Chapter 1 Youth 1774 - 1792 Summary and Analysis
Meriwether Lewis's ancestry, birth, and early life are considered. Lewis is born August 1774 in Virginia to William Lewis and Lucy Lewis nye Meriwether, cousins. Lewis is born on the eve of the American Revolutionary War and his ancestry includes numerous military accomplishments in both lines. Lewis has an older sister, Jane, and a younger brother, Reuben. William Lewis dies of pneumonia in 1779; thereafter Nicholas Lewis, William's older brother, becomes family guardian pending Lewis' attainment of legal age. Lucy Lewis remarries in 1980 to John Marks, and has two additional children—John Hastings and Mary Garland. One significant family friend is Thomas Jefferson, future president of the United States of America and a nearby plantation owner. As a young boy, Meriwether spends a considerable amount of time out of doors, including accompanying a frontier pioneer group to a new settlement. He is considered to be curious, inquisitive, coolheaded, and courageous... Chapter 2 Planter 1792 - 1794 Summary and Analysis
During his youth, Lewis develops excellent skills in riding, hiking, and outdoor skills as well as a penchant for what he refers to as 'rambling'; that is, adventure and wilderness travel. He develops a scrupulous honesty and is widely considered trustworthy. He assumes plantation management with minor misgiving over having given up his formal education. Nevertheless, he is a capable administrator, constantly increasing the size of his land holdings. Like most other plantation owners, he is land rich and cash poor. Slaves work his plantation and, like most men of the era, Lewis is not troubled by the moral quandary slavery presents. He esteems Native Americans as the archetypical noble savage and believes that one day they will accept European civilization and become productive and co-equal citizens; he simultaneously considers African Americans somewhat sub-human and incapable of the degree of energy and self-direction necessary for independent success in a free-enterprise... Chapter 3 Soldier 1794 - 1800 Summary and Analysis
During the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, many young men, once children of the American Revolution, enlist in the military as a show of patriotic fervor. Among the new inductees is Meriwether Lewis who enlists as a private. Although only a private his considerable wealth, substantial education, and notable breeding ensure that, he spends most evenings in the company of officers. He finds life in the service enjoyable and fulfilling. Within a few months, he is commissioned an ensign in the Virginia Militia. After the rebellion is quelled the army ranks are rapidly thinned through cutbacks, but Lewis retains his position even with little experience—a fact which speaks well for his capability as a junior officer. He is eventually assigned to be army paymaster and spends many months traveling extensively through the western frontier areas of the growing nation. He meets most army officers personally and gets to know their opinions... Chapter 4 Thomas Jefferson's America 1801 Summary and Analysis When Thomas Jefferson becomes President of the United States of America, the nation numbers slightly less than five and one-half million people. That includes approximately one million slaves. Geographically, the nation is a vast open country, nearly limitless in potential, and nearly completely unknown. Overland travel is slow and difficult, seldom averaging more than a score of miles in a day—even over a rarely encountered roadway. Rivers form the dominant highways and are the only way to transport substantial bulk materials. The relative positions of the Eastern seaboard states are known, as is the position of the distant Oregon country. Roughly, three thousand miles of terra incognita lay in between. Jefferson incorrectly speculates that a water route along major rivers probably exists which could link the two population centers. Meanwhile, many European...
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