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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Louisiana Purchase a great deal

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Imagine this, three men, all from different nationalities, each survivors of wars and reigns of terror, mutually suspicious of each other and in addition each was still alive only because they had escaped the gallows or the guillotine in their own countries, all sitting down in a dim-lighted salon in Paris, France, to conduct business.

What kind of business? One representing the most powerful man in the world at the moment, would offer to sell a huge tract of land he did not own or know the boundaries, to another man who had little money much less the authority to buy.

That tract of land consisted of all the lands the Mississippi River drained including all the lands its tributaries drained, basically all the property north of the Gulf of Mexico and west of the Mississippi River to the Shining Mountains (wherever they were) north to Canada (wherever that was). Now, is that a clear legal description or what?

The seller was Napoleon who needed the money to fight his next war. The buyer was Thomas Jefferson a man without an army, navy or hardly any money in his treasury and who was surrounded by hostile neighbors in his new country. Not only that, but in order to buy the land he would have to borrow the purchase money from England, one of his hostile neighbors and also one of the only countries in the world with that much money to loan.

And so, the deal was made. Overnight it doubled the size of the United States though no one knew it at the time because it had never been seen by white men much less surveyed.

Thus the most spectacular real estate deal ever made was transacted, selling 900,000,000 square miles of the very heartland of the American Continent for $12 million of which every cent had to be borrowed. If you think modern politics and government efforts are a bit wild and wooly today, read the book "Eminent Domain" to learn of past government escapades.

For an interesting math problem of the day, multiply 900,000,000 square miles by 640 acres per square mile and divide that into $12 million to determine the cost per acre.

Of further interest, the state of Louisiana is different from other states when pertaining to legal documents. Where all other states in America's legal system for the most part is based on English Common Law, Louisiana was part of the French Territory included in the Louisiana Purchase described above.

It's legal system for the most part is based on French or Civil Law. Also called the Napoleonic Code. It came about as at one time Napoleon tried to standardize the legal system for his empire which included the land in the Louisiana Purchase.

We live in a time where almost every day we read and speak of dollars numbering into the billions and trillions. Most have no idea of what a billion dollars looks like or what it could buy. To speak of a trillion dollars just means adding more zeros to an already unbelievable sum. To realize only $12 million were required to more than double the size of the United States certainly makes the Louisiana Purchase the greatest land bargain of all time.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew" April 13, 2010 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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