Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael Kocsis

Territorial Acquisition in North America and the Louisiana Purchase

Living reference work entry


Thomas Jefferson claimed that the 1803 Louisiana Purchase included the entire Missouri watershed. However, a nation cannot transfer title to territory it does not occupy and own, and history reveals that France neither occupied nor owned the Missouri watershed prior to 1803. Instead, the region was actually occupied and controlled by the numerous Indian nations who exercised authority there. The United States therefore did not acquire title to the Missouri watershed by the Louisiana Purchase but rather by conquest of and treaties with the Indian nations, processes that were only completed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Key terms employed in this entry include Indigenous peoples, international law, Louisiana Purchase, sovereignty, Thomas Jefferson, and the United States.


The United States came into existence as a result of the Revolutionary War and British acknowledgment of American independence by the Treaty of Paris, 1783. At the time, the...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osgoode Hall Law SchoolYork UniversityTorontoCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin W. Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada