You are here:

U.S. History/Louisiana Purchase


In your opinion, what were the main reasons behind Federalist objection to the Louisiana Purchase?


The Purchase itself was not terribly divisive.  In the end, only seven Senators voted against the treaty to go forward with the Purchase.  Ironically, it had been Jefferson's party that had for years argued that the Constitution limited government officials from engaging in any activity not expressly granted in the Constitution.  There was no grant of authority for the President to Purchase land.  Federalists enjoyed pointing out this hypocrisy.  Federalists also objected to the fact that the deal was completed in France before Congress ever approved such a purchase.  Some also argued that it made the Union too large and that Americans moving into the interior away from the east coast would have different interests and eventually develop different allegiances.  They also feared the reduced influence of New England as more States would enter the Union.

- Mike

George,  I received your comments with regard to my answer:

"Thank you, Michael, for your quick response. However, I respectfully disagree with you. The Louisiana Purchase was one of the most divisive issues that has confronted our nation in its entire early history. I would direct your attention to The Hartford Convention of 1802 as well as the John Jay almost treasonous political maneuvering from 1786 to 1795 in order to continue to secretively disallow American access to the Mississippi and hence, preserve the financial interests of The northern States of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. I would suspect that your view has been formed by northeastern publishers of text books issued to our public schools."

You seem to be conflating a number of different issues.  You say that the Purchase was one of the most divisive issues of our era, and then seem to support that contention by citing several entirely different and much more divisive issues of that era.  The Hartford Convention took place in 1814-15 and involved opposition to the War of 1812.  It had nothing to do with the Louisiana Purchase, which took place more than a decade earlier and under a different President.  

You also point to the actions of John Jay, a political opponent of Jefferson, whose work in the early part of the era which you call almost treasonous involved his advocacy for the adoption of the Constitution (which I hardly call treasonous).  He also spent a great deal of time trying to end slavery in New York (again not something I consider treasonous).  He is most often criticized for his role in what is called the Jay Treaty with Great Britain.  This was a highly divisive treaty and help contributed to the schism that eventually resulted in the creation of two opposed political parties.  This treaty was deeply opposed by western interests.  But again, it took place almost a decade before the Louisiana Purchase and under a different Administration.  Jay retired from politics in 1801, two years before the Purchase was even debated.

So while I can agree with you that there was a great deal of divisive politics in that era, the Louisiana Purchase was one of the few issues that most of the country agreed on.  There were, as I pointed out in my original answer, some opponents - mostly from New England.  But the overwhelming majority of Congress and the US population generally supported it.

The dispute over the Louisiana Territory more generally was a controversial issue before the Purchase.  There was debate prior to the purchase of going to war over the right to use the Mississippi and to use New Orleans as a port for US goods from up river.  There was even some threats of war over the issue.  But the Purchase was designed to resolve those disputes, which is why it was seen more as a solution too the controversy, not controversial in and of itself.

Yes, the Federalist party overwhelmingly opposed the Purchase in the Senate, but the Party itself was such a small minority at that time, that its opposition hardly matter.  Further, its opposition only seemed to further weaken its already weak status among the voting public.  That's an indication that the public overwhelmingly supported the Purchase.

- Mike

U.S. History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

©2017 All rights reserved.