in controversy.

As always, the Water Cooler is an open thread, so enjoy the thread as well as your Sunday!