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Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost [Paperback]

By M. R. Montgomery (Author)
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Item description for Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost by M. R. Montgomery...

A colorful history of the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition into the Louisian Purchase territories focuses on the machinations of Aaron Burr, who was plotting with a top military commander, General James Wilkinson, to make a secret alliance with Spain, raise an army, and invade the new U.S. territory. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
Contrary to popular opinion, the opening of the American frontier was not a simple land purchase; it was actually a hardscrabble fight. Even as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on their legendary journey to the Pacific Ocean, other forces were taking the measure of the land with far darker ambitions.

Aaron Burr, the charming and treacherous former vice president, determined that if he could not be master of his nation, he would instead become emperor of the next best thing: the Louisiana Territory. Slyly working with the powerful and ambitious commander of the U.S. Army, General James Wilkinson, Burr instigated a plot to seize not only Louisiana, but all of Mexico as well. Told from a time when the wildest plots and the most grandiose dreams thrived, as schemers and revolutionaries conspired to create a new country, Jefferson and the Gun-Men is the riveting tale of this unlikely story
“Styled more as an adventure narrative . . . an enjoyable romp with Lewis, Clark, and Pike, along with an interesting introduction to the drama of Aaron Burr's failed attempt to establish himself as emperor of the Louisiana territories.”—Kirkus Reviews

“In this tale of subterfuge, derring-do, and exploration, we learn the stories of Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike in ways we never heard of before. . . . Those who have grown up with the assumption that the U.S. government was always a coherent whole will find this disturbing. We see that our unity was fought over even before the great conflagration of the Civil War. Montgomery has done a truly Homeric job of finding the obscure fact, the explaining anecdote, and the indisputable truth about numerous events. His book is sharp, easily understood, and places this great conspiracy in context.”—The Decatur Daily (Alabama)
M.R. Montgomery has been a journalist for thirty years and is the author of five previous books. He graduated from Stanford University and the University of Oregon with degrees in American history. A native of Montana, he has returned there often in search of the landscape and community that make up the last remnants of the days of bison and longhorns, cowboys, and schoolmarms.
February 1803, Washington City

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, is writing a lengthy letter to William Henry Harrison, military governor of the Northwest Territory; that is, of the scarcely settled lands between the Mid-Atlantic states and the Mississippi River.

Jefferson is his own secretary, and he is almost certainly alone as he writes. The federal government of the United States is very small and highly personal. Jefferson will make a copy of this letter on an unsatisfactory machine called a letterpress that transfers a little of the ink from the original to a flimsy, almost transparent, sheet of paper. The third president is probably sitting in a pair of frayed trousers, wearing house slippers and a coat against the chill. He looks rather more like Bob Cratchit than Ebenezer Scrooge as he instructs Harrison on Indian policy and the role of the western country, across the Mississippi, in managing the Indian problem. We will get to the content of the letter in a moment, but if you are going to understand some of the history about to unfold, it is good to stop a moment and recognize that the entire Executive Office of the President consists of this middle-aged man, wearing casual clothes, alone in a rented house in Washington City.

Technically, Jefferson has a personal secretary. This is Captain Meriwether Lewis, U.S. Army, who is about to depart on an exploration of the country west of the Mississippi by ascending the Missouri River to its source and then proceeding down some western river to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis is probably unaware of the contents of the letter. He is a secretary in name only. Jefferson has brought him to Washington to prepare him for a more serious job than copying and filing letters. Lewis expects to lead a clandestine mission through a country that belongs to France, to Napoleon Bonaparte. The government funds for the expedition are a well-kept secret, the result of a concealed congressional vote. And Thomas Jefferson is keeping an important development hidden from the Congress: Two American envoys are about to begin negotiations to buy the island of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi. Jefferson wants New Orleans so that trade down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers can move freely to the sea from the still lightly settled American soil along the Ohio River and the eastern bank of the Mississippi. It is a few decades before railroads, and goods from Ohio and Kentucky and Mississippi must move on the rivers. The island of New Orleans, first in French, then Spanish, and now again in French hands, is a barrier to free passage.

Napoleon has his little secret, too. Shortly after reacquiring the Louisiana Territory for France (Napoleon is governing Spain with puppets and relatives), Napoleon wants to trade it in for cash. He's not only ready to sell New Orleans, he wants to dump the whole of Louisiana--that is, all of the vast country north of Spanish Mexico and south of British Canada and west of the Mississippi River as far as to the Continental Divide, to the very headwaters of all the western tributaries of the Mississippi. Napoleon is going to need money for more adventuring in Continental Europe, and he is bleeding whole armies into a failing attempt to hang on to France's Caribbean island colony of Santo Domingo (today's Haiti and Dominican Republic). But Jefferson has no idea that this Louisiana real estate deal is in the works. So, when we read Jefferson's secret addition to his otherwise official letter to Harrison, we must remember that America stops at the Mississippi, with or without the island of New Orleans.

