- from Lewis & Clark
On March 4, 1801, a tall, redheaded Virginian named Thomas Jefferson was sworn in as the third president of a very young United States of America. The country was tiny, especially compared to its present size.
Americans knew there was a lot of land west of the Mississippi River. They knew Indians lived there. At that time, Native Americans were called Indians. Some white trappers had gone out there. But no one had any real idea what was truly out there. Jefferson intended to find out. But he knew he needed someone special to help. He found that someone in Meriwether Lewis.
When Jefferson became president, he appointed Lewis as his secretary. After the day’s work of state was done, the two men studied maps and explorers’ journals. They shared dreams of discovery. Jefferson was curious about the West. He was also ambitious. He wanted to make the United States a great empire: huge, powerful, wealthy, and free. Jefferson’s curiosity and interest were great, but he never made it west of the Mississippi. However, he made it possible for his young friend, Meriwether Lewis, to take the trip of a lifetime.