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Joseph T. Hatfield

William Claiborne: Jeffersonian Centurion in the American Southwest

  • A study of William Claiborne's eventful career is infinitely more than the mere chronicle of a regional leader. It is a study of emerging federalism and evolving governmental relationships. While taking broader cognizance of the dynamic development of the nation, it follows more specifically the westward trek of ambitious men who conquered and transformed the primitive and often explosive "Old Southwest." It is a narrative of western settlement and refinement, the acquisition of the vast Louisiana Territory, Spanish-American boundary tensions bordering on war, the infamous Burr conspiracy, the West Florida controversy, the Orleans Territory's drive for statehood, and the War of 1812. It is throughout a narrative of the personal rivalries and ambitions of assertive frontier leaders. Finally, it is the story of conflict between brash American newcomers and the sedate Gallic society of New Orleans and the gradual cohesion of those disparate cultures under the patent leadership of Governor Claiborne. General Andrew Jackson was clearly the hero of New Orleans when he hurled back enemy assaults against the city in late 1814 and early 1815, but the hero of Louisiana remained the quiet and unobtrusive governor whose accomplishments went largely unnoticed and unrecognized at the time.

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