The Decision of Thomas Jefferson to Purchase The Louisiana Territory

The Decision of Thomas Jefferson to Purchase The Louisiana Territory


The art of decision making is an enormous task, that incorporates actions and choices based on motivations which seek to acquire benefits for an individual or an institution. Thomas Jefferson the then President of the United States made a bold decision to purchase the Louisiana territory from The French for various reasons which were beneficial to The States (Lee, 2017). Before the purchase, the territory was under Napoleon, the first consul of the French, and due to financial difficulties that his nation was facing and in the brink of war between The Kingdom of France and The United Kingdom of Great Britain, he decided to sell it so as to gain finances that would fund his weakened army. Despite the decision of purchasing the territory being criticized by the federalists as being unconstitutional and dictatorial, Jefferson claimed he had ample power as President to hold negotiations on the purchase. His decision was based on the fact that The United States would gain total control of the Westside territories of Louisiana which would contribute much to navigation and agriculture. Also, this was an opportunity that he was not willing to let go as he knew what it meant to have the upper hand.

The Louisiana territory back in the eighteenth century was a stretch of what makes fifteen current States on the western side of The United States. The region was well vast with seaways that allowed for navigation to the sea and back into the States as well as agricultural farms that were a significant boost in the region. In the late 17th century, Spain had control over the territory and they ceded to The French through a secret treaty called San Ildefonso (Piero, 2017). The implication was that the territory belonged to The French despite them not being in ultimate control of the region, until 1803 when The Spanish fully transferred powers to the French just before a session drafted by The United States towards the purchase of the Louisiana territory from The French.


Initially, Jefferson’s had intentions of purchasing just New Orleans and adjacent coastal areas from Napoleon. This was from his concerns that more acquisitions of the territory by Napoleon would put the entire continent into great security risks, as well as shipping lines along the Mississippi River. Therefore he instructed James Monroe and Robert Livingston to travel to Paris and negotiate a deal with Napoleon over the sale of New Orleans, where Jefferson was offering ten million dollars for forty thousand square miles of New Orleans and surrounding tropical areas. Months after the initial offer, an opportunity presented itself which was quite motivating to have any considerations. Napoleon is a realistic man, he knew that the vast tracks owned by the French were almost impossible to hold considering his army was weak. Hence, he laid a counter offer of 827,987 square miles of land, which translated to the size of the United States doubling for only fifteen million dollars. The treaty was signed and not until July did Jefferson learn about the deal his negotiators had made. A substantial part of it was very fertile which meant sustainability in terms of food and natural resources for this upcoming country (Kral, 2015). The acquisition also gave rise to a stronger United States as they could expand to the west side without any oppositions from The British and The French Imperialists.

Options Jefferson Had in The Purchase of Louisiana Territory

It was just before the negotiations of purchasing New Orleans that Jefferson encountered oppositions from the federalist’s party for not abiding with laws as contained in the constitution. But his ambition to take hold of a part of the territory from The French was what kept him going. Did he have an option that he would have considered before the great decision he was bestowed to make as President?, or had he ran out of options to think what he would have lost if he did not reach to a decision fast? Since there was no part in the constitution that authorized purchase from new territories, at the time he would have suggested constitutional ratification that would have given consent to the acquiring of territories so as to make the move legal and acceptable by both side.

Nevertheless, he chose to ignore that until later as an excellent opportunity for the American people had risen, and it meant more independence and reliance. It was then after that the Senate approved the acquisition of the Louisiana territory through a purchase treaty that was gracefully voted in by twenty-four against seven votes (Foley, 2015). A gradual integration approach to approving the settlement of foreigners in American democracy was also considered as people adapted to a new nation that incorporated Louisiana.

Reasons for purchasing the Louisiana territory

Possessing the nature of statesmanship, several reasons led to the final decision on President Thomas Jefferson acquiring the Louisiana territory. He had always been an activist that mobilized other nations to cut ties with the rule of The Kingdom of Great Britain. He, therefore, seized a great opportunity that would lead America to be the great nation it is today as a result of larger territories, good fertile soils, free transportation in and out the continent without obstacles and many other incentives. Jefferson’s main aim was to foresee the independence of the nation as he had fought for it already in its declaration. This move also led to the separation of The United States from treaties with The French and The Spaniards that prevented them from the free access of the Mississippi River due to the laws that were set by the nations that had ownership of the territory.


Of all great accomplishments of the United States, the purchase of the Louisiana territory from Napoleon is one of the most significant achievements ever made in history (Lass, 2015). If it were not for the boldness of president Jefferson, America would probably be a single nation under The Kingdom of Great Britain among the developed countries. The process of decision making at times can be stressful and hectic, but with the right mental picture, determination, and motivation, best decisions can be arrived at, just like those of the founding father of America, President Thomas Jefferson.


Lee, Robert. “Accounting for Conquest: The Price of the Louisiana Purchase of Indian Country.” Journal of American History 103, no. 4 (2017): 921-942.

Gleijeses, Piero. “Napoleon, Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase.” The International History Review 39, no. 2 (2017): 237-255.

Klar, Jeremy, ed. The Louisiana Purchase and Westward Expansion. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015.

Foley, William E. “Dale L. Walker See also: Jefferson, Thomas; Lewis, Meriwether; Lewis and Clark Expedition; Louisiana Purchase (1803); Louisiana Territory.” The Settlement of America: An Encyclopedia of Westward Expansion from Jamestown to the Closing of the Frontier (2015): 136.

Lass, William E. “The Northern Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase.” Great Plains Quarterly 35, no. 1 (2015): 27-50.