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This Article challenges the conventional wisdom about the Louisiana Treaty and argues that it was unconstitutional. As many students of history know, President Jefferson had serious misgivings about its constitutionality, which scholars have dismissed as driven by an overly strict construction of the Constitution. The Article concludes that Jefferson's concerns were in fact motivated primarily by respect for federalism principles.

This Article identifies and discusses the underlying conflict between two radically different visions of federalism. While Jefferson s Republicans believed that the incorporation of new states in the West would merely expand the Constitutions form of government to more territory, creating an "empire of liberty, '' the Federalists argued that it would destroy the delicate regional balance of power preserved by the Constitution. The author concludes that, given the federalism principles at stake, Jefferson ought to have give:n more weight to the ''balance of forces" view and carried out his plan for presenting a constitutional amendment.

This Article also contends that the consequences of Jefferson 's failure are more serious than scholars have admitted. States' rights claims based on the "empire of liberty" theory implicit in the Louisiana Treaty made the spread of slavery inevitable. The failure to require an amendment triggered a decline in the use of the Article Five amendment process and set the stage for a further weakening of states' rights. Finally, with potential threats to state sovereignty on the horizon, the Article concludes that a narrow view of the treaty power, consistent with the Supreme Court's recent revival of federalism, would best preserve the constitutional principles weakened by the Louisiana Purchase.