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From his offices in Washington, D.C. and at Monticello, President Thomas Jefferson envisioned the unknown American West and devised an expedition to explore it, one that nearly two hundred years later still ranks as one of the most gripping adventures in our history.
From a modern vantage point, however, it is hard to grasp how little Jefferson and his chosen explorers actually knew about the West. James Ronda makes clear the West imagined by Jefferson and the scientists of his day --one with garden-like plains, low mountains, and easily navigable rivers, bearing the promise of the fabled Northwest Passage to the Pacific. Of course, the terrain encountered by Lewis and Clark was wider, taller, infinitely less navigable, and exponentially more rugged than Jefferson could have imagined.
Using the letters of Jefferson and the journals of Lewis and Clark, Ronda takes readers on a dual journey exploring the drama of the expedition from the perspectives of Jefferson in the East and Lewis and Clark out West. Added to this conflicting scheme is the presence of the Native Americans encountered by Lewis and Clark, whose world and perspective could not be understood in either Jefferson's vision for the trip or in Lewis and Clark's understanding of their voyage. [via]