Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase (French: Vente de la Louisiane "Sale of Louisiana") was the United States' acquisition of 828,000 square miles (2,144,000 square kilometers or 529,920,000 acres) of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S. paid 50 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of debts worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), a total sum of 15 million dollars (around 4 cents per acre), for the Louisiana territory ($236 million in 2014 dollars, less than 42 cents per acre).

The Louisiana territory encompassed all or part of 15 present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; most of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans; and small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

France controlled this vast area from 1699 until 1762, the year it ceded the territory to Spain. Under Napoleon Bonaparte, France took back the territory in 1800 in the hope of re-establishing an empire in North America. A slave revolt in Haiti and an impending war with Britain, however, led French officials to abandon these plans and sell the entire territory to the United States, which had originally sought only the purchase of New Orleans and its adjacent lands.

The purchase of the territory of Louisiana took place during the tenure of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. At the time, the purchase faced domestic opposition as some argued that it was unconstitutional, though opposition ultimately was not widespread. Jefferson agreed that the U.S. Constitution did not contain provisions for acquiring territory, but decided to go ahead with the purchase anyway — to remove France's presence in the region and protect both U.S. trade access to the port of New Orleans and free passage on the Mississippi River.

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