The Trial of Burr.
As for Burr, he was put on trial for high treason, with Wilkinson as state’s evidence. Jefferson made himself the especial champion of Wilkinson; nevertheless the General cut a contemptible figure at the trial, for no explanation could make his course square with honorable dealing. Burr was acquitted on a technicality. Wilkinson, the double traitor, the bribe-taker, the corrupt servant of a foreign government, remained at the head of the American Army.
THE EXPLORERS OF THE FAR WEST, 1804-1807.
The Far West.
The Far West, the West beyond the Mississippi, had been thrust on Jefferson, and given to the nation, by the rapid growth of the Old West, the West that lay between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. The actual title to the new territory had been acquired by the United States Government, acting for the whole nation. It remained to explore the territory thus newly added to the national domain. The Government did not yet know exactly what it had acquired, for the land was not only unmapped but unexplored. Nobody could tell what were the boundary lines which divided it from British America on the north and Mexico on the south, for nobody knew much of the country through which these lines ran; of most of it, indeed, nobody knew anything. On the new maps the country now showed as part of the United States; but the Indians who alone inhabited it were as little affected by the transfer as was the game they hunted.
Need for its Exploration.
Even the Northwestern portion of the land definitely ceded to the United States by Great Britain in Jay’s treaty was still left in actual possession of the Indian tribes, while the few whites who lived among them were traders owing allegiance to the British Government. The head-waters of the Mississippi and the beautiful country lying round them were known only in a vague way; and it was necessary to explore and formally take possession of this land of lakes, glades, and forests.
Beyond the Mississippi all that was really well known was the territory in the immediate neighbourhood of the little French villages near the mouth of the Missouri. The creole traders of these villages, and an occasional venturous American, had gone up the Mississippi to the country of the Sioux and the Mandans, where they had trapped and hunted and traded for furs with the Indians. At the northern most points that they reached they occasionally encountered traders who had travelled south or southwesterly from the wintry regions where the British fur companies reigned supreme. The headwaters of the Missouri were absolutely unknown; nobody had penetrated the great plains, the vast seas of grass through which the Platte, the Little Missouri, and the Yellowstone ran. What lay beyond them, and between them and the Pacific, was not even guessed at. The Rocky Mountains were not known to exist, so far as the territory newly acquired by the United States was concerned, although under the name of “Stonies” their northern extensions in British America were already down on some maps.