The Lewis Family Essay

The Lewis family had been a part of the western movement from the very start, and was considered by Thomas Jefferson as “one of the distinguished families” of Virginia from the beginning The Lewis family’s history goes back many years. One of the earliest Lewis men was an uncle of Meriwether Lewis’ father, who was a part of the king’s council. Another Lewis married a sister of George Washington. The very first Lewis to keep journals as they traveled and explored was a Thomas Lewis, who accompanied Thomas Jefferson’s father on an expedition in 1746. Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774, during the eve of the American Revolution.

Lewis was born to William and Lucy Lewis as the second of three children. His father, William Lewis, was a Lieutenant and served as a commander of one of the first regiments in Virginia. He was thus enlisted in July 1775. Because of this, Meriwether Lewis did not know his father very well for the first years of his life. With William’s death that came shortly after, Lucy soon took to another marriage and bore two more children. Meriwether Lewis lived in Georgia for a few years, where he learned frontier skills. During his childhood, Lewis became drawn to exploration.

His adventurous spirit was a product of his experience in Georgia that cultivated his love for discovery. Jefferson once wrote that Lewis was “remarkable even in infancy for enterprise, boldness & discretion. When only 8 years of age, he habitually went out in the dead of night alone with his dogs, into the forest to hunt the raccoon & possum. ” This highlights Lewis’ natural inclination to the outdoors. According to family legend, at the age of eight or nine, Lewis had crossed a field with a few of his friends after a hunt when suddenly a bull appeared and charged at the young boys.

While the rest panicked and ran, Lewis stood his ground, pulled out his rifle, and shot the bull dead before it could harm anyone. Meriwether Lewis, not only loved the outdoors, but valued his education. He wanted knowledge and Georgia was not the place where he could acquire is desired education. Under Virginia’s laws of primogeniture, Lewis would inherit his father’s entire estate, which included a plantation of about 2,000 acres, 520 pounds in cash, 24 slaves, and 147 gallons of whiskey.

Because of this, at age thirteen his mother agreed that Lewis would return to Virginia to obtain proper education and learn the skills needed to manage the estate. While Lewis stayed in Virginia, he did not learn enough Latin or any other foreign languages to articulate extensively any writings in his future. He did not learn enough orthography for his spelling of English words either. However, Lewis read many different journals of exploration, especially of Captain James Cook. He had a solid base in botany and natural history, and was very learned in geography.

At age eighteen, he inherited his father’s plantation, and along with it the responsibly of his entire family; his mother, and his four siblings. His stepfather died and soon Lewis’ entire family moved back to Virginia with him. Lewis became dependent, confident, and self-reliant as a teenager and young man. He constantly persevered in all the obstacles the plantation brought forth, he had a good health, and a good mind set as he took the challenge of running the plantation. With his education and well developed character, he began his life as an adult.

In 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion broke out. Those who rebelled refused to pay the tax on whiskey, which was the principal product of the trans-Appalachian region. Frontier farmers revolted, some took up arms and shot revenue officers, and tarred and feathered them as well. As the chaos ensued, President George Washington ordered 13,000 militiamen from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland to suppress the rebellion. Meriwether Lewis was one of the first to enlist, motivated by both his yearning for adventure and the belief that those who rebelled were traitors to the country.

After the rebellion, Lewis remained in the army under his commander General Daniel Morgan and patrolled Pittsburgh. In August of 1795 Lewis was assigned to the army of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers. During the time Treaty of Greenville was signed that allowed for peace between the United States of America and numerous attacking Native American Tribes in the West. It was in this time that he served alongside William Clark. In late 1795, Lewis was reassigned to the Chosen Rifle Company where he served under the command of William Clark.

During his services, both Lewis and Clark developed a strong friendship However, Clark resigned his post as the Commander because of family matters and health issues that had developed. Lewis was then promoted to the rank of captain on December 5, 1800, and he gladly took the promotion. The next year, he was invited by President Thomas Jefferson who has been an acquaintance to him for many years to visit. Upon arrival, Meriwether was made the president’s private secretary and assistant.