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Louisiana Purchase

Reasons for the Purchase

The revelation in 1801 of the secret agreement of 1800, whereby Spain retroceded Louisiana to France, aroused uneasiness in the United States both because Napoleonic France was an aggressive power and because Western settlers depended on the Mississippi River for commerce. In a letter to the American minister to France, Robert R. Livingston (1746–1813; see Livingston, family), President Jefferson stated that "The day that France takes possession of New Orleans … we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." Late in 1802 the right of deposit at New Orleans, granted to Americans by the Pinckney treaty of 1795, was withdrawn by the Spanish intendant (Louisiana was still under Spanish control). Although Spain soon restored the right of deposit, the acquisition of New Orleans became of paramount national interest.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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