Jeffersonian America

Background, Sources, Activities


I.   Competing Visions

Hamilton vs. Jefferson:

On one side, centering on the figure of the secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, were those favoring an energetic federal government, a strong presidency, and ties to England.

On the other side, centered on Thomas Jefferson, were those favoring a less dynamic national government, a limited presidency, and ties to revolutionary France.

Each of these visions co-existed for many years.   Together they formed a “political culture.” 

          What is a political culture?

          What was its content during this era?


America between 1790 and 1815:

Though, during the ratification struggle of 1787-1789, the Federalists were functioning as a surprisingly well coordinated political group with publications, campaign-like meetings, behind the scene maneuvers, and a national scope, they were not yet a political party.  Struggles over issues during the 1790s pushed Americans toward a political party system.

The Hamilton Plans

n                 Public Credit

n                 Bank of the United States  Strict vs. loose construction;

n                 Uniform currency

n                 Diplomatic ties to England

n                 a commercial republic

West Indies

China trade; Latin American beginnings

Northern Europe


n                 transportation revolution

roads, canals, steamboats

separation of regions AND integration of markets

·        “mixed enterprise” of states and Federal support

n     immigration and recovery of cities

n     first banks, larger almshouses and other urban institutions

n     yellow fever

n     invention (e.g., cotton gin)

n     the pace of work – shops and crafts, not large manufacture


The Jeffersonian opposition and the “Revolution of 1800”

          Fears of Hamiltonian Plans

          What propose in its place?

                   Less government, more local control

                   Fewer large institutions – BUS

                   Expansion across space                  


          Support for the French Revolution

          The Myth of the Yeoman Farmer

§        the pace of migration into new lands

§        Indian wars

§        Violence and uncertain boundaries

§        Cotton gin and expanding South

§        Plows and new agricultural strategies

Democratic Republican Societies

          Piracy in the Barbary Straits

          Alien and Sedition Acts

          Expansion of the franchise

          Newspapers and public meetings

          Challenges to deference and beginnings of ideas such as “equality” and “democracy”

                   When are these words first used, and why?


Did the Revolution of 1800 fulfill the Jeffersonian Promise?

          Reality of need for strong government

          Reality of need for more institutional support and coordinated diplomacy

          Reality of a more complicated society –

                   Immigrants, frontier violence, urban poverty

          Repeal of some Federalist legislation

          Cut federal budget and tariffs, paid national debt

BUT – allowed BUS to run its courst to 1811

          -- purchased Louisiana  [see larger unit below]




Questions for Students:




Two more ways to bring this into your classroom:

          1.  Understanding political opposition.

          2.  Understanding the nature of westward expansion.



1.  Political opposition in Jeffersonian America

          Factions and parties

          Fear of factionalism and political parties was deeply rooted in Anglo-American political culture before the American Revolution. Leaders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson hoped their new government, founded on the Constitution, would be motivated instead by a common intent, a unity.  They got these ideas from a long heritage of REPUBLICANISM

            Define Republicanism – use any college U.S. history textbook.

“The idea of a legitimate opposition—recognized opposition, organized and free enough in its activities to be able to displace an existing government by peaceful means—is an immensely sophisticated idea, and it was not an idea that the Fathers found fully developed and ready to hand when they began their enterprise in republican constitutionalism in 1788.”  —Richard Hofstadter in The Idea of a Party System (University of California Press, 1970. p. 8.)

But slowly, this belief begins to change during the first generation after the American Revolution.  Though dominant, these sentiments were not held by all Americans. A delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention, for example, asserted that “competition of interest…between those persons who are in and those who are out office, will ever form one important check to the abuse of power in our representatives.”   This kind of thinking implied that a permanent elite would not automatically take offices and rule over Americans, and that “the People” would be the watchdogs over their rulers.

“When we speak of an opposition as being responsible, we mean that it contains within itself the potential of an actual alternative government—that is, its critique of existing policies is not simply a wild attempt to outbid the existing regime in promises, but a sober attempt to formulate alternative policies which it believes to be capable of execution within the existing historical and economic framework, and to offer as its executors a competent alternative personnel that can actually govern.” (Richard Hofstadter, p. 4).


In other words, a party in opposition must provide a viable alternate program and personnel with the potential to carry out that program.  …When we speak of an opposition being effective, we mean not merely that its programs are expected to be capable of execution, that its alternative policy is real, but that its capability of winning office is also real, that it has the institutional structure and the public force which make it possible for us to expect that sooner or later it will in fact take office and bring to power an alternative personnel (Hofstadter, p. 5).   A party in opposition must have a structure that enables it to engage the public through communication and organization so that eventually it can come to power by way of election and attempt to implement its program. The tension between having a program and being effective (that is, having the potential to rise to power through popular election), often results in changes to the party program in the face of events and changes in popular opinion.  A party in opposition questions the policies of the governing party and not the legitimacy of the government itself since both parties observe the same set of ground rules, the Constitution. In turn, the party in power does not question the legitimacy of opposition.

Also, during the 1790s each of the parties created an organization necessary to constitute legitimate opposition and achieved control of the federal government (Adams in 1796, and Jefferson in 1800).

The idea of a legitimate opposition—recognized opposition, organized and free enough in its activities to be able to displace an existing government by peaceful means—is an immensely sophisticated idea, and it was not an idea that the Fathers found fully developed and ready to hand when they began their enterprise in republican constitutionalism in 1788 (Hofstadter, p. 8).   Until about 1814, when the country experienced a period—the so-called "Era of Good Feelings"—in which only the Democratic-Republicans were able to effectively mount a national campaign, both parties were attempting to eliminate the other. After 10 years of "good feelings," the need for opposition proved so strong that a second two-party system, more clearly articulated than the first, developed, under Andrew Jackson and the Democrats.

However, at all times remember that the two-party system was a work in progress during the first quarter-century of our republic.  It was actually factions, not parties, forming policies and arguing with Americans about competing visions.

The willingness of the Federalists to peacefully hand over power and to accept political defeat was extraordinary in a world controlled by kings and military leaders. In most states, property qualifications still limited the vote to white males owning as least a fifty-acre plot of land. This voting limitation upheld Thomas Jefferson's commitment to a rural republicanism that rested on the widespread farm ownership of relatively independent adult males. It was this republican vision that had motivated Jefferson to make the Louisiana Purchase -- even though its constitutionality was in question -- and to oppose primogeniture. The first promised to open up thousands of acres to farmers, thus assuring the continuation of an agrarian republic, while the latter blocked the creation of landowning dynasties controlled by inheritance to the eldest son.

Important changes, however, were afoot that would transform America from an agrarian republic to a mass democracy over the next two decades. For one thing, new, more egalitarian states had been carved out of the backcountry given to America by the British after the American Revolution. By 1803, four new frontier states had entered the Union: Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), Tennessee (1796), and Ohio (1803). Louisiana would follow in 1812. Most of these new states eliminated the property and taxpaying qualifications for voting, and most eastern states soon followed suit. In all, there were sixteen states in the Union in 1800. According to census figures that year, the nation's population had increased from 3.9 million to 5.3 million -- a jump of 35 percent -- since the date of the first census in 1790.

At the same time, however, most of these new states and many old ones explicitly limited the franchise to white males. In New Jersey, for example, women and free blacks who owned property had voted until 1807, when the state abolished all property qualifications but limited suffrage to white men. The revolutionary constitutions of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, which had granted the vote to free blacks, soon joined with New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Tennessee, and North Carolina in denying suffrage to African Americans regardless of their education or property.


Thomas Jefferson



An Activity:  Seeds of a Party System

Using the link below, read and discuss the document of Jeffersonians in New York in 1801 who made a strong critique of the Hamiltonians (Federalists).  The document is a BROADSIDE, or a pamphlet printed on one large sheet of paper and posted publicly.


To the electors of the Southern district of the State of New-York,

"To the Electors of the Southern District of the State of New York,"



            1.  What did the Federalists do wrong?  What are the words that show this?  Do the Jeffersonians have deep and serious differences? 

            2.  what are the words or passages that show there were two competing visions?

            3.  what do Jeffersonians believe a legitimate opposition was like? 

            4.  do they use the word “party” or “party system?”  What other words show two opposing sides?

            5.  do the Jeffersonian authors believe they have rights to oppose their rulers?  How do you think this was different from what people in North America believed before the 1790s?

          6.  What does a  broadside look like?  Who do you think was able to read it?  Was posting this broadside itself an act of defiance?

            7.  what is the difference between voicing opposition, and being able to vote on policies and hold office?


You may find it useful to review for yourself, or bring into your classroom, the following document as well:


Timeline of Steps toward Jeffersonian America:


1788: Constitution Ratified

1789 April: Washington Becomes President

Though during the ratification struggle, the Federalists were functioning as a surprisingly well coordinated political group with publications, campaign-like meetings, behind the scene maneuvers, and a national scope, they were not yet a political party. Their goal was limited, and certainly not the political party that formed around Alexander Hamilton during Washington’s presidency. James Madison—who later helped Jefferson start the Democratic-Republican Party—worked closely with Hamilton, helping the Federalists promote the ratification of the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, authored by Hamilton, Madison, and John Jay, “stressed the inadequacy of the Confederation, the need for a strong government, and the conformity of the Constitution with the best principles of republican government”   The Constitution encountered stiff opposition. The vote was 187 to 168 in Massachusetts, 57 to 47 in New Hampshire, 30 to 27 in New York, and 89 to 79 in Virginia. Two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island, refused to ratify the new plan of government. Those who opposed the adoption of the Constitution were known as the Anti-Federalists. Many feared centralized power. Many doubted the ability of Americans to sustain a continental republic. Some Anti-Federalists were upset that the Constitution lacked a religious test for office holding. Others were concerned that the Constitution failed to guarantee a right to counsel and a right not to incriminate oneself in criminal trials, or to prohibit cruel and unusual punishments.


Primary Documents Edward Rutledge in Defense of the Constitution []

Ratifying the Constitution:

[ database/article_display.cfm?HHID=294]


The Constitution encountered stiff opposition.

Several arguments were voiced repeatedly during the ratification debates:

            �� That the Convention had exceeded its authority in producing a new constitution;

            �� That the Constitution established the basis for a monarchical regime;


            �� That the Constitution lacked explicit protections for individual and states rights.

            Primary Document: Massachusetts’ Suggested Amendments to the Constitution [] at The Avalon Project.

1789, July 14: Bastille Day, The French Revolution

At first, many Americans are sympathetic to the French Revolution, especially those who later aligned themselves with Jefferson and Madison.   Many Americans reacted enthusiastically to the overthrow of the king and the creation of a French republic. France appeared to have joined America in a historical struggle against royal absolutism and aristocratic privilege. More cautious gentlemen, however, expressed horror; they viewed the French Revolution as an assault against property.

1789: Executive Departments Established :

Foreign Affairs (later Department of State) headed by Thomas Jefferson

War Department headed by Henry Knox

Treasury Department headed by Alexander Hamilton

Post Office Department with Postmaster Samuel Osgood


1790-1792: Alexander Hamilton’s Fiscal Program The chief issue of Washington’s first term was the fiscal program devised by Alexander Hamilton and submitted to the House of Representatives in a series of reports on national and state debt, an excise tax, and a national bank. Controversy over these proposals ultimately led to the party cleavage between Federalists and Republicans.


1790, Jan. 14: Debt

            Primary Documents: Report on Public Credit []

            • Narrative: Alexander Hamilton’s Financial Program

            [] on Digital History.

      Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792   [            bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field(DOCID+@lit(tj060237))]


            As Treasury Secretary, Hamilton designed a financial system that made the United States the best credit risk in the western world. The paramount problem facing Hamilton was a huge national debt. He proposed that the government assume the entire debt of the federal government and the states. His plan was to retire the old depreciated obligations by borrowing new money at a lower interest rate.


States like Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia, which had already paid off their debts, saw no reason why they should be taxed by the federal government to pay off the debts of other states like Massachusetts and South Carolina. Hamilton’s critics claimed that his scheme because it would provide enormous profits to speculators who had bought bonds from Revolutionary War veterans for as little as 10 or 15 cents on the dollar.

For six months, a bitter debate raged in Congress, until James Madison and Thomas Jefferson engineered a compromise. In exchange for southern votes, Hamilton promised to support locating the national capital on the banks of the Potomac River, the border between two southern states, Virginia and Maryland.


1791, Feb. 25: National Bank

            Summary of Bank provisions:

            Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History []


                  Critique: Jefferson’s Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank (Feb. 15, 1791) []

                  (Digitized image of the original is available at [].)


