Friday, February 29, 2008

Louisiana Purchase – Jefferson’s worst success

The Louisiana Purchase has long been considered one of the greatest achievements of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, as well as the first step in the expansion of the United States and what directly lead to Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the West. However, Thomas Jefferson, the president under whom it was negotiated, was greatly troubled by this treaty and came very close to not ratifying it.

In 1802, Jefferson asked James Monroe and Robert Livingston to negotiate with the French regarding access to the Mississippi ports, which had recently been revoked to the United States. This resulted unexpectedly in a diplomatic triumph for the new country: the purchase of the Louisiana territory, which doubled the area of the United States. Jefferson, however, almost tried a rapprochement with Great Britain rather than accept this purchase.

He thought (correctly) that the constitution did not give the president the power to expand the territory of the country. Even after having negotiated the treaty, he wanted to pass an amendment in order to allow it, but was ultimately convinced by his ministers that there was no time for this. This was not an empty fear, since the power to extend territory could lead to tyrannical behavior by heads of state, through the encroaching of the federal government upon states’ rights.

Although the Louisiana Purchase was overwhelmingly popular at that time in the United States and it lead to Jefferson’s handy reelection, its ratification was seen as the deathblow to strict constructionism. And despite his joy at reading about Lewis and Clark’s discoveries, Thomas Jefferson, to his dying day, looked back at the purchase with little pride.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(1756-1791). Austrian composer of Genius, taught music by his father Leopold from the age of five, and displayed in the courts of Europe playing the harpsichord blindfold and performing other tricks. He composed string quartets, symphonies, piano sonatas, a concerto for the glass organ and several operas including Don Giovanni and the Magic Flute. His sister Nannerl received identical training and was not a musical genius.