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


Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Lewis Harvie

From Thomas Jefferson to Lewis Harvie, April 22, 1803
Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson writes to Lewis Harvie, informing him of Meriwether Lewis' progress in preparing for his expedition. Jefferson also reassures Harvie that questions between Spain and France over the Louisiana Territory will not interfere with the United States' acquisition of the region.

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Washington Apr. 22. 1803

Dear Sir

Since my return to this place I have been in the daily expectation that the stage of the day would bring back Capt. Lewis, and that then within a few days he would set out on his Missisipi Maps: expedition. it was only the day before yesterday I learned that he had been detained at Harper's ferry Maps: a month instead of a week, and that he is probably but about this time arriving at Philadelphia, where his stay is uncertain, tho' probably 1,2, or 3 weeks, after which he will return here for days only. this at least is the present view I have of his movements. I have delayed writing to you, because my great regard for Capt. Lewis made me unwilling to show a haste to fill his place before he was gone, & to counteract also a malignant & unfounded report that I was parting with him from dissatisfaction, a thing impossible either from his conduct or my disposition towards him. I shall probably receive a letter from his on his arrival at Philadelphia, informing me when he expects to be back here, and will have the pleasure of communicating to you the earliest conjecture I can form myself for your government. it cannot now be many days. You will have seen the letter of the Spanish minister, which we have forwarded to N. Orleans with an order from Spain to take off immediately the suspension of our right of deposit. to this I can add that we have formal assurances that the treaty of cession of Louisiana to France contained this clause "Saving the rights acquired by other powers in virtue of treaties made with them by Spain." that cession is probably not yet finally settled between those powers, which has occasioned an unwillingness in them to say any thing of it to [unclear]. Spain has been very sensible of our friendly forbearance, and of our dispositions towards her, on the late occasion, and to manifest her sense of it has broken through the reserve which circumstances had laid her under with respect to the cession of Louisiana.

Accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of esteem & respect.
TH: Jefferson.