Map of the Louisiana Purchase, n.d.
Suggested Teaching Instructions
France, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, was ready to sell the land. The French were on the brink of war with Britain and needed money for the war. The French were not willing to spare troops to guard the vast wilderness, and they did not see any use for this land. President Thomas Jefferson was thrilled at the Frenchmen’s willingness to sell the land, but suspected a trick so he sent two negotiators, Robert Livingston and James Monroe, to Paris to negotiate the deal. Although the Unites States initially offered $2 million for the land, the French asked for $15 million. Although this seems like an enormous amount of money, the United States jumped at the chance for this investment because it was a bargain. The United States paid $11,250,000 directly to France; the remainding $3,750,000 the French owed the United States anyway, so they agreed to cancel the debt.
Thomas Jefferson immediately asked Congress for money to fund an expedition of the new territory. Congress agreed, and in the fall of 1803, the Corps of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark, departed on their journey to seek a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Although no such waterway existed, the Corps did discover many new plants, animals, and geographical characteristics of the United States. Perhaps most significant, however, were their interactions with many different groups of Native Americans. On September 23, 1806, the Corps of Discovery returned to Washington D.C. after two and a half years. They were greeted as national heroes.