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2 - “Service without Authority”

Livingston and Monroe Buy Louisiana

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2020

Seth Jacobs
Affiliation:
Boston College, Massachusetts
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Summary

Chapter 2 explores how two rogue diplomats, Robert Livingston and James Monroe, obtained half a continent for the United States without shedding a drop of blood. Despite President Thomas Jefferson's instructions that Livingston and Monroe negotiate only for the city of New Orleans and as much territory east of that city as Napoleon Bonaparte's government could be persuaded to part with, they broke ranks and pledged $15 million for the transfer of the immense Louisiana territory from France to America. This act violated two of Jefferson's most cherished principles: economy in government and strict construction of the Constitution. Fifteen million dollars was a huge sum of money in 1803 - it vastly expanded the national debt - and there was no clause in the Constitution empowering the president to buy land. Livingston and Monroe risked their reputations, and possibly their lives, on the gamble that Jefferson would cast his scruples aside and submit the Louisiana treaty to the Senate. They were right, and, as a result of their disobedience, the United States doubled in size, acquiring 827,000 square miles of territory west of the Mississippi at a cost of three cents an acre. It was a mind-boggling bargain, and, like the treaty that ended the American Revolution, it grew out of American diplomatic indiscipline.

Type
Chapter
Information
Rogue Diplomats
The Proud Tradition of Disobedience in American Foreign Policy
, pp. 78 - 121
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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