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Jefferson`s Instructions to Meriwether Lewis


Jefferson’sInstructions to Meriwether Lewis

Jefferson’s Instructions to Meriwether Lewis

The document is entitled “Jefferson’s Instructions to MeriwetherLewis.” It was written by Thomas Jefferson on June 20, 1803.Notably, the letter was addressed to Meriwether Lewis.

The author mentioned several important factors. Firstly, Jeffersongave Lewis the mandate to carry out the mission in his capacity assecretary of the American president. The latter was also permitted toserve as the commanding officer to several attendants. This fact isimportant since it shows the intimate relationship between aPresident and his secretary. Secondly, Jefferson instructed Lewis toexplore the Missouri river. He wanted to ascertain the most directcommunication route that would make it possible to carry outcommercial activities. This detail is significant because it showsthe extent to which trade was pursued. Jefferson’s letter alsoshows the value of water transport at the beginning of the 19thcentury. The U.S. sought to have business dealings with both Europeanand Asian countries.

Thirdly, Jefferson instructed Lewis to acquire sufficient knowledgeof the state of morality, information and religion. Consequently,Lewis would be empowered to civilize others and help them adapt toexisting practices. This fact was important since it showed thestrength of American existentialism. In particular, the countryviewed itself as superior to other nations. Hence, the U.S. had theright to extend its laws and principles to other people. Jeffersonconsidered it vital to ensure that American ideals were not onlyaccepted but assimilated in different regions.

One of the most important instructions occur when Jefferson statedthat, “To provide, on the accident of your death, against anarchy,dispersion, &amp the consequent danger to your party, and totalfailure of the enterprize, you arehereby authorised, by any instrument signed &amp written in your ownhand, to name the person among them who shall succeed to the commandon your decease, and by like instruments to change the nominationfrom time to time as further experience of the charactersaccompanying you shall point out superior fitness.” This quote issignificant since it revealed the extent to which Jefferson waswilling to trust his secretary. In particular, Lewis could choose hissuccessor upon his death.


The document does not answer why Lewis would need to use 10 to 12people. Also, the roles of these individuals were not specified.Furthermore, the document does not reveal why Jefferson felt the needto civilize and instruct other people. The author also failed tostate why Lewis could not challenge any superior force. The primarysource enriches my understanding of the topic since it revealsintimate details. Besides, it presents an objective view devoid ofinterpretation or subjectivity.


Jefferson’s Letter to Meriwether Lewis. (2016, November 13).Retrieved fromhttp://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&amppsid=3938