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The Louisiana Purchase
The Lewis and Clark

Louisiana Purchase


Facts About the Land Purchased

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Planning for the Journey

Meriwether Lewis

William Clark

Members of the "Corps of Discovery"

Supply List for the Expedition

Interesting Facts and Trivia about the Expedition

Links to lessons, WebQuest and other Resource


Back Ground on The Louisiana Purchase

The concern about open shipping on the Mississippi River began as soon as the American Revolution end.

The government was concerned that the British would limit access and the western states and settlements would not be able to freely ship their goods to market.

At different times, Louisiana and the port of New Orleans was controlled by the Spanish, French and British.

In 1795, the United States signed a treaty with Spain defining the boundaries between the US Colonies and the Spanish Colonies. It also gave the U.S. navigation rights to the Mississippi River. (The treaty was know as Pinkeye's Treaty it was also called the Treaty of San Lorenzo and the Treaty of Midred.) The treaty was negotiated by Thomas Pickney. (Pickney's Bio)

The western colonies used the Mississippi to ship tobacco, cider, cheese, pork, bacon, butter and other goods to the rest of the world.

In 1798, Spain revoked the treaty and prohibited the American use of New Orleans. The U.S. was very upset. New Orleans was were goods would be transferred from barges or small boats to ocean going boats.

In 1800, the French under Napoleon Bonaparte gained control of Louisiana and New Orleans. The transfer was kept secret.

In 1801, Napoleon sent French Soldiers to secure New Orleans for the French. This created fear in the southern colonies. They were afraid it would block the transport of goods and that Napoleon would free the slaves and cause slave uprising in other areas of the south.

There were threats of war with France.

In 1801, Jefferson sent James Monroe and Robert Livingson to negotiate the purchase New Orleans and the area around New Orleans.

In 1802, France was having trouble maintaining there colonies in the Western Hemisphere and there was a threat of war between Great Britain and France. Napoleon knew that if war broke out he could not defend New Orleans. He decided to sell New Orleans to the Americans.

The Americans were willing to pay ten million dollars for New Orleans and the surrounding area. They shocked when the French offered a much larger area for fifteen million dollars. Livingston and Monroe weren't authorize the larger purchase, but were sure the United States would accept the offer.


Monroe and Livingston were afraid Napoleon would withdraw the offer so signed the Louisiana Purchase agreement on April 30, 1803. The treaty didn't reach Washington, D.C., until July 4, 1803.

Jefferson had a major problems at home. Many people thought the purchase of the Louisiana Territory was unconstitutional.

Secondly, even though the French held New Orleans, they did not own it. The Spanish own the territory. The French had told the Spanish they would not sell the territory to anyone else.

American looked the area way and Congress ratified the treaty 24 to 7. They also instructed the president to use military forces to maintain order and ordered that the area be explored and charted. One mission would be the Lewis and Clark Expedition.



Last Modified: May 14, 2012

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