Critics charged that the bank threatened the nation’s republican values by encouraging speculation and corruption. They also contended that the bank was unconstitutional, since the Constitution did not give Congress the power to create a bank. Other grounds for criticism were that the bank would subject America to foreign influences (because foreigners would have to purchase a high proportion of the bank’s stock) and give a propertied elite disproportionate influence over the nation’s fiscal policies (since private investors would control the bank’s board of directors). Despite the bitter opposition of such figures as Jefferson and Madison, Congress succeeded in chartering a Bank of the United States.


1791 March: Congress Passes Excise Tax on Whiskey


1791, Dec. 5: Report on Manufactures

Primary Document Excerpts and Annotation: Hamilton: Report on Manufactures (Dec. 5, 1791) [] on Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History,

The final plank in Hamilton’s economic program was a proposal to aid the nation’s infant industries. Through high tariffs designed to protect American industry from foreign competition, government bounties and subsidies, and internal improvements and transportation, Hamilton hoped to break Britain’s manufacturing hold on America.

…Although Jefferson and his followers successfully painted Hamilton as an elitist defender of a deferential social order and an admirer of monarchical Britain, in fact Hamilton offered a remarkably modern economic vision based on investment, industry, and expanded commerce. Most strikingly, it was an economic vision with no place for slavery. Before the 1790s, the American economy, North and South, was tied to a trans-Atlantic system of slavery. A member of New York’s first anti-slavery society, Hamilton wanted to reorient the American economy away from slavery and trade with the slave colonies of the Caribbean.

The most eloquent opposition to Hamilton’s proposals came from Thomas Jefferson, who believed that the growth of manufacturing threatened the values of an agrarian way of life. Hamilton’s vision of America’s future directly challenged Jefferson’s ideal of a nation of farmers communing with nature and maintaining personal freedom by virtue of landownership. Like slaves, Jefferson feared, factory workers would be manipulated by their masters, who would make it impossible for them to think and act as independent citizens.

1792: Jefferson-Hamilton Feud

Despite a belief that parties were evil and that they posed a threat to republican government, leaders in Washington’s first administration created the first modern political parties. Divisions first emerged in 1791 over Hamilton’s proposals to fund the federal and state debts, to establish a national bank, and to provide government assistance to manufacturing.

On the grounds that Hamilton’s fiscal plans threatened his vision of the Republic, James Madison organized congressional opposition and retained the poet Philip Freneau to edit a newspaper, the National Gazette, to warn the populace about Hamilton’s designs. Madison and his ally Thomas Jefferson saw in Hamilton’s program an effort to establish the kind of patronage society that existed in Britain, with a huge public debt, a standing army, high taxes, and government-subsidized monopolies.

Hamilton responded in kind. He secured John Fenno to publish the Gazette of the United States, claiming that his opponents wanted to return the national government to its weak condition under the Articles of Confederation. By 1794, his faction had evolved into the Federalist Party, the first national political party in history capable of nominating candidates, coordinating votes in Congress, staging public meetings, organizing petition campaigns, and disseminating propaganda.

            Primary Documents

            �� President Washington to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Aug. 23, 1792 [] (Read from “How unfortunate” to “producing unhappy consequences at home and abroad.”)

            �� President Washington to Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Aug. 26, 1792 []

            �� Thomas Jefferson To George Washington, Sept. 9, 1792 []


1792, Sept. 21: French Republic Proclaimed American sympathy toward France begins to weaken. Even Jefferson, who was very sympathetic to the revolutionary cause in France “deplored the excesses of violence that took place” (from Thomas Jefferson on the French Revolution []), though he also said, “The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood?”

            Primary Document with Brief Introduction: Thomas Jefferson on the French Revolution, Jan. 3, 1793 [].


1793, Feb. 1: France Declares War on Great Britain, Spain, and Holland

            Secondary Account: Grolier’s Biography of George Washington [].  The foreign policy of Washington took shape under the pressure of a war between Britain and revolutionary France. At the war’s inception Washington had to decide whether two treaties of the French-American alliance of 1778 were still in force. Hamilton held that they were not, because they had been made with the now-defunct government of Louis XVI. Washington, however, accepted Jefferson’s opinion that they were still valid because they had been made by an enduring nation—a principle that has since prevailed in American diplomacy.


1793, April 22: Washington Issues Proclamation of Neutrality

            Primary Document: The Proclamation of Neutrality 1793 [] The Avalon Project

            Secondary Account: Years of Crisis []


In 1793 and 1794 a series of crises threatened to destroy the new national government: France tried to entangle America in its war with England; Armed rebellion erupted in western Pennsylvania; Indians in Ohio threatened American expansion; and War with Britain appeared imminent…


1793, August 1-2: Genet Affair

            Secondary Account and Links to Digitized Original: Journal of the Proceedings of the President, August 1-2, 1793 []


The entries for August 1 and 2, 1793, revolve around one of the earliest foreign policy crises of the new government. President Washington wanted French Minister Edmond Genet sent home, because of Genet’s continued violations of United States laws and regulations in his efforts to recruit men, ships, and supplies for France’s war against Great Britain. Washington’s cabinet, like the nation, was divided between supporters of France and Great Britain. The issue was a key factor in the rivalry of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. As a result of the cabinet meetings of August 1 and 2, even Jefferson had to support a request to the French government for the recall of Genet.


1793: Differences of Opinion About France and Great Britain

Differences of opinion over France and Great Britain make “party lines more definite” (Morris, p. 142).

            Alexander Hamilton on the French Revolution, 1794 []


1793, December 31: Jefferson Resigns from the Cabinet

According to Chapter 25 of The Life of Thomas Jefferson []

On the last day of December 1, 1793, Mr. Jefferson resigned the office of Secretary of State and retired from political life. This was not a sudden resolution on his part, nor unexpected to his country. The political disagreement between himself and the Secretary of the Treasury, added to his general disinclination to holding office, was the cause of his retirement. This disagreement, originating in a fundamental difference of opinion and aggravated by subsequent collisions in the cabinet, was reflected back upon the people and aggravated in turn the agitations and animosities between the republicans and federalists, of which they were respectively the leaders.


1794, Nov. 19: Jay’s Treaty Signed

            Primary Document: The Jay Treaty of 1794 [] on The Avalon Project

            Secondary Account: John Jay’s Treaty [] on Foreign Relations of the United States (U.S. Department of State), on Internet Public Library

            The only concessions Jay obtained were a surrender of the northwestern posts—already agreed to in 1783—and a commercial treaty with Great Britain that granted

the United States “most favored nation” status, but seriously restricted U.S. commercial access to the British West Indies. All other outstanding issues—the Canadian-Maine boundary, compensation for pre-revolutionary debts, and British seizures of American ships—were to be resolved by arbitration. Jay even conceded that the British could seize U.S. goods bound for France if they paid for them and could confiscate without payment French goods on American ships. The treaty was immensely unpopular…


1794 July: The Whiskey Rebellion

            Secondary Account: Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion [].  Following unsuccessful petitions against the excise tax, an armed group in western Pennsylvania attacks a federal marshal when he attempts to serve papers on those who have not registered their stills as required by law. Two days later, insurgents burn the home of the local tax collector. As the uprising spreads, government agents and local citizens sympathetic to the government become the target of violence and harassment.


…The excise tax had been a Federalist measure… designed to help pay the costs of Hamilton’s financial policies, and its opponents included those who were organizing what would soon become the Democratic-Republican Party under Jefferson. Antagonism between these groups deepened over Washington’s handling of the Whiskey Rebellion: “An insurrection was announced and proclaimed and armed against, but could never be found,” Jefferson said of it, whereas Hamilton argued that suppressing the rebellion “will do us a great deal of good and add to the solidity of everything in this country.”


1796, Sept. 17: Washington’s Farewell Address

            Primary Document: Washington’s Farewell Address [] on The Avalon Project


The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

… the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.


            Secondary Account: Washington’s Farewell Address []   Frustrated by French meddling in U.S. politics, Washington warned the nation to avoid permanent alliances with foreign nations and to rely instead on temporary alliances for emergencies. Washington’s efforts to protect the fragile young republic by steering a neutral course between England and France during the French Revolutionary Wars was made extremely difficult by the intense rhetoric flowing from the pro-English Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the pro-French, personified by Thomas Jefferson.


1796: December Presidential Election

1797 April: John Adams Becomes President

During Adams’ presidency, the United States faced its most serious international crisis yet: an undeclared naval war with France. In the Jay Treaty, France perceived an American tilt toward Britain, especially in a provision permitting the British to seize French goods from American ships in exchange for financial compensation. France retaliated by capturing hundreds of vessels flying the United States flag.

…The Federalist-controlled Congress prepared for war by authorizing a 20,000-man army and calling George Washington out of retirement as commander in chief. During the winter of 1798, an undeclared naval war took place between France and the United States.

1798: Democratic-Republican Societies Emerge

            Primary Documents and Secondary Account: Annotations and excerpts in the article Washington on the Democratic-Republican Societies (1798) [] on Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History


The letter contains one of Washington’s most outspoken statements of distrust of the Democratic-Republican Societies, which had arisen in support of the French Revolution and which the former President had already blamed for inciting the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

1798: Alien and Sedition Acts

            The two major factions revealed their self-destructive potential in 1798, when the Federalists exerted control by imprisoning their opponents and Jefferson, in his Kentucky Resolutions, encouraged change almost to the point of dissolving the Union itself. The study sheet presents an excerpt from this legislation showing Jefferson's reaction to the governmental crisis of 1798, and a contrasting excerpt from his first inaugural address in 1800, showing his view when the crisis had passed.  

            Primary Document: Alien and Sedition Acts [] on The Avalon Project


            Secondary Account:  The Presidency of John Adams []


These laws:

            �� lengthened the period necessary before immigrants could become citizens from 5 to 14 years;

            �� gave the president the power to imprison or deport any foreigner believed to be dangerous to the United States; and

            �� made it a crime to attack the government with “false, scandalous, or malicious” statements or writings.


These acts contributed to Thomas Jefferson’s election as president in 1800 and gave the Federalist party a reputation for political repression. Federalist prosecutors used the Sedition Act to convict ten editors and printers.

Republicans accused the Federalists of violating fundamental liberties. The state legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia adopted resolutions written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison denouncing the Alien and Sedition Acts as an infringement on freedom of expression. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions advanced the idea that the states had a right to declare federal laws null and void, and helped to establish the theory of states’ rights.

1798-1800:    Undeclared Naval War (Quasi War) with France

            Documents: The Quasi War with France; 1791-1800 [] on The Avalon Project


1800: December Presidential Election

            Secondary Account: Thomas Jefferson: Campaigns and Elections [] on The American President


Given the intense rivalry and conflict involved, it is not surprising that the 1800 election reached a level of personal animosity seldom equaled in American politics. The Federalists attacked the fifty-seven-year-old Jefferson as a godless Jacobin who would unleash the forces of bloody terror upon the land. With Jefferson as President, so warned one newspaper, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.” Others attacked Jefferson’s deist beliefs as the views of an infidel who “writes aghast the truths of God’s words; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, and without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians.”

The luckless Adams was ridiculed from two directions: by the Hamiltonians within his own party and by the Jeffersonian-Republicans from the outside. For example, a private letter in which Hamilton depicted Adams as having “great and intrinsic defects in his character” was obtained by Aaron Burr and leaked to the national press. It fueled the Republican attack on Adams as a hypocritical fool and tyrant. His opponents also spread the story that Adams had planned to create an American dynasty by the marriage of one of his sons to a daughter of King George III. According to this unsubstantiated story, only the intervention of George Washington, dressed in his Revolutionary military uniform, and the threat by Washington to use his sword against his former vice president had stopped Adams’s scheme.

1801: Thomas Jefferson Becomes President

            Secondary Account: Thomas Jefferson: Campaigns and Elections [] or google: The American President


When the electoral votes came in, Jefferson and Burr had won 73 votes each. Adams and his running mate, Charles C. Pinckney, the brother of Thomas Pinckney who ran in 1796, won 65 and 64 votes respectively.

With no clear majority, the vote was thrown into the Federalist-controlled U.S. Congress. After much intrigue and arguing, and thirty-five ballots, Alexander Hamilton, who despised Burr as an unprincipled scoundrel, convinced a few Federalists who had supported Burr in the balloting to turn in blank ballots rather than vote for either Republican candidate.


