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A Journey into the Unknown

Marieanna Bair, Plank Road #236

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson sent Robert R. Livingston to France to negotiate with Napoleon the right to ship goods produced by United States’ citizens in the Ohio River Valley, out of the port of New Orleans.

To finance a war with England, Napoleon surprised Livingston with an offer to sell the whole of Louisiana for $6,000,000 - the Louisiana Purchase. Livingston, the American Minister to France and James Monroe, Minister Extraordinary, snapped it up.

The western boundary of the purchase was the Continental Divide, if anyone knew where that was, but Jefferson felt a faint claim to the Pacific might exist. This acquisition would assure trappers, loggers, farmers, etc. that they would be certain of an open Mississippi River and a safe, open port at New Orleans for their shipments of goods. This would also help keep Britain and Spain from possibly enlarging their holds in this new world.

To learn about their purchase, Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore and report what had really been acquired. Since this was 210 years ago, there were no reliable maps; no one knew exactly where the Rocky Mountains were; nor river headwaters; nor what kinds of flora, fauna, minerals and populace were present. No one really knew what was out there. They were to prepare maps of the territory they found.

In May 1804, Captains Lewis and Clark took off from St. Louis, up the Mississippi into an unmapped, unexplored world and would report what had been acquired to Jefferson – a journey into the unknown no one else could ever take on this earth.

References upon request.