In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte surprised U.S. negotiators with an offer to sell the Louisiana Territory for approximately 4 cents per acre. With a $15 million investment, the United States acquired more than 800,000 acres, almost doubling the country's land holdings. The territory stretched from Canada in the north to the South's Gulf of Mexico, and from the Mississippi River in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the West.

Secret Treaties and Unexpected Negotiation Terms

Spain made a decision that would literally change the landscape of the United States when a secret treaty ceded the Louisiana Territory to France in 1800. In response to the outcry of farmers and merchants, who feared they would lose their access to the port at New Orleans, President Thomas Jefferson authorized Robert Livingston and James Monroe to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans, with its port, along with as much as the Gulf Coast as they were able to convince France to part with. In the meantime, Touissaint L'Ouverture led a successful slave revolt and rebellion in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, the modern nation of Haiti. Without control of Haiti, Louisiana was of little use to the French. With the U.S. interest in New Orleans, Napoleon had the opportunity to both get rid of the unwanted territory and to finance his various wars in Europe.