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A Constitutional Moment: Louisiana Purchase

Introduction

Nobody would deny the fact that the world history is full of various controversial events. Some of them can be easily judged, but the majority of controversies have raged unabated yet. Therefore, they should be investigated and discussed in order to be reviewed from different angles. In this review, historic paradigm is quite essential as it includes multiple perspectives so that a certain event is judged maximally objectively. Many of such events are commonly recognized as a constitutional moment as they had caused a drastic change in the constitution or any other main law of a particular company. One of such constitutional moments is Louisiana Purchase that was one of the most outstanding events of the US history. The paper focuses on the discussion of the constitutional moment of Louisiana Purchase in terms of historic paradigm. To be more specific, the following study defines the term of constitutional moment. Then, the paper gives an account on the most difficult obstacles regarding the land acquisition. In consequence, the study discusses the main factors that influenced the overcoming of the related obstacles. The paper also describes the general impacts of the purchase on the contemporary US law in regards to land trade or acquisition. The study also presents different points of view on the effects and outcomes of signing the Purchase Treaty. The paper does not attempt to criticize any country, nation, social group, or a single individual. Such comments and statements should be considered as an intention to address the historic paradigm from various perspectives. As the thesis, layout, and the key terms of the paper have been outlined, it is necessary to proceed on the next section.

Constitutional Moment

To start with, it is appropriate to be explicit about what is meant exactly by the term of constitutional moment. Constitutional moment can be defined as an event that caused a creation of new law or amended the existing one in a drastic way. In other words, it is an event, after which a considerable change has to be made in the Constitution of a particular country. Constitutional moment is dubious in nature as long as its effects depend heavily on the conditions, under which the constitutional moment took place. It is quite a rash decision to consider every single constitutional moment as a benefit of one’s country to be a positive event. Therefore, a term of constitutional moment is commonly recognized as a specific historical paradigm so that its impacts have to be analyzed with a consideration of the according historic syntagmatic relations such as time frame, economy, politics, and other related aspects. As any historic phenomenon, constitutional moment is comprised of multiple perspectives.

When one discusses historic paradigm in a more specific way, one should remember that Louisiana Purchase took place in 1803. The purchase was a result of an intensive pressure exerted by Spain and, especially, France. Moreover, the fact that these countries would trade with England, a recent enemy of the United States, had become apparent for Thomas Jefferson. The territories of contemporary states of Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska were important to France as well as to the United States. There was a wide range of factors that had influenced Thomas Jefferson’s decision to initiate a relatively preposterous deal. The USA ended up in a situation of being pressed by multiple countries with their own intentions and purposes. Hence, a decision to initiate a trade was adopted by Congress even though the Constitution of those years did not include any law regarding land purchase or any other type of acquisition. Still, the constitutional moment took place.

Therefore, the constitutional moment of Louisiana Purchase was the signing of the treaty of purchasing the related lands. Thus, it caused a need for adoption of an appropriate law as it was a legal activity, and it was expected to be supported with a certain law. In fact, no new laws were created as long as the existing Constitution was appropriately understood by Thomas Jefferson and the Senate. The rest of the required laws and policies for such a procedure were not even initiated as Louisiana presented a particularly entrepreneurial interest for the USA. Additionally, Louisiana started simple compliance with the federal law so that it did not have to undergo any specific proceedings for determination of special laws for the purchased lands. On the one hand, it simplified the entire process of the acquisition and led to substantial benefits for the USA. On the other hand, these territories did not have any choice regarding being annexed by another country as well as obeying its federal laws.

The Greatest Obstacles of the Purchase

First, it should be admitted that there were no applicable laws regarding trade and acquisition of Louisiana. Technically, it could not be traded under such conditions. There was some agreement on the legal appropriateness of the trade. Accordingly, the law, which prohibited land purchase and acquisition, did not exist. Therefore, the trade could be made, as it was not prohibited by any existing law. Instead, a special Treaty had been initiated and signed so that the trade obtained some legal power. The signing of the Treaty is commonly recognized as a constitutional moment as it enabled the USA to acquire new territories and apply its federal laws to them. In spite of absence of any particular law, the Treaty was accepted as a legal one. Moreover, the related laws and policies were not applied especially to the new areas. Exclusion can be made by mentioning the Congress law about statehoods of the according states. They started obeying the federal law as if they had always been a part of the USA.

