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The Louisiana Purchase (Turning Points in History)

Fleming, Thomas

ISBN 10: 1630269999 / ISBN 13: 9781630269999
Published by Wiley
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Title: The Louisiana Purchase (Turning Points in ...

Publisher: Wiley

Binding: PAPERBACK

Book Condition:New

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From The Louisiana Purchase

Like many other major events in world history, the Louisiana Purchase is a fascinating mix of destiny and individual energy and creativity. . . . Thomas Jefferson would have been less than human had he not claimed a major share of the credit. In a private letter . . . the president, reviving a favorite metaphor, said he ""very early saw"" Louisiana was a ""speck"" that could turn into a ""tornado."" He added that the public never knew how near ""this catastrophe was."" But he decided to calm the hotheads of the west and ""endure"" Napoleon's aggression, betting that a war with England would force Bonaparte to sell. This policy ""saved us from the storm."" Omitted almost entirely from this account is the melodrama of the purchase, so crowded with ""what ifs"" that might have changed the outcome-and the history of the world.

The reports of the Lewis and Clark expedition . . . electrified the nation with their descriptions of a region of broad rivers and rich soil, of immense herds of buffalo and other game, of grassy prairies seemingly as illimitable as the ocean. . . . From the Louisiana Purchase would come, in future decades, the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and large portions of what is now North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Colorado, and Louisiana. For the immediate future, the purchase, by doubling the size of the United States, transformed it from a minor to a major world power. The emboldened Americans soon absorbed West and East Florida and fought mighty England to a bloody stalemate in the War of 1812. Looking westward, the orators of the 1840s who preached the ""Manifest Destiny"" of the United States to preside from sea to shining sea based their oratorical logic on the Louisiana Purchase.

TURNING POINTS features preeminent writers offering fresh, personal perspectives on the defining events of our time.

From the Inside Flap:

"An extraordinary new series intended to capture extraordinary moments in history."
–Chicago Tribune

In 1801, relations between the world’s only two republics, the United States and France, were at a low ebb. American merchants had just lost millions of dollars to French privateers in the "Quasi-War" of the late 1790s, and Napoleon was scheming to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Spain and create a "wall of brass" that would halt America’s westward expansion. Yet only a few years later, Napoleon agreed to sell Louisiana to the United States for $15 million. How did America manage to double its territory and end French colonial ambitions in the New World–without firing a shot?

This lively book by noted historian Thomas Fleming delivers the answers. Taking us behind the scenes in Thomas Jefferson’s raw "federal village" of Washington, D.C., and inside the duplicitous world of Napoleonic Paris, Fleming shows how Bonaparte haters in Spain, the French army’s disastrous failure in Haiti, some wily American negotiating, and Napoleon’s resolve to renew his war with "perfidious Albion" led to the momentous French decision to sell Louisiana–and cede 838,000 square miles of land to the United States. Along the way, we meet a host of fascinating characters as they attempt to advance their nations’ interests–and their personal ambitions–through diplomacy, threats, lies, bribery, and treachery:

  • President Thomas Jefferson, an impulsive ideologue whose Francophilia was slowly eroded in the face of French deceit
  • Secretary of State James Madison, a shrewd, realistic statesman and vital counterweight to Jefferson’s volatility
  • Minister Plenipotentiary to France Robert R. Livingston, a Hudson River grandee who was impervious to French insults and snubs
  • French Foreign Minister Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a supremely corrupt aristocrat who regarded Americans with blasé contempt
  • First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, the "man of destiny" who had become the all but absolute dictator of France

The story doesn’t end with France’s agreement to sell Louisiana. The United States had only six months to ratify the treaty–and Federalists, with the exception of General Alexander Hamilton, derided the deal as a waste of money. Jefferson himself doubted the constitutionality of the purchase. But in October 1803, the Senate ratified the treaty and a tiny American army occupied sullen New Orleans. Jefferson’s devious rival, former Vice President Aaron Burr, failed in his attempt to utilize this resentment to revolutionize the new territories. The American republic was on its way to becoming a world power.

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