- Term Papers and Free Essays


Essay by   •  March 28, 2011  •  3,626 Words (15 Pages)  •  1,121 Views

Essay Preview: Northwest

Report this essay
Page 1 of 15

Navigating the Northwest

The Northwest Passage in 1803 was still undiscovered. It was rumored that this path provided a direct route to the orient. Somewhere west of the Missouri, a river or river's provided the entrance to this passage. It was widely known that the first country to discover this route would control the continent. The new President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was determined to find this Northwest Passage, and secure the young country's future.

Little was known about the land west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was believed that the territory was still inhabited with the Wooly Mammoth and other prehistoric animals. The land was said to contain several live volcanoes, and somewhere out there was also the great Salt Mountain. A mountain that was one-hundred and eighty miles long and forty-five miles wide (Duncan pg. 6). Another concern was the native populations west of the Mississippi. Supposedly, there was an Indian population many miles west that were of fair skin and had blue eyes. These Indians were said to have been of Welsh decent, the offspring of Prince Madoc, who had discovered the America's three centuries before Columbus.

Jefferson had tried before to have the West explored. In 1783 George Rogers Clark trek, but after much talk he decided not to. In 1786 John Ledyard of Connecticut, who had long been looking for a sponsor for his idea to trek from Siberia to the Mississippi with two dogs, a hatchet and a peace pipe, found one in Thomas Jefferson. The plan was short lived however, when Catherine the Great placed Ledyard under arrest just as he began his journey through Siberia.

Finally, as Secretary of State in 1793, he devised a plan with George Washington to contact the famous French fur trapper, Andre Michaux to, "seek for and pursue the route, which shall form the shortest and most convenient communication between the higher parts of the Missouri and the Pacific Ocean." The two heads of state immediately put into affect a fund raiser. Washington donated $25.00 and Jefferson donated $12.50. The total funds raised was $125.00, Michaux made it as far as Ohio (Duncan pg. 8)

Now as President, Jefferson was again given the opportunity to create an expeditionary force to send west. He asked the congress to appropriate $2,500 dollars towards the mission. He told them that the trip would more then pay for itself, as it would open lucrative trading routes to the west. To the countries of France, England, and Spain, Jefferson requested passports for this purely scientific trip. France and England agreed to send the passports while Spain did not. Jefferson ignored the Spanish however, since they had recently lost the Louisiana Territory to the French and were in general a declining power in the world. Finally, Jefferson hired his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis to head the team.

The congress agreed to the funding of the trip. Although Jefferson and Lewis had originally gave the figure of $2,500 dollars, the actual trip ended up costing, $38,722.25 (Lavender pg. 19). Lewis immediately began to prepare for the upcoming journey. He was ordered to Philadelphia, home of the American Philosophical Society and overall center of Scientific learning in the United States to attend crash courses on medicine, botanical research, astrology and ethnology. On his way there, he stopped at Harper's Ferry and equipped his men and himself with the newest weaponry. One of the weapons he purchased was an air gun, which would impress all of the Indian tribes he would come in contact with in his journey.

He spent $669.50 on gifts for the Indians (Lavender pg. 19). Gifts such as silk ribbons, knives and tomahawks that doubled as pipes. He purchased one-hundred and ninety-three pounds of "portable soup." The soup was a thick paste made from the boiling down of beef, eggs, and vegetables, all packaged in lead containers. Along with weapons, he purchased many sorts of clothing for his men. His last acquisition was a co-commander. He asked his friend from the army and former superior officer, William Clark to be his fellow officer.

He spent his first three weeks in Lancaster, Pennsylvania studying celestial beings under Adam Ellicot. Next, he attended the University of Pennsylvania to study for one month under four scientists. Under Ben Barton he learned how to identify and preserve botanical specimens. Rob Patterson refreshed Lewis on the aspects of latitude and longitude. Casper Wistar showed Lewis how to recognize fossils and tracks of ancient beasts (some of which were believed to still be alive out west).

Finally, Dr. Ben Rush taught Lewis various medical procedures (Duncan pg. 10). Lewis was instructed by Jefferson to observe and detail, soil, minerals, crops, animals, weather and Indians. Of the Indians he was to document their languages, population, religious practices, customs, nutrition, clothes and their willingness to trade with the Americans. Upon meeting the Indians they were to give to them a letter from the President, informing them that the French and Spanish were no longer going to be there and that their "great father" was now Jefferson. Lewis was to fill in the blanks as to the name of the tribe and chief. The letter also informed the Indians that the white man only wanted peace and trade. If the Indians cooperate then there shall be no problems. The "great father" will see to it that they shall be taken care of to every extent. A preset ceremony was set up to show each tribe they were to encounter. To demonstrate power, Lewis would parade the troops, display compasses, spyglasses, magnets and fire the guns, in particular the air gun. To show the great American wealth they were to distribute gifts of beads, cloth, scissors, sewing goods, razors and tobacco. They were also given the aforementioned letter and a friendship medal that had a picture of Jefferson on the front and two hands shaking on the back. This ceremony was successful in its objectives in every case except with the Teton Sioux and the Blackfeet (Duncan pg. 49).

On May 14, 1804, Lewis and Clark left from Camp Dubois, which lies just North of St. Louis on the Mississippi River. They traveled 4 miles and then entered the Missouri River. From the start the crew experienced difficulties. They were subject to bad weather and rain every morning. To combat the mosquitoes they applied bear grease on themselves during the day and employed the use of a mosquito net at night. (Duncan pg. 25) Outside of the bad weather and the mosquito's their biggest problem was the Missouri River itself. The river was big, filled with sticks



Download as:   txt (20.9 Kb)   pdf (213.3 Kb)   docx (17.7 Kb)  
Continue for 14 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 03). Northwest. Retrieved 03, 2011, from

"Northwest" 03 2011. 2011. 03 2011 <>.

"Northwest.", 03 2011. Web. 03 2011. <>.

"Northwest." 03, 2011. Accessed 03, 2011.