1801, Nov. 16: Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin’s Tax Plan

            Primary Document: Gallatin to Jefferson []


…if this Administration shall not reduce taxes, they never will be permanently reduced. To strike at the root of the evil and avert the danger of increasing taxes, encroaching government, temptations to offensive wars, &c., nothing can be more effectual than a repeal of all internal taxes, but let them all go, and not one remain on which sister taxes may be hereafter engrafted. I agree most fully with you that pretended tax-preparations, treasury-preparations, and army-preparations against contingent wars tend only to encourage wars. If the United States shall unavoidably be drawn into a war, the people will submit to any necessary tax, and the system of internal taxation which, then, shall be thought best adapted to the then situation of the country may be created, instead of engrafted on the old or present plan; if there shall be no real necessity for them, their abolition by this Administration will most powerfully deter any other from reviving them. A repeal now will attach as much unpopularity to them as the late direct tax has done to that mode of taxation. On those grounds, can I ask what, in your opinion, is the minimum of necessary naval and foreign intercourse expenses…?


January 18, 1803

Jefferson sends a secret letter to Congress asking for $2,500 to finance an expedition to explore the Missouri River. The funding is approved February 28.

February 24, 1803


Marbury vs. Madison ruling by Supreme Court asserts Constitutional Right of Judicial Review.


January 1, 1804


Haiti gains its independence from France, becoming the world's first black republic.

February 15, 1804


New Jersey abolishes slavery, the last northern state to do so.



Another activity:  America in World Affairs



            Although Thomas Jefferson came to power determined to limit the reach of the federal government, foreign affairs dominated his presidency and pushed him toward Federalist policies that greatly contrasted with his political philosophy. The first foreign episode involved Jefferson's war with the Barbary pirates. For the previous century or so, Western nations had paid bribes to the Barbary states, which would later become Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania, to keep them from harassing American and merchant ships. When the Pasha of Tripoli raised his demands in 1801, Jefferson refused to pay the increase, sent warships to the Mediterranean, blockaded the small nation, and tried unsuccessfully to promote a palace coup in Tripoli. This was one of the first covert operations in American history. The war ended with agreements that involved one last payment of tribute, at least to Tripoli. Jefferson's action on this matter caused him to rethink the need for a well-equipped navy and halted his move to reduce the force to a mere token size.

Another way to look at American in world affairs during the Jeffersonian years is through the use of commercial coercion during 1807-1808.   Looking at the following cartoon – which was wildly popular – reveals much about lingering Federalist opposition to the Jeffersonians

Embargo:A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the "ograbme" = embargo spelled backwards.

A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the "ograbme" = embargo spelled backwards.  Printed in 1808 widely in newspapers.

Jefferson believed that Americans would cooperate with the embargo out of patriotism. Instead, smuggling flourished, particularly through Canada. To enforce the embargo, Jefferson took steps that infringed on his most cherished principles: individual liberties and opposition to a strong military. He had to mobilize the army and navy to enforce the blockade, and in April 1808, he declared the Lake Champlain region of New York, along the Canadian border, in a state of insurrection.

Early in 1809, three days before Jefferson left office, Congress repealed the embargo. In effect for 15 months, it had exacted no political concessions from either France or Britain. But it had produced economic hardship, evasion of the law, and political dissension at home.


Tying pictures to documents:

In 1808, Jefferson issued a “letter” to the public in another broadside.  The text follows:

“I have duly received the address of that portion of the citizens of Stockbridge [Massachusetts] who have declared their approbation of the present suspension of our commerce, and their dissent from the representation of those of the same place who wished its removal. A division of sentiment was not unexpected. On no question can a perfect unanimity be hoped, or certainly it would have been on that between war and embargo, the only alternatives presented to our choice; for the general capture of our vessels would have been war on one side, which reason and interest would repel by war and reprisal on our part.

Of the several interests composing those of the United States, that of manufactures would of course prefer to war, a state of non-intercourse, so favorable to their rapid growth and prosperity. Agriculture, although sensibly feeling the loss of market for its produce, would find many aggravations in a state of war. Commerce and navigation, or that portion which is foreign, in the inactivity to which they are reduced by the present state of things, certainly experience their full share in the general inconvenience: but whether war would to them be a preferable alternative, is a question their patriotism would never hastily propose. It is to be regretted, however, that overlooking the real sources of their sufferings, the British and French Edicts, which constitute the actual blockade of our foreign commerce and navigation, they have, with too little reflection, imputed them to laws which have saved them from greater, and have preserved for our own use our vessels, property and seamen, instead of adding them to the strength of those with whom we might eventually have to contend.

The Embargo, giving time to the belligerent powers to revise their unjust proceedings and to listen to the dictates of justice, of interest and reputation, which equally urge the correction of their wrongs, has availed our country of the only honorable expedient for avoiding war: and should a repeal of these Edicts supersede the cause for it, our commercial brethren will become sensible that it has consulted their interests, however against their own will. It will be unfortunate for their country if, in the mean time, these, their expressions of impatience, should have the effect of prolonging the very suffering which have produced them, by exciting a fallacious hope that we may, under any pressure, relinquish our equal right of navigating the ocean, go to such ports only as others may prescribe, and there pay the tributary exactions they may impose; an abandonment of national independence and of essential rights revolting to every manly sentiment: While these Edicts are in force, no American can ever consent to a return of peaceable intercourse with those who maintain them.”


II.  Jeffersonian Expanding across space:  The Louisiana Purchase


 Jefferson’s Vision and Plan for the West:

Jefferson's original overture for a western exploratory party was directed to Revolutionary War hero, George Rogers Clark. He begins his 1783 letter to Clark with the two topics which pulled his thoughts westward: science and politics. He thanks Clark for sending him shells and seeds and assures him that he would be pleased to have as many bones, teeth and tusks of the mammoth as Clark might be able to find. Then within the same paragraph Jefferson reveals his apprehension at the rumor that money was being raised in England for exploration between the Mississippi and the Pacific, and even though it was professed as only for knowledge, he feared colonization. Jefferson then wonders, if money could be raised in this country for western exploration, "How would you like to lead such a party?" Clark declines Jefferson's request for financial reasons, but as a hero of the western theatre of the Revolution, he was quite knowledgeable of the Indians of the northwest territory and offered advice on how to best proceed among the Indian peoples, advice which Jefferson stored away for future use. In later correspondence Clark would recommend his youngest brother, William, as also knowledgeable of the Indian territory and, "well qualified almost for any business."

When Jefferson took the Oath of Office as the third President of the United States on March 4, 1801, the nation had 5,308,483 people within its boundaries, which reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Mississippi River in the west, from the Great Lakes in the north nearly to the Gulf of Mexico in the south (roughly 1,000 miles by 1,000 miles). Only a comparably small area was occupied, however, and two-thirds of the population lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic.  Jefferson and many of his contemporaries were plantation owners. He and other “Virginia gentlemen” ascribed to a distinct lifestyle. On their vast estates, they led lives of refinement and enlightenment, hosting balls and dinners or discussing politics, philosophy and religion.

In spite of their interest in personal rights, country gentlemen built their abundant lifestyles with slave labor. Slave life--enforced by the lash-was filled with planting and harvesting. Owners did not perform this manual labor--they managed the details necessary to run the plantation. In that day, plantation owners did not practice crop rotation, so they continually sought more land to cultivate. Thus, as their plantations expanded, the owners’ economic survival hinged on the availability of slaves to work the land.

Other Virginia gentlemen, such as Meriwether Lewis, lacked the higher education and wealth of Jefferson’s peers. Public schools did not exist, so planters often were educated by boarding with teachers-usually preachers or parsons-who would school them in grammar, math, natural science and Latin. Thus, a well-balanced education would complement their expertise in planting.  Since the country estates were so far apart, men such as Lewis acquired distinct wilderness skills. Lewis was, for example, a great horseman, hunter and hiker. And such gentlemen traveling through the region were presumed to know the social refinements of plantation life, such as dancing, boxing and fiddle-playing.

While in Paris as minister to France, Jefferson joined in a plan for an American explorer named John Ledyard to cross Russia, obtain water passage to some point on the North American coast, and explore from the Pacific eastward. Jefferson supported the venture but noted that despite Ledyard's ingenuity and information, "Unfortunately he has too much imagination." Ledyard was arrested within 200 miles of Kamschatka, escorted to the Polish border and charged not to set foot within Russian territory again.

A more promising endeavor was instigated by Jefferson and fellow members of the American Philosophical Society in 1793. They enlisted French botanist, Andre Michaux, "to explore the country along the Missouri, & thence Westwardly to the Pacific ocean." Jefferson organized the subscription to finance the expedition, and even though the undertaking was not under government sponsorship, he appraised President Washington, who offered to "readily add my mite" to the project. Jefferson's instructions to Michaux on behalf of the Society reiterated the objective of finding the shortest route to the Pacific with equal importance given to the gathering of geographic and scientific data. But the expedition began to unravel before reaching the Mississippi river, as it became apparent that Michaux was involved in a French plot to gather support against the Spanish settlements west of the Mississippi. An important remnant of this truncated expedition was Jefferson's written set of instructions to Michaux, which would reappear in a more detailed form when delivered later to Meriwether Lewis.

These failed attempts undoubtedly added to Jefferson's store of information on western exploration, and when circumstances placed him in a key position to act, he was prepared to do so quickly and decisively. In his first inaugural address in 1801 Jefferson envisioned, "A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye." Less than two years later, on January 18, 1803, he would deliver a confidential message to Congress outlining a plan for exploring to the "Western Ocean," and requesting an appropriation of $2,500 for what would become the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In May 1804, as Lewis and Clark were poised to begin pushing westward along the Missouri river, Jefferson must have felt more confidence in seeing his western desideratum fulfilled, writing: "We shall delineate with correctness the great arteries of this great country: those who come after us will fill up the canvas we begin."

Thomas Jefferson was convinced that "getting there first" was essential, one reason that he commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition. He believed the future of the young country lay in the West, and knew that other countries had claims on western lands. Have students discuss what they know about the mission of the expedition, and why it was important to Jefferson.

Woolly mammoths, Peruvian llamas, blue-eyed, Welsh-speaking Indians. In 1803, such myths defined the uncharted West. The Lewis and Clark expedition later dispelled such speculations, including the most widely held myth and hope: the existence of a “northwest passage.”  Such a passage -- a river or series of connected rivers that would cross the western mountains and reach the Pacific Ocean -- would have allowed more direct commerce with the Orient. Thomas Jefferson believed the discovery of the northwest passage would break open the wealth of North America.

Not all men in the South were content with or pursued the plantation life, and like Lewis, many sought adventure. One means to find it was by enlisting in the Army, where life often was spent on the frontier. It was the Army’s job to maintain order in the outer U.S. boundaries, usually with small, isolated groups of fewer than 100 officers and men. Most of the soldiers and others who trekked through the frontier ended up in Tennessee or Kentucky. Some traders and trappers went as far as the Missouri River, but the idea of a mass migration further west was still unrealistic.

In 1803, Only four roads crossed the Appalachian Mountains. But the United States had the potential to become a powerful nation if it could add the area west of the Mississippi to its territory. At that time, however, people were skeptical that one nation could govern an entire continent. The distance between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, the limited transportation options, and the unanswered questions about the western land were barriers to westward expansion. Also, horses were the fastest mode of transportation, and the few roads or trails that existed were in poor condition. It was impossible to get anything from the Mississippi to the Atlantic seaboard in fewer than six weeks. These barriers helped quell ideas of spreading national interests further west.  The half-million Americans (one out of 10) who already lived west of the Appalachian Mountains, however, felt they had found their own “national” interests. Since water routes were viewed as a source of commerce, many people along the Mississippi viewed themselves as the seeds of an independent nation that would tap into the world marketplace, not by going east to the Atlantic seaboard, but by following the Ohio and Mississippi river system down to the Gulf of Mexico.  Jefferson knew the inhabitants of this region posed a risk of secession from the United States. After all, the nation, only 18 years old, was born of rebellion. He was determined to obtain the vital trading port of New Orleans for the United States, in part to prevent the West from breaking away.  Other nations also sought to control the West’s destiny but still knew little about the region. Spanish conquistadors had explored the Southwest. French and Spanish fur traders had ventured part of the way up the Missouri River, and the British had visited the Mandan Indians in what is now North Dakota.

"This little event, of France's possessing herself of Louisiana, is the embryo of a tornado which will burst on the countries on both sides of the Atlantic and involve in it's effects their highest destinies."


