A Wilderness So Immense
The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America
By Jon Kukla
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780375408120, 448pp.)
Publication Date: April 8, 2003
List Price: $30.00*
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The remarkable story of the land purchase that doubled the size of our young nation, set the stage for its expansion across the continent, and confronted Americans with new challenges of ethnic and religious diversity. In a saga that stretches from Paris and Madrid to Haiti, Virginia, New York, and New Orleans, Jon Kukla shows how rivalries over the Mississippi River and its vast watershed brought France, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States to the brink of war and shaped the destiny of the new American republic. We encounter American leaders--Jefferson and Jay, Monroe and Pickering among them--clashing over the opening of the West and its implications for sectional balance of power. We see these disagreements nearly derailing the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and spawning a series of separatist conspiracies long before the dispute over slavery in the territory set the stage for the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War.
Kukla makes it clear that as the French Revolution and Napoleon’s empire-building rocked the Atlantic community, Spain’s New World empire grew increasingly vulnerable to American and European rivals. Jefferson hoped to take Spain’s territories--piece by piece,--while Napoleon schemed to reestablish a French colonial empire in the Caribbean and North America.
Interweaving the stories of ordinary settlers and imperial decision-makers, Kukla depicts a world of revolutionary intrigue that transformed a small and precarious union into a world power--all without bloodshed and for about four cents an acre.
Jon Kukla received his B.A. from Carthage College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He has directed historical research and publishing at the Library of Virginia and has been curator and director of the Historic New Orleans Collection. In 2000 he returned to Virginia as director of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation. He lives in Brookneal, Virginia.