Seduced By The West

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Louisiana History
Laurie Winn Carlson…is an entertaining, creative writer who asks many intriguing questions.
The Seattle Times - Mary Ann Gwinn and Michael Upchurch
The Cheney author offers the idea that the Lewis and Clark expedition was part of a lerger scheme to wrest the American West from the claims of established European powers.
Booklist - Jay Freeman
...there is enough here to entertain readers and to hopefully encourage them to delve deeper into the topic.
Union-Tribune - Steve Raymond
As for Lewis and Clark, conspiracy theorists will love Carlson's treatment of their journey...
Western Historical Society
…Brings a big story...writing an alluring and colorful style that keeps one’s interest piqued.
Booklist
Interesting and credible.
Publishers Weekly
One comes away from her narrative with a greater appreciation of the normal, human dimensions of the nation's westward march.
UNION TRIBUNE
As for Lewis and Clark, conspiracy theorists will love Carlson's treatment of their journey...
Western Historical Society
...Brings a big story...writing in an alluring and colorful style that keeps one's interest piqued.
The New Yorker
"The looming mist, the shout in his breast, the wordless awe. But that is just it: wordless. A crash of white filling his ears and I! I! I! as he flew down the cliff." The grandeur of the Great Falls of the Missouri overwhelms Meriwether Lewis in Brian Hall's novel I Should Be Extremely Happy In Your Company , which deftly re-creates Lewis's journey with his partner, William Clark, across the new Western territory. Lewis is sensitive and insecure, suffering from self-recrimination as he tries, and fails, to meet President Jefferson's eccentric demands -- to find a mammoth, Welsh Indians, and, of course, the Northwest Passage.

More insidious motives emerge in Seduced by the West, Laurie Winn Carlson's examination of the political plotting that surrounded the expedition. Carlson speculates that Thomas Jefferson may have intended to provoke war with Spain or establish a separate, Republican nation in the West. Jefferson, perhaps unknowingly, colluded with spies and traitors, and he may have coldly planned to sacrifice his former secretary: "Perhaps Jefferson did not even wantLewis to arrive on the Pacific coast. What he may have wanted . . . was a martyr."

Whether Lewis and Clark ever arrived didn't really matter, argues Thomas P. Slaughter in Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness, noting that the Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie had made the overland journey ten years earlier and that traders had already begun to penetrate the territory. Slaughter writes, "It is really quite marvelous that Lewis and Clark were able to sustain the fantasy of controlled, objective 'discovery' so long and in the face of so much evidence to the contrary."

(Andrea Thompson)
Publishers Weekly
Who can resist the story of Americans' covetous push westward, especially in this bicentennial year of the Louisiana Purchase and the start of the Lewis and Clark expedition? But in a break with current tub-thumping celebrations of men of undaunted courage and spotless intention, Carlson turns a subtly suspicious eye on the characters who sought to make the U.S. a continental power (although she credits some of them with vision, bravery and honesty). Most of her cast, however, are fueled by motives of disunion, power and riches. The most egregious scoundrel is James Wilkinson, whose intrigues with foreign powers and domestic figures are likely never to be surpassed, although Aaron Burr comes close behind. Carlson (A Fever in Salem) also doesn't miss the chance to scrutinize Thomas Jefferson's motives and actions, and she finds him involving himself in many questionable projects (although there's no hard evidence to prove him culpable of sordid acts). One comes away from her narrative with a greater appreciation of the normal, human dimensions of the nation's westward march, a process no less filled with imperial aspirations, cupidity, secrecy and conspiracy than the activities of European states of the time. These oft-told tales, nicely and uncynically retold, provide a solid counterweight to the unnuanced story of great, pure American figures propelling their nation toward its manifest destiny on the Pacific. (May 3) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Historian Carlson (A Fever in Salem) here chronicles the key players and events in America's westward expansion in the decades immediately after the revolution. Focusing on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Thomas Jefferson's role in it, she speculates that the famous journey was far from a "scientific venture." Instead, it was essentially a spy mission and a ploy to draw Spain into war so that America would have an excuse to take Florida and all of Louisiana. The book also documents opportunists like George Rogers Clark and James Wilkinson, who put personal gain ahead of country, and the myriad secessionist movements and rebellions talked about or started in the new frontier. This provocative book is well written and documented but actually offers little that is new in the way of insights or freshly discovered material; the difference is the author's unheroic take on events. It is nevertheless recommended for libraries wanting a single-volume treatment of a complex topic. Readers may also want to consider more traditional accounts, such as Jon Kukla's A Wilderness So Immense for a history of the Louisiana Purchase and Stephen Ambrose's popular Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mix "fiery-tempered Spaniards" and ignoble Virginians, and you're likely to get trouble. Throw in Napoleon, and the plot thickens.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566634908
  • Publisher: Ivan R Dee
  • Publication date: 1/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 8.64 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 Away to the North Pacific 3
2 To the West by East: John Ledyard's Venture 25
3 The French Botanist, the Fading War Hero, and Dreams of Empire 41
4 Wild Horses, Yellow Journalists, and a Lover of Glory 62
5 Preparations 90
6 The Perfect Bait 112
7 Agent 13 127
8 The Burr Conspiracy 148
9 Whatever Happened to Meriwether Lewis? 168
10 The Wrest of the West 188
Notes 201
Index 215
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