America’s Louisiana Purchase »»»Published: September 17, 2009

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  • Noble Bargain, Difficult Journey

“You have made a noble bargain for yourselves, and I suppose you will make the most of it.”
(French Foreign Minister Talleyrand to U. S. Foreign Minister Robert Livingston following the Louisiana Purchase)


Near the beginning of the 19th century President Thomas Jefferson knew how vital the Mississippi River was to the young American nation. So He sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to negotiate with Napoleon Bonaparate for the Isle of Orleans and the West Florida Republic. They were not able to obtain West Florida; but to the President's incredulous surprise, his foreign ministers were able to purchase the entire Louisiana Territory. With several strokes of a quill pen, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 doubled America's size and seemed to some a brilliant maneuver. But, with a $15 million price tag ($23 million when counting interest paid to the Netherlands), this land deal was as controversial as it was promising. With the unprecedented transfer of such a vast expanse of land came exhilarating expansion for some and difficult displacement for others.

Enveloped within America’s vast new boundaries were bold alliances and dramatic divisions. The fate of the republic was at stake. How would the land be utilized? How would it be parceled out? And how would the young government deal with the many conflicts sure to arise between former inhabitants, new settlers and Native Americans? The Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) video program "America's Louisiana Purchase: Noble Bargain, Difficult Journey" explores the environment leading up to the Louisiana Purchase, and the complex conditions it created for America as it struggled to become a burgeoning world power.

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France sells Louisiana Territory to America
(Courtesy of U. S. Capitol Historical Society)
This project meets National Standards for teaching American History
and Louisiana's standards for teaching American History and Louisiana History.

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