The Louisiana Purchase – Going Back in Time in Baton Rouge, LA

“No act of Jefferson’s administration presents such a variety of disgraceful features as this shameful purchase of a colony of Frenchmen.” Federalist Party, Circa 1803

The State Capitol in Baton Rouge, LA

It was a time of war, strife and heated debate! Napoleon was leading the crusade of a French empire in the nations of the old world while modern-day America was being jostled between French, Spanish, English and Union interests. By 1803 the United States consisted of 17 states and 4 territories in the East with the formidable Appalachian Mountains running down the middle. The key communication port of New Orleans on the Mississippi River belonged at that moment to France, but Napoleon was under pressure. Having lost strongholds in the Caribbean and under financial strain to fund his war in Europe, he and made a bargain that would change the future forever.  On April 30, 1803 he authorized the sale of the entire  828,000 square mile French Territory of Louisiana for 60 million Francs (~$15 million).

Dates etched on the Capitol Steps reflect the order of each state's admission to the Union

The purchase almost doubled the size of the United States overnight, but it had surprisingly  heavy opposition. The bargain had been struck in a rush and without formal approval of the president. Opponents in the Federalist Party, worried about their balance of power, argued the purchase was  “worthless desert” and unconstitutional, stricking back hot with comments like the quote above. But with historical foresight, Jefferson upheld the deal and the treaty was ratified.

Pasture and green by our park in Baton Rouge

The massive impact of this piece of history strikes me as I stand on the steps of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. It’s a spring day, cherry blossoms are blooming, the sky is a brilliant blue and the dates carved in stone by my feet take me back in time. We’re here for a quick stop to visit family and I’m amazed at how green and peaceful the town is despite the busy working traffic of the Mississippi River and the bustle of LSU (Louisiana State University). We’re parked in a horse park just outside town bounded by large, green pasture and the river. Here we’ll hang out and regenerate for a few days, watch the horses, walk the levee and enjoy some good meals before we run off to boondock in Texas. After this point we’ll be West of the Mississippi and into another phase of history. In the meantime I’ll walk and marvel on the land that was purchased so long ago for only 5 cents an acre.

On the banks of the Mississippi
Hiking the levee
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  1. says

    No matter what a president does, or any leader at all, there will be some of the opposition party who will be opposed. And sometimes the president is right, and sometimes the opposition is right. Ya gotta do what ya gotta due, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

    • libertatemamo says

      You’re so right! What I found so fascinating about this whole story was how strong the opposition was at the time. I always thought that the Louisiana Purchase was such a deal and must have gone over very smoothly indeed. I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want all that land for such a bargain price? But, as I dug into it I realized it was a very complicated and political issue at the time. I never knew how heated the debate had become and how close the US was to never ratifying the buy. Fascinating stuff!! Nina

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