Dear Mr. Jefferson,
My name is Scott and I'm in the ninth grade in Boise, ID.
I have a few questions about your decision to purchase the
Louisiana territory. Did you feel that New Orleans would be an
important economic property for the United States? Did you plan on
exploring the area and possibly starting settelments? Was there
any controversy about the purchase because the executive branch
was not supposed to have that power? What reasons did you have
for the purchase?
Thank you for your time and input.
Dear Master Scott,
Thank you for your recent letter. I did indeed think that
the purchase of the port of New Orleans would be of great economic
importance to our western citizens and their trade along the
Mississippi River. I am confused with your second question when
you ask " Did you plan on exploring the area and possibly starting
settlements?" New Orleans was already a settled city. If you are
perchance making reference to the whole Louisiana Territory, then
I would have to say that I had hopes that we could explore it to
learn more about its inhabitants, flora, fauna, and lands. I am
not opposed to our settling in the area as well.
I know that the acquisition of Louisiana was disapproved by
some, from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our
territory would endanger its Union, but who can limit the extent
to which the federative principle may operate effectively? The
larger our association, the less will it be shaken by local
passions; and, in any view, is it not better that the opposite
bank of the Mississippi should be settled by our own brethren
and children than by strangers of another family? With which shall
we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse?
As for the Constitution, it had made no provision for our
holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating foreign
nations into our Union. The Executive in seizing the fugitive
occurance (the Louisiana Purchase) which so much advances the
good of their country, did an act beyond the Constitution. The
Legislature in casting behind them metaphysical subtleties, and
risking themselves like faithful servants, had to ratify and pay
for it, and throw themselves on what we know they would have done
for themselves had they been in a situation to do it. It is the
case of a guardian, investing the money of his ward in purchasing
an important adjacent territory; and saying to him when of age, I
did this for your good; I pretend to no right to bind you: you may
disavow me, and I must get out of the scrape as I can:, I thought
it my duty to risk myself for you. But we were not disavowed by
the nation, and their act of indemnity confirmed and did not weaken
the Constitution, by more strongly marking out its lines.
Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and
deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.
They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human,
and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well:
I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country.
It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present;
and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-
reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the
dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes
in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be
borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them
and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know,
also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress
of the human mind.
Please excuse me for being long-winded, but I feel passionately
about some of these matters.
I am with great esteem, Your most obedt. humble servt,
Could you please refresh my memory on the states you
purchased in the Louisiana Purchase? I know what they are
but I can't think of the names of the ones you purchased.
Dear Mistress Jennifer,
Thank you for your recent letter. Please forgive him
for responding to your letter, but Mr. Jefferson would
not have known the names of all of the present states
that make up the Louisiana Purchase. They are: Part of
Louisiana; Arkansas; Oklahoma; part of Texas; Missouri;
Iowa, part of Minnesota; part of North Dakota; South
Dakota; Nebraska; Kansas; part of New Mexico; part of
Colorado; part of Wyoming; Montana; and part of present-
day Canada (a small part of Alberta and Saskatchewan -
it was ceded to Great Britain in 1818).
Mr. Jefferson's scribe