Letter to Howie re: 10/22 Mtg on Jefferson/West

From Gary


  Dear Howie,

I hope you are keeping warm there in New England. This past weeks topic was “Thomas Jefferson and the opening of the American West.”  I am not quite sure when the term “manifest destiny” came about but it could have come about during Jefferson’s term as president. I am sure you are familiar with Lewis and Clark’s adventure. If not, I highly recommend Ambrose’s book “Undaunted Courage.” Of interest, when Jefferson became President he replaced any Federalist Officers in the army starting a spoils system.
This is interesting, was he worried about a possible coup? I’ll have to study up on that.
Lewis, who was Jefferson’s personal secretary, was given the rank of Captain and educated in the areas of the natural sciences. Again, I refer you to “Undaunted Courage” if you wish to learn more about Lewis or Clark. Ambrose does a great job. 
The discussion turned towards the public reaction towards the expedition. Some referred to the success of the expedition as akin to landing on the moon whereas  others felt the accomplishment was thrown completely out of perspective. We must be careful not to utilize chronocentric bias when examining any past or future phenomena. We must try and place ourselves amidst the mores of the period being examined. In this case I believe the reaction was one of great excitement and that it was justified. The fact of the matter is the event had drama, excitement, strong characters, adventure and a successful ending. These men were heroes. The fact is it was a great story, an American narrative. It was our own Odyssey. Our young country could now look back at the classical world and submit our own heroic wondrous tale.
I am really looking forward to the topic on the Cambrian explosion next week. The gentleman giving the talk is a fascinating person.  He has the ability to look at scientific proposals and theories and immerse them in an analysis which covers all the liberal arts perspectives as well as scientific. Plus, he has an open mind. Our Socratic dialogue often produces on the spot new perspectives that are presented in clear concise manner by him. It is an amazing experience to sit there at this large table and actually create new thought. This is when the group is operating at it’s finest.  Until next week, Gary.


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