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Document Number: AJ-090
Author: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
Title: Message from the President of the United States, Communicating Discoveries Made in Exploring the Missouri, Red River, and Washita, by Captains Lewis and Clark, Doctor Sibley, and Mr. Dunbar; with a Statistical Account of the Countries Adjacent
Source: Jefferson, Thomas. Message from the President of the United States, Communicating Discoveries Made in Exploring the Missouri, Red River, and Washita, by Captains Lewis and Clark, Doctor Sibley, and Mr. Dunbar; with a Statistical Account of the Countries Adjacent. (New York: Printed by Hopkins and Seymour, 1806).
Pages/Illustrations: 131 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-090/

Author Note

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), after an illustrious career as a patriot of the American Revolutionary War, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Secretary of State, Jefferson was elected the third President of the United States. As President, Jefferson brokered the purchase of 828,000 square miles of land from France now known as the Louisiana Purchase. To explore the new lands, Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to head an expedition into the newly acquired lands.

Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806

For a thorough summary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition's historical context and itinerary, and short biographies of both Clark and Lewis, see the 44-page introduction in volume one (AJ-100a) of the Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806 by the journals' editor, Reuben Gold Thwaites. For other documents related to the expedition, see AJ-097, AJ-140, AJ-146, AJ-147, and AJ-160.

Document Note

Jefferson’s Message, read in Congress on February 19, 1806, became the first separate publication of information from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It prints a long letter from Lewis and a detailed table providing data about each Indian nation that Lewis and Clark had met or learned about. Other reports were also included from John Sibley (1757-1837), a physician who had settled in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and began sending geographical information to officials in Washington about 1803, and William Dunbar (1749-1810), a Scottish-born scientist who emigrated to America in 1771 and settled in Mississippi; he was commissioned by Jefferson to explore the Ouachita (Washita) and Red River valleys.

The original edition of Jefferson's Message and companion reports was published in Washington, D.C. in a quantity of only one-thousand copies. These were rapidly consumed, and new editions were therefore quickly printed, with other book-length versions appearing in Washington, New York, Natchez, and London and extracts in magazines in Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities. Bibliographical details on the publishing history can be found on pages lxiii-lxv of document AJ-100a; an update of this bibliography can be found in The Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays (Portland, Oregon: Lewis & Clark College, 2003).

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The literature on Lewis and Clark is immense, both in print and on the web. For an online summary of it, see the 1904 bibliography by Victor Hugo Paltsits in document AJ-100a, pages lxi-xciii. This should be supplemented by The Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays issued by Lewis and Clark College in 2003, for twentieth-century publications.

A useful starting point for information about the expedition is the Library of Congress online exhibit, "Rivers, Edens and Empires: Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America," at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/lewisandclark/lewis-landc.html.

The National Archives has created many resources for teaching and learning about Lewis and Clark within its "We the People" web site at http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/lewis_and_clark/ lewis_and_clark.html. This includes digitized documents, background texts, photographs, and lesson plans.

The official report of the expedition, Nicholas Biddle's 1814 History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains and Down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, is online at the Library of Congress “Meeting of Frontiers” project at http://frontiers.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfsplash.html.

Other documents relating to the expedition are part of its "Louisiana Purchase Legislative Timeline" at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/louisiana5.html. These include the House of Representatives report on the "Explorations of the Western Waters of the United States" by Lewis and Clark, various acts to compensate the explorers for their labors, and documents concerning their appointments as governors of Missouri and Louisiana after the expedition.

Two web sites built as part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition bicentennial also contain helpful information and links. The U.S. government's site at http://www.lewisandclark200.gov/ is a cooperative venture of 32 federal agencies. The non-governmental National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial is a joint effort by historical societies, Indian nations, scholars, businesses, and all other interested parties; its web site is at http://www.lewisandclark200.org/.

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