Scholars and the Louisiana Purchase
Red, white, and blue. Stars and stripes.
Baseball, hot dogs, and apple
pie. There are many images that come to mind in association with America, but none are greater
and more apparent in literature and in the cinema than the American cowboy and the “Wild
West.” America has been expanding westward since the Pilgrims first set foot on Plymouth Rock.
No single action, however, helped to expand the U.S. as greatly as the purchase of the Louisiana
Territory. For centuries, scholars and historians have interpreted the Louisiana Purchase in
Some may focus on its social aspects while others concentrate on the
political, economic, or legal facets.
Some agree while others differ, but to understand the
scholars’ different points of view, one must first understand the basic and agreed-upon history of
the Louisiana Purchase.
The Louisiana Territory was acquired by the United States in 1803 from France.
French were the original owners of the Louisiana Territory up until the end of the Seven Years
After the Seven Years War, the French King, Louis XV, proposed to give the area of
Louisiana to his cousin Charles III, King of Spain.
With the signing of the Treaty of
Fontainebleau, it became official that Spain was now the owner of the Louisiana Territory.
held control of the territory for 37 years, and later, French leader Napoleon Bonaparte secretly
reacquired Louisiana from Spain with the Treaty of Ildefonso in 1800.
A year later, President
Thomas Jefferson sent Robert Livingston (later joined by James Monroe) to Paris to try and buy
New Orleans from France, but he was unsuccessful.
While this was happening, Napoleon tried to
conquer Saint Domingue and failed.
Due to this loss, Napoleon decided Louisiana was not worth
keeping and that he was going to sell it to the United States.
Instead of simply selling New
Orleans, as the United States requested, the French proposed to sell all of Louisiana to America.