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Document Number: AJ-140
Author: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
Title: Jefferson Suggests Transcontinental Expedition to George Rogers Clark, 1783 [manuscript]
Source: Draper Manuscripts: George Rogers Clark Papers, 52 J 93-95, Wisconsin Historical Society.
Pages/Illustrations: 4 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third president of the United States, is sufficiently well-know to require no introduction. As president he authorized the Lewis and Clark Expedition (see the Journals, AJ-100, and related documents, AJ-090, AJ-097, AJ-146, AJ-147, and AJ-160), but he had been interested in western exploration long before.

Document Note

This December 4, 1783, letter shows Jeffersons early interest in exploring the West. The interlined comments in red ink were made before it came to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The original manuscript is in volume 52J of the George Rogers Clark Papers in the Draper Manuscripts at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

A basic biography of Clark, with many links to information about specific events in his life, is the Ohio Historical Societys “Ohio History Central” site at clarkgr.shtml

Many of Jefferson’s own publications are available online. For a complete listing, see the University of Pennsylvania’s “Online Books” portal at

The literature on Lewis and Clark is immense, both in print and on the web. For an online summary of it, see the 1904 bibliography by Victor Hugo Paltsits in document AJ-100a, pages lxi-xciii. This should be supplemented by The Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays issued by Lewis and Clark College in 2003, for twentieth-century publications.

A useful starting point is the Library of Congress online exhibit, “Rivers, Edens and Empires: Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America,” at

The National Archives has created many resources for teaching and learning about Lewis and Clark within its “We the People” web site at lewis_and_clark.html. This includes digitized documents, background texts, photographs, and lesson plans.

The official report of the expedition, Nicholas Biddle's 1814 History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains and Down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, is online at the Library of Congress “Meeting of Frontiers” project at

Other documents relating to the expedition can be viewed at the Library of Congresss American Memory project in its “Louisiana Purchase Legislative Timeline” at include the House of Representatives report on the “Explorations of the Western Waters of the United States” by Lewis and Clark, various acts to compensate the explorers for their labors, and documents concerning their appointments as governors of Missouri and Louisiana after the expedition.

Two web sites built as part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition bicentennial also contain helpful information and links. The U.S. governments site at is a cooperative venture of thirty-two federal agencies. The non-governmental National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial is a joint effort by historical societies, Indian nations, scholars, businesses and all other interested parties; its web site is at

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