Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Day in U.S. History, April 30th.

On April 30, 1803, France sold Louisiana and the adjoining lands to the United States for $15 million dollars (78 million francs).

The Louisiana Purchase was a pivotal point in U.S. history for several reasons. First, it drastically increased the size of the young country…nearly doubling the territory the United States controlled. Second, it set an important precedent for the Federal government to expand the country.

The asking price was no great obstacle. The total price was partially covered by the cancelling of $3,250,000 worth of French debt held by the U.S., and after a $3 million down payment in gold, only about $9 million needed to be raised. With U.S. credit still recovering from the Revolutionary War it was, ironically, an English financial firm that backed the U.S. bonds used to raise the money.

It was this second reason that lead to the most opposition to the purchase. The Constitution made no mention of acquiring territory, and any power that was not expressly granted to the federal government was supposed to belong to the states. At a time when most state governments tended to think of themselves as almost separate countries, this was no trifling point. President Jefferson, president at the time, had been the greatest champion of state rights but pragmatism quickly overruled his philosophical leanings…hypocritical or not it was simply too good of a deal to pass up.

The territory acquired would eventually make up parts of 14 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. The Louisiana Purchase accounts for 23% of the present-day United States. The modern day states of Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming, were acquired at least partially in the purchase (as were small pieces of modern day Canadian Provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan).

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Mike Purdy said...

Of course, the other significant historical event that occurred on this day was the inauguration of George Washington as President in 1789 in New York City. So the presidency is 220 years old today. How times have changes since that day when Washington took the oath of office at Federal Hall, birthing a new experiment.

HTHaynes said...

I was going to do one or the other, tough call. Since Presidential milestones were all over the news already (President Obama was just up the road from me yesterday, celebrating his 100th day)...deciding to go the other direction. Next year!

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