A comparative review of the Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States acquired Louisiana from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase

This purchase had a significant impact on American history because it led to a significant territorial growth and the immigration of the largest populations of Native Americans, African Americans, French-speaking Americans, and Non-Naturalizable Americans. In this paper, Roger G. Kennedy's Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause and Peter J. Kastor's The Nation's Crucible, two works on the Louisiana Purchase, are analyzed. The major theme in Kennedy’s book is “father of the land” which gives credit to Jefferson because through his efforts, American state was born. He also compiles all facts and information he gets from his research to educate a strong yet accurate perspective of slavery in America. The “Lost Cause” is the main title used by the author to introduce the major theme in the entire book. The “Lost Cause” shows the idea of the Yeoman farmers who tended their farms to reap its benefits and this practice brought about active engagement which bore forth citizenry. The same had been practiced in other colonies like the Northwest Territory and brought about economic development and significant economic independence especially from the Great Britain, wealthy citizens, a functional economy, and industrialization.

On the other hand, the central theme in the nation’s crucible by Kastor is the purchase of Louisiana and the process of making the USA which was the beginning of nationhood and it posed the most significant challenge to policymakers to decide on various things like who was going to be incorporated into the state that was being developed. It also changed the way people perceive what it meant to be an American. Kastor examines the years 1803 to1821 when the Transcontinental Treaty was signed in a process that the author of this book claims to be a “legal, demographic and cultural anomaly” (p. 226).This paper also educates that this territory was later attached and connected to the United States in the statement: “a foreign and potentially fractious population on the southwest periphery became one of the most steadfast and prosperous members of the American union” (p. 14); a phrase that reinforces the major theme of the book on how America was formed.

Shared question one (the question of slavery in Louisiana)

Both authors extensively discussed the issue of slavery and how Jefferson handled it in the newly acquired lands.

Kennedy on slavery

Kennedy gives a review of the events of how Jefferson who through his activities advocated and expanded slavery into the American history in particular with the purchase of Louisiana. Kennedy is keen to shed more light on the gap that explains Jefferson’s aspirations and what happened. The acquired Louisiana highly impacted on the way land was going to be used and also increased the practice of slavery. These slaves were involved in growing cash crops which included tobacco, and cotton and they made the soil infertile, and this encouraged the farmers to move from one piece of land to another. Kennedy’s book visits the idea of landlords running plantations on the absentee basis and at the same time, exploiting the slaves whose activities ruined the soils in the south. These owners went ahead to enslave people and robbed them off their ability of self-initiative. They were stifled and diversified highly dependent and discouraged industrialization. The people working in these lands did not hold any stakes in them, not even the tools they used because they were all “run into the ground.” The workers in these plantations were exposed to low wages and did not have any entrepreneurial skills and will; they had non-effective tools, bad soil to till, suffered untold deaths and suffered from diseases and other misfortunes. This state of things was strongly similar to the effects of 60 years of communism witnessed in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Kennedy is also keen to revisit the information on the moral issues which challenged the newly formed country which include endurance and great encouragement of slavery. Kennedy discusses the idea of including slaves into the new territory. He educates that Jefferson embarked on breeding slaves who were then sold to the immigrants even though he diligently wrote against slavery and also favored the small farmers. This means that Jefferson was a pretender because at first, he state that ''All men are created equal," yet after all his struggles, he still kept a large number of slaves working in his plantations during the revolutionary war, Virginians suggested that slavery had to have its end, but Jefferson did not support their views leading to this president establishing slavery in 1784. After the Louisiana Purchase, the government started to plan how it was going to utilize these acquired properties.

Kastor on slavery

Kastor, on the other hand, visits the issue of slavery and Louisiana Purchase but not in an in-depth manner. In his book, he explains how French speakers became Americans, how Eastern Americans also became incorporated into the new found nation and how these two settlers established a common ground which they could use to exploit the African slaves and the Indians in Louisiana. Kastor explains the issue of the Native Americans and the slaves and how they contributed to the development of foreign and domestic policy. The author argues that after acquiring the land, Jefferson was in confusion whether to incorporate the foreigners, the slaves, and the Indians into the land. And even if they were incorporated, were they going to be given the same equal rights? This brought about the idea of colonial power in the region. The slaves, people of color and the Caddo were unsuccessful in their efforts of wanting to be incorporated into the land and race became the key determinant on who was included and who was included in the new lands. These minor races failed to meet the criterion. It is also important to understand that the slaves also wanted to use Louisiana as a way to escape to Texas and also stage a memorable revolt which materialized in 1811 even though they were never successful.

Shared question two (the Louisiana Purchase and the founding of America)

Kastor on Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase is usually handled as one of the historic real estate deals to take place in USA. Kastor tells the story about Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of a huge mass of land which nearly doubled the size of his country and immensely contributed to manifested destiny. This is because it was the beginning of incorporating many people who came from diverse backgrounds in America. The author of this book narrates the journey of incorporating the Louisiana territory and the people of Louisiana into the American culture including its political economy, loyalty, and race. To this author, the purchase of this region marks a critical beginning in shaping the meaning of America for both the residents of Louisiana and the United States of America as a whole. Kastor goes ahead to revisit the Americanization myth of Louisiana. In his book, Kastor disagrees with other scholars who have argued that there was a devastating aftermath after purchasing the Louisiana territory. This is because the French and the Spanish people got into an ethnic battle fighting the Americans who had come to settle in the acquired lands. These scholars also note that even though through many struggles, these groups were Americanized, though the rate of Americanization is not consistent in all articles which educate the same. Kastor, on the other hand, refers to Americanization as incorporation because the struggle was not focused on achieving any form of ethnic supremacy. Furthermore, most of the French and Spanish people in Louisiana did not want to be associated with their native rule and started to struggle for their political rights as American citizens. The only tension witnessed between the Americans, French and Spanish people in Louisiana originated from the duration which it took the American government to incorporate them into the American system. A good example to prove these claims lies in the "Remonstrance of the People of Louisiana” which was developed in 1804 and did not object to the purchasing of Louisiana but did not agree with the views of the Government Act of 1804 and contradicted with the territorial government done during the William C.C. Claiborne regime. The protestors were not wishing to avoid incorporation but rather wanted the process to take place much faster. "Expanding American territory would be difficult; expanding the American nation might be impossible" (p. 48).

