Louisiana Purchase: Thomas J Fleming: Hardcover: 9780471267386: Powell's Books (2023)

Synopses & Reviews

"An extraordinary new series intended to capture extraordinary moments in history."

–Chicago Tribune

In 1801, relations between the world’s only two republics, the United States and France, were at a low ebb. American merchants had just lost millions of dollars to French privateers in the "Quasi-War" of the late 1790s, and Napoleon was scheming to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Spain and create a "wall of brass" that would halt America’s westward expansion. Yet only a few years later, Napoleon agreed to sell Louisiana to the United States for $15 million. How did America manage to double its territory and end French colonial ambitions in the New World–without firing a shot?

This lively book by noted historian Thomas Fleming delivers the answers. Taking us behind the scenes in Thomas Jefferson’s raw "federal village" of Washington, D.C., and inside the duplicitous world of Napoleonic Paris, Fleming shows how Bonaparte haters in Spain, the French army’s disastrous failure in Haiti, some wily American negotiating, and Napoleon’s resolve to renew his war with "perfidious Albion" led to the momentous French decision to sell Louisiana–and cede 838,000 square miles of land to the United States. Along the way, we meet a host of fascinating characters as they attempt to advance their nations’ interests–and their personal ambitions–through diplomacy, threats, lies, bribery, and treachery:

  • President Thomas Jefferson, an impulsive ideologue whose Francophilia was slowly eroded in the face of French deceit
  • Secretary of State James Madison, a shrewd, realistic statesman and vital counterweight to Jefferson’s volatility
  • Minister Plenipotentiary to France Robert R. Livingston, a Hudson River grandee who was impervious to French insults and snubs
  • French Foreign Minister Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a supremely corrupt aristocrat who regarded Americans with blasé contempt
  • First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, the "man of destiny" who had become the all but absolute dictator of France

The story doesn’t end with France’s agreement to sell Louisiana. The United States had only six months to ratify the treaty–and Federalists, with the exception of General Alexander Hamilton, derided the deal as a waste of money. Jefferson himself doubted the constitutionality of the purchase. But in October 1803, the Senate ratified the treaty and a tiny American army occupied sullen New Orleans. Jefferson’s devious rival, former Vice President Aaron Burr, failed in his attempt to utilize this resentment to revolutionize the new territories. The American republic was on its way to becoming a world power.

Review

* ""...competently written and sure footed..."" (Times Literary Supplement, February 2004)

Most high school students ought to remember learning a little something about the Louisiana Purchase, but his pivotal event in American history has rarely received sustained attention until this year, the event's bicentennial. Noted historian Fleming's brief study, an entry in Wiley's Turning Points series, presents an overstuffed look at the machinations that prompted Napoleon, famous for his conquests and colonial aspirations, to sell this vast piece of land for $15 million. Fleming's account highlights the importance of two leaders, Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon, along with their closest advisers, but the most memorable figures are the handful of diplomatic negotiators working behind the scenes, life Robert Livingston, the ambassador to France who originated the idea of buying the Louisiana territory, therefore by easing the threat of war between the U. S. and France. The narrative weaves in several key events on both sides of the Atlantic, including the rampant yellow fever in Santo Domingo and substantially delayed and weakened Napoleon's troops, volatile conversations between Jefferson and his cabinet about whether the purchase required an amendment to the Constitution and Napoleon's near retraction of the sale. The story carries a surprising amount of drama, though Fleming (Liberty! The American Revolution) does little to play this up. His narrative is straightforward but cluttered with detail, showing more breadth than depth, and is intently focused on the ""mix of destiny and individual energy and creativity"" that supported one of the world's great diplomatic triumphs. (July 11)

Forecast: This could do well in a bicentennial display with John Kukla's A Wilderness So Immense and Charles Cerami's Jefferson's Great Gamble, which offer fuller accounts of the purchase (Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003)

""...there should be more books like this: concise, tightly argued, clearly written..."" (Sunday Times, 31 August 2003)

Review

"...competently written and sure footed..." (Times Literary Supplement, February 2004)

