Page:Writings of Thomas Jefferson, III, IV.djvu/14

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iv
The Louisiana Purchase

in France, to negotiate for the purchase of New Orleans and he sent Monroe to Paris to help him. Propitious circumstances unexpectedly served his end. The peace of Amiens was broken and Napoleon faced a gigantic conflict with England and with Europe. He wanted means and he knew that in such a conflict he could not hold Louisiana. He proposed to sell the entire territory, and so Jefferson, who had set out only to purchase New Orleans and the territory called West Florida, found himself suddenly the master of that magnificent realm beyond the Mississippi which enlarged our republic so immensely, which carried our flag over the great domain extending from the Gulf to Canada, a domain almost equal in extent to the original thirteen States of the Union.

It has often been urged that in this great act, the greatest act of our history between the adoption of the Constitution and the Civil War, Jefferson was inconsistent with his principles and his professions. He was the leader of the strict constructionists and this act was outside of the strict letter of the Constitution. But that charge of inconsistency can be made with equal force against every great party and almost every conspicuous statesman in our history. Webster was a free trader, substantially, and fought Calhoun as a protectionist when the interests of Massachusetts were commercial, and he was a protectionist when Massachusetts wanted to foster manufactures. Calhoun was a protectionist