2004 37Â¢ Meriwether Lewis
Issue Date:Â May 14, 2004
City:Â Astoria, OR and various cities
Printed By:Â Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method:Â Lithographed, engraved
Perforations:Â Serpentine die cut 10 Â½ x 10 Â¾
Color:Â Blue and multicolored
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), President Jefferson wrote, was âbrave, prudent, habituated to the woods and familiar with Indian manners and character.â Â The President selected Captain Lewis to lead the Army Corps of Discovery to explore the new Louisiana Territory.
Lewis and Clark Explore the American Northwest (1804-06)
When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, he and his private secretary, Army Captain Meriwether Lewis, began to plan an expedition to explore the American West.Â Jefferson had many goals for the expedition.Â He hoped to establish a land-and-water route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, make contact with Indian tribes, and gather scientific information.Â In 1803, Congress appropriated funding for the expedition.Â Then, with the surprise acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase, the necessity of a survey of the West increased the importance of the journey.Â It was also hoped that the expedition would make land claims to the Oregon Territory.
Jefferson named Lewis the head of the expedition, and Lewis in turn named William Clark as his co-commander.Â The expedition members traveled about 8,000 miles on their journey.Â They departed from a camp near St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1804 and returned to the city in September 1806.Â The explorers had traveled up the Missouri and Jefferson Rivers, crossed the Rocky Mountains (with the help of the female Indian guide Sacajawea), then followed the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers down to the Pacific Ocean.Â On the return trip, the party split up to cover more ground.Â Lewis went down the Marias River, and Clark descended the Yellowstone.Â The expedition was greeted by cheering crowds as they returned to St. Louis on September 23, 1806.
An enormous success, the Lewis and Clark expedition allowed the U.S. to claim the Oregon region, which included the modern states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.Â It established peaceful contact with many Indian tribes, and described the areaâs natural resources.Â As a result, it opened vast new territories to American settlers.
Birth Of Meriwether LewisÂ
Explorer, soldier, and politician Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774, in Ivy, Albemarle County, Virginia.
The son of a solider that died of pneumonia in 1779, Lewis relocated to Georgia after his mother remarried the following year. Lewis didnât receive a formal education until he was 13, but until then he learned to become a skilled hunter and outdoorsman. He had a keen interest in natural history and learned from his mother how to gather wild herbs for medicinal uses.
When he was 13, Lewis was sent to Virginia to be educated by private tutors. He then attended Liberty Hall (present-day Washington and Lee University). After graduating, he joined the Virginia militia in 1794. In that role he helped put down the Whiskey Rebellion (a protest against the first domestic product tax of the new American government).
Lewis went on to join the U.S. Army in 1795. He would ultimately reach the rank of Captain, after which he left the military in 1801. During his service he first met William Clark who was then one of his commanding officers.
In April 1801, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Lewis as an aide. Living in the presidential mansion, he got to meet many leading political figures. After Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory, he appointed Lewis to lead the Corps of Discovery Expedition west. Lewis then selected his former officer Clark to share in the command.
The Corps began their journey in May 1804. Over the next two years they braved their way across the country in dangerous conditions. Along the way, Lewis kept a detailed journal and collected plant and animal samples. He was also shot by one of his men while hunting but survived the wound.Â Â Click hereÂ for more about the expedition.
Upon his return from the expedition, Lewis received 1,600 acres of land, and was later made governor of the Louisiana Territory. In that role, he published the first laws in the Upper-Louisiana Territory, created roads, and promoted the fur trade. He also negotiated peace among warring Indian tribes.
Assessments of Lewisâ work as governor are mixed, in part because it appears his secretary, Frederick Bates, hoped to remove him from the post and take his place. Among other things, Bate sent letters to Washington, D.C., claiming that Lewis had profited from a mission in which he returned an Indian chief to his tribe. Lewis had paid for the expensive trip with his own money, but was then denied reimbursement due to Batesâ claim.
On September 3, 1809, Lewis left to Washington, D.C., to clear up the situation. A month later, while spending the night at an inn in Tennessee, Lewis suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died shortly after. While his death was ruled a suicide, some, including his family, believed he was murdered.
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Click hereÂ to explore Lewisâ journals from the Corps of Discovery.