Funding for Exploration

The famous Lewis and Clark expedition is a story of American pioneering.  This first major journey of exploration led the way for vast wilderness to eventually become the “settled” West.  Today’s spotlight document focuses on the very start of this expedition, when in 1803 President Thomas Jefferson sent this confidential letter to Congress.

For “the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States,” and “that [Congress] should incidentally advance the geographic knowledge of our own continent…” First page of the President Thomas Jefferson Confidential Message to Congress Concerning Relations with the Indians, 1/18/1803. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. National Archives Identifier: 306698

First page of the President Thomas Jefferson Confidential Message to Congress Concerning Relations with the Indians, 1/18/1803. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.
National Archives Identifier: 306698

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, President Jefferson secretly wrote to Congress requesting $2,500 to send “an intelligent officer, with ten or twelve chosen men” on a mission westward.  The primary goal for what would become the 8,000 mile Lewis and Clark expedition was to seek out trade routes—all the way to the Pacific Ocean—and begin relations with the tribes of Native Americans in the West.

Secondly, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were to report back on the scientific and economic resources beyond the Mississippi River; geography, zoology, botany, and climate are just some of the subjects covered in the expedition journals and sketches.

Financial backing was the first step to taking such an extensive journey, and so President Jefferson wrapped his grand vision of western discovery in the modest aim of promoting commerce.  Congress agreed to provide the expedition’s funding, and in the end, Lewis and Clark were well prepared.  While luxuries of tobacco and whiskey did not last the entire journey, rifles were never empty of powder, and all of the expedition’s findings were able to be recorded with ink and paper.

This letter and other documents about the exploration are available online on DocsTeach.

Today’s post came from former social media intern Holly Chisholm.

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One Response to Funding for Exploration

  1. KRLemmons says:

    Reblogged this on Lifelong Quest.

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