Was The Louisiana Purchase Constitutional Or Not?
This paper will be about whether or not the Louisiana purchase was constitutional. The purchase would be permissible and implied under the Constitution treaty-making provisions. It would be argued by many that Jefferson stretched the Constitution to justify the purchase. Many people will argue if the westward expansion will cause more slavery and whose political and economic priorities were bound to conflict with those of the merchants and bankers of the north.
The French have been expanding their land in America since 1862 when Ren?©-Robert Cavelier lead his crew to the Gulf of Mexico and called it Louisiana. In 1722 New Orleans becomes the capital of France’s ‘New World’ empire but 40 years they give part of the west to England and New Orleans and part of the east to the Spanish. The treaty of San Lorenzo which allowed Americans to traverse the Mississippi River and use New Orleans harbor duty-free was written in 1795. In 1803 France offers to sell Louisana to the United States and on December 20th France hands over Louisiana to the United States. Louisiana is not recognized as a state until 1821.
The Louisiana purchase was constitutional because it was enacted as a treaty. The Constitution specifically grants the president the power to negotiate treaties. Though the Constitution does not specifically authorize the executive branch (or any other branch of the government) to purchase land from other nations. Many people had faith in Thomas Jefferson’s decisions involving the French because he spent a long time in France working on diplomacy and relationships with the French people.
Thomas Jefferson is a man that lived by the constitution word by word. When the word got out that he was going through with the Lousiana purchase, it caused a lot of controversies. Many people deemed that the purchase was unconstitutional and call Thomas Jefferson out for being hypocritical. Instead, Jefferson contemplated a constitutional amendment as the best way to close the deal with France. The General Government has no powers but such as the Constitution gives it, he wrote. It has not given it a power of holding foreign territory, and still less of incorporating it into the Union. An amendment of the Constitution seems essential for this. His cabinet disagreed, specify James Madison, about the need for a constitutional amendment. With that being said, Thomas Jefferson already had a draft for the amendment and was frustrated with James Madison. Jefferson rationalized his decision for the treaty to be sent to Congress without an amendment by saying that he is buying it for the good of the people. Any deal with France would be lawful and implied under the Constitution’s treaty-making prerequisites.
Many southern farmers saw the Louisiana Purchase as a huge chance to expand farms and increase their profits. Some wanted the land so bad that they wanted the government wage war to be able to secure free use of the soon to be Mississippi. Democratic republicans thought that Napoleon might change his mind given his reputation and choose another nation to take the land or may not even sell it at all. Some of the democratic republicans did not even want an amendment either because they knew that it would take too long it get it approved. They used the 11th amendment to prove their points stating that from March 4, 1794. It was not ratified until January 23, 1795 (over 11 months). Some were even xenophobes saying that the Louisiana Purchase would make the United States safer by getting rid the French, Spanish, and English. Specifically the French because of Napoleon’s expansionist tendencies.
On the other hand, the Federalists had their opinions on why they believed the Louisiana purchase was unconstitutional. They argue that the constitution had no provision to allow the executive branch to purchase land from foreign countries. They also called Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite saying that he was against loose construction and that he had the option of creating an amendment but did not because he knew it would take too long. The Federalists did not want to add on to the growing national debt and was worried that the Louisiana Purchase would sink the United States economy. They were also scared that there would be states carved from the purchase that would ultimately benefit Jeffersonians and would grant Republicans enormous power over Congress. This meant that the south would be able to swing enough votes to be able to do as they please. And there would be more slave states from the purchase too. Some Federalists thought that the expansion to the frontier would somehow decivilize the United States as a whole and other nations would look down on us. For some reason, they argued that the French and Spanish people that live in the soon to be United States territory have not consented to be fused into the United States. Even though they do not have a problem pushing the Native Americans around and incorporating them into the United States. The people that live in Louisiana would so far from the capital of the nation that it seemed that it would be near impossible to control and meet the needs of the soon to be enacted citizens. Federalists thought that this would eventually lead to the separation of the territory and cause a sort of civil war. A major concern was that everyone knew that Napoleon could not maintain control over Louisiana and he is afraid that England will take it over, which leads us to ‘over’ pay. This is because the cost of Napoleon’s war made it necessary for him to offer Louisiana at an compelling price of $15 million dollars or approximately $.04 an acre.
Many of the arguments made against Thomas Jefferson was primarily economic self-interest, not any legitimate concern over constitutionality. But, they wanted it to be posted as such to appeal to the majority and not the minority. The Louisiana purchase opened up a lot of free lands. That means that the newly acquired land is open for anyone to claim their stake. This really made parts of the north upset because they were hoping to sell these lands to farmers, who might go west. So much so that some New York and New England Federalists began discussing their region’s secession from a union that was becoming too large and too different from the one they had helped form barely fifteen years earlier. But at the same time, there were some legitimate worries that with the Purchase comes New Orleans. That means that a lot of the crops that will be made in the southwest and parts of the west do not need the ports in New England anymore to be able to ship their goods.
Federalists criticized the expense, arguing that the island of New Orleans and Spanish West Florida was more valuable and could have been purchased for much less. But they also argued that expansion west of the Mississippi would bring the creation of many hostile nations in North America. Hamilton prompted Jefferson to negotiate a new treaty with Spain to exchange the whole of Louisiana west of the Mississippi for East and West Florida rather Louisiana.
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