Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. This political status puts Puerto Rico in the position of lacking the full protection of the U.S. Constitution, being unable to vote in presidential elections, and going without full representation in Congress.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Puerto Rico’s alternatives to being a territory are statehood and independence. Statehood is by far the more popular option, but there are arguments against statehood for Puerto Rico. Something many people don’t realize is that all the current states, apart from the original colonies, faced arguments against their admission as states.
Louisiana became a state in 1812, more than two centuries ago. It wasn’t a shoo-in, though.
Puerto Rico is currently caught up in the Democratic-Republican split. For many years, it has been customary to admit a Democratic State and a Republican state in pairs, though the states have not always continue to vote in the direction anticipated. When Louisiana was admitted, the split was between Federalists and Republicans. At the time, the United States was politically divided between Federalists and Republicans. Many Louisiana residents, particularly wealthy landowners and merchants, aligned with the Federalist viewpoint. They feared the addition of a new state with Republican leanings would upset the political balance in favor of their opponents.
The United States bought Louisiana from France in 1803 and sent explorers out to discover its size and nature. It was eventually carved up into multiple territories, one of which kept the name, Louisiana.
New England Federalists, in particular, opposed the Louisiana Purchase itself, viewing it as an unconstitutional expansion of the republic. The Constitution did not explicitly state that the president or the Congress could buy foreign land. Federalists believed that since this was not permitted under the Constitution, it was unconstitutional. They also feared the addition of a new slave state. Louisiana allowed slavery. This issue continued to be contentious until it resulted in the Civil War.
In the 19th century, Louisiana was inhabited not only by Native Americans, but also by many people of French and Spanish descent, as the colonists settled in the area when it belonged to France and Spain. There were people of African descent as well. In fact, Louisiana had greater ethnic and cultural diversity than any of the existing states. French was widely spoken, along with Creole and Cajun variants. Most of the people were Catholic, in contrast to the existing states, and the legal system was based on French and Spanish customs, not on the English customs that were the basis for law in the states.
Louisiana was divided into parishes rather than counties, and continues to use that term today.
Some Louisianans, especially those of Creole descent, worried about losing their distinct cultural identity by becoming part of the United States. They feared their legal system, language, and customs would be marginalized or even erased. In fact, Louisiana, like the rest of the states, has its own unique culture and traditions, centuries after statehood.
The other side of the coin was that the War of 1812 was going on when Louisiana became a state. The combatants in this war were the United Kingdom and the United States, but this war was connected with the war between France and England. The division of Canada between the two European nations was the central cause. Some Americans, including members of Congress, worried about granting statehood to a territory with potential French loyalties during a time of conflict.
Crime and conflict
Louisiana, like most territories, was a wild and lawless place. Piracy and smuggling were major problems, and led to violence as organized crime predictably does.
The western border of the Louisiana Territory was also in dispute. Spain held the land to the west of the Louisiana Purchase, and the United States disagreed on where exactly the boundary was. The treaty to settle the border as it currently stands was not completed until 1819, years after Louisiana’s admission as a state. This uncertainty made admitting Louisiana seem chancy.
Additionally, there was the question of West Florida. Like so much of the land that eventually became the United States, this section had been passed back and forth between European powers. In 1810, West Florida declared independence from Spain and claimed to be an independent nation. This claim did not stand, and part of West Florida was included in the Louisiana Territory when it was formally defined. Part was organized into the Florida Territory and part is now in Alabama.
The great state of Louisiana
Just like Puerto Rico, Louisiana faced people who believed that it was too foreign to be a state, people who opposed its admission for reasons connected with national political divisions, and questions about crime. Nonetheless, Louisiana achieved statehood and is an important part of American culture. The stories of nearly all the current states reflect controversies over statehood.