Thomas jefferson and the giant moose By Jenette Follmer

In the days following the Revolutionary War, there arose discussion in Europe about the natural American world. French writer and Enlightenment thinker, Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, was a primary proponent of the theory that everything in America was weaker and smaller than what could be found in Europe. Thomas Jefferson, ambassador to France at the time, made it his mission to combat these rumors and prove America's natural strength.

It was a widely held belief in Europe that anything brought to America would become weaker and sicker.

Buffon published an encyclopedia called, Histoire Naturelle, but he was not the only one suggesting that America was a naturally inferior place. It was a popular opinion all over Europe. In fact, people argued whether the discovery of America was a more beneficial or destructive.

In an effort to convince Buffon of America's natural potential, Jefferson brought countless examples of animals native to the younger nation. He sent for a panther skin and the bones of a mastodon. He himself wrote a book titled, Notes on the State of Virginia, and provided pages and pages of data that disproved Buffon's ideas. Nothing was successful. But Jefferson believed there was one American animal that could convince him.

Jefferson thought that the giant North American moose was a creature that would show the nation's rich natural world. So he set about trying to get one to Europe as his greatest piece of evidence.

In the midst of his business letters to the States, Jefferson slipped in many requests for someone to find, hunt, and stuff a great moose and have it sent to France.

Eventually, some friends of Jefferson found and sent a moose across the Atlantic. The antlers were in a separate box which was left behind and they arrived some time later. Buffon did eventually see the seven foot moose of North America, and it was enough for him to retract his theory. However, he didn't have the chance to do so publicly before he died, and the rumor persisted until after both his and Jefferson's deaths.

At last, Europeans accepted that America was not a diseased land full of lesser creatures or people, and through the work of many influential American writers, a bountiful and strong land became a central component in our national identity.

In part because of Thomas Jefferson and his moose.

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