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U.S. LAND ACQUISITIONS SINCE 1803

Here's a useful mnemonic sentence written by Lora M. Gomez which recalls the locations of every territorial acquisition by the United States of America from 1803 onwards:

" Little People, WE Talk Of Mister Green
At Home
Pouring Green Water Around Cold Vases "

being:
Louisiana Purchase (1803)
West Florida (annexed 1812)
East Florida (annexed 1819)
Texas (annexed 1845)
Oregon Country (1846)
Mexican Cession (1848)
Gadsden Purchase (1853)
Alaska (purchased 1867)
Hawaii (annexed 1898)
Puerto Rico (ceded 1898)
Guam (ceded 1898)
Wake Island (annexed 1899)
American Samoa (annexed 1899)
Canal Zone (leased 1903)
Virgin Islands (1917)

Many thanks to Laura's sister Carol Fritz of Pennsylvania PA, USA for supplying the sentence.


The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was one of the largest land transactions in history. The vast French territory of 800,000 square miles was bought for 60 million Francs (about $15 million, of which $11.25 million was paid directly and the rest met by the U.S. government assuming French debts to U.S. citizens).

With a stroke of a pen the United States doubled in size, making it one of the largest nations in the world. The land acquired is today the better part of 13 states between the Mississippi River, the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian border, all gained for about 3 cents an acre.

The purchase came about as a result of concern to secure free navigation of the Mississippi River. The aggressive French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had roused U.S. fears because France had just acquired the Louisiana territory from the Spanish. The U.S. President Thomas Jefferson knew swift action had to be taken and sent Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe to France to negotiate for the purchase of New Orleans. Surprisingly, Napoleon offered to sell, not just New Orleans, but the entire territory.

The purchase treaty that Livingston and Monroe sent home aroused constitutional worries in Jefferson's mind. The U.S. nation was still young and issues like this had not arisen before. A Constitutional amendment would be extremely slow and Napoleon wanted the transaction finalized by a specific date. Jefferson decided to sign the treaty and leave the people to decide simply whether they were content with his action. It was overwhelmingly accepted (with the exception of a few Federalists in New England), and the purchase became by far the greatest achievement of Jefferson's presidency. It also began the exploration of the midwest, as he sent Lewis and Clark to explore the new territory (1804-8).


In 1867 the United States agreed to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million (about two cents an acre) - 656,425 square miles paid for by a single check in 1868 made payable to the Russian Minister to the United States. Many called it "Seward's Folly" after Secretary of State William H. Seward - until the first oil claims were filed in the 1890s. It has a land mass equal to 1/5th the size of all the other U.S. states together, and is larger than Texas, California and Montana combined. It became the 49th state in the union in 1959.

 

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