The Louisiana Purchase * 1913
Thomas Jefferson to John Breckinridge, 12 August 1803
The Constitution has made no provision for our holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating foreign nations into our Union. The executive, in seizing the fugitive occurrence which so much advances the good of their country, have done an act beyond the Constitution. The legislature, in casting behind them metaphysical subtleties and risking themselves like faithful servants, must ratify and pay for it and throw themselves on their country for doing for them, unauthorized, what we know they would have done for themselves had they been in a situation to do it.
John Quincy Adams to the U.S. Senate, 3 November 1803*
It has been argued that the bill ought not to pass because the treaty itself is unconstitutional. . . . For my own part, I am free to confess that the third article, and more especially the seventh, contain engagements placing us in a dilemma from which I see no possible way of extricating ourselves but by an amendment, or rather an addition, to the Constitution. . . . But what is this more than saying that the President and Senate have bound the nation to engagements which require the cooperation of more extensive powers than theirs to carry them into execution? Nothing is more common, in the negotiations between nation and nation, than for a minister to agree to and sign articles beyond the extent of his powers. This is what your ministers, in the very case before you, have confessedly done. It is well know that their powers did not authorize them to conclude this treaty; but they acted for the benefit of their country, and this House by a large majority has advised to the ratification of their proceedings. . . . such is the public favor attending the transaction which commenced by the negotiation of this treaty, and which, I hope, will terminate in our full, undisturbed, and undisputed possession of the ceded territory, that I firmly believe if an amendment to the Constitution . . . shall be proposed, as I think it ought; it will be adopted by the legislature of every State in the Union. We can therefore fulfill our part of the conventions, and this is all that France has a right to required of us.