Kennedy on the Louisiana Purchase

On the other hand, in Kennedy’s book, there is extensive education on the financial interests of the powerful land companies and people which had great interests in the expansion of the region. For example in the textile industry, Kennedy uses a metaphor to describe the demand of clothes among women in the society. He writes, ''[Southern ladies] wore neoclassical cotton frocks, scandalous from the point of view of Abigail Adams in their neoclassical susceptibility to the caress of every breeze and their Hellenistic revelations of the contours beneath and the withdrawal of their bodice-lines to the very frontier of decent coverage." The Louisiana Purchase is narrated deep into the book in a single paragraph “Napoleon's real interest was the income from sugar plantations in Haiti - Louisiana served only as a source of material to operate the plantations in Haiti -- and when Haitian rebels took over (sound familiar?) France was forced out of the sugar business and found a better use for Louisiana: cash it in - cheap.” Without having a clear understanding of the Louisiana Purchase, it would totally be impossible to understand what Kennedy is talking about in this phrase. To sum it all up, the reader gets everything in the summary of the entire book where Kennedy brings together all the accomplishments and failures by Jefferson and mentions how he purchased the Louisiana territory. Kennedy argues that the plantations which were located in the east of Allegany Mountains were seen as unworthy and abandoned and so they took advantage of acquiring more space in the new land because it was cheaper that way than going on maintaining the already ruined lands they were working on. Before the Louisiana acquisition, these farmers moved from one plot of land to the next once they considered the soil to be unproductive. Apart from acquiring new lands, they also opposed industrialization which was to diversify the economy.

Recommendation and Reasons

For this paper, I recommend Peter J. Kastor, The Nation’s Crucible: The Louisiana Purchase and the Creation of America: rather than Roger G. Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana.

The key strength of the book I did not like

On the same, Kennedy brings vividly brings about the knowledge on social, moral and economic benefits which resulted from establishing capitalist market systems produced by the small time farmers and business owners which were to overcome the idea of collectivity, communist, and plantation.

The most intriguing part of the book I did not like

The book also discusses the history of the Deep South, and this is the most interesting part of the book, well, according to me. Even though it has numerous faults right from its title, it is immensely interesting because it has deep American history which includes the acquisition of Florida, and other states like Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi. It also speaks of prominent personalities like Jefferson who is this paper’s primary focus, Aaron, Madison, and Washington. It also has immense information on the Native Americans, African Americans and the Americans which makes it very informative even though not very much recommended for this topic.

What I did not like about Kennedy’s book

However, there are some parts of the book that were not intriguing. First and foremost, the book should have a new title because the current one does not befit the contents and the message the author intends to put across. For instance, the book barely speaks about the Louisiana Purchase as one would think. This is because, even though it focuses on explaining how Madison, Jefferson, and Monroe brought all the conditions which were not suitable for the region and were rectified with much blood in the 1860s. Another thing that I did not like about Kennedy’s book is its organization. For instance, the appendix needs a seriously updated appendix because Aaron Burr has been mentioned as more of his experiences narrated on how his trial was done, conspiracy and exile, but no information has been included in the appendix to educate the reader on the importance of this character and why he was included in this literature. What a reader learns from this research about this character is that he battled with Alexander and emerged the winner. This means that Kennedy assumed that the reader knew too much about Aaron, an assumption that could not be true in most cases.

The book I found to be more persuasive

The book that I found to be more convincing is Kastor’s book because the information he offers goes beyond claims but has broader assertions in respect to the national character. His claims can be seen in the way he holds this purchase to be of great importance because it shapes the grounds for the development of foreign and domestic policies during Jefferson’s regime (p, 77).


The book is focused on the purchase of Louisiana and tells an intriguing story which is complex and extraordinary. In a swift manner, he weaves the US foreign policy, national politics and history to bring forth the educative yet interesting story of the purchase of Louisiana. He effectively substitutes incorporation with Americanization, and this has immensely contributed to the study of the American history. He tells vivid stories on a local, national and international level and he includes the black, people of color, and whites, information that has set standards in the study of American history.

Weaknesses of the book I like

Kastor’s book ends with the ratification of the transcontinental treaty which occurred in 1821 leaving the reader frustrated and in search of more information. He defined the story of Louisiana in a vivid manner, but the reader would like to discover how this reinterpretation of the territorial period comes to be the reinterpretation of early years of statehood which is not fully realized in the end. Even though this is the case, it is not an enough reason for this paper to realize the value of the entire book.



Kastor, Peter. The Nation's Crucible:The Louisiana Purchse and the Creation of America. NewYork: Yale University Press, 2004.Print

Kennedy, Roger. Mr. Jefferson's Lost cause:land, farmers, slavery and the louisiana purchase. NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2004.Print

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