Treaty of the month: What historic treaty has amused me this month?

This month: The Louisiana Purchase Treaty 

The Louisiana Purchase was indeed one hell of a purchase (and I think they got a bargain); the acquisition by the United States of America of 828,800 square miles (2,147,000 km2) of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S. paid 60 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of debts worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total sum of 15 million dollars for the Louisiana territory ($219 million in 2010 dollars).


The Louisiana Purchase encompassed all or part of 15 current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River, most of North Dakota, nearly all of South Dakota, north-eastern New Mexico, northern Texas, the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. (parts of this area were still claimed by Spain at the time of the Purchase.) In addition, the Purchase contained small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, comprises around 23% of current U.S. territory. The population of European immigrants was estimated to be 92,345 as of the 1810 census.
The purchase was a vital moment in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. At the time, it faced domestic opposition as being possibly unconstitutional. Although he felt that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, Jefferson decided to purchase Louisiana because he felt uneasy about France and Spain having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.

Negotiation:

Jefferson initiated the purchase by sending James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to Paris in 1801, after discovering the transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France under the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. Livingston was authorized to purchase New Orleans.
In 1803, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, a French nobleman, began to help negotiate with France at the request of Jefferson. Du Pont was living in the United States at the time and had close ties to Jefferson, as well as to the political powers in France. He engaged in back-channel diplomacy with Napoleon on Jefferson's behalf during a visit to France, and originated the idea of the much larger Louisiana Purchase as a way to defuse potential conflict between the United States and Napoleon over North America.

Jefferson disliked the idea of purchasing Louisiana from France as that could imply that France had a right to be in Louisiana. Jefferson believed that a U.S. President did not have the authority to make such a deal: it was not specified in the Constitution. He also thought that to do so would erode states' rights by increasing federal executive power. On the other hand, he was aware of the potential threat that France could be in that region, and was prepared to go to war to prevent a strong French presence there.

Throughout this time, Jefferson had up-to-date intelligence on Napoleon's military activities and intentions in North America. Part of his evolving strategy involved giving du Pont some information that was withheld from Livingston. He also gave intentionally conflicting instructions to the two. He next sent Monroe to Paris in 1802. Monroe had been formally expelled from France on his last diplomatic mission, and the choice to send him again conveyed a sense of seriousness.
Napoleon was faced with revolution in Saint-Domingue (present-day Republic of Haiti). An expeditionary force under his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc had tried to re-conquer the territory and re-establish slavery. But yellow fever and the fierce resistance of the Haitian Revolution destroyed the French army in what became the only successful slave revolt in history, resulting in the establishment of Haiti, the first independent black state in the New World. Napoleon needed peace with Great Britain to implement the Treaty of San Ildefonso and take possession of Louisiana. Otherwise, Louisiana would be an easy prey for Britain or even for the U.S. But in early 1803, continuing war between France and Britain seemed unavoidable. On March 11, 1803, Napoleon began preparing to invade Britain.

Napoleon had failed to re-enslave Haiti; he therefore abandoned his plans to rebuild France's New World empire. Without revenues from sugar colonies in the Caribbean, Louisiana had little value to him. Even though his foreign minister Talleyrand opposed the plan, on April 10, 1803 Napoleon told Treasury Minister François de Barbé-Marbois that he was considering selling the whole Louisiana Territory to the U.S. On April 11, 1803, just days before Monroe's arrival, Barbé-Marbois offered Livingston all of Louisiana instead of just New Orleans, at an expense of $15 million, equivalent to about $219 million in present day terms.

The American representatives were prepared to pay up to $10 million for New Orleans and its environs, but were dumbfounded when the vastly larger territory was offered for $15 million. Jefferson had authorized Livingston only to purchase New Orleans. However, Livingston was certain that the U.S. would accept such a large offer.

The Americans thought that Napoleon might withdraw the offer at any time, preventing the United States from acquiring New Orleans, so they agreed and signed the Louisiana Purchase Treaty on April 30, 1803. On July 4, 1803, the treaty reached Washington. The Louisiana Territory was vast, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico in the south to Rupert's Land in the north, and from the Mississippi River in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. Acquiring the territory would double the size of the United States at a sum of less than 3 cents per acre.
Treaty signing

On Saturday April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed by Robert Livingston, James Monroe, and Barbé Marbois in Paris. Jefferson announced the treaty to the American people on July 4. After the signing of the Louisiana Purchase agreement in 1803, Livingston made this famous statement, "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives...From this day the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank." The United States Senate ratified the treaty with a vote of twenty-four to seven on October 20; on the following day, it authorized President Jefferson to take possession of the territory and establish a temporary military government. In legislation enacted on October 31, Congress made temporary provisions for local civil government to continue as it had under French and Spanish rule and authorized the President to use military forces to maintain order. Plans were also set forth for several missions to explore and chart the territory, the most famous being the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Why it has amused me:


The Federalists strongly opposed the purchase, favouring close relations with Britain over closer ties to Napoleon, and concerned that the U.S. had paid a large sum of money just to declare war on Spain. Both Federalists and Jeffersonians were concerned about whether the purchase was unconstitutional. Many members of the United States House of Representatives opposed the purchase. Majority Leader John Randolph led the opposition. The House called for a vote to deny the request for the purchase, but it failed by two votes 59–57. The Federalists even tried to prove the land belonged to Spain not France, but the papers proved otherwise. The Federalists also feared that the political power of the Atlantic seaboard states would be threatened by the new citizens of the west, bringing about a clash of western farmers with the merchants and bankers of New England. There was concern that an increase in slave holding states created out of the new territory would exacerbate divisions between north and south, as well. A group of northern Federalists, led by Massachusetts Senator Timothy Pickering, went so far as to explore the idea of a separate northern confederacy.
Another concern was whether it was proper to grant citizenship to the French, Spanish, and free black people living in New Orleans, as the treaty would dictate. Critics in Congress worried whether these "foreigners", unacquainted with democracy, could or should become citizens.

Most domestic objections were politically settled, overridden, or simply hushed up. One problem, however, was too important to argue down convincingly: Napoleon did not have the right to sell Louisiana to the United States. The sale violated the 1800 Treaty of San Ildefonso in several ways. Furthermore, France had promised Spain it would never sell or alienate Louisiana to a third party. Napoleon, Jefferson, Madison, and the members of Congress all knew this during the debates about the purchase in 1803. They ignored the fact it was illegal. Spain protested strongly, and Madison made some attempt to justify the purchase to the Spanish government, but was unable to do so convincingly.

That the Louisiana Purchase was illegal was described pointedly by the historian Henry Adams, who wrote: "The sale of Louisiana to the United States was trebly invalid; if it were French property, Bonaparte could not constitutionally alienate it without the consent of the Chambers; if it were Spanish property, he could not alienate it at all; if Spain had a right of reclamation, his sale was worthless."

France turned New Orleans over on December 20, 1803 at The Cabildo. On March 10, 1804, a formal ceremony was conducted in St. Louis to transfer ownership of the territory from France to the United States.

Effective on October 1, 1804, the purchased territory was organized into the Territory of Orleans (most of which became the state of Louisiana) and the District of Louisiana, which was temporarily under the control of the governor and judges of the Indiana Territory.

Napoleon Bonaparte, upon completion of the agreement, stated, "This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.

Further Reading: