FIRST ACROSS THE CONTINENT

FIRST ACROSS THE CONTINENT

by Noah Brooks
     
 

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Chapter I -- A Great Transaction in Land

The people of the young Republic of the United States were greatly
astonished, in the summer of 1803, to learn that Napoleon Bonaparte,
then First Consul of France, had sold to us the vast tract of land known
as the country of Louisiana. The details of this purchase were arranged
in Paris (on the part

Overview

Chapter I -- A Great Transaction in Land

The people of the young Republic of the United States were greatly
astonished, in the summer of 1803, to learn that Napoleon Bonaparte,
then First Consul of France, had sold to us the vast tract of land known
as the country of Louisiana. The details of this purchase were arranged
in Paris (on the part of the United States) by Robert R. Livingston and
James Monroe. The French government was represented by Barbe-Marbois,
Minister of the Public Treasury.

The price to be paid for this vast domain was fifteen million dollars.
The area of the country ceded was reckoned to be more than one million
square miles, greater than the total area of the United States, as the
Republic then existed. Roughly described, the territory comprised all
that part of the continent west of the Mississippi River, bounded on the
north by the British possessions and on the west and south by dominions
of Spain. This included the region in which now lie the States of
Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, parts of Colorado, Minnesota, the
States of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, a part
of Idaho, all of Montana and Territory of Oklahoma. At that time, the
entire population of the region, exclusive of the Indian tribes that
roamed over its trackless spaces, was barely ninety thousand persons,
of whom forty thousand were negro slaves. The civilized inhabitants
were principally French, or descendants of French, with a few Spanish,
Germans, English, and Americans.

The purchase of this tremendous slice of territory could not be complete
without an approval of the bargain by the United States Senate. Great
opposition to this was immediately excited by people in various parts
of the Union, especially in New England, where there was a very bitter
feeling against the prime mover in this business,--Thomas Jefferson,
then President of the United States. The scheme was ridiculed by persons
who insisted that the region was not only wild and unexplored, but
uninhabitable and worthless. They derided "The Jefferson Purchase," as
they called it, as a useless piece of extravagance and folly; and, in
addition to its being a foolish bargain, it was urged that President
Jefferson had no right, under the constitution of the United States, to
add any territory to the area of the Republic.

Nevertheless, a majority of the people were in favor of the purchase,
and the bargain was duly approved by the United States Senate; that
body, July 31, 1803, just three months after the execution of the treaty
of cession, formally ratified the important agreement between the two
governments. The dominion of the United States was now extended across
the entire continent of North America, reaching from the Atlantic to the
Pacific. The Territory of Oregon was already ours.

This momentous transfer took place one hundred years ago, when almost
nothing was known of the region so summarily handed from the government
of France to the government of the American Republic. Few white men had
ever traversed those trackless plains, or scaled the frowning ranges of
mountains that barred the way across the continent. There were living in
the fastnesses of the mysterious interior of the Louisiana Purchase many
tribes of Indians who had never looked in the face of the white man.

Nor was the Pacific shore of the country any better known to civilized
man than was the region lying between that coast and the Big Muddy, or
Missouri River. Spanish voyagers, in 1602, had sailed as far north as
the harbors of San Diego and Monterey, in what is now California;
and other explorers, of the same nationality, in 1775, extended their
discoveries as far north as the fifty-eighth degree of latitude. Famous
Captain Cook, the great navigator of the Pacific seas, in 1778, reached
and entered Nootka Sound, and, leaving numerous harbors and bays
unexplored, he pressed on and visited the shores of Alaska, then called
Unalaska, and traced the coast as far north as Icy Cape. Cold weather
drove him westward across the Pacific, and he spent the next winter at
Owyhee, where, in February of the following year, he was killed by the
natives.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013836174
Publisher:
SAP
Publication date:
12/11/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
271 KB

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