The Louisiana Purchase was a defining moment for Thomas Jefferson and the United States. There was a real chance that the Louisiana Territory would result in a war with France, which was a war that the United States were not ready to fight. It was almost the kiss of death to the Democratic-Republican party which was emerging as the political force in the United States. However, the Federalists were making strong arguments against what Jefferson and his Republicans were doing and with war looming it looked as if the Democratic-Republican party may rupture. However, it became one of the great triumphs in American history. It more than doubled the size of the country and there was not a shot fired. It raised the popularity of Jefferson and would begin the Virginia dynasty.
– Jefferson was elected as the 3rd President of the United States in 1802 after defeating John Adams. His poltical rival was Alexander Hamilton who was leader of the Federalist party. Jefferson was an avid supporter of the French Revolution despite reservations from fellow Revolutionary War patriots, George Washington and John Adams. When the dust settled in the French Revolution it was not the great democracy that Jefferson had championed, but instead was headed the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. Jefferson’s idealism would be challenged not only by the Federalist, but also himself.
– James Madison is known as the Father of the American Constitution and co-author of the Federalist Papers with his now political rival Alexander Hamilton. Madison was the moderate voice of the Democratic-Republican party and would consistently rein his mentor’s idealism in. He would be the primary voice that the French diplomat Louis-Andre Pichon would interface with. Unlike Jefferson, James Madison took a more moderate approach to his foreign policy and was not against using threats of force against the French.
Robert R. Livingston – Nicknamed “The Chancellor” Livingston was no stranger to American politics nor to Thomas Jefferson. He had helped draft the Declaration of Independence, but was replaced before he could sign it. The Chancellor faced a stonewall in France when he arrived as the American ambassador. America was a young nation with little power and he was trying to convince an ambitious dictator who craved power to forget his colonial ambitions and that it would be more advantageous to sell the land to America in order to fund his empire.
– Hamilton was the leader of the Federalist party and was the political rival of Jefferson. He was also the General of the United States army that the late George Washington had installed during the Adams’ Presidency. Hamilton was a constant critic of the Democratic-Republican policies and wished to put the Federalist back into power. While Hamilton did not contribute to the Louisiana Purchase it was his criticisms that caused anxiety in the Democratic-Republican party.
– He was a former war hero who was wounded at the Battle of Trenton who went on to become a failure as a diplomat during the Washington Presidency. Monroe’s idealism had led to his downfall when he promoted an ideology rather than American interests in France during the French Revolution. He returned to America disgraced and many believed that he would never hold another political office. Jefferson did not see things the same was Washington and continued a friendship and when his foreign policy was in dire straits he called upon Monroe. This would become a bit of an issue with Robert R. Livingston who believed it to be a slight to how he was doing.
Aaron Burr – Burr was almost President of the United States instead of Thomas Jefferson. Due to some compromise and Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson won the Presidency and Burr became his Vice President. While serving as Vice President he would become embroiled in many shady dealings. Within two years Burr was no longer a part of the Jeffersonian Republicans. His role in the purchase of Louisiana was minor, but his role increased afterwards. Beginning with his infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton.
Napoleon Bonaparte – Napoleon rose through the ranks of the French Military to become the dictator of France after the French Revolution. His ascension dashed the idealism of Jefferson and others who believed the French Revolution was one and the same with their own revolution. The First Consul dreamed of a colonial empire and pursued the Louisiana Territory and Florida from the Spanish. The once powerful and global Spanish Empire was no longer and handed over Louisiana with little resistance. Florida, was a different issue and would not be so easy. After acquiring Louisiana Napoleon’s real ambition surfaced which was the conquest of England. He set his sights towards England and found the once indispensable territory of Louisiana to be unnecessary.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand – Talleyrand was known for his deception and ability to handle foreign diplomats. He and Livingston would face off in what seemed to be a stalemate for months until the First Consul saw that it would be advantageous to sell Louisiana to the Americans in order to war with Britain. Talleyrand is a man whose motives escape historians, but his ability is not to be argued. Talleyrand was simply the most skilled and influential diplomat in European history. He would eventually betray Napoleon and become the first Prime Minister of France.
Louis-Andre Pichon – Pichon was the French ambassador to the United States who dealt with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. He had been the French Ambassador during the Washington administration and had returned to France shortly before Napoleon rose to power. He sent his communications with Madison and Jefferson to France.
General Charles Leclerc – One of Napoleon’s most loyal Generals and his brother-in-law. Leclerc was sent to Santo-Domingo in order to take control of the island that is now called Haiti. Leclerc was charged with overthrowing the charismatic Toussaint Louverture who had set up a formal government on Santo-Domingo.
Franco Barbe-Marbois – Marbois was the Finance Minister of France and worked closely with Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe to come up with a deal that would sell the territory to the United States of America. He did not play a role much in the beginning, but would emerge towards the end of the sale. Nogotiating with him was much easier than dealing with Talleyrand.
King George III – King George III still remained in power during this time. His name is synonymous in American History with tyrant and monarchy in charge during the American Revolutionary War. He would lead England into an Agricultural Revolution and guide them through much of the Napoleonic Wars. He would be making the key decisions for English foreign policy.
William Pitt – Pitt emerged onto the British scene during Napoleon’s attempt at invading England. The invasion never took place as the British Navy smashed the French and Spanish quite easily and Napoleon was relegated to only the European continent. Pitt was a master administrator who made many reforms to the English system of government and revived the Tory party.
Lord Whitworth – Charles Whitworth was the British ambassador to France during this time. Napoleon threatened him directly and claimed that the British Navy was violating the Treaty of Amiens. Whitworth also communicated quite a bit with the United States Ambassador, Robert R. Livingston.
King Charles IV – The passive Spanish king played a role in the purchase of Louisiana since he sold France the territory. After France sold it to the United States there was much uproar about the legality of the sale. With Spain’s power at a low point in its illustrious history there was little that could be done. He aided Napoleon with the Continental Blockade until the British decimated the French and Spanish Navy.