Jefferson begins by telling Harrison that the nation's policy "is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them, by everything just and liberal which we can do for them within the bounds of reason." Having said that, Jefferson then instructs Harrison on how to get rid of every last independent Indian tribe between the Atlantic states and the Mississippi.

Harrison is to encourage a series of government trading posts selling at a discount (to undercut the few itinerant French-Canadian traders and the increasing number of British traders coming down from Canada). "We shall push our trading . . . and be glad to see them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands. . . ."

Jefferson understands that some recalcitrant Indians may be unwilling to sell and "be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet." In that case, Harrison is to seize "the whole country of that tribe" and drive them across the Mississippi. This would "be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation."

Jefferson is almost finished. As usual, the letter is in his own hand. And now he draws a firm line of emphasis under his last words. The contents of this letter, he reminds Harrison, "must be kept within your own breast, and especially how improper to be understood by the Indians. For their interests and their tranquility it is best they should see only the present age of their history." So, from the very beginning, we see the Indian policy of the United States for what it is: all agreements and all promises are temporary, expedient, and faithless.

There will be times, in the next few years, when almost everyone involved in this business of Louisiana will be happier if they live only in the future age of their history. The wildest plots, the most grandiose dreams, will thrive as long as the actors move toward an imaginary future bliss while ignoring present realities. Only a few will even attempt to judge the practicality of their desired future. They are an odd mixture of schemers, dreamers, revolutionaries, blackguards, and braggarts. Before it is done, Jefferson, that most complicated and opaque personality, will have played more than one of those parts.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Three Rivers Press
Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.21" Width: 6.11" Height: 1.01"
Weight:   1.07 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 16, 2001
Publisher   Three Rivers Press
ISBN  0609807102  
ISBN13  9780609807101  

Availability  63 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 26, 2016 05:41.
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More About M. R. Montgomery

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! L. M. Montgomery was born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, in 1874. A prolific writer, she published many short stories, poems and novels but she is best known for Anne of Green Gables and its sequels, inspired by the years she spent on the beautiful Prince Edward Island. Montgomery died in Toronto in 1942 and was buried in Cavendish on her beloved island.

M. R. Montgomery has published or released items in the following series...
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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 19th Century > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 19th Century > Old West
3Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Jefferson and the Gun-Men: How the West Was Almost Lost?

An irreverant account of famous -- and infamous -- events  Jul 3, 2005
The prinicple narrative thread in Montgomery's "Jefferson and the Gun-Men" is an irreverant account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Do not expect "Heroic Explorers Contend Against the Wilderness"; rather, it is more like "Laurel and Hardy Go West". Although I would hesitate to take everything Montgomery states at face value -- I cannot but help think he was looking for drama, treachery, and sheer idiocy instead of straight history -- I do find his account useful in one primary regard: he interweaves in a chronologically straightforward manner the activities of not only Lewis and Clark but also of Zebulon Pike (if Lewis and Clark were Laurel and Hardy, then Pike in his view was something of a singlehanded Keystone Kop), Tom Jeffeson, Aaron Burr, and James Wilkinson (commanding general of the US Army and secretly a paid agent of Spain and a conspirator with Aaron Burr to invade Mexico or to set up the western US territories as a separate country or something -- in the end, Wilkinson betrayed Burr and became the chief witness against him in Burr's treason trial). Lewis and Clark's explorations, Pike's wanderings up the Mississippi and in the Southwest, Burr's schemes ... they are all intertwined. So, at a minimum Montgomery's book establishes a common timescale for events usually treated in isolation. But I would urge the reader to go beyond Montgomery's book to read other viewpoints about these men and their activities.
Not well edited, so is it truthfully written?  Jun 26, 2004
The basic story is intriguing and very gripping, but is it the truth? The book could have been wonderful, but is seriously flawed. Snippets of tales appear haphazardly, making the reading of it less flowing - and on two instances the facts were contrary to basic knowledge of any 6th grade student in history:

1.) Andrew Jackson was not destined to be President in 1820. (He took office in 1829, I recall without looking it up.)

2.) Thomas Jefferson was not the 2nd President. (What ever happened to John Adams?)

