Fast Facts: Jefferson Uses Fourth of July to Announce Louisiana Purchase

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, it is important to look back and remember why we celebrate, and maybe take a walk down American history lane as to other fascinating things which have fallen on Independence Day. 

As we all know, the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted on July 4, 1776, as the Continental Congress officially declared our independence from England. 

From that time onward, the American people celebrate with food, alcohol, and fireworks. Nothing says American Independence like a good old-fashioned BBQ. 

However, in 1803, America had a whole new thing to celebrate. An expansion of the territory.

 On July 4, 1803, Thomas Jefferson announced a tentative deal to purchase 530,000 acres of territory which would later be known as the Louisiana Purchase, according to the National Constitution Center website.

 Jefferson sent James Monroe, appointed envoy extraordinary, to France to join U.S. Minister to France Robert Livingston to obtain land east of the Mississippi or, at the bare minimum, obtain New Orleans and use of the Mississippi River and the port. 

Monroe arrived in Paris on April 12, 1803, where Napoleon had a deal in mind which was more than the United States had hoped. 

He offered to sell the United States the entirety of its Louisiana property. 

Napoleon’s Minister of Finance, Francois de Barbe-Marbois, had been counseling the emperor to relinquish the land in the Americas after a slave rebellion in Saint Domingue, modern-day Haiti, had tied up the French army. 

Barbe-Marbois argued that without the island, the territory in America was less valuable. With a war with Britain on the horizon, the territory would probably be taken by British forces in Canada and lost anyway, so why not sell to the United States. 

Monroe and Livingston went into negotiations with an authorized $10 million. On April 30, 1803, they reached an agreement that doubled the size of the country and exceeded their budget by $5 million, according to the Monticello website

Jefferson received the notification just in time to make the announcement on Independence Day. 

The Senate ratified the treaty on Oct. 20, 1803, in a 24 to 7 vote. Spain, who was holding Louisiana at the time, was greatly upset by the treaty but did not have the military to stop it. Therefore, they formally returned the territory to France on Nov. 30, 1803. France transferred the territory to the United States on Dec. 20, 1803, and the country took formal possession on Dec. 30, 1803. 


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