This text, written by Captain Meriwether Lewis at Fort Mandan on April 7th, 1805, may be regarded as one of the main turning points of the expedition. Indeed, the long and harsh winter they endured when they could not move on westward to the Missouri River since it was blocked with ice and when they mostly depended on food provided by the Indians to survive, does not seem to have worn down the Corps of Discovery's optimism. They have taken advantage of this period of motionlessness to reinforce some essential standards, which allow Lewis to think that they have taken no chances to cope with the unknown in the best conditions.
The permanent part of the expedition is eventually formed where everyone occupies a precise place with a precise role to perform for the Corps to carry on safely. We will see how, through Lewis's writing, this expedition comes within the scope of Jefferson's policy and sets up the starting point of a new era by shaping some of the great American myths. In fact, these men are on the verge to explore a pristine part of North America, following Jefferson's instructions to establish the control of the United States over the newly bought Louisiana territory.
[...] Lewis had inherited those erroneous ideas while being instructed, and we may find them turned into anxiety on the threshold of the unknown: good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine.” The manifold steps described by Lewis before the departure from Fort Mandan indicate that the expedition closely refers to Jefferson's instructions as a guideline: gave to Richard Warfington ( ) our dispatches to the government ( ) and a number of articles to the President of the United States. [...]
[...] We have seen that Lewis expresses great optimism concerning the ability of the expedition to fulfil its mission, optimism which rests on the union of the party and the success in carrying out Jefferson's instructions since then about science and Indians (save for their altercation with the Teton Sioux.) Nonetheless, if we have noted that this unity among men may prefigure future union, we can notice that, even if the journey was strictly organised, Lewis shared some emotion and anxiety in a journal which appears through this text like a diary could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life.” good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine,”) and the image of human beings who start a great prospect from scratch can match the concept of self-made men as well ) These little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves.”) This concept of self-made man is well illustrated by Lewis when he makes a parallel between the destiny of his expedition and those of great adventurers and explorers that came before him. [...]
[...] It is ironic for us nowadays for it illustrates clearly the fact that Lewis and Clark deeply believed to be the first human beings to travel in this part of the continent. The word “civilized”, even if it does not express the same connotations as today, well reinforces Lewis's sense of mission. In fact, one of the main objectives of Jefferson's instructions was to establish friendly contact with Indians in order to establish trading relations subsequently. However, the Natives had to be informed that from then on they lived in the United States of America which were led by the “Great Father”, Thomas Jefferson, which implied, in an underlying way, that they had to accept “civilized” standards. [...]
[...] At this period of time, before leaving Fort Mandan, the Corps eventually reached a stable team where everyone happened to have been carefully chosen by the captains according to their very utility to ensure the good running of the journey: gave Richard Warfington ( ) the charge of the barge and of the Frenchmen by the Name of Gravline ( ) an excellent boat-men is imployed to conduct the barge as a pilot,” Gravlin who speaks the Ricara language extremely well, has been imployed to conduct a fex of the Ricara chiefs to the seat of the government ( The carefulness brought in the mounting of the expedition can be seen in the very choice of the two captains who perfectly complement each other. [...]
[...] In Jefferson's mind, the rivers Lewis and Clark had to spot would serve two major aims: First, they would encourage the development of commerce between people by allowing to carry goods in a faster way, second, according to the president's politics of expansion, they would be regarded as perfect natural frontiers in the elaboration of an empire. Considering that the key objective of the journey was to find and map a water passage across the continent to the Pacific Ocean, canoes and pirogues had to be looked after with special care as the most invaluable goods of the Corps of Discovery. [...]
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