President Thomas Jefferson's Message to Congress Concerning Louisiana

Jefferson LetterJanuary 16, 1804
National Archives,
Records of the U.S. Senate
Used with permission of the U.S. Senate

Following treaty negotiations and congressional deliberation in 1803 that led to the United States purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France, President Thomas Jefferson reported to Congress on January 16, 1804, that the territory had been safely transferred. In this letter, he described the precautions taken in the West to forestall any opposition that might have arisen in the exchange. In eloquent terms, Jefferson summarized the significance of “this important acquisition,” which doubled the size of the United States and met its immediate security interests by acquiring New Orleans and control of the banks of the Mississippi River.

Student Interest:

  • Documents can illustrate abstract concepts for example, the constitutional separation of powers.

  • Documents encourage cross-curricular connections—for example, geography and government.

  • Signed documents personalize history for students.

Teachers Note:

You can find this document in a curriculum unit entitled The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, 1801–1809. This educational resource uses the historical records of Congress to highlight major events Jefferson and the nation confronted at the beginning of the 19th century. Additional documents related to the purchase of Louisiana are in The United States Expands West: 1785–1842, a NARA/ABC-CLIO publication.

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