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Seduced By the Westby Laurie W. Carlson
Synopses & Reviews
In her provocative new book, Laurie Winn Carlson questions the larger aims of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806 and sees it as part of a broad range of schemes to wrest the American West from the claims of established European powers. If American ships were already plying the waters off the Pacific Northwest coast, why, Ms. Carlson asks, was it necessary to send these two intrepid explorers overland-except as a demonstration of American reach, and perhaps as a ploy to tempt the Spanish to attack the expedition, thus provoking a war with Spain in Florida and the West. Ms. Carlson 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 region 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 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. Seduced by the West investigates the wide range of players in this drama of intrigue and possibilities. Russia, Spain, England, and France all tried to explore the West, and all for different reasons. Only one nation succeeded, but as Ms. Carlson shows, it was not always a simple task-or even an intended one.
"Just when our national party commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was getting in full swing—with politicians and authors vying to be master of praise for the explorers and President Jefferson—along comes Carlson to interrupt the party with cries of 'conspiracy.' Digging up doubts voiced by past authors, she argues that Mr. Jefferson, a dedicated expansionist, may well have dangled the expedition as 'bait' to lure Spain into a war with the United States. Further, she finds the alleged suicide of Lewis highly suspicious, explaining: 'Lewis was likable, but to Jefferson, he could have been expendable, as were many who crossed his [Jefferson's] path.' Carlson attempts to fortify her conspiracy theory by restating such old attacks on Jefferson's character as: a 'cold and calculating' man; a hypocritical, lying man who fathered a child by a slave woman. Though such disparagements make for a colorful storyline, I found them to detract from Carlson's believable account of the international intrigue and dirty politics of Jefferson's time. If indeed Jefferson conspired, he comes across as a rank amateur, compared to the likes of James Wilkinson and other conspirators the author has lurking on the scene as the innocents, Lewis & Clark, head upriver. One wonders if and in what manner Jeffersonian scholars will respond to this book." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Book News Annotation:
A Washington state author offers her views on the motives behind westward exploration by the Corps of Discovery and lesser known US expeditions. Carlson suggests that Lewis and Clark may have been used by Jefferson to try to provoke a war with Spain over their territories in the West, and presents the debate over whether Lewis's death was a suicide or murder. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In her provocative new book, Carlson questions the larger aims of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806 and sees it as part of a broad range of schemes to wrest the American West from the claims of established European powers. 3 maps.
Carlson views the Lewis and Clark expedition as just one of several schemes to seize Western lands from foreign powers and extend the United States.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 201-214) and index.
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