These American Presidents Were Accused of Abusing Their Power

During the Louisiana Purchase debates, Napoleon’s right to sell and Jefferson’s right to buy were both questioned by opponents. Wikimedia

2. Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase

It was the Federalist Party supporters, primarily in New England, who accused Thomas Jefferson of both abusing the powers of his office and violating the Constitution when he negotiated, through agents, the purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon Bonaparte. Even the validity of French ownership of the land involved was called into question. But the primary argument supporting Jefferson’s abuse of power was that the Constitution did not give the executive the power to purchase land and expand the boundaries of American territory. They argued that Jefferson was abusing his office by violating the Constitution and illegally expanding the powers of the Presidency.

Jefferson agreed that the Constitution did not give the President the authority to purchase land through a contract with another nation. But he pointed out that the Constitution gave the President the authority, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to negotiate treaties and the Louisiana Purchase was just that – a treaty. After the Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase the House reluctantly authorized the funding. During the debate the House voted on a motion to deny funding for the treaty, which failed by only two votes, and despite the loud charges of Jefferson’s abuse of power, the Louisiana Purchase was funded, more than doubling the territory of the United States for about 3 cents per acre.