You are here

Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1800

France -  "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" by Jacques-Louis David
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_5467
 
Document Description
A painting by Jacques Louis David of Napoleon crossing the Alps, May 20, 1800. 
 
Questions
Why did Napoleon sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States?
Was this a good decision? Why or why not?
How might United States history be different if Napoleon had not sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States?
What major coastal city did the United States gain with the Louisiana Purchase?
 
Historical Challenges
Research Napoleon’s rise to power in France. Do you think France would have sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States if Napoleon had not been in power? How might Napoleon have raised money for war if the United States had not purchased the Louisiana Territory? How might the world have been different if Napoleon had won the war in Europe?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: About how many dollars per square mile did the United States pay for the Louisiana Territory? If there are 640 acres in one square mile, about how much per acre did the United States pay? Does your number match the amount given by other sources?
Science: Choose five plants or animals that Lewis and Clark discovered on their expedition across Louisiana Territory. Make a booklet including one page for each discovery. For each discovery, draw a picture of the plant or animal, write its common and Latin names, describe the location and climate where it is found, and include any interesting facts about the species.
English Language Arts: Many of Thomas Jefferson’s opponents said that the Louisiana Territory was a worthless purchase and that Jefferson did not have the authority to purchase it without the approval of Congress. Chose a side and write a speech arguing for or against the United States’ purchase of the Louisiana Territory.
 
Resources
Adler, David. Picture Book of Lewis and Clark. Holiday House, Inc., May 2003. ISBN: 0823417956
Randsom, Candice. Lewis and Clark (History Maker Bios Series). July 2002. ISBN: 0760733902
Myers, Laurie. Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale. Henry Holt & Company, Incorporated, August 2002. ISBN: 0805063684
 

Historical Context
The Louisiana Purchase has been called the greatest real estate venture in history. On April 30, 1803, the United States acquired from France 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River. This land stretched north from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and west from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. This new land nearly doubled the size of the United States!

France, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, was ready to sell the land. The French were on the brink of war with Britain and needed money for the war. The French were not willing to spare troops to guard the vast wilderness, and they did not see any use for this land. President Thomas Jefferson was thrilled at the Frenchmen’s willingness to sell the land, but suspected a trick so he sent two negotiators, Robert Livingston and James Monroe, to Paris to negotiate the deal. Although the Unites States initially offered $2 million for the land, the French asked for $15 million. Although this seems like an enormous amount of money, the United States jumped at the chance for this investment because it was a bargain. The United States paid $11,250,000 directly to France; the remainding $3,750,000 the French owed the United States anyway, so they agreed to cancel the debt.

Thomas Jefferson immediately asked Congress for money to fund an expedition of the new territory. Congress agreed, and in the fall of 1803, the Corps of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark, departed on their journey to seek a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Although no such waterway existed, the Corps did discover many new plants, animals, and geographical characteristics of the United States. Perhaps most significant, however, were their interactions with many different groups of Native Americans. On September 23, 1806, the Corps of Discovery returned to Washington D.C. after two and a half years. They were greeted as national heroes.

 
Essential Question
How do individuals influence national and global events?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the painting and evaluate the role of Napolean in American westward expansion.