The Louisiana Land Purchase

1 Jul

Arriving in New Orleans, Louisiana on 14 June 2019 made me realise that I had to brush up my history of the New World if I wanted to write about my travels.

When Christopher Columbus discovered America, landing first on an island in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492, he claimed it for the Spanish Crown which had sponsored his voyage.

The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between the Portuguese Empire and the Crown of Castile [Spain], along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, off the west coast of Africa [Wiki].

By the early 1500’s, Spain had established permanent colonies in the Americas, Spain divided its territory into viceroyalties with governors appointed by the king. Missions were established to spread Christianity.

Not to be left behind by Spain and Portugal, the Dutch, the English and France began to establish colonies in North America, the Caribbean and India in the 17th century.

The modern state of Louisiana began its existence as French Louisiana, named for the Sun King, Louis XIV. It originally covered most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River and stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.

In 1803, the United States purchased the territory of Louisiana from France for fifteen million dollars. The “Louisiana Purchase” (Vente de la Louisiane) included land from fifteen present US States (Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; large portions of North Dakota and South Dakota; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; the northeastern section of New Mexico; northern portions of Texas; New Orleans and the portions of the present state of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River) and two Canadian Provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan).

The total land area in the “Louisiana Purchase” was 2.14 million Sq Km. For perspective, the present area of the USA is 9.83 million Sq Km and the area of the Republic of India is 3.29 million Sq Km. This means that the “Louisiana Purchase” was 22% of modern USA land area and 65% of modern India’s land area!

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