Texas and the Alamo: Conflict between Mexico and the United States (Part V)

Memorial to Defenders

The United States’ Westward march and the Louisiana Purchase

After the American Revolution the new nation quickly began its move into the western territories. The region that would become the states of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan were known as the Northwest Territory. In the south with the signing of the Treaty of Lorenzo with Spain in 1795, gave what would be the state of Alabama to the United States. This was called the Mississippi Territory. And at the center of it all, Kentucky in 1792, Tennessee in 1796 and Ohio in 1803, were added to the union as States.

But the new nation was still limited in its growth by Britain in the north having Canada and Spain to the south, with Florida and all the lands west of the Mississippi River. Most troubling was Spain’s control of travel on the Mississippi river with them owning the port of New Orleans. In 1798, Spain revoked the treaty that they made with the U.S. in 1795, and prohibited Americans from using New Orleans. This also drew concerns by the United States as to their ownership of the Mississippi Territory (Alabama). All this would all change in 1800 with Napoleon Bonaparte’s raise to power in France.

In Europe Napoleon had made advances into Spain, and controlled certain regions of that country. Spain had become weaken, not the power it once was. Napoleon again thought of a French presence in the new world, and in 1800 he began to take back New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory for France. For the next three years New Orleans was controlled by two European nations, Spain and France. Not being aware of the transfer of this territory from Spain to France the United States became concerned when Napoleon sent troops to New Orleans in 1801, which gave rise to fears of a French invasion of the U.S.

Hearing of some sort of transfer between the two European nations President Thomas Jefferson sent his representative, Robert Livingston to France to get the details. He also authorized Livingston to make an offer to purchase New Orleans if the opportunity presented itself. Jefferson, covering all his bases, also had his personal friend Pierre Samuel du Pont, a French nobleman living in the States, to back-channel talks with Napoleon. Fearing a war with France over Louisiana Jefferson even considered an alliance with Britain, whom France was preparing to go to war with. This would be as a last resort for Jefferson, considering that relations between the States and its former mother country were not the best. Jefferson then sent James Monroe to Paris in 1802, to negotiate a settlement; if those talks failed Monroe was to then go the London.

With the coming war with Britain, trouble in the transferring of control from Spain of the Louisiana territory and a slave revolt in Haiti, Napoleon had his hands full. Unbeknownst to Spain, or the United States, Napoleon dropped his vision of a French presence in the western hemisphere and gave orders to sell New Orleans and the entire Louisiana Territory to the United States, if they met his price. James Monroe came to Paris with permission to pay $11 Million for just the city of New Orleans and the land surrounding it. What France proposed was selling the entire 828,000 square miles, or 529,920,000 acres, of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million. Jefferson jumped at it, even though some in Congress complained that he didn’t have the Constitutional right to do so.

Spain had asked that in the transfer back to France that they keep Louisiana, not selling or trading it to the United States. On November 30, 1803, Spain transferred Louisiana back to France. Three weeks later on December 30, 1803, France ceded New Orleans to the United States and on March 10, 1804, France transferred the remainder of the Louisiana Territory.

The Louisiana Purchase would be one of the highpoints of Thomas Jefferson’s Presidency. With it the United States gained what would later become the States of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, most of North and South Dakota; portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Also included by France in the purchase was what would be northeastern New Mexico and northern Texas. These last two lands would be a point of friction between the United States and Spain, and later Mexico.

The Louisiana Purchase gave the United States one less European power to worry about. The concerns of an invasion by France during the negotiation, the continued bad relations with Britain, which controlled Canada, and having Spain in Florida and Texas had the young United States worried about its security. Spain saw that the purchase opened their eastern border to aggressive land hungry Americans.


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