The U.S. only purchases New Orleans in 1803

Futurist

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May 2014
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#1
What if, instead of purchasing the entire Louisiana Territory in 1803, the U.S. only purchases New Orleans like it originally wanted to?
 

stevev

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Apr 2017
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#2
The original city was on the west side of the Mississippi, so it did need some arbitrary boundaries. I'm not sure what the boundary of the original proposal was, but its likely it was the Sabine which now forms the boundary of Louisiana with Texas. It was also the western boundary of the actual Purchase at this latitude. There's no natural northern boundary, but if you take the northern boundary of Louisiana east of the Mississippi and extend it west to the Sabine, that would seem logical.

The real issue is who controls the east bank of the Mississippi. In 1803, that was Spanish even after the actual purchase. Spain was effectively controlled by Napoleon which is how he got involved in the first place. So it's hard to make the case the US would get a better deal. It wasn't until the US annexed Florida in 1819 that the US got control of the east bank. In 1819 Napoleon was enjoying his retirement on beautiful St. Helena. Napoleon would presumably control the rest of the actual Purchase in 1803.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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#3
The original city was on the west side of the Mississippi, so it did need some arbitrary boundaries. I'm not sure what the boundary of the original proposal was, but its likely it was the Sabine which now forms the boundary of Louisiana with Texas. It was also the western boundary of the actual Purchase at this latitude. There's no natural northern boundary, but if you take the northern boundary of Louisiana east of the Mississippi and extend it west to the Sabine, that would seem logical.

The real issue is who controls the east bank of the Mississippi. In 1803, that was Spanish even after the actual purchase. Spain was effectively controlled by Napoleon which is how he got involved in the first place. So it's hard to make the case the US would get a better deal. It wasn't until the US annexed Florida in 1819 that the US got control of the east bank. In 1819 Napoleon was enjoying his retirement on beautiful St. Helena. Napoleon would presumably control the rest of the actual Purchase in 1803.
What's going to happen to the rest of Louisiana later on in this scenario?
 

stevev

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Apr 2017
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#4
What's going to happen to the rest of Louisiana later on in this scenario?
If you don't put any other conditions on an alternative, the US would still likely have reached the Pacific, but maybe not as fast. You'd have to assume Napoleon had more ambitious plans in the New Word. He needed money so that would be a reason for selling New Orleans. But he would have kept his options open with the rest. Having the east bank gives him access to the entire Mississippi under usual conventions for boundary rivers. North of the smaller Louisiana, the US has the east bank and Napoleon the west bank. He could decide to place it under French sovereignty and use it to threaten British and possibly US interests in North America. For example he would have St Louis, a strategic point for commerce in the near future. The entire Missouri River drainage would be his, blocking US expansion to the west.

Even if he doesn't plan long term, he could sell it to the US later at a higher price. Perhaps he could even escape to his North American possessions as his situation in Europe deteriorated and set up a new empire. However that would only delay US expansion at best.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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#5
If you don't put any other conditions on an alternative, the US would still likely have reached the Pacific, but maybe not as fast. You'd have to assume Napoleon had more ambitious plans in the New Word. He needed money so that would be a reason for selling New Orleans. But he would have kept his options open with the rest. Having the east bank gives him access to the entire Mississippi under usual conventions for boundary rivers. North of the smaller Louisiana, the US has the east bank and Napoleon the west bank. He could decide to place it under French sovereignty and use it to threaten British and possibly US interests in North America. For example he would have St Louis, a strategic point for commerce in the near future. The entire Missouri River drainage would be his, blocking US expansion to the west.

Even if he doesn't plan long term, he could sell it to the US later at a higher price. Perhaps he could even escape to his North American possessions as his situation in Europe deteriorated and set up a new empire. However that would only delay US expansion at best.
Would the US actually be interested in the rest of Louisiana if it already has New Orleans, though?

Also, wouldn't Britain easily be able to blockade Louisiana?
 

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#6
Setting aside what the US wants for the moment, looking at it from the point of view of the seller, either France or Spain, there's no point to owning the rest of the Louisianna Purchase if you don't have New Orleans. It's just a huge piece of land with no access to the sea - completely worthless from the point of view of a European power. All of the rivers on the Great Plains flow into the Mississippi. You can't float down a river from Wyoming to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The rivers don't go that way.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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#7
Setting aside what the US wants for the moment, looking at it from the point of view of the seller, either France or Spain, there's no point to owning the rest of the Louisianna Purchase if you don't have New Orleans. It's just a huge piece of land with no access to the sea - completely worthless from the point of view of a European power. All of the rivers on the Great Plains flow into the Mississippi. You can't float down a river from Wyoming to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The rivers don't go that way.
Would building a canal west of New Orleans have been completely out of the question?
 

Futurist

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May 2014
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#9
From Wyoming to Texas? Absolutely out of the question. No water. Even 100 years later the much shorter Panama Canal was almost impossible.
I meant in Louisiana, but around New Orleans. From the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi River at some point in northern Louisiana.
 

stevev

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Apr 2017
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Las Vegas, NV USA
#10
Setting aside what the US wants for the moment, looking at it from the point of view of the seller, either France or Spain, there's no point to owning the rest of the Louisianna Purchase if you don't have New Orleans. It's just a huge piece of land with no access to the sea - ....
Yes. Napoleon wasn't interested in retaining the inland territory but that was the alternative reality requested. However it is true the east bank of the Mississippi across from New Orleans was part of Spanish Florida and provided access to the the river all the way to its source (as well as the Missouri). It's normal that boundary rivers can be used freely by both countries and the agreement could have provided for that as well as the crossover where the US has the east bank and Napoleon has the west bank. At no point would one country hold both sides of the river.
 
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