Jefferson wrote this prediction in an April 1802 letter to Pierre Samuel du Pont amid reports that Spain would retrocede to France the vast territory of Louisiana. As the United States had expanded westward, navigation of the Mississippi River and access to the port of New Orleans had become critical to American commerce, so this transfer of authority was cause for concern. Within a week of his letter to du Pont, Jefferson wrote U.S. Minister to France Robert Livingston: "Every eye in the U.S. is now fixed on this affair of Louisiana. Perhaps nothing since the revolutionary war has produced more uneasy sensations through the body of the nation."

The presence of Spain was not so provocative. A conflict over navigation of the Mississippi had been resolved in 1795 with a treaty in which Spain recognized the United States' right to use the river and to deposit goods in New Orleans for transfer to oceangoing vessels. In his letter to Livingston, Jefferson wrote, "Spain might have retained [New Orleans] quietly for years. Her pacific dispositions, her feeble state, would induce her to increase our facilities there, so that her possession of the place would be hardly felt by us." He went on to speculate that "it would not perhaps be very long before some circumstance might arise which might make the cession of it to us the price of something of more worth to her."

The Louisiana situation reached a crisis point in October 1802 when Spain's King Charles IV signed a decree transferring the territory to France and the Spanish agent in New Orleans, acting on orders from the Spanish court, revoked Americans' access to the port's warehouses. These moves prompted outrage in the United States. 


While Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison worked to resolve the issue through diplomatic channels, some factions in the West and the opposition Federalist Party called for war and advocated secession by the western territories in order to seize control of the lower Mississippi and New Orleans.  Aware of the need for action more visible than diplomatic maneuverings and concerned with the threat of disunion, Jefferson in January 1803 recommended that James Monroe join Livingston in Paris as minister extraordinary. (Later that same month, Jefferson asked Congress to fund an expedition that would cross the Louisiana territory, regardless of who controlled it, and proceed on to the Pacific. This would turn out to be the Lewis and Clark Expedition.) Monroe was a close personal friend and political ally of Jefferson's, but he also owned land in Kentucky and had spoken openly for the rights of the western territories.  Jefferson urged Monroe to accept the posting, saying he possessed "the unlimited confidence of the administration and of the western people." Jefferson added: "All eyes, all hopes, are now fixed on you . for on the event of this mission depends the future destinies of this republic.”  Monroe's instructions, drawn up by Madison and approved by Jefferson, allocated up to $10 million for the purchase of New Orleans and all or part of the Floridas. If this bid failed, Monroe was instructed to try to purchase just New Orleans, or, at the very least, secure U.S. access to the Mississippi and the port. But when Monroe reached Paris on April 12, 1803, he learned from Livingston that a very different offer was on the table.


Napoleon's plans to re-establish France in the New World were unraveling. The French army sent to suppress a rebellion by slaves and free blacks in the sugar-rich colony of Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) had been decimated by yellow fever, and a new war with Britain seemed inevitable. France's minister of finance, Francois de Barbé-Marbois, who had always doubted Louisiana's worth, counseled Napoleon that Louisiana would be less valuable without Saint Domingue and, in the event of war, the territory would likely be taken by the British from Canada. France could not afford to send forces to occupy the entire Mississippi Valley, so why not abandon the idea of empire in America and sell the territory to the United States?

Napoleon agreed. On April 11, Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand told Livingston that France was willing to sell all of Louisiana. Livingston informed Monroe upon his arrival the next day. Seizing on what Jefferson later called "a fugitive occurrence," Monroe and Livingston immediately entered into negotiations and on April 30 reached an agreement that exceeded their authority - the purchase of the Louisiana territory, including New Orleans, for $15 million. The acquisition of approximately 827,000 square miles would double the size of the United States.


The Senate ratified the treaty Oct. 20 by a vote of 24 to 7. Spain, upset by the sale but without the military power to block it, formally returned Louisiana to France on Nov. 30. France officially transferred the territory to the Americans on Dec. 20, and the United States took formal possession on Dec. 30.  Jefferson's prediction of a "tornado" that would burst upon the countries on both sides of the Atlantic had been averted, but his belief that the affair of Louisiana would impact upon "their highest destinies" proved prophetic indeed.


On January 18, 1803, President Jefferson sent a confidential message to Congress, stating in part, “The river Missouri and the Indians inhabiting it, are not as well known as is rendered desirable by their connection with the Mississippi, and consequently with us. . .”  Jefferson went on to propose that an “intelligent officer with ten or twelve chosen men . . . might explore the whole line, even to the Western Ocean.” This proposal culminated Jefferson’s long-standing but quiet plans to send a trailblazing expedition into the great void beyond the Mississippi. The political climate in 1803 complicated Jefferson’s request. He had asked Congress to authorize a military reconnaissance into unknown lands that already were claimed by the two most powerful nations in the world, France and Britain, with a third, Spain, clinging to a hold in the south and far west. Jefferson already had approached Spanish officials administering the region on behalf of France, seeking their approval to pass through the Louisiana Territory for the purposes of exploration. Spanish ambassador Don Carlos Martinez objected, but Jefferson pressed ahead with his request to Congress.  Knowing there would be skeptics, especially among his foes in the Federalist party, Jefferson worded his message in a way that minimized military risks and used commercial gains as the bait. He made the temptation cheap, asking only $2,500 to fund the expedition (although actual costs reached $38,722). On February 28, 1803, Congress approved Jefferson’s request.


Congress’ approval of the journey was a big step forward, yet within months it would be eclipsed by an agreement that not only transformed the purpose of the expedition but the very destiny of the United States.  It began with a bid from Jefferson’s emissaries in Paris to buy the vital trading port of New Orleans. Negotiations had gone nowhere until Napoleon Bonaparte, preparing for another war with England, suddenly announced that the United States could have New Orleans if it would take the entire 820,000-square mile Louisiana Territory for $15 million (about three cents an acre).   Bonaparte had his own reasons for the dramatic offer. He held title to Louisiana but had little power to enforce it. The Americans, he believed, were sure to overrun the area long before he could get an army there, if he ever could. Further, the land sale would empower a young nation that shared one of France’s common rivals: England.  Amazed by the offer, Jefferson accepted and rushed the treaty through Congress, in spite of doubts about its constitutionality. Federalists attacked the purchase not only as a blatant use of executive power, but as a waste of money. Nevertheless, the treaty was signed on April 30, 1803. In a single stroke, the size of the United States was doubled.


The Louisiana Purchase was not publicly announced until July 3, just two days before Meriwether Lewis left Washington, D.C., for Pittsburgh to begin purchasing supplies and hiring men for the expedition. For Lewis, the purchase changed what would have been a semi-covert mission through foreign territory into a bold survey of American-owned land.  Jefferson sent Lewis off with several pages of specific instructions about what information to collect during the journey: What were the Indians like? What were their languages, their customs, their medical habits? Jefferson craved details of the plant and animal life, the minerals and the mountains. And, of course, he wanted to know the possibilities for trade.  To ensure the expedition’s success in obtaining whatever it would need to meet his goals, Jefferson signed and gave Lewis a one-page letter pledging “the faith of the United States” to reimburse anyone for any goods or services that Lewis needed.  So the expedition had a limitless line of credit, and rightly so, in Jefferson’s view. He was asking Meriwether Lewis and William Clark not only to chart the new territory of the United States, but the nation's destiny.


On January 18, 1803, President Jefferson sent a confidential letter to Congress asking for $2,500 to fund an expedition to the Pacific Ocean. He hoped to establish trade with the Native American people of the West and find a water route to the Pacific. Jefferson also was fascinated by the prospect of what could be learned about the geography of the West, the lives and languages of the Native Americans, the plants and animals, the soil, the rocks, the weather, and how they differed from those in the East.

On the 20th of June, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his protegé, Captain Meriwether Lewis, outlining what Lewis and Clark should learn on their expedition into the newly-acquired Louisiana Purchase.  This letter reveals Jefferson's ferocious curiousity as well as his foresight about what the region could come to mean to the United States. A child of the Enlightenment, Jefferson was as much scientist as statesman, and his writings addressed botany and politics with equal ardor.

As Jefferson groomed Meriwether Lewis to head an expedition to explore the West, it was understandable that he would turn to fellow members of the American Philosophical Society for support. This was the oldest learned society in the United States, and one dedicated to furthering knowledge of the natural sciences as well as cultivating the arts. Its creation is credited largely to Benjamin Franklin, who in 1743 drafted "A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge among the British Plantations in America." Franklin reasoned that, "The first Drudgery of Settling new Colonies, which confines the Attention of People to mere Necessaries, is now pretty well over," and it was time to begin cultivating the arts and accumulating useful knowledge. He proposed Philadelphia as the seat of the new Society due to its central location among the colonies and volunteered to serve as the first secretary, as he encouraged active correspondence between the colonies and with similar organizations in Europe.

The Society was well established by the time Jefferson was elected to membership in 1780. His avid interest in science led to a long and active participation within the Society, serving as its President from 1797 to 1815. And so in 1803 with preparations underway for the long anticipated expedition to explore the West, he called upon the assistance of fellow members of the American Philosophical Society. Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis to Philadelphia for instruction and counseling with botanist Benjamin Smith Barton, mathematics professor Robert Patterson, physician and professor of chemistry Benjamin Rush and Caspar Wistar, physician and professor of anatomy. Lewis met also with Andrew Ellicott, surveyor and mathematician, while John Vaughn, librarian and treasurer of the Society, worked to secure the appropriate instruments needed for Lewis to record longitudes and latitudes on the western trip.

This was not the first time that members of the American Philosophical Society had supported Jefferson's dream of western exploration. In 1793 Jefferson had initiated a subscription within the Society to finance an expedition to be led by French botanist, Andre Michaux, but this expedition dissolved before reaching the Mississippi river. Still Jefferson must have been sure of their common goal for he closed his letter requesting Benjamin Smith Barton's assistance with, "I make no apology for this trouble, because I know that the same wish to promote science which has induced me to bring forward this proposition, will induce you to aid in promoting it." The goal of promoting science was innate in the Society from its inception and a comparison of Franklin's initial "Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge" and Jefferson's instructions to Meriwether Lewis on the eve of his departure for the West parallel in their objectives. Among the topics of correspondence suggested by Franklin were: newly discovered plants, herbs and trees; discoveries of fossils, mines and minerals; surveys, maps and charts including the junction of rivers and roads and the location of lakes and mountains; and along with the improvement of domesticated animals, the introduction of "sorts from foreign countries."   The support of the American Philosophical Society in the success of the expedition was not to go without reward, as the Society became a major repository for many of the objects and original journals.



Activity:  Maps and Geography:

Map of the states and territories controlled by the United States after winning the American Revolution.



















Image: Grayscale map of Lewis and Clark's journey, with key forts and Native American tribes labeled




Louisiana Purchase


Image: Map of Lewis and Clark's journey, with color-coded areas depicting control of lands


In addition to these, an excellent array of maps is available on the EDSITEment-reviewed National Geographic Xpeditions. Students can obtain state maps with most of the locations using the site's Atlas feature. Many locations can be found by searching within the Map Machine.


Questions for Students:


1.  What claims did other countries have on this land?  How would they have responded to America’s efforts to explore and settle the Purchase?


2.  What can you see on the maps that explains the importance of the La. Purchase?


3.  What did Americans know about the West at this time (1803)?


4.  What area do you think Jefferson knew the least about? Why?


5.  Who else had information about this land – what competing interests in the American East; what about native Americans?  [will be covered below, too]



Proposed Western Expeditions Before Lewis and Clark


1783 - Jefferson approaches George Rogers Clark to lead an expedition to explore the West provided the money can be raised. Clark declines but later suggests his youngest brother, William, "as well qualified almost for any business."

1784 - Jefferson introduces in Congress the Ordinance of 1784, which set forth the principle that new states could be formed from the western territories and admitted to the Union on an equal basis with the original states.

 1786 - While minister to France, Jefferson joins in a plan to support American explorer John Ledyard to travel eastward across Siberia, secure passage of a ship to some point on the western coast of North America, then travel east across the continent. Ledyard was arrested in Russia and sent back to Europe.

1793 - Jefferson enlists other members of the American Philosophical Society to sponsor André Michaux, a French botanist to "find the shortest & most convenient route of communication between the U.S. & the Pacific Ocean." The expedition was abandoned east of the Mississippi due to political intrigues.

