Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Day in Western History (Meriwether Lewis—Suicide or Murder Victim?)

October 12, 1809—Only three years before, it had appeared that no honor or glory would be beyond the reach of Meriwether Lewis, whose three-year, 8,000-mile expedition into the Louisiana Territory with friend William Clark had blazed a path for Americans in their newly acquired lands west of the Mississippi.

But on this date, the nation that had welcomed him back so rapturously was shocked to discover that the great explorer—more recently, the governor of the Louisiana Territory—had died under murky circumstances. Opinion divided immediately over whether Lewis had died because of murder or suicide. Most historians have chosen the first option, but, two centuries later, the matter really hasn’t been settled to the satisfaction of many.

Lewis’s shooting death in a room at the Grinder’s Inn, on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee, was not just any death of a public official. It wasn’t only that he had been governor of a territory whose size at once made the United States the most formidable presence on the North American continent.

No, Lewis was a personal favorite of Thomas Jefferson, even having served as the President’s private secretary at the beginning of the administration. And he wasn’t just an office-holder, but an intrepid hero who’d survived all kinds of danger to come back home to report on this new, unexplored land.

1 comment:

franceshunter said...

Thanks for posting this good blog about Meriwether Lewis and the controversy surrounding his death. I am a huge Lewis & Clark fan and the tragedy of Lewis's death is haunting, whether it was murder or suicide.

I posted several blog entries last week on the 200th anniversary of Lewis's death on "American Heroes" and would like to invite anyone who is interested to check them out.