Find of the Week: Historic letter announcing the Louisiana Purchase

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NEW ORLEANS - This letter of great urgency, written at midnight and finished at 3 a.m., would alter the course of world history. So what is it?

"This is the original 1803 secret diplomatic secret letter from Paris, notifying Thomas Jefferson's administration that the united states was about to double in size," Associate Director of the Williams Research Center Jason Wiese said.

It was written by U.S. Diplomat Robert Livingston to secretary of state James Madison with sensitive information numerically coded.

This letter was officially the first news of the Louisiana Purchase.

"Napoleon Bonaparte had seen reports in London newspapers that the British were going to send an expedition of 50,000 men to take New Orleans," Wiese said. "That helped make up Bonaparte's mind."

France needed to finance a war with Britain, and selling 530 million acres of new world assets would be just the ticket.

After turning down Napoleon's original bid of $125 million, the price was right-- $15 million went into a French bank, and the United States received one of the most desirable ports in global trade.

The Historic New Orleans Collection received the letter in the 70's.

"Just as an artifact, this is certainly one of the most important things in our collection," Wiese said.


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