When it comes to real estate deals, Thomas Jefferson set a high bar

The Louisana Purchase, which changed America’s history, was a bold arbitrage play.

Soon after the American Revolution, President Thomas Jefferson was afforded the opportunity to buy most of the land west of the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains from the French emperor, Napoleon.

Unfortunately, he inherited a sizable debt owed to the Netherlands, Spain and France for helping finance the war effort — and an economy too small to pay down the debt. In what would be later called The Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson saw a way to change the course of American history through a real estate arbitrage play.

It was a simple if not genius plan: If the Unnited States government could buy from Napoleon on the cheap, he would then turn round and re-sell smaller parcels to its citizens at an affordable $1 per acre, earning the government a handsome profit with which to pay off war debts, populate the new land and eventually grow the country’s tax base.

It was a good idea on paper, but had a huge flaw. Native American tribes were not party to it, so they viewed settlers as invaders into their territories the way anyone might. Their resistance was fierce and soon the flow of Jefferson’s citizen-buyers dried up before the market got real momentum.

Needing to rebuild confidence in his buyer pool quickly, Jefferson sent the U.S. Army out to impose order and funded an expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark even further west to prove that the entirety of the rugged West could be safely traversed.

It worked. Feeling confident again, a new wave of Americans soon followed, buying land and ultimately overwhelming the resistance through force of numbers and the unintentional but devastating introduction of diseases for which people of European and African descent had immunities to but indigenous people did not. Eventually, those who remained either assimilated or were moved to reserved lands.

The Louisiana Purchase pulled the country out of near bankruptcy and kicked off one of the largest migrations in human history. Behind it was one of the greatest real estate deals ever, marking Jefferson in his place in history and changing the course of American history.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

With the Olympic mountains in the background, the first passenger flight by Alaska Airlines Flight 2878 departs for Portland on opening day of the Paine Field Terminal on Monday, March 4, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Alaska Airlines stalls plan for extra flights in Everett

Business has been sluggish, but the airline says it will offer 12 flights a day at Paine Field in the new year.

In this May 2020 photo, garbage cans line a residential street on trash pickup day in Mukilteo. In November, voters will weigh in on whether the city should encourage more high density housing. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Mukilteo asks for input on housing density, and it’s complicated

Here’s a guide to what voters should know about the advisory ballot measure. What does it actually do?

People hold signs in protest of the vaccine mandate after Boeing announced it would terminate workers who do not comply on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Some Boeing workers protest in Everett over vaccine mandate

The Boeing Company announced earlier this week that its workers must be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
Former Boeing test pilot pleads not guilty in 737 Max case

He’s the first person to be charged with a crime in connection with the Indonesia and Ethiopia crashes.

FILE - In this March 14, 2019 file photo, Ethiopian relatives of crash victims mourn at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. Relatives of some of the passengers who died in the crash will mark the two-year anniversary of the disaster on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, by seeking a reversal of government orders that let Boeing 737 Max jets fly again.  (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)
Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

He’s accused of giving the FAA false information about systems that played a role in two deadly crashes.

Top (L-R): Kim Daughtry, Steve Ewing. Bottom (L-R): Gary Petershagen, Marcus Tageant.
Developers court Lake Stevens council incumbents with over $20K

Over half of the campaign dollars for four candidates came from people tied to real estate or property development.

Traffic drives in view of a massive Boeing Co. production plant, where images of jets decorate the hangar doors, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing says workers must get the COVID vaccine by Dec. 8

“Compliance with these requirements is a condition of employment,” says an internal company presentation.

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)
Boeing ramps up 737 Max but 787 deliveries are still blocked

Boeing last month maintained its steady trickle of sales as it navigates the aviation downturn.

A handful of Northwest Union Carpenter members picket in front of the new Marysville civic center construction site on the sixth day of a region wide union carpenter strike on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Carpenters strike ends with new contract and a $10 raise

Roughly 500 union members were working on projects in Snohomish County. It was among the largest strikes in 18 years.

FILE - In this March 20, 2020, file photo, the Amazon campus outside the company headquarters in Seattle sits nearly deserted on an otherwise sunny and warm afternoon. Amazon said Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 it will allow many tech and corporate workers to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can commute to the office when necessary. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Amazon to allow employees to work remotely indefinitely

Although most cannot work remotely because their duties include grabbing orders and delivering them.

With new owners demanding the Grand Apartments' longtime residents leave, Stephen Teixeira, 52, documents issues at the Rockefeller Avenue building, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Life at the Grand Apartments in Everett is now a ‘nightmare’

Longtime residents say the new owner, an investment company, is trying to bully them out of the building.

Bob Martin, 80, owner of the The Stag Barber and Styling in Snohomish. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
$90,000 fine doesn’t stop defiant Snohomish barber

Bob Martin appealed a state penalty for ignoring coronavirus rules and lost. It has not cut into his business.