The Domestic Opposition to the Louisiana Purchase: Anti-Expansionism and Republican Thought

Weiss, Victor Adolfo Arriaga, Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
Thompson, Kenneth W., Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia
Onuf, Peter, Department of History, University of Virginia
Young, James S., Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia
Smith, Michael, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Critics within the United States have periodically questioned the positive implications of territorial expansion, despite the apparent and evident economic and political benefits of expansionism for individuals and the American society. In the nineteenth century, Americans endorsed the incorporation of more land to their country; at the same time, out of principle or interest, frequently they expressed certain reservations about the consequences of spatial growth. Plans and measures to limit or restrain additional occupation accompanied each expansive moment in the history of the United States.

This dissertation examines anti-expansionist expressions and ambivalent attitudes toward territorial growth in 1803, when members of the Federalist Party vigorously attacked Jeffersonian diplomacy and policies that led to the addition of the vast territory of Louisiana. Despite universal agreement over the benefits of American control of the port of New Orleans and the enhancement of the national security of the United States, leaders and party members discussed and questioned some of the immediate consequences of the addition of trans-Mississippi lands for the republic and the union of states. These debates took place in an atmosphere of intense partisan rivalry.

This dissertation also examines the sources of anti-expansionist and ambivalent views in 1803 and partially reconstructs the political dialogue that took place between the advocates of expansion and their antagonists. Contending positions over the original character of the federal compact and the union, differences over the political economy of the new republic, and the republican theory of citizenship were at the base of these views, at a time when the United States faced major international challenges. Although Americans applauded the effects of the Louisiana purchase on their nation's security, they also used this opportunity to discuss the significance of expansion for the republic.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
territorial expansion, Federal Party, Thomas Jefferson , politics and government 19th century
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