Ten Tough Trips includes a final chapter that should be of interest to students of Lewis and Clark. Entitled "Cooper: Then and Now," the essay is about James Fenimore Cooper, who left New York for Paris in 1826, having read the Lewis and Clark Journals in the Biddle edition of 1814, and took with him biologist Edwin James' narrative of Steven Long's Expedition to Pikes Peak of 1819-20. In Paris, Osage Indians waved from the balcony of their hotel to crowds below, before their private exhibition at the Royal Palace. Cooper returned with the first novel set in the American west, The Prairie, and those expedition journals, seen from the distance of Paris, produced a surprisingly clear-headed and unromantic view of "the west."
The more foreboding and cautionary tale which increasing numbers of Western historians have offered in place of Turner's account has provoked sharp controversy. "New" Western historians -- many of whom actually echo and draw upon fairly old scholarly works -- often argue that their accounts offer a more inclusive and honest reckoning of the Western past. Western historians who still adhere roughly to Turner's approach accuse their opponents of mistaking a simple-minded political correctness for good scholarship in their quest to recount only the doom and gloom of the Western past. Often the rhetoric reaches an acrimonious crescendo. But in a sense, the very acrimony of these debates takes us full circle back to Turner and his legacy, for debates about the significance of Western history are hardly ever confined to the past. In our understanding of what we are as a nation, if on no other level, the Western past continues to define us today.