President Jefferson’s Instructions to Captain Merriwether Lewis
20 June, 1803
To Meriwether Lewis, esquire, Captain of the 1st regiment of infantry of the United States of America.
The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by it's course & communication with the water of the Pacific ocean may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.
Beginning at the mouth of the Missouri, you will take observations of latitude and longitude at all remarkable points on the river, & especially at the mouths of rivers, at rapids, at islands, etc….
commerce which may be carried on with the people inhabiting the line you will
pursue, for a knowledge of these people is important. You will therefore
endeavor to make yourself acquainted…with the names of the nations & their
the extent & limits of their possessions;
their relations with other tribes or nations;
their language, traditions, monuments;
their ordinary occupations in agriculture, fishing, hunting, war,
arts, & the implements for these;
their food, clothing, & domestic accommodations;
the diseases prevalent among them, & the remedies they use;
peculiarities in their laws, customs & dispositions;
and articles of commerce they may need or furnish, & to what extent.
…In all your interaction with the natives, treat them in a friendly and respectful manner.
objects worthy of notice will be
the soil & face of the country, it's growth & vegetable
productions, especially those not of the U.S.
the animals of the country generally, & especially those
not known in the U.S. the remains & accounts of any which
may be deemed rare or extinct;
the mineral productions of every kind; but more particularly
metals, limestone,& coal;
climate as characterized by the thermometer, by the
proportion of rainy, cloudy & clear days, by lightening, hail,
snow, ice, by the access & recess of frost, by the winds,
prevailing at different seasons, the dates at which particular
plants put forth or lose their flowers, or leaf, times of
appearance of particular birds, reptiles or insects.
Two copies of your notes…should be made and entrusted to the care of the most trusty individuals in your party.
Put Jefferson’s instructions in your own words
Now you’re ready for your journey. Go to the National Geographic Society site and take your trip through the Louisiana Territory…