History of the United States

Louisiana Purchase
Flag raising in the Place d'Armes of New Orleans, marking the transfer of sovereignty over French Louisiana to the United States, December 20, 1803, as depicted by Thure de Thulstrup ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1803 Jul 4

Louisiana Purchase

Louisiana, USA

The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the territory of Louisiana by the United States from the French First Republic in 1803. This consisted of most of the land in the Mississippi River's drainage basin west of the river.[23] In return for fifteen million dollars, or approximately eighteen dollars per square mile, the United States nominally acquired a total of 828,000 sq mi (2,140,000 km2; 530,000,000 acres). However, France only controlled a small fraction of this area, most of it inhabited by Native Americans; for the majority of the area, what the United States bought was the "preemptive" right to obtain "Indian" lands by treaty or by conquest, to the exclusion of other colonial powers.[24] The total cost of all subsequent treaties and financial settlements over the land has been estimated to be around 2.6 billion dollars.[24]


The Kingdom of France had controlled the Louisiana territory from 1682[25] until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. In 1800, Napoleon, the First Consul of the French Republic, regained ownership of Louisiana as part of a broader project to re-establish a French colonial empire in North America. However, France's failure to put down a revolt in Saint-Domingue, coupled with the prospect of renewed warfare with the United Kingdom, prompted Napoleon to consider selling Louisiana to the United States. Acquisition of Louisiana was a long-term goal of President Thomas Jefferson, who was especially eager to gain control of the crucial Mississippi River port of New Orleans. Jefferson tasked James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston with purchasing New Orleans. Negotiating with French Treasury Minister François Barbé-Marbois (who was acting on behalf of Napoleon), the American representatives quickly agreed to purchase the entire territory of Louisiana after it was offered. Overcoming the opposition of the Federalist Party, Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison persuaded Congress to ratify and fund the Louisiana Purchase.


The Louisiana Purchase extended United States sovereignty across the Mississippi River, nearly doubling the nominal size of the country. At the time of the purchase, the territory of Louisiana's non-native population was around 60,000 inhabitants, of whom half were enslaved Africans.[26] The western borders of the purchase were later settled by the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty with Spain, while the northern borders of the purchase were adjusted by the Treaty of 1818 with Britain.

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Last Updated: Mon Oct 02 2023