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gentleman who had recently returned to France, after a long residence in the United States; “and who," as Mr. Jefferson remarks, “possessing the confidence of both governments, and the interests of both countries being the same in this matter, might conscientiously use his good offices." He says, “Our circumstances are so imperious as to admit of no delay as to our course; and the use of the Mississippi is so indispensable that we cannot hesitate one moment to hazard our existence for its maintenance. If we fail in this effort to put it beyond the reach of accident, we see the destinies we have to run, and
prepare at once for them; not but that we shall still endeavour to go on in peace and friendship with our neighbours, as long as we can, if our rights of navigation and deposit are respected; but as we foresee that the caprice of the local officers, and the abuse of those rights by our boatmen and navigators, which neither government can prevent, will keep up a state of irritation which cannot long be kept inactive, we should be criminally improvident not to take at once eventual measures for strengthening ourselves for the contest.” He excuses the United States for not offering for an object so important to them "such a sum as would ensure its purchase,” because they were an agricultural people, poor in money, and owing large debts, which would require, for fifteen years, a rigorous economy. And that the country in question, the Floridas, except the portion already granted, is a barren sand. That it was the love of peace alone which made it a desirable object with us, for whatever power held the country east of the Mississippi, became our natural enemy. Referring to former letters on the relations between the two countries, to prevent their getting into hands which might pervert them to mischievous purposes, he requests him to consign them to the flames. This letter was written some days after he had made application to Congress for the appropriation
of two millions for the purchase of Florida, but before they had acted on it. It deserves to be remarked that while his political opponents were charging him with a blind and absurd devotion to France, so as to be ready to postpone to her interests those of his own country, he was straining erery faculty to prostrate a favourite policy of the French government; and went so far as to hold out to them the alternative of war, and even an alliance with their most hated enemy, if they persisted in retaining possession of Louisiana.
Mr. Jefferson recommends an Exploring Expedition across the Conti.
nent. Meriwether Lewis-Amendments to the Constitution. Error of its framers. Ohio admitted into the Union. Proposed Retrocession of the District of Columbia. Repeal of Discriminating Duties, and Discontinuance of the Mint proposed. Dry Docks. Yazoo Purchase. Purchase of Louisiana-Its supposed tendency to a Separation of the Western States falsified by time. Constitutionality of admitting Louisiana into the Union. Objections finally waived. Difficulties created by Spain. Meeting of Congress. President's Annual Message. Treaty with France ratified, and possession taken of Louisiana. Professorship of Agriculture.
In pursuance of a recommendation from the president in a confidential message of the 18th of January, 1803, Congress made an appropriation for. defraying the expense of an exploring party across the continent to the Pacific. He considered that the United States would be justly subject to the reproach of the scientific world, if they longer delayed to obtain more accurate geographical knowledge of the western wilderness—a country highly interesting in itself, and which their people were destined one day to overspread. He was perhaps yet further stimulated to obtain a more accurate knowledge of the country, because he had a hope of obtaining it sooner or later from France. It had long been a favourite object with Mr. Jefferson to explore this part of the American continent. He had, when in France, recommended it to Ledyard, after he was disappointed in his project of engaging in the fur trade, on the north-west coast of America; and in 1792, he proposed to the American Philosophical Society to effect the same object by subscription. It was actually undertaken by Michaux, the well-known botanist, under the auspices of the society; but after proceeding as far as Kentucky, his purpose was countermanded by the French minister in the United States.*
In looking about for a fit person to conduct this enterprise, no one presented himself to his mind possessed of so many of the requisite qualifications as Captain Meriwether Lewis, who, reared in his neighbourhood, had been long known to him, and had for nearly two years acted as his private secretary. His character is thus faithfully sketched by Mr. Jefferson in a memoir of his life prepared for the posthumous narrative of the expedition: “Of courage undaunted; possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction ; careful as a father of those committed to his charge, yet steady in the maintenance of order and discipline; intimate with the Indian character, customs, and principles; habituated to the hunting life; guarded, by exact observation of the vegetables and animals of his own country, against losing time in the description of objects already possessed; honest, disinterested, liberal, of sound understanding, and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous, that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves.” The event well justified the propriety of the selection.
The exploring party, exclusive of a small escort as far as the Mandans, consisted of twenty-eight individuals, carefully selected, exclusive of Captain Lewis and Captain Jonathan Clarke, who was second in command. This gentleman was the brother of George Rogers Clarke, and partook of his capacity to endure hardship and encounter danger, as well
* Captain Lewis even then proffered his services, and was willing to engage in the enterprise with a single companion. See Life of Captain Lewis, page xi.
as his practical good sense. Mr. Jefferson prepared with his own hand a set of instructions for Captain Lewis, which seem to embrace every object which wisdom and forecast could suggest.* The greater part of the year having been spent in making the necessary preparations, it was thought ketter that the party should not enter the Missouri till the spring; and it was actually the 14th of May, 1804, before they left the banks of the Mississippi. During this interval Mr. Jefferson maintained a frequent correspondence with Captain Lewis, sometimes giving such further information of the country as he had been able to acquire, and sometimes making suggestions suited to its recent cession to the United States, but all showing how near the object was to his heart.
One of the most important measures of Congress at this session was, a proposed amendment to the federal constitution, by which the individuals severally voted for as president and vice-president should be designated by the electors, so as to take away one of the chances of an election by the House of Representatives, where, every state having an equal vote, an election may be made by the representatives of a small minority; and thus that individual whom every one had voted for as vice-president, and to whom there was no objection for that office, might be elevated to an office for which no one had originally intended him. issue was the more probable, as, generally speaking, the minority in the House, who had approved of neither of the two, would be likely to vote for the one who was the least acceptable to their opponents, that is, to the majority of the nation.
It is well deserving of notice that this feature of the con
* Though these instructions, as published, are dated the 20th of June, they were drawn and transmitted in the month of April. See Appendix (C).