Most high school students ought to remember learning a little something about the Louisiana Purchase, but his pivotal event in American history has rarely received sustained attention until this year, the event's bicentennial. Noted historian Fleming's brief study, an entry in Wiley's Turning Points series, presents an overstuffed look at the machinations that prompted Napoleon, famous for his conquests and colonial aspirations, to sell this vast piece of land for $15 million. Fleming's account highlights the importance of two leaders, Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon, along with their closest advisers, but the most memorable figures are the handful of diplomatic negotiators working behind the scenes, life Robert Livingston, the ambassador to France who originated the idea of buying the Louisiana territory, therefore by easing the threat of war between the U. S. and France. The narrative weaves in several key events on both sides of the Atlantic, including the rampant yellow fever in Santo Domingo and substantially delayed and weakened Napoleon's troops, volatile conversations between Jefferson and his cabinet about whether the purchase required an amendment to the Constitution and Napoleon's near retraction of the sale. The story carries a surprising amount of drama, though Fleming (Liberty! The American Revolution) does little to play this up. His narrative is straightforward but cluttered with detail, showing more breadth than depth, and is intently focused on the "mix of destiny and individual energy and creativity" that supported one of the world's great diplomatic triumphs. (July 11)

Forecast: This could do well in a bicentennial display with John Kukla's A Wilderness So Immense and Charles Cerami's Jefferson's Great Gamble, which offer fuller accounts of the purchase (Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003)

"...there should be more books like this: concise, tightly argued, clearly written..." (Sunday Times, 31 August 2003)

Synopsis

A renowned historian’s fascinating account of how the United States doubled its size.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million. The purchase, which included over 600 million acres, extended the boundaries of the United States from the Mississippi River to the Rockies, ending French colonial ambitions in North America, adding lands that would become the better part of thirteen states, and fueling the idea of Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny.

Now, historian Thomas Fleming takes a fresh look at this decisive moment in American history — and brings to life the diplomatic maneuvering and political battles that led to the purchase. We encounter a cavalcade of striking personalities: Jefferson, the enigmatic, mercurial ideologue; James Madison, the shrewd, eminently realistic secretary of state; Robert Livingston, the Hudson River grandee who was ambassador to France; Alexander Hamilton, who energized New England opposition to the "unconstitutional" purchase; Talleyrand, the supremely corrupt foreign minister of France; and Napoleon Bonaparte, the man of destiny himself. Brimming with vivid details, forgotten facts, and astute insights, The Louisiana Purchase is a treat for history readers everywhere.

Synopsis

From The Louisiana Purchase

Like many other major events in world history, the Louisiana Purchase is a fascinating mix of destiny and individual energy and creativity. . . . Thomas Jefferson would have been less than human had he not claimed a major share of the credit. In a private letter . . . the president, reviving a favorite metaphor, said he ""very early saw"" Louisiana was a ""speck"" that could turn into a ""tornado."" He added that the public never knew how near ""this catastrophe was."" But he decided to calm the hotheads of the west and ""endure"" Napoleon's aggression, betting that a war with England would force Bonaparte to sell. This policy ""saved us from the storm."" Omitted almost entirely from this account is the melodrama of the purchase, so crowded with ""what ifs"" that might have changed the outcome-and the history of the world.

The reports of the Lewis and Clark expedition . . . electrified the nation with their descriptions of a region of broad rivers and rich soil, of immense herds of buffalo and other game, of grassy prairies seemingly as illimitable as the ocean. . . . From the Louisiana Purchase would come, in future decades, the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and large portions of what is now North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Colorado, and Louisiana. For the immediate future, the purchase, by doubling the size of the United States, transformed it from a minor to a major world power. The emboldened Americans soon absorbed West and East Florida and fought mighty England to a bloody stalemate in the War of 1812. Looking westward, the orators of the 1840s who preached the ""Manifest Destiny"" of the United States to preside from sea to shining sea based their oratorical logic on the Louisiana Purchase.

TURNING POINTS features preeminent writers offering fresh, personal perspectives on the defining events of our time.

Synopsis

From The Louisiana Purchase

Like many other major events in world history, the Louisiana Purchase is a fascinating mix of destiny and individual energy and creativity. . . . Thomas Jefferson would have been less than human had he not claimed a major share of the credit. In a private letter . . . the president, reviving a favorite metaphor, said he "very early saw" Louisiana was a "speck" that could turn into a "tornado." He added that the public never knew how near "this catastrophe was." But he decided to calm the hotheads of the west and "endure" Napoleon's aggression, betting that a war with England would force Bonaparte to sell. This policy "saved us from the storm." Omitted almost entirely from this account is the melodrama of the purchase, so crowded with "what ifs" that might have changed the outcome-and the history of the world.

The reports of the Lewis and Clark expedition . . . electrified the nation with their descriptions of a region of broad rivers and rich soil, of immense herds of buffalo and other game, of grassy prairies seemingly as illimitable as the ocean. . . . From the Louisiana Purchase would come, in future decades, the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and large portions of what is now North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Colorado, and Louisiana. For the immediate future, the purchase, by doubling the size of the United States, transformed it from a minor to a major world power. The emboldened Americans soon absorbed West and East Florida and fought mighty England to a bloody stalemate in the War of 1812. Looking westward, the orators of the 1840s who preached the "Manifest Destiny" of the United States to preside from sea to shining sea based their oratorical logic on the Louisiana Purchase.

