Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a Song

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Week 7: Louisiana Purchase and the Corps of Discovery
"Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a Song." --………Gen. Horatio Gates to President Thomas Jefferson, July 18, 1803

And, if he had not done so, my three years in New Orleans with U.S. Coast Guard would have been service in a foreign country – France, to be precise. Ah, well, at least I had the French Quarter! Imagine the surprise of the American people when they woke up to the morning news on July 19, 1803, and discovered that their very young nation had doubled in size with the stroke of a pen and a cool $15,000,000. Oddly enough, your textbook doesn’t give this event much attention – why, I’m not sure. But we do! Furthermore, your text barely acknowledges the Corps of Discovery - The Lewis and Clark Expedition. Yet, since we are now in the midst of the L&C Bicentennial, you would think that this was the most profound event of geographic exploration since the first peoples crossed over on the Bering Land Bridge.

Learning Objectives

  • To understand the background and the significance of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

  • To study and understand the state of geographic knowledge of the West (or lack thereof) that existed in 1803.

  • To appreciate (or at least to understand) the vision and the motivation behind Thomas Jefferson’s role in the Purchase and subsequent exploration.

  • To enjoy browsing the highlights of the epic journey of Clark and Lewis.

  • To appreciate the positive role played by the Native Americas in that journey of exploration and discovery.

Instructor’s Notes

First, the Louisiana Purchase:

  • Louisiana Purchase: This will give you a quick summary of the maneuvering that led to the Purchase; take special note of Samuel Lewis’s map, which suggests how little geographic information was available on the Far West at that time.

  • Thomas Jefferson’s West – Monticello Web Page: Here your will find a great deal of information about his long-standing interest in the West, and the ideas behind the subsequent Lewis and Clark Expedition. The page you open has several links at the bottom; be sure to follow them.

  • Thomas Jefferson and the American Indians: This, from the same Monticello web site, details Jefferson’s public utterances regarding the Native Americans. Again, be sure to follow the links at the bottom of the page you open. For a very different interpretation of Jefferson’s viewpoints – dark motives – you might want to read the Book Review listed in the Additional Resources below.

Second, planning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition:

To The Western Ocean: Planning the Lewis and Clark Expedition: This site from the University of Virginia is a great summary of this episode; be sure to note that there are 4 parts to this discussion – read them all. (Also, see the King Map)
Third, the Corps of Discovery - Lewis and Clark on the Trail:

There are approximately three zillion Lewis and Clark Web Sites. I give you these two reputable sources for your reading pleasure. And if you have not seen the PBS Video on Lewis and Clark (produced by Ken Burns), I highly recommend you go to your neighborhood library and check it out.

National Geographic Interactive Trail Guide

PBS Online – Lewis and Clark

Additional Resources

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