The cession of Louisiana & the Floridas by Spain to France works most sorely on the US … of all nations of any consideration France is the one which hitherto has offered the fewest points on which we could have any conflict of right, and the most points of a communion of interests … our natural friend … [yet] there is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural & habitual enemy. it is New Orleans, through which the produce of three eighths of our territory must pass to market … France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance.
To Robert Livingston, April 18, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders expect the unexpected.
Jefferson, a lover of most-things-French, was dealt a serious blow upon confirming that sleepy Spain was returning its holdings west of the Mississippi River (Louisiana) along with the Port of New Orleans to France. He foresaw the time when expansionist France could use its control of that port to strangle the sale of American goods from its western lands. Those goods had to pass down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers through New Orleans on their way to the east coast and Europe.
Livingstone was an American minister to France. Secretary of State Madison had already written him on this matter, the proper chain of command. So concerned was Jefferson about this matter that he wrote his own very long letter on the same subject.
France’s new ownership of New Orleans and Louisiana, coupled with other unforeseen events, soon led her to offer all of her new acquisition for sale to the United States. Thus, was the size of the new nation doubled. Lewis & Clark’s expedition two years later set the wheels in motion the for U.S. to extend its ownership to the Pacific Ocean.