The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Meriwether Lewis

By Meriwether Lewis

In 1803, while the USA bought Louisiana from France, the good expanse of this new American territory was once a clean -- not just at the map yet in our wisdom. President Thomas Jefferson keenly understood that the process the nation's future lay westward and nationwide ''Voyage of Discovery'' needs to be fastened to figure out the character and accessibility of the frontier. He commissioned his younger secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to steer an intelligence-gathering excursion from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and again. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis, observed by means of co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone consultant Sacajawea, and thirty-two males, made the 1st trek around the Louisiana buy, mapping the rivers as he went, tracing the vital waterways to the ocean, and constructing the yank declare to the territories of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. jointly the captains saved a magazine, a richly precise checklist of the natural world they sighted, the Indian tribes they encountered, and the awe-inspiring panorama they traversed, from their base camp close to present-day St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River. In retaining this checklist they made an incomparable contribution to the literature of exploration and the writing of common heritage. The Journals of Lewis and Clark, writes Bernard DeVoto, used to be ''the first document at the West, at the usa over the hill and past the sundown, at the province of the yank destiny. There hasn't ever been one other so very good or so influential...It happy hope and created hope: the need of the westering nation.''

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This conception cannot be phrased clearly for it was not precise. But it could convert to the service of wishfulness one hiatus in knowledge that remained following Mackenzie's two voyages. On the first of them he had learned that a mountain barrier extended north all the way to the Arctic. On the second this same barrier, or one to the west of it (and no one, including Mackenzie, had decided which), had prevented him from descending the Tacoutche Tesse to the sea. But how far to the south of his land-crossing did the mountain barrier extend?

Their roles in the expedition are also self-evident in the journals. Lewis was the diplomatic and commercial thinker, Clark the negotiator. Lewis, who went specially to Philadelphia for training in botany, zoology, and celestial navigation, was the scientific specialist, Clark the engineer and geographer as well as the master of frontier crafts. Both were experienced rivermen but Lewis acknowl- Page lii edged that Clark had greater skill and usually left the management of the boats to him. Clark evidently had the greater gift for dealing with Indians.

But how far to the south of his land-crossing did the mountain barrier extend? Yrujo reminded Jefferson that "a very considerable cordillera" existed between 50° and 60°. Did it extend below 50° and how continuously? Those who brought Arrowsmith's maps to bear on the problem saw the Rockies as a single chain and knew that this presentation was wholly speculative south of the route ascribed to Peter Fidler, which carried him to 45°. ) Northward from New Mexico there was only speculation about the Rockies.

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