Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark might be the most famous duo of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but before there was Clark, there was President Thomas Jefferson.
Soon after being elected the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson sought Meriwether Lewis as his private secretary. Both their families grew up together in Virginia, in which two of Jefferson’s relatives married members of the Lewis family, and Meriwether’s own uncle successfully managed all of Jefferson’s affairs while he served as a diplomat in Paris for four years.
So, why did Jefferson pick Meriwether for the job over other members of the Lewis family who he may have known better? Jefferson wrote that Meriwether Lewis was "a personal acquaintance with him, owing from his being of my neighborhood” and his experience as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army gave him "a knowledge of the Western country, of the army & it's situation”, something Jefferson strongly needed to know more about as he wanted to pursue westward exploration. He also needed to reduce the army’s size, and after a long and bitter election as the new party came to power, he would need Lewis’ inside knowledge of those who he could trust to support his presidency.
Lewis eagerly accepted Jefferson’s offer to be his personal secretary and provided two years of service before he became appointed the leader of the “exploring party”, soon to become the Corps of Discovery of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
To learn more about President Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Meriwether Lewis, check out this link:
Alt Text: Captain Meriwether Lewis and President Thomas Jefferson discuss the route of the proposed expedition on a map.