In 1803, the United States acquired 828,000,000 square miles of French territory in the middle of North American in what became known as the Louisiana Purchase. This area was west of the Mississippi river, and as the name would suggest, contained much of what is current day Louisiana, along with all or part of what are now 15 other states. The price was 15 million dollars.
France was preparing for war with the British Empire, and needed funds. It also worried that it would be unable to defend this territory anyway, and might lose it in the upcoming war. So why not sell it to the Americans? President Thomas Jefferson not only wanted to expand American territory, but also remove the French presence from the region. Calculating the value of the purchase is complicated. By one account, in today’s dollars, it would be close to $800 billion. The region encapsulated by it, however, is worth trillions of dollars.
- In retrospect, was this a good deal? What were the advantages (or disadvantages) to the purchase?
- Do you think $15 million was a fair price? How would you evaluate this?
- Why would selling the land help France prepare for war?
2, Oct. 2018, US Map showing the Louisiana Purchase [Digital image]. Retrieved from <history.com>.