When these obvious errors appeared, I thought perhaps the rest of the book was junk too, so why bother reading this.

Witty, Irreverent Style Does not Make Up for other Weakness  Oct 5, 2003
The first thing that grabs you about Montgomery's tome is his style -- his passages are witty, bordering on glib, and he is not burdened by a reverence for his subject matter that makes so many other histories rather dull. He has an obvious affection for some of his characters (such as Clark and Sacagawea), to be sure, but he also sees them as real people rather than demigods. Montgomery's savaging of other characters is a particular delight. This style is a plus, and makes for fun reading.

But the book is fraught with errors, as other reviewers have observed. I'll content myself with only one, which should have also been caught by Montgomery's editor -- on more than one occasion, Montgomery refers to the duel between Burr and Madison, incorrectly substituting Madison for Hamilton. While this mistake is so obvious that nobody is mis-led by it, it says little for the care that went into the writing and editing of the book and undermines its credibility.

Is the book entertaining? Sure. But it's got the same historical value as "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," and that's sad, because it could have been so much more.

Fact Errors vs. spelling Errors  Oct 14, 2002
Quite frankly I wish I had read the many other reviews before I invested in this book. The author makes much of correcting Clark's spelling errors, but his own errors reveal he did not go much beyond the spelling. Especially egregious is the one where he tells us that we cannot know from the jouurnals how many canoes were made by Lewis and Clark at the top of Great Falls. The number is given explicitly in the journal entries for three days: July 9, 10, and 14. Because of this I will try to find other books about Burr, wilkinson and Pike.
Zebulon Pike was not a traitor  Jun 30, 2002
I claim no special knowldge of Jefferson or General Wilkinson but I do when it comes to Zebulon Montgomery Pike. This book bristles with factual errors concerning this great American. The author apparently never visited Colorado or he would not claim that Pike never even saw the massif that was named for him. Pikes Peak can be seen for a hundred miles or more from the eastern prarie which was Pike's route along the Arkansas River. Pike wrote from South Park that he had continually seen what he called Grand Peak every day (except when he was in the valleys) for the past two months. The author claims that Pike only ascended some foothill when he attempted to climb what would become Pikes Peak, when the truth is he climbned Mt. Rosa, 11,499' which was the first recorded ascent of any mountain in the American West. Moreover, he was the first American, in the United States, to reach the Alpine Zone (11,400' in Colorado). Some foothill.
Pike was made a captain in November of 1806 while the author claims it happened in 1808.
Pike died a hero's death for his country in the Battle of York. The author all but calls him a traitor. He apparently thinks that this young man came to Colorado to start a war with Spain. He asks us to believe that he and his men knew the location of Sante Fe and ignores the fact that Pike did not turn south at Canon City Colorado which would take them there in a few weeks. Instead Pike led his men into the Rocky Mountain Winter to the north-west, away from Sante Fe.
The author insults such noted historians Steven Harding Hart and Archer B. Hulbert, Harvey Carter,Eugene Hollon, and Donald D. Jackson by claiming Pike has 'slipped beneath the notice of professional histonians.' He implies nothing but juvenile historians should deal with him further.
Zebulon Pike is the Viet-Nam Vet of our early explorers. He starved, and froze, and became exhaused for our country as a matter of course. He led his men in the field of battle and won the first victory in the War of 1812. He made a marine type landing in the face of well armed and alerted Brittish Regulars, malitia and pro-Brit Indians. The author says he had an easy victory over a few 'Canadians' who difended Fort York. Authors like Montgomery have given Pike scant credit for his many acompolishments. He even claims Pike was never within 100 miles of the Sante Fe Trail. Pike followed the Arkansas River from Great Bend Kansas to Canon City. The Sante Fe Trail follows the Arkansas River from Great Bend, Kansas all the way to Bent's Fort, near Las Animas, Colorado where it turns south to Raton Pass. Why not give him his due?
Pike's greatest accompolishment was not even mentioned in the book. Pike opened the eyes of America to what was going on in New Spain. Pike told America how the people were slaves to either Cross or Crown. He said their lives were regulated by the peal of the church bell or the rattle of the drum. He told how anxious the people of Mexico (northern New Spain) yearned for freedom and trade with America. Pike predicted the revolution of 1810 and said not one officer in a hundred was loyal to Madrid. Pike was the revealer who lived and died for his country and none of this is even mentioned. So many errors of fact and such a broad conclusion. As far as Pike is concerned much of this book should be in a novel, as it is not non-fiction.

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