American Expansion American Territorial Expansion: The Louisiana Essay

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American Expansion

American Territorial Expansion: The Louisiana Purchase

American territorial expansion was the top priority of Washington DC for every decade of the 19th century, including the Civil War years. The new territory all came to Americans through treaties or conquest, and thus promoted the isolationist "Manifest Destiny" prerogative of strengthening the American continent. The earliest and largest territorial expansion of the 19th century was the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the American states. The Louisiana Purchase was made with the short-term bolstering of Thomas Jefferson's government in the near-term, yet with deep concerns for the security of the new land and how and who should settle the land in the long-term.

The Louisiana Purchase was not a decision taken lightly by then President Thomas Jefferson, who felt that it would be difficult for the young America to take full possession of the territory, and thus sign the country into a future war. It was vital, however, to stop Spain's moving up the West coast, and thus Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. (Jefferson, 1) France, who had claim on the Louisiana Territories from their southern port of New Orleans, decided to make the deal in order to fund Napoleon Bonaparte's war with Italy, a time thereafter declaring himself Emperor, and upsetting the balance of Europe. (Gateway New Orleans, 1) Napoleon was a general first and foremost, and he knew that France could never defeat Britain in the Atlantic Ocean, except with a long-standing alliance with the Americans, secured in the completion of the Louisiana Purchase. By keeping the British busy at sea, Napoleon was free to move his armies east into Eastern Europe for the next decade to come.

Thomas Jefferson bolstered his own presidency with the expansion, but set a future battle over slavery by allowing the slave trade to take place all over the Louisiana territory. (Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, 1) The North was still the more powerful and populated portion of the country at this time, and so Thomas Jefferson sought to balance the North's dominance of the south by bringing in the French territories into slave-bearing statehood. Thus, the long-term course of America's struggle with slavery was set for the nation early on. It would take until Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War to undo the spread of slavery in the American west.

With the purchase of the mostly uncharted Louisiana Purchase having been complete, it was then President Thomas Jefferson's commission of explorers Lewis and Clark which first placed American flags in the newly commissioned territories discovered. (American Memory at the Library of Congress, 1) Learning about and communicating with local Indian tribes along the way was a crucial element of the journey, and so the two explorers hired an Indian translator, Sacajawea, to guide them on the journey. The explorers continued West beyond the limits of the…

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Work Cited

1803, and the United States. "Louisiana Purchase." Gateway New Orleans: N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. <>.

Jefferson, Thomas. "Treaty with France (Louisiana Purchase). 1909-14. American Historical Documents, 1000-1904. The Harvard Classics." Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and hundreds more. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. .

"Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase - The Louisiana Purchase (American Memory from the Library of Congress)." American Memory from the Library of Congress - Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. .

"The Louisiana Purchase -- Thomas Jefferson's Monticello." Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2012. .

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