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The United States first became serious about acquiring the port of New Orleans after it was ceded by Spain to France in October of 1800 in the infamous secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. And with France in control of the mouth of the Mississippi River, American trade was at the mercy of the French. But there were those who saw this as an opportunity, among whom was the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.. Upon hearing the news, Jefferson immediately wrote to the American Minister in France, Robert R. Livingston, "There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans."[footnoteRef:3] [3: "Jefferson's Letter to Robert Livingston, April 18, 1802." The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Web. 15 March 2011 http://www.bobsuniverse.com/BWAH/03-Jefferson/18202418a.pdf ]
Jefferson ordered Livingston to try to acquire the port in order to ensure the United States' free access to the ocean trade from the Mississippi River. The importance Jefferson placed upon this endeavor was demonstrated when he wrote "Every eye in the U.S. is now fixed on this affair of Louisiana. Perhaps nothing since the revolutionary war has produced more uneasy sensations through the body of the nation…"[footnoteRef:4] American trade down the Mississippi had been interrupted in the past and Americans wanted to ensure this never happened again. Even some members of Congress agreed that New Orleans was a potential danger to American trade and had authorized the executive branch "to commence with more effect a negotiation with the French and Spanish governments relative to the purchase from them of the island of New Orleans and the provinces of East and West Florida."[footnoteRef:5] [4: Ibid.] [5: Cerami]
Soon after negotiations opened, it became apparent that the French wanted to sell more than just the port of New Orleans, they wanted to sell the entire Louisiana Territory for 100 million francs (slightly less that 20 million dollars). Robert Livingston made his views of this offer, which was greater in scope than his original instructions, known in a letter to Madison when he stated "We shall do all we can to cheapen the purchase; but my sentiment is that we shall buy,"[footnoteRef:6] And this sentiment was echoed by the president when he wrote to John Dickinson on Aug 9th 1803, "The acquisition of New Orleans would of itself have been a great thing, as it would have ensured to our Western brethren the means of exporting their produce…"[footnoteRef:7] but Jefferson went on to reveal a secondary purpose
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