Frederick Bates, Part 1

portrait of a man

Photo: Thornhill Estate at Faust Park, St. Louis, Missouri

In 1807, Meriwether Lewis was appointed governor of the Territory of Upper Louisiana by President Jefferson. But Lewis had his hands full back East – trying to prepare the journals for publication, attending to family business, even seeking a suitable wife. As such, he didn’t assume his new post in St. Louis until March 1808.

Try as he may to govern the territory while in the East, it simply wasn’t practical. So in the governor’s absence, the territorial secretary, Frederick Bates, who envied Lewis’s position, began undermining the governor. Bates set his own regulations on trading and mining licenses and filled government positions with his favorite individuals. Plus, he frequently wrote to the president regarding his opinions of Lewis’s inability to administer the new territory.

To make matters worse, Lewis funded several projects with his own money and asked to be refunded by the War Department. While this was a common practice at the time, Bates managed to convince several people in Washington that Lewis was using these reimbursements for personal gain.

So it’s easy to understand that when Lewis arrived in St. Louis, he clashed with Bates over almost every issue, which resulted in an irreparable rift between the men.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: November 25, 2019