World History II
How Did the Louisiana Purchase, the Corps of Discovery, and Lewis and Clark Impact American Culture?
Lewis and Clark were two men, given a mission by President Thomas Jefferson in April of 1803 to chart all the lands, organisms, and cultures included within the Louisiana Purchase. The main purpose, however, was to find some sort of fabled Northwest passage that would speed up the land trade. Considered the most important expedition in American History by nearly all, people often forget the trail of mayhem and sorrow that would follow Lewis and Clark’s wake, not immediately, but over the next hundred or so years. A few scholars say that the Lewis and Clark expedition was not worth it, the high tensions it created with Great Britain, the immense and countless problems that the Native Americans would soon have to face. A compelling and accurate quote, “The nations growth combined tragedy and triumph at every turn” (“Exploration: Lewis and Clark”, U.S. History) precisely describes the expedition. When Lewis and Clark are discussed, the first image that comes to mind is of a wild and savage frontier, being explored and discovered by two brave American men, two brave American men that risked their lives to bring forth civilization and stability to a dangerous land and an uncultured native people. But in fact, Lewis and Clark were not the first men to cross the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean north of Mexico. Nor did they discover places not already seen and mapped by generations of native people. It could even be said that the Corps of Discovery’s findings began the American governments invasion of the West, which was clearly aimed at making it safe for cattle, crops and capital at the expense and livelihood of the near dwindling bison, prairie flora and cultures that did not fit the expansionist plans that the American government had laid out. If being exceptionally critical, an argument could be made that the Lewis and Clark tale is a prime example of the constantly told and taught narrative which glorifies and justifies the American conquest and dispossession of the North American natives. Despite the fact that the Discovery Corps. marked the end of any potential Native American prosperity, Lewis and Clark, matched with the Louisiana Purchase, reshaped the entire American landscape politically, economically, scientifically and socially. Jefferson became the President of the United States on March 4, 1801. At this point in time, the nation had an estimated 5,308,483 people within its borders (“Inside the Corps.”, PBS), from the Atlantic Ocean over in the east, to the Mississippi rapids in the western reaches of the country. From the Great Lakes up in the north, to about the Gulf of Mexico in the south. Only a small area was occupied, however, for two-thirds of the population lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic. The American population was growing quickly however, and Jefferson needed to find new land upon which his citizens could live and thrive, while also serving the best economic interests of his country. This led Jefferson into buying the Louisiana Purchase off of the French. Jefferson was going to take advantage of this amazing deal as best he could, so he secretly ordered The Corps of Discovery to intervene and cut off the lucrative trade business and deals that those living within the Louisiana Purchase had with the French and British. At this point in time, the British dominated the gold mine that was the fur trade with the Native Americans throughout the continental interior. Gaining control over this market would give the American economy a much needed boost, which is why Jefferson told Lewis and Clark to disrupt the trade as best as they could and set up some sort of trade with the natives (U.S. History, Exploration: Lewis and Clark). Winter began approaching, and the Corps decided that the best idea was to spend the harsh winter in a Mandan village....
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