Also in that year, Scottish native Alexander Mackenzie leads a small party from Fort Fork on the Peace River in Canada to the Straits of Georgia on the Pacific Ocean. In 1802, Jefferson obtains a copy of Mackenzie's account of the journey and is energized by the report of an easy mountain crossing and Mackenzie's call for Great Britain to claim the Columbia River for its own.

Other Explorations Sponsored During Jefferson's Presidency

1805 - The territorial governor of Louisiana, General James Wilkinson (who would later play a key role in the affair surrounding Aaron Burr's western intrigues), persuades President Jefferson to authorize an expedition to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi. General Wilkinson appoints Lieutenant Zebulon Pike to lead the party with orders to negotiate peace treaties with Indian tribes, to assert legal claim to the area, and to scout for potential military outposts. The party reached Lake Leech in Minnesota near the present-day Canadian border before returning.

1806 - Promoted to Captain, Pike is again appointed by General Wilkinson to lead an expedition to explore the Red and Arkansas Rivers from St. Louis. Pike enters Colorado where he unsuccessfully attempts to scale the mountain known today as Pike's Peak. Turning directions, Pike entered Spanish New Mexico. His party was arrested by Spanish authorities, escorted to the Louisiana border, and released in 1807.


An Activity:  Reading Documents

A.  Jefferson's Confidential Letter to Congress

"Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

"As the continuance of the act for establishing trading houses with the Indian tribes will be under the consideration of the Legislature at its present session, I think it my duty to communicate the views which have guided me in the execution of that act, in order that you may decide on the policy of continuing it, in the present or any other form, or discontinue it altogether, if that shall, on the whole, seem most for the public good.

"The Indian tribes residing within the limits of the United States, have, for a considerable time, been growing more and more uneasy at the constant diminution of the territory they occupy, although effected by their own voluntary sales: and the policy has long been gaining strength with them, of refusing absolutely all further sale, on any conditions; insomuch that, at this time, it hazards their friendship, and excites dangerous jealousies and perturbations in their minds to make any overture for the purchase of the smallest portions of their land. A very few tribes only are not yet obstinately in these dispositions. In order peaceably to counteract this policy of theirs, and to provide an extension of territory which the rapid increase of our numbers will call for, two measures are deemed expedient. First: to encourage them to abandon hunting, to apply to the raising stock, to agriculture and domestic manufacture, and thereby prove to themselves that less land and labor will maintain them in this, better than in their former mode of living. The extensive forests necessary in the hunting life, will then become useless, and they will see advantage in exchanging them for the means of improving their farms, and of increasing their domestic comforts. Secondly: to multiply trading houses among them, and place within their reach those things which will contribute more to their domestic comfort, than the possession of extensive, but uncultivated wilds. Experience and reflection will develop to them the wisdom of exchanging what they can spare and we want, for what we can spare and they want. In leading them to agriculture, to manufactures, and civilization; in bringing together their and our settlements, and in preparing them ultimately to participate in the benefits of our governments, I trust and believe we are acting for their greatest good. At these trading houses we have pursued the principles of the act of Congress, which directs that the commerce shall be carried on liberally, and requires only that the capital stock shall not be diminished. We consequently undersell private traders, foreign and domestic, drive them from the competition; and thus, with the good will of the Indians, rid ourselves of a description of men who are constantly endeavoring to excite in the Indian mind suspicions, fears, and irritations towards us. A letter now enclosed, shows the effect of our competition on the operations of the traders, while the Indians, perceiving the advantage of purchasing from us, are soliciting generally, our establishment of trading houses among them. In one quarter this is particularly interesting. The Legislature, reflecting on the late occurrences on the Mississippi, must be sensible how desirable it is to possess a respectable breadth of country on that river, from our Southern limit to the Illinois at least; so that we may present as firm a front on that as on our Eastern border. We possess what is below the Yazoo, and can probably acquire a certain breadth from the Illinois and Wabash to the Ohio; but between the Ohio and Yazoo, the country all belongs to the Chickasaws, friendly tribe within our limits, but the most decided against the alienation of lands. The portion of their country most important for us is exactly that which they do not inhabit. Their settlements are not on the Mississippi, but in the interior country. They have lately shown a desire to become agricultural; and this leads to the desire of buying implements and comforts. In the strengthening and gratifying of these wants, I see the only prospect of planting on the Mississippi itself, the means of its own safety. Duty has required me to submit these views to the judgment of the Legislature; but as their disclosure might embarrass and defeat their effect, they are committed to the special confidence of the two Houses.

"While the extension of the public commerce among the Indian tribes, may deprive of that source of profit such of our citizens as are engaged in it, it might be worthy the attention of Congress, in their care of individual as well as of the general interest, to point, in another direction, the enterprise of these citizens, as profitably for themselves, and more usefully for the public. The river Missouri, and the Indians inhabiting it, are not as well known as is rendered desirable by their connexion with the Mississippi, and consequently with us. It is, however, understood, that the country on that river is inhabited by numerous tribes, who furnish great supplies of furs and peltry to the trade of another nation, carried on in a high latitude, through an infinite number of portages and lakes, shut up by ice through a long season. The commerce on that line could bear no competition with that of the Missouri, traversing a moderate climate, offering according to the best accounts, a continued navigation from its source, and possibly with a single portage, from the Western Ocean, and finding to the Atlantic a choice of channels through the Illinois or Wabash, the lakes and Hudson, through the Ohio and Susquehanna, or Potomac or James rivers, and through the Tennessee and Savannah, rivers. An intelligent officer, with ten or twelve chosen men, fit for the enterprise, and willing to undertake it, taken from our posts, where they may be spared without inconvenience, might explore the whole line, even to the Western Ocean, have conferences with the natives on the subject of commercial intercourse, get admission among them for our traders, as others are admitted, agree on convenient deposits for an interchange of articles, and return with the information acquired, in the course of two summers. Their arms and accoutrements, some instruments of observation, and light and cheap presents for the Indians, would be all the apparatus they could carry, and with an expectation of a soldier's portion of land on their return, would constitute the whole expense. Their pay would be going on, whether here or there. While other civilized nations have encountered great expense to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge by undertaking voyages of discovery, and for other literary purposes, in various parts and directions, our nation seems to owe to the same object, as well as to its own interests, to explore this, the only line of easy communication across the continent, and so directly traversing our own part of it. The interests of commerce place the principal object within the constitutional powers and care of Congress, and that it should incidentally advance the geographical knowledge of our own continent, cannot be but an additional gratification. The nation claiming the territory, regarding this as a literary pursuit, which is in the habit of permitting within its dominions, would not be disposed to view it with jealousy, even if the expiring state of its interests there did not render it a matter of indifference. The appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, "for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States," while understood and considered by the Executive as giving the legislative sanction, would cover the undertaking from notice, and prevent the obstructions which interested individuals might otherwise previously prepare in its way."

Jan. 18. 1803

B.  Instructions to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803:

To Meriwether Lewis esq. Capt. of the 1st regimt. of infantry of the U. S. of A.

Your situation as Secretary of the President of the U. S. has made you acquainted with the objects of my confidential message of Jan. 18, 1803 to the legislature; you have seen the act they passed, which, tho' expressed in general terms, was meant to sanction those objects, and you are appointed to carry them into execution.

Instruments for ascertaining, by celestial observations, the geography of the country through which you will pass, have been already provided. Light articles for barter and presents among the Indians, arms for your attendants, say for from 10. to 12. men, boats, tents, & other travelling apparatus, with ammunition, medecine, surgical instruments and provisions you will have prepared with such aids as the Secretary at War can yield in his department; & from him also you will recieve authority to engage among our troops, by voluntary agreement, the number of attendants above mentioned, 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 U.S. 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 & Great Britain, and through them to their governments; & such assurances given them as to its objects, as we trust will satisfy them. The country [of Louisiana] having been 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; & 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, & such principal stream of it, as, by it's course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregan, Colorado or and other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.

Beginning at the mouth of the Missouri, you will take careful observations of latitude & longitude, at all remarkeable points on the river, & especially at the mouths of rivers, at rapids, at islands, & other places & objects distinguished by such natural marks & characters of a durable kind, as that they may with certainty be recognised hereafter. The courses of the river between these points of observation may be supplied by the compass the log-line & by time, corrected by the observations themselves. The variations of the compass too, in different places, should be noticed.

The interesting points of the portage between the heads of the Missouri, & of the water offering the best communication with the Pacific ocean, should also be fixed by observation, & the course of that water to the ocean, in the same manner as that of the Missouri.

Your observations are to be taken with great pains & accuracy, to be entered distinctly & intelligibly for others as well as yourself, to comprehend all the elements necessary, with the aid of the usual tables, to fix the latitude and longitude of the places at which they were taken, and are to be rendered to the war-office, for the purpose of having the calculations made concurrently by proper persons within the U.S. Several copies of these as well as of your other notes should be made at leisure times, & put into the care of the most trustworthy of your attendants, to guard, by multiplying them, against the accidental losses to which they will be exposed. A further guard would be that one of these copies be on the paper of the birch, as less liable to injury from damp than common paper.

The commerce which may be carried on with the people inhabiting the line you will pursue, renders a knolege of those people important. You will therefore endeavor to make yourself acquainted, as far as a diligent pursuit of your journey shall admit, with the names of the nations & their numbers;

the extent & limits of their possessions; their relations with other tribes of nations; their language, traditions, monuments;
their ordinary occupations in agriculture, fishing, hunting, war, arts, & the implements for these;
their food, clothing, & domestic accommodations;
the diseases prevalent among them, & the remedies they use;
moral & physical circumstances which distinguish them from the tribes we know; peculiarities in their laws, customs & dispositions;
and articles of commerce they may need or furnish, & to what extent.

And, considering the interest which every nation has in extending & strengthening the authority of reason & justice among the people around them, it will be useful to acquire what knolege you can of the state of morality, religion, & information among them; as it may better enable those who endeavor to civilize & instruct them, to adapt their measure to the existing notions & practices of those on whom they are to operate.


Other objects worthy of notice will be --- the soil & face of the country, it's growth & vegetable productions, esp those not of the U.S.
the animals of the country generally, & especially those not known in the U.S. the remains or accounts of any which may be deemed rare or extinct; the mineral productions of every kind; but more particularly metals, limestone, pit coal, & saltpetre; salines & mineral waters, noting the temperature of the last, & such circumstances as may indicate their character;
volcanic appearances;
climate, as characterized by the thermometer, by the proportion of rainy, cloudy, & clear days, by lightening, hail, snow, ice, by the access & recess of frost, by the winds prevailing at different seasons, the dates at which particular plants put forth or lose their flower, or leaf, times of appearance of particular birds, reptiles or insects.


Altho' your route will be along the channel of the Missouri, yet you will endeavor to inform yourself, by enquiry, of the character & extent of the country watered by it's branches, & especially on it's Southern side. The North river or Rio Bravo which runs into the gulph of Mexico, and the North river, or Rio colorado which runs into the gulph of California, are understood to be the principal streams heading opposite to the waters of the Missouri, and running Southwardly. Whether the dividing grounds between the Missouri & them are mountains or flatlands, what are their distance from the Missouri, the character of the intermediate country, & the people inhabiting it, are worthy of particular enquiry. The Northern waters of the Missouri are less to be enquired after, becaue they have been ascertained to a considerable degree, & are still in a course of ascertainment by English traders, and travellers. But if you can learn any thing certain of the most Northern source of the Missisipi, & of its position relatively to the lake of the woods, it will be interesting to us.  Some account too of the path of the Canadian traders from the Missisipi, at the mouth of the Ouisconsin to where it strikes the Missouri, & of the soil and rivers in it's course, is desireable.


In all your intercourse with the natives, treat them in the most friendly & conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies as to the object of your journey, satisfy them of its innocence, make them acquainted with the position, extent, character, peaceable & commercial dispositions of the U.S. of our wish to be neighborly, friendly & useful to them, & of our dispositions to a commercial intercourse with them; confer with them on the points most convenient as mutual emporiums, and the articles of most desireable interchange for them & us. If a few of their influential chiefs, within practicable distance, wish to visit us, arrange such a visit with them, and furnish them with authority to call on our officers, on their entering the U.S to have them conveyed to this place at the public expense. If any of them should wish to have some of their young people brought up with us, & taught such arts as may be useful to them, we will receive, instruct & take care of them. Such a mission, whether of influential chiefs or of young people, would give some security to your own party. Carry with you some matter of the kinepox; inform those of them with whom you may be, of it'[s] efficacy as a preservative from the small-pox; & instruct & incourage them in the use of it. This may be especially done wherever you winter.