Then, it is necessary to give an account on economic perspective of the problem. The USA was in the situation when France could cut the supplies of the Missouri territories so that a new wave of rebels could possibly occur. Thomas Jefferson was somwhat anxious about a potential overthrow in these areas. Therefore, the relationships with France had to be at least neutral. In addition, an advantage of cooperation with France could be taken by the United Kingdom. In any case, it would be the worst outcome for the USA as the tension between the countries was still strong. Hence, the President sent diplomats to New Orleans in order to negotiate the issue. Initially, the U.S. representatives did not succeed in the discussion so that an idea of trade emerged. The majority of experts assume that it was a single rational decision under those conditions.

Consequently, that decision was caused by considerable difficulties during negotiations. Thomas Jefferson had to clarify the issues with Napoleon as France posed distinct threat to the United States. Furthermore, Napoleon sent his troops to the East Coast of the USA when an offer of trade was suggested to France. The suggested sum was quite sufficient as it was equal to fifty million francs or 11,250,000 USD. However, the trade did not produce a desired effect from the perspective of the international diplomacy as Spain expressed its resentfulness towards the trade. That is why the United States had to consider a possibility of rebels and any other evidence of instability in the purchased areas. The United States managed to sustain the situation, but one should mention that it could not be considered as a positive effect in terms of historical paradigm.

How the Obstacles Were Overcome

As it has been already mentioned, the Article III of Treaty of Louisiana Purchase was never prohibited by the Supreme Court of the United States. That was the main reason for considering the purchase as the legal one. In fact, the President and the Senate suggested the idea, and it was supported by positive votes of Congress. Therefore, Congress obtained an executive power so that it was a factual implementing party. In addition, the Treaty Clause produced its effect as it included the statement that it had a legal power for acquiring Louisiana. Thomas Jefferson as well as the Senate had a legal grant to extend any legislative mechanism in any necessary case. Therefore, the decision had become a subject to the Congress vote. Congress used that right, especially considering the additional fact that legislative body had not been allowed to place any limitation on the executive power in terms of the Article I, Section 8.

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In other words, Thomas Jefferson made a decision, but he did not take the action regarding it. If Congress had voted negatively, the purchase would not have been made, at least under these terms. Later, Thomas Jefferson mentioned in his letter that he had not wanted to conduct the purchase personally. Certainly, it might have caused prolonged international debates regarding the purchase. The situation was quite difficult without any additional disputes, so Thomas Jefferson made a maximum of effort to make the trade as legally appropriate as possible. As a result, Congress made a desired decision so that the technical side of the purchase was almost legal. To the greatest extent, it was not illegal as well. Eventually, the Article II and Severing Clause, Article I enabled Congress to embody any executive activities in case they were particularly necessary for the country’s well-being and agreed with the Senate and the President.

Overall, the main factor of overcoming the legal issues of trade should have been referred to Congress, as its positive votes were essential. Hence, the Treaty would be illegal as long as it had no support of executive power. On the contrary, the Constitution did not give any hints about limitations to be placed on a decisive right of the President and the Senate. That is why the treaty would be signed anyway as the Constitution implied numerous references to the rights of executive as well as legislative powers. Thomas Jefferson assumed the fact that there was no possibility to consider the decision to be illegal since all responsible governmental bodies had managed to serve their functions regarding the trade. The President confirmed the fact that he and the Senate had played a role of legislative regulators while Congress took the entire responsibility for approval of the trade. In such a way, a legal issue was solved.

Impacts on the Contemporary Law

Consequently, Louisiana could obtain a legal right to be annexed by the United States only based on the U.S. federal law. The attempts to implement civil-based regulations had failed, as they were not seriously discussed. The U.S. federal law just started taking its effect within the entire territory of Louisiana. Considering this point, it should be noted that slavery and property rights were still valid within the purchased territory. That is why the purchased area became an object of entrepreneurial interest. In contrast, there was no other chance for the United States government to acquire the traded land on a legal basis. Hence, the implementation of the federal legislation was a distinct guarantee of the final legal acquisition of Louisiana. As a result, the contemporary law suggests that any land or state to be annexed to the United States is supposed to start obeying the federal law until the related law of statehood is adopted.

Thus, the issue of statehood is still a subject to Congress proceedings. Actually, similar cases are solved by the same combination of the President, the Senate, and Congress. The President as well as the Senate suggests a certain decision regarding a dispute of land acquisition while Congress supports or denies the suggestion. Even nowadays, the United States government attempts to force an importance of the federal law in comparison with civil (local) one. It is possible to admit that the procedure of land acquisition has not changed since the times of Louisiana Purchase. The constitutional moment produced a direct impact on the contemporary legislation of land acquisition. Conversely, the Constitution of that period contained sufficient laws and policies enabling the government to expand the llegislation on particular issues. Thus, there was no initial need for adoption of a special law. Land acquisition is not a regular event to require a separate law as the Constitution enables the government to extent legal effects to any necessary issue.

