U.S. representatives agreed to pay $15 million to the French government for 828,000 square miles of land that stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada on April 30th, 1803. The deal, which has come to be known as the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubled the size of the United States overnight.
The United States paid $11,250,000 and also cancelled debts worth $3,750,000 – a total of $15,000,000, which is roughly $250,000,000 in today’s money. The territory included land that makes up fifteen current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the part of Minnesota that lies west of the Mississippi River; a large part of North Dakota; a large part of South Dakota; the north eastern part of New Mexico; the northern part of Texas; the section of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado that lies east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River which includes New Orleans and small areas of land that lie within the modern day Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
France had controlled the Louisiana territory from 1699 until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. By 1800, Napoleon regained ownership of Louisiana as he hoped to re-establish an empire in North America. This idea was ultimately put paid to by France’s failure to extinguish the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue (modern day Haiti) and alongside the prospect of renewed tensions with the United Kingdom, Napoleon instead decided to sell Louisiana to the United States.
The Americans only initially wanted to purchase the city of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal areas, but quickly accepted the bargain that the French were offering and what was an extremely generous offer by any standard.
The $15 million purchase was financed through Barings Bank in the City Of London and Hope & Co. who were based in Amsterdam.
The final cost of the deal was $23,527,872.57 including the 6% interest, which equated to about $0.03 per acre – roughly $362 in today’s money. The average cost of land in Louisiana today is roughly $12,908 per acre so it gives a rough idea of just how generous a proposition the Louisiana Purchase actually was.
Some of the additions made to the United States upon conclusion of the deal were:
- Millions of acres of Farm land
- Millions of acres of Homestead land
- Hundreds of thousands of miles of navigable rivers
- Billions of acre feet of Water
- Billions of dollars of Minerals
- Billions of dollars of Timber
- Billions of fish, fowl and animals
One cannot undervalue the navigable rivers and the impact they ultimately had on distribution in this era right through to today. They are priceless assets and it would be impossible to calculate how much revenue these rivers have generated for the United States since 1803. Just about every industry in the US has directly benefited from this acquisition in some way.
The biggest value gained was arguably the opportunity to create a United States that pushed all the way across to the Pacific Ocean. It would have been almost strategically impossible to do this any other way than through the purchase in question. No larger mass of land has changed hands so effortlessly in history without a major war or strife.
All we’d like to say on the matter is that it still wouldn’t be a good idea if France went to war with Great Britain in the present day, so if President Macron wants to sell the Cote d’Azur to The W1nners’ Club for a knock down fee, we’d be more than happy to check under the sofa for any loose change that’s lying there.