TURNING POINTS features preeminent writers offering fresh, personal perspectives on the defining events of our time.


About the Author

Thomas Fleming, a well-known historian, is the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America; Liberty!: The American Revolution; and The New Dealers War: FDR and the War Within World War II. A Fellow of the Society of American Historians and the former Chairman of the American Revolution Round Table, he writes regularly for American Heritage and appears frequently on NPR, PBS, the History Channel, and the Today show.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Idealist at Work
Chapter 2. Realist at Work
Chapter 3. The Game Begins
Chapter 4. Frustration all Around
Chapter 5. Aedes Aegypti to the Rescue
Chapter 6. The Dying General
Chapter 7. A War Hero to the Rescue
Chapter 8. Between Peace and War
Chapter 9. All Eyes on Paris
Chapter 10. The Big Bargain
Chapter 11. Hanging Fire
Chapter 12. Constitution Bending in Washington D.C
Chapter 13. Triumph — And New Perils
Chapter 14. Destiny Takes Charge
Chapter 15. The Final Challenge


FAQs

What is the Louisiana Purchase and why is it important? ›

The Louisiana Purchase was the purchase of imperial rights to the western half of the Mississippi River basin from France by the United States in 1803. The deal granted the United States the sole authority to obtain the land from its indigenous inhabitants, either by contract or by conquest.

Why was the Louisiana Purchase so monumental? ›

Thomas Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803 — over 600 million acres at less than 4¢ an acre — was an economic as well as a political victory, as it avoided a possible war with the French. The Louisiana Purchase demonstrates Jefferson's ability to make pragmatic political decisions.

What was included in the Louisiana Purchase? ›

The purchase included land from fifteen present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, including the entirety of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; large portions of North Dakota and South Dakota; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; the portion of Minnesota ...

Why did Napoleon sell the Louisiana Territory? ›

Napoleon Bonaparte sold the land because he needed money for the Great French War. The British had re-entered the war and France was losing the Haitian Revolution and could not defend Louisiana.

How much is the Louisiana Purchase worth today? ›

The $15 million—the equivalent of about $342 million in modern dollars, and long viewed as one of the best bargains of all time—technically didn't purchase the land itself.

Why was the Louisiana Purchase controversial? ›

Why was Jefferson's authorization of the LA purchase controversial? It was deemed controversial because Jefferson was a strict constructionist of the Constitution and the Constitution does not explicitly state that the president or Congress could purchase foreign land.

Does France regret the Louisiana Purchase? ›

“I renounce Louisiana,” Napoléon told him. “It is not only New Orleans that I will cede, it is the whole colony without reservation. I renounce it with the greatest regret. . . .

Why did Spain give Louisiana back to France? ›

In 1802 Bonaparte forced Spain to return Louisiana to France in the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso. Bonaparte's purpose was to build up a French Army to send to Louisiana to defend his “New France” from British and U.S. attacks. At roughly the same time, a slave revolt broke out in the French held island of Haiti.

What was a negative result of the Louisiana Purchase? ›

While the Louisiana Purchase added the territory as a whole to the United States, land disputes on a smaller scale erupted immediately. With the Spanish government no longer in control, the oral contracts and traditional family holdings of existing landowners led to complicated legal disputes.

How much did the US pay for the Louisiana Territory? ›

In 1803 the United States paid France $15 million for the Louisiana Territory--828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River.

How many states came from the Louisiana Purchase? ›

The territory made up all or part of fifteen modern U.S. states between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.

Was the Louisiana Purchase illegal? ›

The debate in the Senate only lasted for two days. On October 20, 1803, the Senate voted for ratification 24-7, and the treaty was signed on October 31, 1803. In the treaty's aftermath, although some Federalists continued to view the Louisiana Purchase as unconstitutional, the purchase was never questioned in court.

Why were some people unhappy about the Louisiana Purchase? ›

Many Federalists, however, did in fact oppose the Louisiana Purchase. Some were concerned about the constitutionality of the treaty with France. Others feared the impact of the purchase on the political balance of power between slave and free states.

Did the Louisiana Purchase cause the War of 1812? ›

An important, often overlooked, factor that led to the War of 1812 was the Louisiana Purchase. The United States wanted the large swath of land for westward expansion and exploration; France urgently needed money to pay for soldiers and supplies in its coming war with Great Britain.

What was one reason that Jefferson wanted the Louisiana Territory? ›

Jefferson's men were in Paris because he wanted to buy the port of New Orleans. To him, New Orleans was key: Whoever owned it would be America's natural enemy because that nation would control the channel through which produce from more than a third of the United States had to pass.

