Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark


Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, December 4, 1783
Thomas Jefferson expresses concern over supposed British plans to explore North America from the Mississippi River to California and asks Clark if he would be willing to undertake such an exploration on behalf of the United States. Jefferson also addresses the ongoing Congressional debate over the location of the new capitol, believing a site on the Potomac River would be amenable to western states as they form.

Annapolis, Dec 4. 1783.

Dear Sir:

I received here about a week ago your obliging letter of Oct. 12. 1783 with the shells & seeds for which I return you many thanks. you are also so kind as to keep alive the hope of getting for me as many of the different species of bones, teeth & tusks of the Mammoth as can now be found. this will be most acceptable. Pittsburg & Philadelphia Maps: or Winchester will be the surest channel of conveyance: I find they have subscribed a very large sum of money in England for exploring the country from the Missisipi Maps: to California. they pretend it is only to promote knoledge I am afraid they have thoughts of colonising into that quarter. some of us have been talking here in a feeble way of making the attempt to search that country. but I doubt whether we have enough of that kind of spirit to raise the money. how would you like to lead such a party? tho I am afraid our prospect is not worth asking the question. the definitive treaty of peace is at length arrived. it is not altered from the preliminaries. the cession of the territory West of Ohio to the United States has been at length accepted by Congress with some small alterations of the conditions. we are in daily expectation of receiving it with the final approbation of Virginia. Congress have been lately agitated by questions where they should fix their residence. they first resolved on Trentown Maps: . the Southern states however contrived to get a vote that they
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would give half their time to Georgetown at the Falls of Patowmac Maps: . still we consider the matter as undecided between the Delaware Maps: & Patowmac Maps: . we urge the latter as the only point of union which can cement us to our Western friends when they shall be formed into separate states. I shall always be happy to hear from you and am with very particular esteem Dr. Sir

Your friend & humble Servt.
TH: Jefferson