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March 19, 2013

Robust American wildlife

"Buffon’s theory of American degeneracy was still on Jefferson’s mind years later, when, as president, he sent Lewis and Clark to explore the American West—partly to see if they could turn up a living mammoth."

Caught up in the effort to prove the vitality of the American experiment, Thomas Jefferson had convinced himself by the 1780s that the mammoth still lived. He gave credence to an Indian legend about a mammoth that shook off lightning bolts, bounding away over the Ohio River to somewhere beyond the Great Lakes. “In the present interior of our continent,” Jefferson wrote, “there is surely space and range enough for elephants and lions.” He imagined this pair of American titans roaming the Great Plains.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 19, 2013 08:03 AM