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?
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders embrace expansion.
Jefferson acknowledged that some feared the purchase of Louisiana would destabilize the country. He thought just the opposite, that a larger union was a protection against strong local disagreements. He also thought the republican (small r) principles that guided 15 states could guide 20 or 30 or 100 states.
Regardless of one’s opinion on the size of the union, who would be better neighbors on the west side of the Mississippi River? Would they prefer French, Spanish, English or Russian neighbors, for all four countries had interests beyond the Mississippi? Or would they rather have fellow citizens, Americans, as their neighbors?