.. ferson considered his options. He could either ask congress to amend the Constitution to allow the new territory into the Union, or quietly submit the treaty for ratification. Attorney General Levi Lincoln suggested that Jefferson boldly announce and defend the constitutionality of the purchase in his message to Congress. Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, was quick to discount this suggestion with his own opinion on the subject. Gallatin noted that if it was unlawful for the United States Government to acquire territory then it would be just as unlawful for individual states to do so.
Gallatin went on to advise Jefferson that the United States as a nation has the right to acquire territory and that when the territory was gained by way of treaty the same constituted authorities in whom the treaty making power is vested have a constitutional right to sanction the acquisition, and once a territory has been acquired Congress has the power of either of admitting into the Union as a new state, or of annexing to a State with the consent of that state, or of making regulations for the government of such territory. This interpretation of the Constitution was perhaps as liberal and broad as the Federalists themselves might have made. Gallatin was not alone in his interpretation of the Constitution. Thomas Paine took the occasion to voice his opinion on the matter in a letter to Jefferson. Paine’s letter, along with the position that Gallatin held, slowly worked to change Jefferson’s mind on the constitutional issue. He still held to the idea that an amendment to the Constitution would be necessary to incorporate the Louisiana Territory into the Union.
This was due to Jefferson’s strict constructionist views towards the constitution. Accordingly, Jefferson drafted two amendments to the Constitution, but finally on advice of his constituents never submitted either of them to Congress for debate. Jefferson was not alone in his assumption that a constitutional amendment was required to absorb the new territory into the Union. Massachusetts Senator John Quincy Adams also drafted an amendment to the Constitution. Adams believed that the consent of the people of both the United States and those in the Louisiana territory was necessary to allow the latter into the Union. Adams invited Secretary of State James Madison and fellow Senate member Timothy Pickering to review the proposed amendment. Neither Madison or Pickering approved of the amendment yet both agreed on the correctness of the principle. Madison considered that the words of the amendment should simply read, Louisiana is admitted as a part of the Union.
The simplicity of Madison’s suggestion is admirable during a time of seeming confusion. Jefferson, beyond all else, insisted on preserving the integrity of the Constitution. He said that when an instrument admits two constructions, the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe and precise. Jefferson realized at the time that future generations would look to his actions as an example and he certainly did not want to make the constitution a blank paper by construction. Jefferson believed it the duty of the government is to set an example against broad construction, by appealing for new power to the people.
Wilson Cary Nichols urged the President not to convey his opinion of the constitutionality of the treaty. Nichols suggested that if this treaty was unconstitutional, all other treaties were open to the same objection, and the United States government in such a case could make no treaty at all. Jefferson chose the later suggestion and apparently now put aside his strict constructionist views and recognized a broad construction of the Constitution. Jefferson now decided the less that is said about any constitutional difficulty, the better; and that it will be desirable for Congress to do what is necessary, in silence. When Jefferson addressed the Eighth Congress, he praised the purchase of Louisiana but said nothing about its constitutionality.
In this manner Jefferson was leaving the constitutional question up to the members of the House and Senate . The Republicans outnumbered the Federalist in both houses of Congress, ensuring ratification of the treaty. Ratification was not easy. Republican John Randolph, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, submitted a resolution to pass the treaty of cession. Federalist Congressman, Gaylord Griswold requested documentation from the President to prove that the French indeed held the territory and were in a position to sell. Randolph denounced the request as useless, dangerous, & an encroachment on the prerogatives of the Executive. This tactic worked for the Republicans, and Griswold was defeated by the slim margin of fifty-nine to fifty-seven.