As it is impossible for us to foresee in what manner you will be recieved by those people, whether with hospitality or hostility, so is it impossible to prescribe the exact degree of perseverance with which you are to pursue your journey. We value too much the lives of citizens to offer them to probable destruction. Your numbers will be sufficient to secure you against the unauthorised opposition of individuals or of small parties: but if a superior force, authorised, or not authorised, by a nation, should be arrayed against your further passage, and inflexibly determined to arrest it, you must decline its further pursuit, and return. In the loss of yourselves, we should lose also the information you will have acquired. By returning safely with that, you may enable us to renew the essay with better calculated means. To your own discretion therefore must be left the degree of danger you may risk, and the point at which you should decline, only saying we wish you to err on the side of your safety, and to bring back your party safe even it if be with less information.

As far up the Missouri as the white settlements extend, an intercourse will probably be found to exist between them & the Spanish post of St. Louis opposite Cahokia, or Ste. Genevieve opposite Kaskaskia. From still further up the river, the traders may furnish a conveyance for letters. Beyond that, you may perhaps be able to engage Indian to bring letters for the government to Cahokia or Kaskaskia, on promising that they shall there receive such special compensation as you shall have stipulated with them. Avail yourself of these means to communicate to us, at seasonable intervals, a copy of your journal, notes & observations, of every kind, putting into cypher whatever might do injury if betrayed.

Should you reach the Pacific ocean inform yourself of the circumstances which may decide whether the furs of those parts may not be collected as advantageously at the head of the Missouri (convenient as it supposed to the waters of the Colorado & Oregan or Columbia) as at Nootka sound, or any other point of that coast; and that trade be consequently conducted through the Missouri & U.S. more beneficially than by the circumnavigation now practised.

On your arrival on that coast endeavor to learn if there be any port within your reach frequented by the sea-vessels of any nation, & to send two of your trusty people back by sea, in such way as shall appear practicable, with a copy of your notes: and should you be of opinion that the return of your party by the way they went will be eminently dangerous, then ship the whole, & return by sea, by way either of cape Horn, or the cape of good Hope, as you shall be able. As you will be without money, clothes or provisions, you must endeavor to use the credit of the U.S. to obtain them, for which purpose open letters of credit shall be furnished you, authorising you to draw upon the Executive of the U.S. or any of its officers, in any part of the world, on which draughts can be disposed of, & to apply with our recommendations to the Consuls, agents, merchants, or citizens of any nation with which we have intercourse, assuring them, in our name, that any aids they may furnish you, shall be honorably repaid, and on demand. Our consuls Thomas Hewes at Batavia in Java, Win. Buchanan in the Isles of France & Bourbon, & John Elmslie at the Cape of good Hope will be able to supply your necessities by draughts on us.

Should you find it safe to return by the way you go, after sending two of your party around by sea, or with your whole party, if no conveyance by sea can be found, do so; making such observations on your return, as may serve to supply, correct or confirm those made on your outward journey.

On re-entering the U.S. and reaching a place of safety, discharge any of your attendants who may desire & deserve it, procuring for them immediate paiment of all arrears of pay & cloathing which may have incurred since their departure, and assure them that they shall be recommended to the liberality of the legislature for the grant of a souldier's portion of land each, as proposed in my message to Congress: & repair yourself with papers to the seat of government.

To provide, on the accident of your death, against anarchy, dispersion, & the consequent danger to your party, and total failure of the enterprize, you are hereby authorised, by any instrument signed & written in your own hand, to name the person among them who shall succeed to the command on your decease, and by like instruments to change the nomination from time to time as further experience of the characters accompanying you shall point out superior fitness: and all the powers and authorities given to yourself are, in the event of your death, transferred to, & vested in the successor so named, with further power to him, and his successors in like manner to name each his successor, who, on the death of his predecessor, shall be invested with all the powers & authorities given to yourself.

Meriwether LewisMeriwether Lewis


Questions to consider with students:

Why would this huge piece of territory be important to the U.S.?


According to his letter, what use did Jefferson forsee for the Louisiana Purchase?


Did he have immediate goals which differed from his long-term goals for how the land would be used?


Examine each instruction Jefferson gave to Lewis. What would be the use of this sort of information? What does the variety of the information Jefferson requested illustrate about Jefferson and his world?


In what ways does the document illustrate the competition between European powers and the United States in the region? Do the instructions assume that one nation's claim on the continent is higher than anothers? Why?


What evidence is there that Jefferson has given a great deal of thought to the exploration appear in the instructions? What does this say about Jefferson as president? What does this say about Jefferson as an Enlightenment figure?


How does Jefferson instruct Lewis and Clark to treat the Indians they meet? Why does he require them to do so?


Jefferson wrote: "Altho' your route will be along the channel of the Missouri, yet you will endeavor to inform yourself, by enquiry, of the character & extent of the country watered by its branches, & especially on its Southern side." What does this instruction signify? Why "especially on its Southern side"?


The famous historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued in 1893 that the land on the other side of the "frontier" is "empty," despite Native American and Spanish settlement in the region. Why does Jefferson not do so in 1803?


Write a mission statement explaining the conquest or exploration of some territory.   Write slogans that encapsulate such a mission.


Write a list of what Jefferson wanted to accomplish

            Why would Lewis and Clark be willing to go on this venture?  


A Third Set of Activities: examining the “voyage” into the West


Preparation for the journey:

President Jefferson's choice to lead an expedition 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. While in the Army, Lewis had served in a rifle company commanded by William Clark. It was Clark whom Lewis chose to assist him in leading this U.S. Army expedition, commonly known today as the "Corps of Discovery." On February 28, 1803, Congress appropriated funds for the Expedition, and Jefferson's dream came closer to becoming a reality.

It was important for Lewis to gain certain scientific skills and to buy equipment that would be needed on the journey. In the spring of 1803, Lewis traveled to Philadelphia to study with the leading scientists of the day. Andrew Ellicott taught Lewis map making and surveying. Benjamin Smith Barton tutored Lewis in botany, Robert Patterson in mathematics, Caspar Wistar in anatomy and fossils, and Benjamin Rush in medicine. During this time, he also twice visited the arsenal at Harpers Ferry to obtain rifles and other supplies that he had shipped to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was to recruit men and make last-minute purchases before setting off on the Ohio River to meet Clark.

Coded Messages

In response to the opening of his mail by European postmasters during his service as Minister to France (1784-1789), Jefferson began to rely heavily on codes to send important messages. He belief in the in the practice was strong enough to prompt him to invent his own encoding device, the Wheel Cipher (seen at right). While it appears Jefferson abandoned the use of the Wheel Cipher after 1802, he continued to use codes throughout the remainder of his public career, including two that are associated with his communications with Lewis:

A model of Jefferson's Wheel Cipher

Thomas Jefferson's Compass



A Cipher dated April 20, 1803, that Jefferson sent to Meriwether Lewis to encode messages as the Expedition proceeded.

Students love this “coded messages” stuff!  Try an exercise using the link above to give you information about what a cipher is, and how it was used.

Who went?

Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and 31 other persons comprised the “Permanent Party” of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition. Although many individuals were associated with the military cadre during its 1803-1804 initial stages of travel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Fort Mandan, North Dakota, only those 33 members who journeyed from Fort Mandan to Fort Clatsop, Oregon, and returned comprised the Permanent Party. In addition, there was a 34th member – Seaman, Captain Lewis’ “dogg of the Newfoundland breed.”

The party of 33 included 29 individuals who were active participants in the Corps’ organizational development, recruitment and training at its 1803-1804 winter staging area at Camp Dubois, Illinois Territory; its journey up the Missouri River; and its stay at Fort Mandan, the expedition’s 1804-1805 winter headquarters. Two members originally recruited for the Pacific bound party, Privates Moses Reed and John Newman, were dismissed before the explorers reached Fort Mandan. Reed was convicted for desertion, and Newman for “mutinous acts.” Stiff sentences, including “100 lashes on [Newman’s] bear back” were imposed through trials by court martial proceedings. Due to the remote, wilderness places of their crimes, both remained with the party over the Fort Mandan winter, doing hard labor. They were sent downriver aboard the keelboat in the spring of 1806.

Two French-Canadian fur traders, Jean Baptiste LePage and Toussaint Charbonneau, were enlisted at Fort Mandan to replace Newman and Reed. LePage held the rank of private, and Charbonneau, together with his Shoshone Indian wife, Sacagawea, who would be burdened with their infant boy, Jean Baptiste, were recruited as interpreters. The Fort Mandan-to-Fort Clatsop personnel were of white, black, and red racial origins, plus mixtures of the three. The oldest among the men was Charbonneau, who was 47 years old. Sacagawea was a teenager thought to be approximately 17. Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom Captain Clark affectionately nicknamed “Pomp” and “Pompy” for his “little dancing boy” antics, was only 55 days old when the explorers departed Fort Mandan on April 7, 1805, bound for the Pacific Ocean.

The following are biographical vignettes of each of the 33 permanent party members. All the men were hand-picked; the two officers for their leadership abilities, and their detachment for frontier, hunting, woodcutting, specialized craftmanship, and interpreting skills. Those who distinguished themselves during the mission for their more than routine contributions, or were unique members, are treated individually. A total of 12 who made no special mark are listed collectively, with their individual activities noted in appropriate journal entries.

Lewis, on January 15, 1807, in transmitting to the Secretary of War his roll of the men who accompanied him on his exploring mission “through the continent of North America,” gave praise and gratitude collectively to the members of the Corps of Discovery:

“With rispect to all those persons whose names are entered on this roll, I feel a peculiar pleasure in declaring, that the Ample support which they gave me under every difficulty; the manly firmness which they evinced on every necessary occasion; and the patience and fortitude with which they submited to, and bore, the fatigues and painful sufferings incident to my late tour to the Pacific Ocean, entitles them to my warmest approbation and thanks; nor will I suppress the expression of a hope, that the recollection of services thus faithfully performed will meet a just reward in an ample remuneration on the party of our Government.” – Meriwether Lewis, Captain 1st U.S. Regt. Infty.

"We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden ... I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life."  --Meriwether Lewis


During much of their journey, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had no idea what they would encounter next. And, in a sense, that is how everyone lives every day. Even when we think we know what's around the corner, life can throw surprises at us. The story of Lewis and Clark is the universal story of human beings dealing with the unexpected. It's also great entertainment with a compelling cast of characters—an adventure, a road trip, a buddy story. It's about teamwork and failure and success. It brims with history and science.

Looking at historic maps of the West, students can begin to appreciate the immensity and mystery of the mission Lewis and Clark accepted. As "experts" investigating specific subjects assigned to Lewis by President Jefferson, students will conduct careful research. Reading brief diary entries of the men of the Corps will spark the interest of students as they relive the discoveries of the original participants.

"The lack of detail in maps circa 1803 hinted at the enormous task to be faced by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Before the journey, Meriwether Lewis had map collector Albert Gallatin make a special map that showed North America from the Pacific coast to the Mississippi."   The map depicted only three points of certainty: the latitude and longitude of the mouth of the Columbia and of St. Louis, and details of what was known of the Missouri River up to the Mandan villages in the Great Bend of the river (today's Bismarck, North Dakota). The map also estimated how the Rockies might look and the course of the Columbia River, which no one had charted beyond its mouth.

But the area that lay west of the Mandan villages was blank, and the best minds in the world could not fill in that blank until someone had walked the land, taken measurements and described the flora, fauna, rivers, mountains and people. Observations of the commercial and agricultural possibilities of the regions were equally crucial.

After reviewing the map, students can read excerpts from the trip diaries.   These are readily available on-line.

A key document:

Lewis's Packing List

In preparation for the journey, Meriwether Lewis wrote a list of necessary items to be taken. Due to Lewis's spelling, some of the words may not look familiar to you; please sound them out phonetically to understand them. See for a look at the manuscript version of the Indian gifts.  Much of that preparation involved education; in the months prior to his departure, Lewis would learn astronomy, botany, navigation, medicine and biology, among other scientific disciplines. In addition, Lewis spent his time accumulating all the supplies that the expedition was going to need. He wrote list after list of provisions, which included guns, ammunition, medical supplies and scientific instruments. While still on the East Coast, Lewis accumulated almost two tons of goods using the $2,500 Congress had allocated for the expedition.   Here is what Lewis bought:


Mathematical Instruments




Hadley's Quadrant



Mariner's Compas & 2 pole chain



Sett of plotting instruments






Cheap portable Microscope



Pocket Compass



brass Scale one foot in length



Magnetic needles in small straight silver or brass cases opening on the side with hinges.



