Louisiana Territory: History, Facts & Map

Instructor: Brian Muhammad
The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory was one of the defining moments of American History. Learn more about the history of the Louisiana Territory and test your knowledge with a quiz.


The Louisiana Territory contained all (or at least some portion) of 15 present-day U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. This land was acquired by the United States in 1803 for the sum of $15 million dollars.

The Louisiana Territory nearly doubled the size of the U.S.
Louisiana Territory

Before the Purchase

From the late 1600s, France had claimed the Louisiana Territory. In their desire for land, France fought Britain in the French and Indian War from 1754-1763. Once the war ended, France had to give Spain the Louisiana Territory. This was compensation for Spanish assistance to the French during the war. In 1800, Spain offered Americans free access to shipping and encouraged settlement in the Louisiana Territory. However, the Spanish governor of New Orleans stopped allowing the export of produce and other goods through the city. A secret treaty was negotiated between Spain and France in which the Louisiana Territory was returned to France on October 1, 1800.

The Purchase

President Thomas Jefferson was well aware at the potential threat France posed in the Louisiana Territory. In April 1802, Jefferson instructed Robert R. Livingston, the U.S. Minister to France,to travel to France and negotiate with the French. Livingston's mission was to purchase New Orleans for $2 million dollars.

President Thomas Jefferson wanted to expand the size of the U.S.
Thomas Jefferson

Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France in 1799, and he wanted to use the Louisiana Territory as a source of food and trade. However, France was already engaged in war with Haiti, which Napoleon would later abandon. Napoleon had lost thousands of soldiers in battle and to the yellow fever in Haiti. Napoleon was in desperate need of cash if he wanted to engage in other European conquests.

Napoleon no longer had use for the Louisiana Territory
Napoleon Bonaparte

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