Articles and Essays

  • The Exploration and Legacy of the Louisiana Territory

    American Exploration of Louisiana Acquisition and exploration of American lands throughout the first decade of the 19th century began and ended with President Thomas Jefferson. Whether involved in purchasing the Louisiana Territory; promoting national interests or nurturing his own curiosity by obtaining scientific, cultural, and geographic knowledge; or, organizing expeditions by choosing their leaders; planning their goals; and raising public and private funds for ...

  • Louisiana as a Spanish Colony

    Diplomacy of the French Cession The impetus to cede the French colony of Louisiana to the Spanish was the long, expensive conflict of the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Year's War, between France and Great Britain. Initially, France offered Louisiana to Spain in order to bring Spain into the conflict on the French side. Spain declined. Spanish officials were uncertain ...

  • The Cartographic Setting

    Evolving European and American Conceptions of Louisiana to 1803 Until 1803 the exploration and mapping of the territory acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase was undertaken by the major colonial powers for a variety of reasons. Chief among them was the occupation of the lower Mississippi Valley, as well as the attempted possession of the Great Plains, the Missouri Basin, and ...

  • The Louisiana Purchase

    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. To the distress of the United States, Napoleon held title to the Mississippi River and the port of New Orleans.

  • Louisiana as a French Colony

    Difficult Early Years of the Colony From its inception Louisiana faced an inauspicious existence. Its fate was bound to the French economy during the last years of the reign of Louis XIV. Already a vast empire, the French government and its highly centralized bureaucracy disfavored policies that would have nurtured the economic independence of its colonies. Further, the French treasury, depleted by wars in ...

  • A Question of Boundaries

    French and American representatives faced a vexing issue when they met in Paris in April 1803 to negotiate a treaty by which the United States would purchase the province of Louisiana from France. Since most of the territory to be exchanged had never been explored, surveyed, or mapped by any European nation or the United States, the negotiators were unable to include within the ...