Was The Louisiana Purchase Worth It?


The Louisiana Purchase ranks among three of the most valuable land sales in all of history. It was the buying of the territory of Louisiana by the United States from France in the year 1803. The total value of the deal was worth 68 million Francs comprising of direct cost of 50 million Francs and 18 million Francs debt cancellation. The Louisiana territory covers an area of 828,000 square miles. If inflationary effects are taken into consideration, the current value of the deal would be worth about two hundred and thirty six million US dollars. The original territory encompassed land that covers 15 states in the US and part of two provinces in Canada. France was motivated to sell the territory to the United States in the face of threat of war with Britain. The purchase occurred during the regime of Thomas Jefferson.

What were the Motivating factors for the Deal?

The territory was originally under the control of France from around 1699 but was later ceded to Spain 73 years later. However, the desire by France to re-establish its empire in North America prompted a re-establishment of its control over the territory of Louisiana in 1800 but revolt by slaves in Saint-Domingue, which is the present day Haiti, and a threat of war with Britain motivated the French to sell the entire territory to the Americans. Initially, the Americans only wanted to purchase New Orleans and its environs but were pleasantly surprised when they were offered the whole territory instead. After the sale was completed, disputes arose with Spain over the legality of the sale and the boundary demarcations of the territory. The reply of the Americans to the first objection raised by Spain was that they had initially wanted to deal with the Spanish but were instructed instead to deal with the French. The other dispute arose because the boundaries of the territory were not clearly defined in any of the pre-existing treaties or in documents of the land sale itself. However, there was a negotiated settlement which allowed the Americans to keep most of what they had claimed west of the Mississippi.

Was the Purchase really worth it?

As of 2010, the value of the land acquisition works out at $236 million which is about 42 cents for every acre of land. This is relatively cheap. Also the purchase enabled the United States to double its land size. It also enabled the United States to store goods by gaining possession of the Port of New Orleans. It enabled the US to gain a strategic trade route through the Mississippi river and to acquire much farmland. By all considerations, it seems the purchase of Louisiana territory is well worth every cent spent on it.

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