From 1798-1801, Spain had revoked America's right to use the important port city of New Orleans, which significantly disrupted trading; however, in 1800, France acquired the Louisiana Territory as part of the Treaty of San Ildefonso. Napoleon viewed the reclamation with joy but kept it a secret. It wasn't until 1802 that the United States found out about the deal when the official transfer from Spanish control to French control was completed Nov. 30, 1803, in New Orleans. The majority of Louisiana's citizens found out about the reclamation when Napoleon sent Pierre Clement de Laussat to serve as prefect, or governor, of the area.
Thomas Jefferson, who had already considered acquiring the Louisiana Territory, immediately sent word to Robert Livingston, his foreign minister in Paris, and made preparations for James Monroe to travel to France to talk to Napoleon. Livingston wasted no time in meeting with Napoleon.On the other hand, Napoleon looked upon the sale with grim determination. France had been trying to gain the island of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean Sea. It was a strategic strong point. However, after blockading for several months, France had not made any impact on the island.
Without Santo Domingo, Napoleon became less interested in French holdings within the Americas. When Livingston asked for the meeting to discuss the sale of Louisiana to the United States, Napoleon called upon two adviser generals to ask their opinions. One agreed with the sale, one did not. New Orleans was a major port and gave the French control of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico.
It was Napoleon's intent to use New Orleans for his base in North America. Jefferson, a fervent Francophile who admired the country and its people, advised Napoleon that no European country, especially not England, was going to allow him to maintain a French base in New Orleans without a fight. Jefferson was concerned that France's control of the Mississippi River's only inlet and outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, and therefore control over goods entering and exiting that important port, would be an area of contention between the United States, England and France. Jefferson, through his ministers, advisors and well-placed prominent friends, disseminated information that implied the United States would fight to maintain control of the port and surrounding area. By selling the Louisiana Territory to the United States, Napoleon was keeping the area from falling into other hands while gaining as many benefits for his own country as possible.
However, Napoleon was a shrewd statesman. He saw the sale as a way to solidify his position with the United States government and help keep the British out of the western section of North America. If the United States owned the Louisiana Territory, then Great Britain could not expand out of Canada and into that area. The United States was in a greater position to settle and defend the area than France.
On April 12, 1803, Monroe arrived in Paris. It took only 18 days for the terms to be laid out and the treaty to be signed. The United States would purchase Louisiana for the sum of $15 million, slightly less than 3 cents an acre. Some of that money was reparations to be made for the illegal seizure of French land by American colonists; the rest was the price of the territory.
Monetary payment was not Napoleon's only requirement. Upon deciding to sell the territory, he set up protections for the interests of France, Spain and the citizens already living in the area. He dictated that there would be 12 years of duty-free trade for France and Spain in U.S. ports, French and Spanish citizens living in the area were to be extended the full rights afforded to U.S. citizens, and all Spanish and French land grants should be honored.
Article II of the sales agreement spelled out that private land would remain privately owned, and the rights to privately owned land were not part of the transfer agreement. Finally, the territory should be incorporated as quickly as possible within the United States.
Source: http://www.columbiatribune.com/arts_lif ... f6eda.html