Would you believe that our nation's outstanding debts might include bonds from the Louisiana Purchase?
A find by the National Archives suggests that the United States might have shortchanged the investors who financed the Louisiana Purchase 200 years ago last week.
President Thomas Jefferson's purchase from France is recorded as having cost $15 million -- $230 million in today's dollars. The archives has found three apparently unredeemed $2,000 bonds that the Treasury sold to finance the Louisiana Purchase from a cash-strapped Napoleon.
The bonds, then called "stock certificates," were not canceled or stamped, so the Treasury may never have reimbursed the money that Dutch investors paid for them -- a $6,000 saving to the American taxpayer, $86,000 in today's change.
"That's what we think," said Milton Gustafson, the agency's expert on treaties. "But maybe they were just kept as samples."
He said no figure survives for the total repaid. None of the other bonds is known to have survived.