=Western Explorations.=—Having taken the fateful step, Jefferson wisely began to make the most of it. He prepared for the opening of the new country by sending the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore it, discover its resources, and lay out an overland route through the Missouri Valley and across the Great Divide to the Pacific. The story of this mighty exploit, which began in the spring of 1804 and ended in the autumn of 1806, was set down with skill and pains in the journal of Lewis and Clark; when published even in a short form, it invited the forward-looking men of the East to take thought about the western empire. At the same time Zebulon Pike, in a series of journeys, explored the sources of the Mississippi River and penetrated the Spanish territories of the far Southwest. Thus scouts and pioneers continued the work of diplomats.
THE REPUBLICAN WAR FOR COMMERCIAL INDEPENDENCE
=The English and French Blockades.=—In addition to bringing Louisiana to the United States, the reopening of the European War in 1803, after a short lull, renewed in an acute form the commercial difficulties that had plagued the country all during the administrations of Washington and Adams. The Republicans were now plunged into the hornets’ nest. The party whose ardent spirits had burned Jay in effigy, stoned Hamilton for defending his treaty, jeered Washington’s proclamation of neutrality, and spoken bitterly of “timid traders,” could no longer take refuge in criticism. It had to act.
Its troubles took a serious turn in 1806. England, in a determined effort to bring France to her knees by starvation, declared the coast of Europe blockaded from Brest to the mouth of the Elbe River. Napoleon retaliated by his Berlin Decree of November, 1806, blockading the British Isles—a measure terrifying to American ship owners whose vessels were liable to seizure by any French rover, though Napoleon had no navy to make good his proclamation. Great Britain countered with a still more irritating decree—the Orders in Council of 1807. It modified its blockade, but in so doing merely authorized American ships not carrying munitions of war to complete their voyage to the Continent, on condition of their stopping at a British port, securing a license, and paying a tax. This, responded Napoleon, was the height of insolence, and he denounced it as a gross violation of international law. He then closed the circle of American troubles by issuing his Milan Decree of December, 1807. This order declared that any ship which complied with the British rules would be subject to seizure and confiscation by French authorities.