Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

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Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
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Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
Wilson, Luther
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 9:48:52 AM] Home Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American WestZebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American WestSubmitted by nwharton on 7-16-2012 09:00 AMAuthor: Edited by Matthew L. Harris and Jay H. Buckley Publishing: Norman, OK: University Press of Oklahoma, 2012. Reviewer: Luther Wilson Before becoming editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press in the mid-1970s, I confess to having retained very little of the history of the American West taught to me in high school, or in the two Western Civilization courses I was required to take in college. If questioned, I might have been able to mumble a few words about President Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis and Clark expedition, but if pressed for more my innocence of knowledge would have been blatantly obvious. One early western name had stuck in my memory, though, more because of the unusual name, Zebulon Montgomery Pike, than anything notable I could remember the bearer having done. That retention in memory was helped by the fact that Pike had a prominent Colorado mountain named for him. After thirty-five years, and having published some one thousand books on the histories, cultures, and resources of the American West, Mexico, and Central and South America, I am a little less innocent of the Wests history than when I first arrived. Pike, though, remained an enigmatic figure. I have read many manuscripts and published a number of books in which he figures prominently, sometimes being portrayed as a Jeffersonian explorer the equal of Lewis and Clark, sometimes as a bumbler and failure who got lost in the area now called the San Luis Valley, which got him arrested by Spanish troops who took him to Santa Fe, then on to Chihuahua for interrogation. Pike has also been portrayed as a spy, an unwitting or perhaps witting dupe of his commander, General James Wilkinson, who himself was a spy on Imperial Spains payroll while serving as the commanding general of the U.S. Army (185). In Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West editors Harris and Buckley have brought together a stellar group of scholars who collectively offer a fresh perspective on Pikes life [and] to place Pikes life and times within a broader context and explain his significance as an explorer in the American West. Pike is portrayed more fully as an empire builder, field scientist, mapmaker, explorer, spy, and soldier (13). When President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, it is safe to say he really did not know what he had bought. He knew that it would double the territorial size of the young nation, and he was aware that there could be conflict, maybe even war, with Spain, and possibly with Britain over boundaries. Spain, which had only recently returned the territory to France on the condition that it could not be re-sold to anyone but Spain, refused to recognize Jeffersons purchase for the United States. Spain EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanKatherine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics of America the Beautiful after an awe-inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak in 1893.


Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 9:48:52 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us continued to dispute the southwestern border of the territory until the Adams-Ons treaty was signed in 1819. Jefferson needed intelligence about the territory, so set about authorizing and approving several explorations. The Lewis and Clark expedition was the first to embark in May 1804. Pikes first expedition, authorized by General Wilkinson to discover the headwaters of the Mississippi, began in August 1805. His second expedition, also authorized by General Wilkinson and approved by President Jefferson, set out on July 15, 1806, to treat with the Pawnees and, hopefully, with the Comanches, and to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red rivers. Between the Lewis and Clark expedition and Pikes second excursion, several others were undertaken at the behest of President Jefferson and General Wilkinson, led by men little known or recognized today: George Hunter and Sir William Dunbar, who explored the Ouachita tributary of the Red River, and Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis, who explored the lower Red River. These and more obscure expeditions are ably treated by co-editor Jay H. Buckley in a chapter titled Jeffersonian Explorers in the Trans-Mississippi West Buckley also presents a very useful chronology of expeditions and other notable events of the early nineteenth century. Based on the goals set for both of his expeditions, one would have to judge Pike a failure. He misidentified the source of the Mississippi on his first exploration; and on his second he failed to find the source of the Red River, that being an impossible task as everyone at the time except maybe the Spaniards thought the Red River rose in the mountains. He also failed to meet with the Comanches. The editors and the contributors to this volume, however, make a convincing case for judging Pikes contributions more broadly. Based on his contributions to sciencethe flora and fauna, the geography, geology, and natural resources of the huge area of the southwest he exploredand on the intelligence he gathered about the Spaniards and the native cultures of the region the editors and contributors conclude that he should receive much greater recognition for his work, perhaps not as great as that accorded Lewis and Clark, but more than that given to others who followed and developed the Santa Fe trade thanks greatly to Pikes reports. I agree. Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West is a well-written, well-edited volume that adds much to our understanding of the growth and development of the early United States, and of Jeffersons vision of an empire of liberty. Reviewer Info: Luther Wilson retired in June 2010 as director of the University of New Mexico Press, having served twice as UNM Presss director, from 1980 to 1985, and from 2000 to 2010. He was director of the University Press of Colorado from 1988 until 2000, and the Syracuse University Press from 1985 to 1988. He also served as general manager of the College and Trade divisions of Nelson-ITP, Australia, editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press, and acquisitions editor for the Cambridge University Press and for Harper and Row. He worked in commercial and academic publishing for forty-four years, publishing textbooks, general and scholarly nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.