On this day in 1803, the Senate ratified a treaty with France that doubled the size of the United States and paved the way for its westward expansion. Here are 5 things you didn't know about the Louisiana Purchase...
It is Considered The Greatest Real Estate Deal in History The United States paid France 60 million francs ($11,250,000), plus cancellation of debts worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total of $15 million — or less than three cents an acre. In current dollars, the deal would be worth about $220 million. The deal encompassed 828,000 square miles, which equates to approximately 512 million acres. With land costs today averaging between $1,000 and $4,000 per acre in the continental U.S., the total value of the Louisiana Purchase is therefore likely to be near $1.2 trillion.
It Was The Largest Territorial Gain In American History The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States at a sum of less than 3 cents per acre and was by far the largest territorial gain in U.S. history. The Louisiana territory included land from fifteen present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The purchase encompassed all of what is now Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, the part of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, most of North Dakota, nearly all of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, northern Texas, the portions of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado east of the Continental Divide and the section of Louisiana west of the Mississippi; and small portions of land within the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A Treaty Had Just Returned the Territory to France The Louisiana Territory had first been claimed for France in 1683 by explorer Robert Cavelier de la Salle during his expedition along the Mississippi River. France handed the land over to Spain about 80 years later, but Napoleon got the land back under the Treaty of San Ildefonso. Having the Louisiana Territory controlled by France worried President Thomas Jefferson because he believed it would force America to ally themselves to the British after they had shaken off the shackles of British rule by engaging in the American Revolution.
Napoleon Wanted to Establish a French Colony There Although Napoleon reportedly had the idea to build a large empire in North America, the French government had spent a great deal of money on wars and he was occupied trying to solidify his rule. It only made sense economically and politically to sell the territory. Napoleon sold the land to the United States just weeks after it was handed back over into French possession.
Handling the Negotiations Bankrupted James Monroe James Monroe had served as Virginia’s governor for three years and hoped to open a law practice and build up his land holdings when he was nominated by Jefferson to help with the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase. To raise money, Monroe sold off a number of his personal goods such as silver flatware and porcelain plates. The future president, who served from 1817 to 1825, remained in debt for the rest of his life, even after receiving a $30,000 congressional appropriation for “public losses and sacrifices.”