The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: The U.S. Gets a Lot Bigger

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 20, 2016 at 5:15 AM

On this day (December 20) in 1803 the Louisiana Purchase was finalized in New Orleans. The transaction added 828,000 square miles to the United States at a cost of roughly $15 million ($250 million in 2016 currency). The territory included land from fifteen states and two Canadian provinces: all of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and portions of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Louisiana, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Sixty thousand non-Native Americans lived in the territory, half of whom were African slaves.

 

Napoleon was willing to sell the Louisiana Territory in part because his failure to re-establish slavery in San Domingue (modern day Haiti) had created a great setback to his plans to establish a western hemisphere empire. When war with Britain threatened to resume, Napoleon realized that he could not defend his American possessions from Britain and decided to profit from them while he still could by selling them to the United States.

 

The U.S. Constitution did not grant the president the explicit right to purchase new territory, but Thomas Jefferson successfully argued that his power to negotiate treaties implied the authority.

 

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