eastern neighbors will spend much of 2003 celebrating the centennial
of the Louisiana Purchase, a fantastic real estate deal concluded
by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. Few may remember its impact
on East Texas.
First, The Purchase: The Peace of Paris, 1763, eliminated the French
empire from North America. English (later American) claims then
extended to the Mississippi River, and Spain assumed French lands
west of the Father of Waters.
By the time the United States was organized in 1789, American settlement
had extended to the river, and all those living west of the Appalachians
needed access to the Mississippi so they could ship produce and
import goods via New Orleans. And that seemed more complicated after
Napoleon forced Spain to return their portion of the plunder of
So Jefferson determined to purchase the port of New Orleans from
France, assuming that the nation that owned the port would control
ingress and egress to and from the interior via the Mississippi
Jefferson sent Robert Livingston, and later James Monroe, to France,
to make the deal. Jefferson's men caught Napoleon at a "good time"
for the United States and a "bad" time for Napoleon. Dreams of recreating
the French empire had crumbled and he needed cash. So he sold not
just New Orleans, but all of Louisiana, to the United States for
approximately $15 million.
There were several consequences of this significant real estate
transaction. The United States greatly increased in size, and now
controlled both sides of the primary artery of navigation and commerce
in the continentıs interior. Eventually all or portions of a dozen
states emerged from the territory.
As far as Texas is concerned, the matter of a definite border between
the United States and Spain was left undecided in negotiations by
French and American diplomats. This created an uncertainty that
led to the Magee-Gutierrez
Expedition, an filibustering invasion of Texas, in 1812. Later,
when the Adams-Onis Treaty
(1819) established the Sabine River as the boundary and the United
States disclaimed any claims west of that stream, it provoked the
James Long Expedition to claim Texas for the expansion of the Southern
way of life.
These filibustering expeditions, plus unnumbered individuals who
slipped across the Sabine unnoticed, advanced the notion of Manifest
Destiny: The faith that one day all of the continent would be within
in the United States. The Purchase then, while important to Louisiana
for different reasons, is also important to East
18-24, 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical
Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and
author of more than 20 books on Texas.