Louisiana Purchase Treaty, 1803

"Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a Song."

Gen. Horatio Gates to President Thomas Jefferson, July 18, 1803

Robert Livingston and James Monroe closed on the sweetest real estate deal of the millennium when they signed the Louisiana Purchase Treaty in Paris on April 30, 1803. They were authorized to pay France up to $10 million for the port of New Orleans and the Floridas. When offered the entire territory of Louisiana–an area larger than Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal combined–the American negotiators swiftly agreed to a price of $15 million.

Although President Thomas Jefferson was a strict interpreter of the Constitution who wondered if the U.S. Government was authorized to acquire new territory, he was also a visionary who dreamed of an "empire for liberty" that would stretch across the entire continent. As Napoleon threatened to take back the offer, Jefferson squelched whatever doubts he had, submitted the treaty to Congress, and prepared to occupy a land of unimaginable riches.

The Louisiana Purchase added 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River to the United States. For roughly 4 cents an acre, the United States had purchased a territory whose natural resources amounted to a richness beyond anyone's wildest calculations.

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