Seduced by the West: Jefferson's America and the Lure of the Land Beyond the Mississippi

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Ivan R. Dee, Jan 1, 2003 - History - 226 pages
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"The Lewis and Clark expedition has become part of the founding myth of the American West, integral to our explanations of how the nation extended to the Pacific Ocean. It remains one of the most examined yet most mysterious of the many events that shaped the West. Whenever the reasons for its epic and harrowing journey must be explained, we find ourselves awash in grey. We suppose the nation was pushing its natural boundaries to both coasts; or we imagine it was a challenge that simply had to be met because it was there."
So writes Laurie Winn Carlson at the start of her book about the opening of the American West. Why, she wonders, should Thomas Jefferson have bothered to send Lewis and Clark on an arduous transcontinental journey by foot when American ships were already plying the waters off the Pacific Northwest coast? Why didn't he bother to commission one of those ships to pick them up at the mouth of the Columbia River, rather than force them to return overland? The answer, Ms. Carlson argues, is that Lewis and Clark may have been only a demonstration of American reach or, worse, bait - to tempt the Spanish to attack the expedition, thus provoking a war with Spain over their territories to Florida and the West.
Seduced by the West views the Lewis and Clark expedition as just one of several schemes to seize Western lands from foreign powers and extend the new United States to the Pacific. And behind the scenes in most all of them was the Virginian who actually knew little about the West but under whose presidency the Louisiana Purchase was completed, Thomas Jefferson. As Ms. Carlson notes, Jefferson never traveled west, but he was involved to varying degrees with the men who did the exploring, organizing, and trekking at the Western frontiers - men who left few papers for historians to pursue, and have been largely forgotten.

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SEDUCED BY THE WEST: Jefferson's America and the Lure of the Land Beyond the Mississippi

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Mix "fiery-tempered Spaniards" and ignoble Virginians, and you're likely to get trouble. Throw in Napoleon, and the plot thickens. . . .Amateur historian Carlson (Cattle, 2001, etc.) wonders why ... Read full review

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User Review  - ksmyth - LibraryThing

Carlson's thesis is that Lewis and Clark, and similar military expeditions into the west were thinly veiled efforts to project American military presence into the west, threatening Spanish authority over the Southwest. A fascinating read. Read full review


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About the author (2003)

Laurie Winn Carlson's A Fever in Salem, a new interpretation of the New England witch trials, was widely praised. She has also written frequently on the history of the West, including Cattle: An Informal Social HIstory; Sidesaddles to Heaven; and Boss of the Plains. She lives in Cheney, Washington.

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