NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - On this day 213 years ago, power over the 828-million-square-mile patch of land known as the Louisiana Purchase shifted from France to the United States - and it all started with a push to protect the precious port of New Orleans.
Although the Louisiana Purchase agreement - which just about doubled the size of the United States, was signed on April 30, 1803, it was another seven-plus months before the transfer became official. When power was eventually transferred from France to the United States on Dec. 20, 1803, a grand ceremony was held at the Cabildo in the French Quarter to signify the historic event.
Originally, negotiations between the United States and France were supposed to center on the U.S. purchasing New Orleans. Leaders, President Thomas Jefferson in particular, were fearful that Napoleon Bonaparte's rule over France and his vision of a Western empire would thwart valuable American commerce in and around New Orleans, which served as an unloading point for shipments to the Atlantic Coast and Europe thanks to the Mississippi River.
According to the History Channel, Bonaparte's brothers tried to talk him out of the epic deal.
The Louisiana Purchase is often regarded as one of Thomas Jefferson's most important achievements as president. The United States paid $11.25 million for the land, plus $3.75 million in France's debt for a grand total of $15 million.
Exactly nine years after the Louisiana Purchase agreement was made, the first state to be carved out of the 828-million square-mile purchase was none other than Louisiana. It was the 18th state admitted to the Union.