Although the Republicans had managed to thwart the Federalists on this account, there was indeed some concern of France’s right to sell the territory. Secretary of State James Madison had previously received a communiqu from the Spanish envoy, Marques de Casa Yrujo, claiming that the French had never carried out the provisions of the treaty of San Ildefonso. Whether the French had actually held up their end of the bargain with Spain was not the American’s concern. What did concern the Americans was whether the French had ever received the transfer of ownership of the territory from Spain. Madison was reassured on the matter when Louis Andre Pichon, French charge d’affaires, delivered the order signed on October 15, 1802 by the Spanish King, Charles IV, that ceded the Louisiana territory to France. The following day Griswold again led the debate for the Federalists.
Griswold implied that the framers of the Constitution, carried their ideas to the time when there might be an extended population; but they did not carry them to the time when an addition might be made to the Union of a territory equal to the whole United States, which additional territory might overbalance the existing territory, and thereby the rights of the present citizens of the United States be swallowed up and lost. Randolph again responded to Griswold’s complaint, reasoning that the Constitution could not restrict the country to particular limits because at the time of the framing of the Constitution the boundary was unsettled on the northeastern, northwestern, and southern frontiers. This was a complete about race for Randolph who, like Jefferson, had previously been in favor of a narrow interpretation of the Constitution. It seems that broad construction fever had settled upon the vast majority of the Republicans. Federalist Roger Griswold of Connecticut next took up the debate and rebuked Gaylord Griswold’s assertions.
Roger Griswold argued that a new territory may undoubtedly be obtained by conquest and by purchase; but neither the conquest nor the purchase can incorporate them into the Union. Griswold suggested that the new territory should be retained in the form of colonies and governed as such, but that the President and Senate could not admit a foreign people in the Union as a State. Joseph H. Nicholson, Republican Congressman from Maryland, took up the debate and argued that the United States as a sovereign nation had a right to acquire new territory. Nicholson asserted that under the terms of the Constitution, the right to declare war was given to congress; the right to make treaties, to the President and Senate. This basically supported the position that Griswold had held.
The point that Nicholson was trying to make was that the United States government alone had the power to make treaties. Advocates of States’ rights issues shuddered at such a centralizing of power assertion as this. Republican Congressman Caesar A. Rodney of Delaware next took up the attack. Rodney cited the necessary and proper clause and many strict constructionist viewed this clause as being the most dangerous medium of a centralized government.
Rodney stated Have we not also vested in us every power necessary for carrying such a treaty into effect..? This virtually ended the debate in the House of Representatives. After only one day of discussion on the floor, the treaty had been ratified. In the vote, ninety Republicans supported Randolph with their votes, and twenty-five Federalists alone protested. In so doing, the Republicans had now in fact taken up the position formerly held by the Federalist. The centralizing of power placed in the hands of the Federal government would have made many of the Republicans consider seceding from the Union only a few years earlier.
Now that such ideas supported their needs they embraced this notion as if they had conceived it on their own. On November 2, 1803, debates started in the Senate over the treaty. Senator Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts led the debate for the Federalists. Pickering agreed with the suggestion that the United States had the right to purchase or conquer new territories. He also believed that the government had the right to govern new territories but he ascertained that neither the President nor Congress could incorporate this territory in the Union, nor could the incorporation lawfully be effected even by an ordinary amendment to the Constitution.
Pickering also said that he believes the assent of each individual State to be necessary for the admission of a foreign country as an associate in the Union. The point Pickering was arguing was the states’ rights issue. The reason the Federalists had taken up this side of the argument was an attempt to protect their rights. The Federalist party had long since been losing ground to the Republicans and they feared being squeezed out of policy making procedures all together. The debate over states’ rights was pushed on by Republican Senator John Taylor from Caroline, Virginia. Taylor also voiced his objection to the increased powers of the central government.
He believed that the United States government..had bought a foreign people without their consent and without consulting the States, and pledged itself to incorporate this people in the Union. Taylor consequently agreed that the government could make treaties, but should appeal to the public for a broadening of its powers. Senator Uriah Tracy of Connecticut followed Taylor and perhaps put forth the best argument of all the Federalists. Tracy said I have no doubt but we can obtain territory either by conquest or compact,…but to admit the inhabitants into the Union , to make citizens of them, and States, by treaty, we cannot constitutionally do. Thus the portion of the treaty that required the inhabitants of the Louisiana territory to become admitted to the Union became the greatest point of dissension between the two parties.