What are the four boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase? ›

The treaty set the western boundary of Louisiana along the Sabine and Red rivers which separate Texas and Louisiana, then north along the 100th meridian to the Arkansas River which it followed westward to its source in the Rockies, then north to the 42nd north latitude, and on a line then west to the Pacific Ocean.

Why did France no longer need the Louisiana Territory? ›

Explanation: France had been fighting wars with England for hundreds of years and at the time it was coming away from another such fight. The French government was strapped for cash and America's offer of cash for land was too good to pass up.

Who owned Louisiana before the French? ›

Napoleonic France Acquires Louisiana

On October 1, 1800, within 24 hours of signing a peace settlement with the United States, First Consul of the Republic of France Napoleon Bonaparte, acquired Louisiana from Spain by the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso.

What does the name Louisiana mean? ›

You may know that Louisiana was named for French King Louis XIV. The territory was named in his honor by French explorer La Salle, who claimed the territory to the west of the Mississippi River in the 1680s for France.

How did Louisiana get its name? ›

WHY'S IT CALLED THAT? Louisiana was named after King Louis XIV when the land was claimed for France in 1682. Louisiana is called the Pelican State because of its state bird.

Why is Louisiana French? ›

In the 17th century, Louisiana was colonized by French Canadians in the name of the King of France. In the years that followed, additional waves of settlers came from French Canada to Louisiana, notably the Acadians, after their deportation by British troops in 1755.

Who sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States? ›

In this transaction with France, signed on April 30, 1803, the United States purchased 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million.

Why was the Louisiana Purchase important quizlet? ›

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was extremely important to the United States because it dramatically expanded the size of the country. It essentially doubled the size of union. It was also acquired peacefully rather than through warfare.

How did the Louisiana Purchase affect slavery? ›

The Louisiana Purchase Was Driven by a Slave Rebellion. Napoleon was eager to sell—but the purchase would end up expanding slavery in the U.S. Napoleon was eager to sell—but the purchase would end up expanding slavery in the U.S. Children in pens.

What did Americans consider the most important benefit of the Louisiana Purchase? ›

What did Americans consider the most important benefit of the Louisiana Purchase? It ensured an essential marketplace for western farmers.

What was the primary reason that Jefferson wanted Louisiana Territory? ›

The Original Goal: Buying New Orleans

To him, New Orleans was key: Whoever owned it would be America's natural enemy because that nation would control the channel through which produce from more than a third of the United States had to pass.

How did the U.S. pay the French the total amount owed? ›

How did the U.S. pay the French the total amount owed? 3 million dollars in gold and the rest in coin and paper money.

What was a result of the Louisiana Purchase? ›

As a result of this treaty, the nation doubled in size, adding territory that would become the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Minnesota, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

How much did the US pay for the Louisiana Territory? ›

In 1803 the United States paid France $15 million for the Louisiana Territory--828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River.

Does France regret the Louisiana Purchase? ›

“I renounce Louisiana,” Napoléon told him. “It is not only New Orleans that I will cede, it is the whole colony without reservation. I renounce it with the greatest regret. . . .

Where did Louisiana slaves come from? ›

The Africans enslaved in Louisiana came mostly from Senegambia, the Bight of Benin, the Bight of Biafra, and West-Central Africa. A few of them came from Southeast Africa.

When did Louisiana end slavery? ›

The Constitution of 1864 abolished slavery and disposed of Louisiana's old order of rule by planters and merchants, although it did not give African Americans voting power.

What happened to Native Americans after the Louisiana Purchase? ›

Some tribes, like the Caddo and Choctaw, were forced to relocate outside of the state in the 1830s. Many of the other Native Americans who stayed yielded to the pressures of the U.S. government and either chose or were forced to move into the margins of Louisiana's geography and economy.

What was a negative result of the Louisiana Purchase? ›

While the Louisiana Purchase added the territory as a whole to the United States, land disputes on a smaller scale erupted immediately. With the Spanish government no longer in control, the oral contracts and traditional family holdings of existing landowners led to complicated legal disputes.

Who owned Louisiana before the US? ›

The Louisiana Purchase encompassed 530,000,000 acres of territory in North America that the United States purchased from France in 1803 for $15 million.

Why did Spain give Louisiana back to France? ›

In 1802 Bonaparte forced Spain to return Louisiana to France in the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso. Bonaparte's purpose was to build up a French Army to send to Louisiana to defend his “New France” from British and U.S. attacks. At roughly the same time, a slave revolt broke out in the French held island of Haiti.

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