Barrel Flintlock Dueling Pistols, purchased by Monroe during his
visits to France and Britain.
~ Ash Lawn-Highland, Home of James Monroe, Charlottesville VA
Portrait of James Monroe
~ The Presidents, White House Historical Association
Map of the Louisiana Purchase
~ Lewis and Clark by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns
future destinies of the Republic
all eyes, all hopes are fixed
- President Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1803
American colonists won their independence from Britain in 1781, lands
east of the Mississippi River became states or territories in the new
United States of America. However, control over Louisiana Territory
west of the river seesawed back and forth between Spain and France,
and whoever controlled New Orleans controlled commerce on the river.
Periodically, this port city was closed to American traders, and frontiersmen
west of the Appalachians threatened to secede from the United States!
desperate President Jefferson sent James Monroe to France, secretly
authorizing $9 million for the purchase of New Orleans. (Ambassador
Robert Livingston had been given congressional approval to spend only
$2 million.) When France offered to sell the entire territory for $15
million, the Americans swiftly agreed even though unauthorized to do
reluctantly ratified the treaty on October 20, 1803, purchasing 828,000
square miles for roughly 4 cents an acre. America had just acquired
land and natural resources far richer than anyone's wildest dreams.
It was unclear whether France even owned Louisiana in 1803, because
Napoleon had failed to honor his promises to Spain according to their
earlier treaty of 1800!