Instrument for measuring made of tape with feet & inches mark'd on it,...









Sett of planespheres



Artificial Horizons



Patent log



papers of Ink powder



Metal Pens brass or silver



Set of Small Slates & pencils






Sealing wax one bundle



Miller's edition of Lineus in 2 Vol:












Blank Vocabularies



Writing paper



Pair large brass money scales with two setts of weights.

Arms & Accoutrements






Powder Horns & pouches complete



Pairs of Bullet Moulds



do. Of Wipers or Gun worms



Ball Screws



Pipe Tomahawks



large knives



Extra parts of Locks & tools for repairing arms



Gun Slings



best Flints




Lbs. Best rifle powder



lbs. Lead




3 pt. Blankets



Watch Coats with Hoods & belts



Woolen Overalls



Rifle Frocks of waterproof Cloth if possible



Pairs of Socks or half Stockings



Fatigue Frocks or hinting shirts



Shirts of Strong linnen



yds. Common flannel.

Camp Equipage



Copper kettles (1 of 5 Gallons, 1 of 3, 2 of 2, & 2 of 1)



falling Axes.



Drawing Knives, short & strong



Augers of the patent kind.



Small permanent Vice



Hand Vice



Gimblets assorted



Files do.



Chisels do.



Nails do.



Steel plate hand saws



Vials of Phosforus



do. Of Phosforus made of allum & sugar



Groce fishing Hooks assorted



Bunches of Drum Line



Foot Adzes



Bunches of Small cord



Pick Axes



Coils of rope






Bunches Small fishing line assorted



lb. Turkey or Oil Stone



Iron Mill for Grinding Corn



yds. Oil linnen for wrapping & securing Articles



yds do. do. Of thicker quality for covering and lining boxes. &c



yds Do. Do. To form two half faced Tents or Shelters.



Tin blowing Trumpets



hand or spiral spring Steelyards



yds Strong Oznaburgs



Iron Spoons



Pint Tin Cups (without handles)



Steels for striking or making fire



Flints for do. do. do.






Saddlers large Needles



Do. Large Awls



Muscatoe Curtains



patent chamber lamps & wicks



Oil Cloth Bags for securing provision



Sea Grass Hammock

Provisions and Means of Subsistence



lbs. Portable Soup.



bushels of Allum or Rock Salt



Spicies assorted



Kegs of 5 Gallons each making 30 Gallons of rectified pirits such as is used for the Indian trade



Kegs bound with iron Hoops

Indian Presents



lbs. White Wampum



lbs. White Glass Beads mostly small



lbs. Red Do. Do. Assorted



lbs. Yellow or Orange Do. Do. Assorted



Calico Shirts



Pieces of East India muslin Hanckerchiefs striped or check'd with brilliant Colours.



Red Silk Hanckerchiefs



Small cheap looking Glasses



Burning Glasses



Vials of Phosforus



Steels for striking fire



Small cheap Scizors



Pair large Do.



Groces Needles Assorted No. 1 to 8 Common points



Groces Do. Assorted with points for sewing leather



Common brass thimbles - part W. office



lbs. Sewing Thread assorted



Hanks Sewing Silk



lbs. Red Lead



lbs. Vermillion - at War Office



Knives Small such as are generally used for the Indian trade, with fix'd blades & handles inlaid with brass



Large knives



Pipe Tomahawks - at H. Ferry



lbs. Brass wire Assorted



lbs. Iron do. Do. generally large



Belts of narrow Ribbons colours assorted



lbs. Spun Tobacco.



Small falling axes to be obtained in Tennessee



fish Griggs such as the Indians use with a single barbed point - at Harper's ferry



Groce fishing Hooks assorted



Groce Mockerson awls assorted



lbs. Powder secured in a Keg covered with oil Cloth



Belts of Worsted feiret or Gartering Colours brilliant and Assorted



Sheets of Copper Cut into strips of an inch in width & a foot long



Sheets of Tin



lbs. Strips of Sheet iron 1 In. wide 1 foot long



Pc. Red Cloth second quality



Nest of 8 or 9 small copper kettles



Block-tin rings cheap kind ornamented with Colour'd Glass or Mock-Stone



Groces of brass Curtain Rings & sufficently large for the Finger



Groce Cast Iron Combs



Cheap brass Combs






Arm Bands Silver at War Office



Wrist do. do. Do.



Ear Trinkets Do. Part do.



Groces Drops of Do. Part Do.



doz Rings for Fingers of do.



Groces Broaches of do.



Small Medals do.

Means of Transportation



Keeled Boat light strong at least 60 feet in length her burthen equal to 8 Tons



Iron frame of Canoe 40 feet long



Large Wooden Canoe



Spikes for Setting-Poles



Boat Hooks & points Complete



Chains & Pad-Locks for confining the Boat & Canoes &c.




lbs. Best powder's Bark



lbs. Epsom or Glauber Salts



oz. Calomel



oz. Opium



oz. Tarter emetic



oz. Borax



oz. Powder'd Ipecacuana



oz. Powder Jalap



oz. Powdered Rhubarb



Best lancets



oz. White Vitriol



oz. Lacteaum Saturni



Pewter Penis syringes



Flour of Sulphur



Clyster pipes



oz. Turlingtons Balsam



lbs. Yellow Bascilicum



Sticks of Symple Diachylon



lb. Blistering Ointments



lbs. Nitre



lbs. Coperas

Materials for making up the Various Articles into portable Packs



Sheep skins taken off the Animal as perfectly whole aspossible, without being split on the belly as usual and dress'd only with lime to free them from the wool; or otherwise about the same quantity of Oil Cloth bags well painted



Raw hide for pack strings



Dress'd letter for Hoppus-Straps



Other packing




List copied from: Jackson, Donald, ed., Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: with Related Documents 1783 - 1854, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1978, pages 69-74.


Questions and activities for Students:

            1.  In the days when travel was limited to the capabilities of boat, horse and foot travel, what route would students have chosen to take through the territory to reach the Pacific Ocean?   Lewis and Clark traveled a total of 8,000 miles. How long would it take to travel that distance using these modes of transportation?
            2.  Describe some of the hazards faced by the Lewis and Clark expedition.

            3. Trace the journey on a U.S. map.     

            4.  List some of the discoveries made on the journey.

            5.  How did the expedition fulfill the charge given by Thomas Jefferson?

            6.  When would they have made fast progress, and when would they have slowed down?   What is the relative and geographic location of Philadelphia, PA, and its importance as the intellectual center of the nation and a port for trade and commerce at the time of the expedition.

            7.  What were the purposes of Lewis's visit to Philadelphia in 1803 was to procure supplies and equipment for the expedition and to learn information from experts  How was the American Philosophical Society a leading source of information for Lewis?


List of Indian presents purchased by Meriwether Lewis, 1803
National Archives, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General.

What plants and animals did they see?  What did they eat along the way?  A couple of examples:


2,000 pounds, six feet tall at the humped shoulders

Its spirit was praised before every hunt with a tribal ritual dance. The buffalo supplied virtually everything that the Plain Indians needed to stay alive; food, clothing, tools, and housing. 

A.  Brains -  hide, preparation

B.  Skull  -  ceremonies, sun dance, prayer

C.  Horns -  cups, fire carrier, powderhorn, spoons, ladles, headdresses, signals, toys

D.  Tongue - best part of meat

E.  Beard -  ornamentation or apparel and weapons

F.  Rawhide -  containers, clothing, headdresses, food, medicine bags, shields, buckets, moccasin soles, rattles, drums, drumsticks, splints, cinches, ropes, thongs, saddles, stirrups, knife cases, bull boats, quirts, armbands, lance cases, horse masks, horse forehead ornaments, bullet pouches, belts

G.  Buckskin -  moccasin tops, cradles, winter robes, bedding, breechclouts, shirts, leggings, belts, dresses, pipe bags, pouches, paint bags, quivers, tipi covers, gun cases, lance covers, coup flag covers, dolls

H.  Hoof & Feet -  glue, rattles

I.  Meat -  (every part eaten)  pemmican (converted), hump ribs - immed., jerky (converted), inner parts eaten on the spot

J.  Four Chambered Stomach -  first stomach content: frostbite & skin diseases, liner: container for carrying and storing water, cooking vessel

L.  Bladder -  sinew pouches, quill pouches, small medicine bags

M.  Paunch -  lining for buckets, cups, basins, dishes

N.  Skin of hind leg  -  moccasins or boots

O.  Buffalo Chips -  fuel, signals, ceremonial smoking

P.  Tail -  medicine switch, fly brush, lodge exterior decorations, whips

Q.  Bones -  knives, arrowheads (ribs) , shovels, splints, winter sleds, arrow straighteners, saddle trees, war clubs, scrapers (ribs), quirts, awls, paint brushes (hipbones), game dice

R.  Muscles -  sinew: bows, thread, arrows, cinches, glue 

S.  Hair -  headdresses, saddle pad filler, pillows, ropes, ornaments, halters, medicine 

T.  Whole Animal - totem, clan symbol, white buffalo sacred, adult yellow rare-prized



Coho Salmon
<< Coho Salmon




Sockeye Salmon Sockeye Salmon >>   Nations on the Columbia River based their economy, culture and religion on salmon fishing.


For more images of animals, plants, and environmental conditions on the expedition, see:


More Activities for Students:

          Imagine you are Meriwether Lewis, and you're about to begin your journey into uncharted land. Write a letter to your mother that describes what President Jefferson has asked you to do. Explain why Americans must "get there first" and how the observations and discoveries you make will impact the future of the country.

            Or, can:

            Have students write a letter from President Jefferson to Congress asking for $2,500—the amount Jefferson requested—to fund the expedition. The letter must convince Congress of the importance of the mission to the U.S.

            Have students complete an "Application for Employment" to participate in the Lewis and Clark expedition. They should include special qualifications that would make them suitable for the mission.  

            How might other countries with claims to western land have perceived the Lewis and Clark expedition? From the perspective of a leader of another country, write a letter to President Jefferson that explains why and how you think the expedition may impact your country and your people.

            Have students think about a place where no one has ever been. (You might get a variety of answers, from the bottom of the ocean to another galaxy.) Ask them what is known about these places. Are there preconceived ideas we have about them? Is information available about these sites? Have we been able to see these sites even if no one has visited them? How have we obtained information about these places so far?

            Invite students to discuss what they would do to prepare for a journey to a location where no one has ever been and/or for which there is limited information. Ask whether myths about the place might dissuade them from visiting it or entice them to explore.

            Explain that although people already lived in the region where Lewis and Clark visited, to the European people who had settled the eastern United States, the American West was a mysterious place. Invite students to discuss what Lewis and Clark must have imagined about their journey - particularly the places they would visit - before they embarked upon it.

            Show the segment of Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery in which John Allen compares the journey of Lewis and Clark to Apollo 13’s journey to the moon. Invite students to discuss any similarities and differences between the two journeys. For example, Allen notes that Apollo 13 was able to maintain contact with people on earth while it traveled through space. Lewis and Clark were isolated, without the means to report their day-to-day experiences with others.

            Have students write and illustrate journal entries in the voice of expedition members before they embark on their journey. The journal entry should discuss what they expect to find, what they fear, what they will miss, and where they plan to go. It can include, for example, sketches of the animals they might see, the terrain they can expect to cross, etc.

            Ask students if they know what a compass is. If yes, ask whether they have ever used one. Show students a compass (or several different models), explaining and demonstrating how it functions and for what it is typically used. Explain that the compass was perhaps the primary navigational tool Clark used to map locations it visited.   Or:  Allow students to experiment with the compass to locate a direction and then discuss the experience. Was the compass helpful? What did they need to know in order to use the compass? Is a compass always accurate?


Other activities:

          If, for example, you wish to combine history, geography, and other social studies standards in this unit about Lewis and Clark with science standards, you can analyze the Journals.   The expedition had a number of scientists along with them.   Journal entries are available at:  Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. 

            Assign small groups specific aspects of the expedition and related diary entries to explore. Groups could include "specialists" in zoology (animals), botany (plants), meteorology (weather), Native American cultures, and geology/geography. Each group is given or searches online for the diary entries related to the assigned "specialty."   You can download a list of the diary entries by category.   This unit works very well when you have a few wildflower, insect, trees, animal and other identification handbooks on hand for students to use as they discover what the expedition members saw along the route.




