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Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis

Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis - Thomas Jefferson to...

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Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis (1803) President Jefferson's choice to lead an expedition into the deep interior of the North American continent was Meriwether Lewis, his former secretary and a fellow native of Albemarle County, Virginia. Having reached the rank of captain in the U.S. Army, Lewis possessed military discipline and experience that would prove invaluable in his explorations. While in the Army, Lewis had served in a rifle company commanded by William Clark. Lewis therefore chose Clark to assist him in leading the U.S. Army expedition, commonly known today as the "Corps of Discovery." The following is a transcription of the letter Jefferson gave to Lewis outlining all the tasks he should accomplish on the journey. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- To Meriwether Lewis, esquire, captain of the first regiment of infantry of the United States of America: Your situation as secretary of the president of the United States, has made you acquainted with the objects of my confidential message of January 18, 1803, to the legislature; you have seen the act they passed, which, though expressed in general terms, was meant to sanction those objects, and you are appointed to carry them to execution. Instruments for ascertaining, by celestial observations, the geography of the country through which you will pass, have already been provided. Light articles for barter and presents among the Indians, arms for your attendants, say from ten to twelve men, boats, tents, and other traveling apparatus, with ammunition, medicine, surgical instruments and provisions, you will have prepared, with such aids as the secretary at war can yield in his department; and from him also you will receive authority to engage among our troops, by voluntary agreement, the attendants abovementioned; over whom you, as their commanding officer, are invested with all the powers the laws give in such a case. As your movements, while within the limits of the United States, will be better directed by occasional communications, adapted to circumstances as they arise, they will not be noticed here. What follows will respect your proceedings after your departure from the United States. Your mission has been communicated to the ministers here from France, Spain, and great Briton, and through them to their governments; and such assurances given them as to its objects, as we trust will satisfy them. The country of Louisana having ceded by Spain to France, the passport you have from the minister of France, the representative of the present sovereign of the country, will be a protection with all its subjects; and that from the Minister of England will entitle you to the friendly aid of any traders of that allegiance with whom you may happen to meet. The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, and such principal streams of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado, or any other river, may offer the most direct and practible water-communication across the continent, for the purposes of commerce.
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