TFMs in History: The Louisiana Purchase

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American history books in college are all the same. They start with five pages of pre-Columbus America, 50 pages of how Europeans decimated the Indian population, 100 pages of King George and the American Revolution, 150 pages of the Era of Good Feelings to World War I, 200 pages of The Roaring Twenties to modern day, and depending on the professor, some elaborate B.S. critique about President Bush that wastes at least a week of class.

Those are all great aspects of American history to learn, and as a father I will impart the feelings of American exceptionalism onto my children (Yes, we did win more World Wars than Tony Romo did playoff games, this is why you always have to hire a great “general manager”). However, if we are really to get our future generations to understand why America is so great, and why the US still holds 1/3 of the world’s billionaires as citizens, we need to teach them the value of a great business deal. A deal that cost the United States $15 million dollars at the time, or half of one year of Alex Rodriguez’s contract.

I’m talking about the Louisiana Purchase, the most underrated trade in the history of anything that has to do with America.

Think about it: we gained all of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, most of North and South Dakota, northern New Mexico, North Texas, portions of Montana Wyoming and Colorado that were east of the Continental Divide, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, which included New Orleans.

All that for $15 million dollars. Well, $23 million if you include interest paid by the US, but still, $23 million for that much land. $23 million barely buys you an SEC football coach nowadays. $23 million dollars to set up westward expansion after the War of 1812. Business deals like that don’t happen often. Now the question you may ask is “Who would be dumb enough to sell that much land to a small US republic for $15 million?”

The answer: Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of the French “Empire.” Napoleon sent 7,000 troops to New Orleans in 1801 in order to secure it and provide a foothold for his North American Empire. He already controlled much of the Caribbean, and had U.S. support for an invasion into Haiti. However, his plans were foiled, as yellow fever, struggling Caribbean sugar colonies, the largest slave revolt in history (and only successful one to date), and a looming war with Britain rendered the territory of Louisiana useless to him.

Get this: America was willing to pay up to $10 million for JUST New Orleans. Instead they were offered a deal that doubled the size of the US (at the time) for $5 million more. That’s like going home with Katherine Webb, only to find out you’ll also get to sample Megan Fox, Kate Upon, Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Hough, Mila Kunis and Brooklyn Decker the SAME night. Oh, and all it costs is one more bottle of $200 wine.

Now, why does this merit inclusion into TFM? The Louisiana Purchase is an underrated, yet highly significant piece of American history that TFM readers who are pre, post and in college need to understand, in terms of both historical significance and for business purposes. The lesson behind the Louisiana Purchase is that using patience combined with calculated diplomacy, and also understanding your opposition, will lead you to opportunity.

To put things in our terms…you know that girl at the bar? The one who you’ve tried for three years to take home, but continue to buy her the wrong shot? The one who told you she doesn’t like red snappers, but lemon drops, who broke up with her boyfriend 3 months ago, and now has presented herself as available to you, not only for that specific night, but for successive ones after, AND THEN OFFERS TO BUY YOU WHATABURGER THE FOLLOWING DAY? Now would be the time to take her home.

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