Nations that Lewis & Clark encountered










A Fourth Set of Activities: Native American Encounters

Always a man of dichotomies, Jefferson admired and lauded Native Americans as "noble savages" but he believed that the Indian way of life could no longer exist in an expanding United States.  . The only Indians he saw, as a boy, were "civilized". They were romantic characters to the young lad when they stopped at the Jefferson home on their way to Williamsburg. It was during Jefferson's presidency that the basic decisions were made that required the deportation of massive segments of the Indian population to land west of the Mississippi..."the seeds of extinction" for Native American culture were sown under


Explain to students that as they study details of the Corps of Discovery, they should be aware that areas the travelers explored were already inhabited by many different Native Americans tribes, who had established governments, lifestyles, economic bases, and trading and territorial boundaries. The primary group of Native Americans with whom the expedition interacted was the Lakota, one of the Seven Council Fires of the Dakota Nation.  While Lewis and Clark gave names to—and recorded on maps--locations and landmarks, they were actually renaming sites the Lakota had already claimed. 

An activity:   Have students look up important place names and people among the Native American groups:  Sacagawea;  Mandan;  Shoshone;  Nez Perce;  consult maps to plot where different groups of Native Americans were.

Questions to pose:  What would Native Americans have experience when the expedition came West?  Why were some friendly, and some hostile?    The Shoshone were very friendly, but the Blackfeet were hostile.   Why?  Why would some welcome the opportunity for trade and sharing resources, and others have responded with fear?

Use:  the Lewis and Clark expedition journals, for colorful information about the responses of Native Americans.

Jefferson’s lifetime interest in Native Americans can also be seen in his long term effort to collect and catalogue Indian vocabularies. He worked on this extensively during his Presidency, perhaps as way of relieving the stress of office. But, the office, also, gave him new resources. On July 4, 1801, his first year as president, Jefferson held a reception for five Cherokee chiefs where he queried them for his vocabularies study. When he sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition of the Louisiana Territory he tasked them to collect linguistic records of all the tribes they encountered.

On one hand, Jefferson had ordered Lewis and Clark to offer friendship, trade, education, and even to offer vaccination for smallpox to the Indians.

On the other hand, as soon as Louisiana was purchased, during his first term, he embarked on a cold-blooded policy toward Native Americans. Jefferson, in a lengthy letter to William Henry Harrison, military governor of the Northwest Territory, explained the nation's policy "is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate their affectionate attachment from them, by everything just and liberal which we can do for them within the bounds of reason." Having said that, Jefferson then instructs Harrison on how to get rid of every last independent tribe between the Atlantic states and the Mississippi.  In secret messages to his cabinet and Congress, Jefferson outlined a plan for removal of all Native Americans east of the Mississippi to make sure that this land would never fall to the French or the British.  Jefferson was even less sentimental and more direct during his second inaugural address in 1805. Even the area west of the Mississippi would no longer be available to the Indian. 

There were over 50 tribes along the Lewis and Clark trail whom the explorers met.

"I believe the Indian then to be in body and mind equal to the whiteman," Jefferson wrote to the Marquis de Chastellux. Only their environment needed to be changed to make them fully American in Jefferson's mind. Even though many American Indians lived in villages and many engaged in agriculture, hunting was often still necessary for subsistence. It was this semi-nomadic way of life that led Jefferson and others to consider Indians as "savages." Jefferson believed that if American Indians were made to adopt European-style agriculture and live in European-style towns and villages, then they would quickly "progress" from "savagery" to "civilization" and eventually be equal, in his mind, to white men. As President, Jefferson would try to make these changes a reality. First, Jefferson wanted to guarantee the security of the United States and so sought to bind Indian nations to the United States through treaties. The aim of these treaties was to acquire land and facilitate trade, but most importantly to keep them allied with the United States and not with European powers, namely England in Canada and Spain in the regions of Florida, the Gulf Coast and lands west of the Mississippi River.

Secondly, Jefferson used the networks created by the treaties to further the program of gradual "civilization." His Federalists predecessors had begun this program, but it was completely in keeping with Jefferson's Enlightenment thinking. Through treaties and commerce, Jefferson hoped to continue to get Native Americans to adopt European agricultural practices, shift to a sedentary way of life, and free up hunting grounds for further white settlement.  The desire for land raised the stakes of the "civilization program." Jefferson told his agents never to coerce Indian nations to sell lands. The lands were theirs as long as they wished, but he hoped to accelerate the process. The "civilization program" would thus aid the Indians in accordance with Enlightenment principles and at the same time further white interests.

American Indian peoples were divided as to how to respond to Jefferson's policies. The Shawnee chief Black Hoof embraced the "civilization program," and he and many Shawnee settled within the state of Ohio and lived as farmers, while the Shawnee war leader Tecumseh took a different course and led the formation of a pan-Indian resistance movement against the United States government in the years prior to the War of 1812. Some of the Indian nations in the South also accepted the "civilization program" and eventually became known as the "Five Civilized Tribes." Many in the Creek and Cherokee nations built towns and plantations, and some individuals held African American slaves just as their white neighbors. Yet many southern Indians remained skeptical of "civilization" and joined Tecumseh's movement. Among the Creeks, a distinct anti-white resistance movement called the Red Sticks rose against the United States and the Creek nation itself during the War of 1812.

Sacajawea is well-known as the Indian woman who led Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition to find the Pacific Ocean. The truth is a bit different from the movie and children's book versions, however. In fact, Sacajawea was not officially a member of the expedition party. Her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, was hired as an interpreter and took Sacajawea along. She was allowed to join the party as an unofficial member because the captains thought she would be useful to help in communicating with some of the Indian tribes they met and also in obtaining horses from her native tribe, the Shoshone.

Sacajawea was born about 1790 in what is now the state of Idaho. She was one of the "Snake People," otherwise known as the Shoshone. Her name in Hidatsa was Tsi-ki-ka-wi-as, "Bird Woman. In Shoshone, her name means "Boat Pusher." She was stolen during a raid by a Hidatsa tribe when she was a young girl and taken to their village near what is now Bismark, N. Dakota. Some time afterward the French-Canadian trapper and fur trader, Charbonneau bought Sacajawea and her companion, Otter Woman, as wives. When her husband joined the expedition at Fort Mandan in the Dakotas, Sacajawea was about 16 years old and pregnant.

The expedition spent the winter at Fort Mandan and Sacajawea's baby, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, was born on Feb. 11 or 12, 1805. He was also given the Shoshone name, Pomp, meaning First Born.   The expedition resumed the westward trek on April 7, 1805. Their route was along the Missouri River, west to the mountains. On May 14, 1805 an incident occurred which was typical of the calmness and self-possession Sacajawea was to display throughout the journey. The incident was recorded in the diaries because of it's significance to the success of the expedition. On that day, the boat Sacajawea was in was hit by a sudden storm squall. It keeled over on it's side and nearly capsized. As the other members of the crew worked desperately to right the boat, Sacajawea, with her baby strapped to her back, busied herself with retrieving the valuable books and instruments that floated out of the boat. They had been wrapped in waterproof packages for protection and, thanks to Sacajawea's courage and quick actions, suffered no damage.

Contrary to popular opinion, Sacajawea did not serve as a guide for the party. She only influenced the direction taken by the expedition one time, after reaching the area where her people hunted she indicated they should take a tributary of the Beaverhead River to get to the mountains where her people lived and where Lewis and Clark hoped to buy horses.

On August 15, 1805 Sacajawea was re-united with her tribe, only to learn that all her family had died, with the exception of two brothers and the son of her oldest sister, whom she adopted. One of her brothers, Cameahwait, was head chief of the Shoshone. The Shoshone chief agreed to sell the party the horses they needed for the trek through the mountains. He also sketched a map of the country to the west and provided a guide, Old Toby, who took them through the mountains and safely to the Nez Perce country. where they resumed river travel.

Throughout the expedition, Sacajawea maintained a helpful, uncomplaining attitude of cheefulness in the face of hardship. This was so remarkable that it was commented on by all the men who kept diaries. There is one record of her complaining, however. While wintering on the Columbia River before starting their journey back to the east, nearby Indians reported that a whale had washed up on the beach about 35 miles from the fort. Sacajawea said that she had traveled a long way to see the great waters and, now that a monstrous fish was also to be seen, she thought it "very hard" that she could not be permitted to see it, and the ocean too. Captain Clark took a party of two canoes, including Sacajawea and her husband, to find the whale and possibly obtain some blubber. By the time they arrived there was nothing left but the skeleton, but they were able to buy about 35 pounds of blubber.

After the expedition was over in the summer of 1806, Sacajawea, her husband and son remained at Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark had found them. In August 1806, Captain Clark wrote to Charbonneau and invited him to come to St. Louis and bring his family, or to send Jean Baptiste to Clark for schooling.  Charbonneau and Sacajawea accepted the offer and lived near St. Louis for a time. In March 1811, however, Charbonneau sold his land back to Clark and returned to the Dakotas with Sacajawea. Their son remained in St. Louis in the care of Cpt. Clark, who was the Indian Agent of the Louisiana Purchase at that time.

What became of Sacajawea after leaving St. Louis? There are two widely varying stories, with no proof of either. The first is that she died on Dec. 20, 1812. This information came from the records of John C. Luttig, the clerk at Ft. Manuel, SD who wrote: "This evening the wife of Charbonneau, a Snake squaw, died of a putrid fever. She was a good and the best woman in the fort, aged about 25 years. She left a fine infant girl." It is a fact that, in March 1813, John Luttig returned to St. Louis with a baby whom he called "Sacajawea's Lizette." In August 1813, he applied to be her guardian, as well as that of a boy called "Toussaint," but the court record shows his name crossed out and Cpt. William Clark's written in. Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was often called Toussaint. John Luttig died in 1815.

Shoshone oral tradition says that Sacajawea did not die in 1813, but instead, wandered the west for a few years and eventually returned to her tribe on the Wind River Reservation. Tradition says she died there on April 9, 1884, a venerated and influential member of the tribe, and is buried between her son, Jean Baptiste, and her sister's son, Bazil, whom she adopted. There is a monument over the grave on the Wind River Reservation, of the woman called Sacajawea. Many people who were living at the time wrote and told that it was she who traveled with Lewis and Clark to the great water and that the woman who died at Fort Manuel was another wife of Toussaint Charbonneau.  There is no record of what became of Lizette. There is a baptismal record in Westport, MO for Victoire, daughter of Joseph Vertifeuille and Elizabeth Carboneau. It is not known if this was Lizette Charbonneau, Sacajawea's daughter or not.


Interior of a Chinook House along the trail:

photo: sketch of Clatsop House Interior


An Indian children’s game:

One of the games of amusement and risk of the western Indians consists in hiding in the hand some small article about the size of a bean. This they throw from one hand to the other with great dexterity accompanying their operations with a particular song which seems to have been adapted to the game. When the individual who holds the piece has amused himself sufficiently by exchanging it from one hand to the other, he holds out his hands for his competitors to guess which hand contains the piece. If they hit on the hand which contains the piece they win the wager; otherwise they lose. The individual who holds the piece is a kind of banker and plays for the time being against all the others in the room. When he has lost all the property which he has to venture, or thinks proper at any time, he transfers the piece to some other who then also becomes banker.
From:  Stewart Cullin, Games of the North American Indians: Volume 1, Games of Chance (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992).

Bead money, also used as jewelry in northern tribes:




Additional sources to use: -- full text of the Lewis and Clark expedition journals and a lot of ancillary material, including images of expedition people and numerous Native American village sites and homes, as well images of animals and plants from journey. -- Monticello site that contains a wealth of information about the Lewis and Clark events

Gordon Wood, Revolutionary Characters (2005)

Carolyn Gilman, Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2003.

James P. Ronda, Lewis and Clark among the Indians. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

"How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark" by Rosalyn Schanzer (Scholastic, Inc., 1997) 

"In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark" by Gerald S. Snyder (National Geographic Society, 1970) 

Donald Jackson, ed. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents. Second Edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978 (2 Volumes).

Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson III (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1897), pp. 194-199.

Bruchac, Joseph. Sacajawea: The Story of Bird Woman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Hardcover, 128 pages (February 28, 2000) Silver Whistle; ISBN: 0152022341. Reading level: Young Adult

Roop, Coonie and Roop, Peter Geiger. Girl of the Shining Mountains: Sacagawea's Story. Hardcover, 144 pages (October 1999) Hyperion Press; ISBN: 0786804920. Reading level: Ages 9-12

Rowland, Della. The Story of Sacajawea. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989. Illus. by Richard Leonard. Reading level: Grades 3-5