37 pages 1 hour read

Joseph J. Ellis

American Creation

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2007

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Chapter 6-AfterwordChapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 6 Summary: “The Purchase”

This final chapter deals with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which had profound ramifications for the future of the US—both good and bad. When Jefferson came to power in 1801, he envisioned the western part of the continent as the future. The only European power there was Spain, an empire in decline, weak enough that Jefferson assumed it was only a matter of time before the US took over its territory.

This all changed in the first month of Jefferson’s presidency, when American diplomats in Europe caught wind of a rumor that Spain had ceded much of its territory in North America to France. If true, this meant that the strongest, not the weakest, European power sat at America’s doorstep. Jefferson’s minister to France, Robert Livingston, set out to confirm the truth of the rumor. He discovered that a force of 25,000 troops would soon sail to the French colony of Santo Domingo (now Haiti) to put down a rebellion that had broken out the previous decade. They would then fortify New Orleans and the western bank of the Mississippi against the Americans. Jefferson did not panic, predicting that the French would never get out of Santo Domingo.

Shortly afterward, a Spanish official in New Orleans closed the port to American shipping.