John Breckenridge from Kentucky answered Tracy’s argument. Breckenridge asserted that the admission by treaty of a foreign State was less dangerous, and therefore more constitutional, than such ownership of foreign territory. Breckenridge maintained the position that if the Union were to accept Tracy’s argument that America could incorporate ten millions of inhabitants,and thereby destroy our government. Then certainly the thing would be possible if Congress would do it and the people consent to it…The true construction must depend on the manifest import of the instrument and the good sense of the community. The Senate, after two days of debate, ratified the treaty by a vote of twenty-four to seven. The dissenters were the New England Federalists including Hamilton’s long time friend Timothy Pickering.
The Federalists feared that the enormity of the area purchased would consequently reduce their power in the government as the acquisition would upset the balance of power between the New England States and the Western States. The general consensus at the time of a lasting peace with foreign powers and control of the Mississippi River over rode the constitutional issue. The inhabitants of the Louisiana Territory would be treated as nationals of the United States. The western territory would eventually become the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and much of Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. Jefferson stated his views of the purchase perhaps best in a letter to Doctor Joseph Priestly.
I look to this duplication of area for the extending a government so free and economical as ours, as a great achievement to the mass of happiness which is to ensue. The government had done just that, retained the freedom of the existing States, while at the same time liberating the Louisiana territory from the despotism of European powers. For Napoleon, the sale of the Louisiana Territory set a precedent in his loss of national appeal. No true Frenchman could forgive the emperor for trading away such a vast empire for so paltry a sum. Napoleon blamed the loss of the North American territory on the affair of Santo Domingo and called it his Louisianicide. The Republicans, in order to ratify the treaty of cession, took on the broad construction views that had been held by the Federalist party.
At the same time the majority of the Federalists attempted to adhere to a stricter interpretation of the Const itution. This change of views occured in order to meet their respective agendas. The Republicans wanted the territory and considered an alliance with England in necessary. The Federalists knew that as the country continued to grow ever westward that the New England States would lose the power that they held with the rest of the Nation. The Federalist party was by now in decline on a national level and the Louisiana Purchase added to their decline. The Federalists had lost so much favor in the new Nation that they never regained the presidency.
Rufus King from New York in 1816 was the last presidential candidate put forth by the Federalist party. Jefferson redefined the nature of the executive office during his presidency. The Louisiana Purchase effectively broadened presidential power and put more authority into the hands of the central government. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the existing United States and set a precedent for expansion. It has been viewed as the progenitor of the Monroe Doctrine.
Under provisions of the Doctorine, the American continents are not to be considered as subjects for future colonization. The constitutional issue, decided oddly enough by a man that Jefferson despised as much as he did Hamilton. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall, viewed by Jefferson with a repugnance tinged by a shade of some deeper feeling, almost akin to fear. Marshall believed that by Jefferson weakening the office of President it would increase his personal power. In 1828 under the direction of Chief Justice John Marshall the Supreme Court found that the Constitution confers absolutely on the Government of the Union the powers of making war, and of making treaties; consequently, that Government possesses the power of acquiring territory, either by conquest or treaty.
Thus the issue was finally put to rest after twenty-five years of uncertainty. Bibliography 1. Bergh, Albert Ellery, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1907. 2.
Ferguson, E. James, ed. Selected Writings of Albert Gallatin. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1967. 3.
.Foner, Philip S., ed. The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine. New York: The Citadel Press, 1969. 3. Koch, Adrienne & Peden, William, ed.
The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946. 4. Morris, Anne Cary., ed., The Diary And Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol.
II. New York: Trow’s Printing and Bookbinding Company, 1889. 5. Adams, Henry. History of the United States during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson. Nine volumes.
New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1930.