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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Louisiana Purchase

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Americans all over the country were affected by the social strains instituted with the acquisition of the westward purchase in the early 1800s. People of the east and west in “Jefferson’s New America” dealt with societal changes brought about from the migration of settlers west.


As new territories became available, people surged in, causing western populations to increase dramatically. For example, in Ohio, the population grew from 45,000 in 1800 to 1,000 in 1810. These shifts created unrest in the minds of many citizens for various reasons.


Eastern manufacturers, for example, were panicked because population numbers continued to decline around their factories and shops. Soon this would mean increases in labor costs and decreases in profits. As the number of workers decreased, the companies had to pay more competitive wages to acquire new employees and keep them from leaving. Also, with smaller populations, demand diminished, which caused them to lower prices.


Meanwhile, economies in west depended on the amount of settlers arriving. When new people entered an area, the economy boomed. Unfortunately these booms were met with deep economic drops when no new settlers came. This forced these western communities to adapt to an unstable financial life. Additionally, economic activity was restricted to local markets due to lack of reliable, inexpensive transportation for their produce. The artisans of the area hand-crafted their products with demand and farmers sold produce in the local trading town. The only two dependable trading routes that existed were the Ohio-Mississippi-Missouri drainage system to the Gulf of Mexico and the St Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, both routes were met with various problems like the strong currents which made it impossible to travel upriver and attacks by pirates, Indians, and foreign settlers.


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Migration westward caused social stresses on both sides of the country as well. Before the Louisiana Purchase, elders who owned land had extensive control over the younger generations within the eastern communities. Since the country was so populated in such a small area, children were forced to wait for their elders to give them land, thus enabling them to become independent adults(belong to a church, own a business, or get married). Often, this didn’t occur until they were well into their thirties. This all changed when Jefferson bought the western territories from France. Young people saw the possibilities of owning land out west and often left home at much earlier ages looking for new opportunities offered by the Louisiana Purchase. By the 180s young people began to find independence in their late teens to their mid-twenties. In the west, the migrations created a mixture of many different ethnic, religious, and national groups that didn’t attribute much to good social relations within the community. Additionally, elder populations were often minuscule, leaving little encouragement for stable behavior among young men.


The new nation was forced to create new ways of life in order to deal with the changing societies created by enormous floods of settlers west. Consequently, people all over the country were affected in some shape or form by the purchase and opening of the Louisiana Territory. In the end, the changes were worth it. The new land allowed the United States to acquire new economic benefits from owning the Ohio-Mississippi-Missouri Drainage System and the port of New Orleans. Taking France’s land ownership in the New World also gave the American government comfort in knowing any possible alliances with Great Britain in a war against France were successfully avoided. The benefits of the purchase eventually outweighed any draw backs Jefferson’s critics could reveal.


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