The acquisition of Louisiana by the United States

The acquisition of Louisiana by the United States

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  • Letter from Robert Livingston to Joseph Bonaparte.

  • The Last Rising of Colors: The Cession of New Orleans.


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Title: Letter from Robert Livingston to Joseph Bonaparte.

Author :

Creation date : 1804

Date shown: 08 March 1804

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Letter from Robert Livingston to Joseph Bonaparte regarding the acquisition of Louisiana by the United States, dated March 8, 1804.

Storage location: Franco-American Museum of the Château de Blérancourt (Blérancourt) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 02-012015 / 50D4

Letter from Robert Livingston to Joseph Bonaparte.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

The Last Rising of Colors: The Cession of New Orleans.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: July 2008

Historical context

Louisiana between France and Spain

The two events documented here are the cession of New Orleans on December 20, 1803 and the official transfer of sovereignty ceremony on March 10, 1804. To Americans wishing to buy New Orleans to secure trade between the sea and Mississippi, the French answer that they will sell the whole of Louisiana, for the impressive sum of 80 million francs (15 billion dollars).

Image Analysis

Farewell to New Orleans

Livingston's letter has been preserved in the archives and deposited in Blérancourt, at the National Museum of Franco-American Cooperation. The missive focuses especially on the financial details of the sale, in particular on the credit by the Baring bank of the sum of 60 million francs - the remainder being "due" by France as reparations for the damages caused to the interests. Americans during the "quasi-war", this latent maritime conflict between France and the United States which lasted from 1798 to 1800.
The last rising of the colors, hung on the picture rails of the same museum, presents an original composition, which leaves a large room for the blue of the sky (upper half) and that of the Mississippi River and its entry into contact with the sea (middle quarter). In the distance, at the foot of the mountains that block the horizon, we can see some traces of the French settlement. On the river, the boats in single file emphasize that the city is above all a trading post. The main scene is drawn in the foreground, in a country setting that barely evokes the New World. We can see from above French and American soldiers lowering the tricolor flag and hoisting the star-spangled banner. The two national emblems flutter in the wind, symbolizing the renewed friendship of the two great nations.


The French contribute to the construction of the United States

James Monroe and Robert Livingston, President Jefferson’s special envoys to Paris, could not but accept Napoleon’s proposal. The cession of the territories of the Mississippi would simply double the surface of the United States of the time (and amounts today to a little less than a quarter of the territory)! On April 30, 1803, the treaty was signed in Paris; On the July 4th national holiday, Jefferson announces it to his fellow citizens. The United States begins to conquer the interior of the continent and seeks to push the border further west. France is gaining the means to arm itself to war against the British and, she believes, the support of the Americans against their former metropolis. But it also lost all pretension on the North American continent and abandoned the French living in North America to their fate.

  • Consulate
  • tricolour flag
  • United States
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • Jefferson (Thomas)

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The acquisition of Louisiana by the United States"

Video: Louisiana Purchase - Historical Events - Wiki Videos by Kinedio


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