As for the rest of the land, procedures were conducted in terms of venture and entrepreneurship laws. It is worth saying that policies and regulations have changed many times, producing no effect on a contemporary legislation of these perspectives. Further, the land was a subject to business proceedings on the level of federal jurisdiction. The rest of the issues were a matter of business interests. A racial question was raised several times, but it was not factually addressed. In such a way, the legislative perspective of the purchase was limited to its entrepreneurial aspect, and that is why the U.S. government did not make much effort for amending the adopted laws as long as Louisiana occurred to be a profitable area from the perspective of industry and big business. Therefore, the issue of historic appropriateness of Louisiana Purchase has raged unabated, so various perspectives of the controversy should be discussed.

Overall Effect of the Purchase Treaty

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the purchase has produced a generally positive effect on the United States. The country obtained new territories and optimized its economy for the national purposes without armed conflict with France and Spain. That boosted the development of industry in the USA as entrepreneurs had a wide range of opportunities to initiate new factories, plants, and any other forms of big business. Moreover, the USA became more confident in political sense. That event as well as the war with England increased America’s international authority as it had managed to create an independent statehood based on a strong and proactive economy and reasonable diplomacy. It is also crucial comment on the fact that Louisiana Purchase had contributed greatly to the cultural diversity of the United States. Since the annexed territories were inhabited by various races and cultures, the cultural value of these lands was sufficiently high.

On the contrary, many negative facts should be also mentioned. As it has been already discussed, the racial issue was not addressed at all since the purchased lands were of particular interest for the entrepreneurs. Hence, they did not pay much attention to the well-being of the local workforce, leaving no choice to the local people. They could work long hours for quite low salaries or not work at all since there was no other alternative. Civil law was not also applied as it might pose certain barriers to a legal perspective of the treaty. Therefore, the low and middle classes ended up in the situation that did not presuppose any freedom of choice. In fact, slavery was legal since business was the main source of power in these areas. Acquisition should have included development of infrastructure and social welfare while the outcomes of the purchased were similar to colonization.

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Therefore, it should be admitted that any constitutional moment has to be justified legally and morally. These terms do not coincide quite often, but at least legal interpretation of the moral perspective should be presented and approved by the related executive power. Still, Louisiana Purchase prevented the United States from starting a bigger war as France had already had its territories in North America. A land to be acquired is expected to benefit from being annexed. Otherwise, it can become a subject to occupation. Therefore, a certain legal document should be applied and agreed with a country that had previously owned the acquired land. Eventually, the United States obtained Louisiana based on The Purchase Treaty. That is why it can be regarded as a legally appropriate land acquisition. However, the inhabitants of these territories did not experience major improvement of their well-being. Therefore, this constitutional moment remains to be a central issue for a wide range of debates.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is appropriate to make a general comment on the paper that has focused on the discussion of Louisiana Purchase as a constitutional moment. The study has given an account on the definition of constitutional moment and contextualized the event of Louisiana Purchase. Then, the paper has described the main difficulties, which the purchased lands had faced before signing the related agreement. Consequently, the main forces, which should be regarded as the most influential ones, have also been discussed. The study has also issued the impacts made on the contemporary U.S. law regarding land purchase and acquisition. As a result, overall outcomes of Louisiana Purchase have been also tackled. The study has analyzed the event in terms of historic paradigm, having considered multiple perspectives. That is why certain actions of the U.S. have been presented from legal, moral, and cross-cultural angles.

Overall, Louisiana Purchase was the significant constitutional moment as it had influenced the entire legislative perspective of land acquisition and trade. That was a historically unique event as long as the acquisition of these lands was approved by The Purchase Treaty. The paper has distinguished that the international legislation did not touch upon the purchase at all while a wide range of the U.S. laws had enabled Thomas Jefferson, the Senate, and Congress to conduct the purchase as legally as possible. In fact, the roles of the mentioned parties complied with their original functions. The President and the Senate were the trade initiators while Congress supported the suggestion as a representative of an executive power. The Constitution of the United States implies numerous references to the right of Congress to extend its legislation based on the President’s, the Senate’s, and the Supreme Court’s decision. That was the main factor in the solution of the controversy since none of the other prohibitions or allowances were applied to the case.

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