I know that the acquisition of Louisiana has been disapproved by some, from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory would endanger it’s 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 Missisipi should be settled by our own brethren & children than by strangers of another family? with which should we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse?
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders see bright spots in the distance!
There was opposition from political opponents, the Federalists, to the President’s purchase of Louisiana in 1803, over its cost and constitutionality. Others were honestly concerned (“a candid apprehension”) that doubling the country’s size might destabilize it. Jefferson thought just the opposite, that a larger nation would be more stable, less vulnerable to parochial interests, what he called “local passions.”
Regardless, there was other good reasons for the enlargement. The Mississippi River was now entirely within U.S. jurisdiction, so farmers could ship their goods to market without interference. In addition, those on the western bank of that river would not be “strangers of another family,” the French, Spanish, English or Russian, for all had designs on that vast territory. No, those people would now be fellow citizens, “our own brethren and children.”