Lewis and Clark’s expedition was a very contraversial but inevitable thing because of westward expansion, the trials of the times, how people saw race and women and sexual tensions, and the fact that this expedition was a very much needed thing for America.
Lewis led a team called the Corps of Discovery filled with one dog, and 59 people who ended up participating, but only 33 people had first ventured off onto their journey to the other ocean. During the story many social conventions were put the test, under extreme duress and need for survival sexual and racial bias were seen to their best and their worst.
Of course on their journey at the time they would come across the natives of the land, like the indians, this is where probably the most prominent role of women came up because of Sacagawea in the group was their translator, they had discovered difficulties at communicating, and their might of been another way of how and why they handled things how they did. This all culminated in us seeing Lewis as a hero, while at the same time a flawed but vulnerable man who made mistakes too.
He was just doing his best for the group. Even though he committed suicide he is still considered one of the toughest men in American history which is ironic, having endured the hardships and troubles of his journey that he did, just staying alive for the reason of getting it done. Maybe after everything he was just tired of it all and felt… achieved with his life and that he was done and did not want to live anymore. Who knows.
Sacagawea joined the trip because of the men stopping to build Fort Mandan. They had asked around with the trappers/natives of the area for an interpreter and guide, exactly what Sacagawea was supposed to do. They asked one man to come and he agreed and they found out his wife was Shoshone so they figured that would be incredibly useful so they asked her to come along.
Sacagawea was the only woman to go with Lewis and Clark on their trip, which is very surprising considering how vital this expedition was and how many people were in the corps. Since the men would encounter Natives very commonly and would have to deal with them Sacagawea was a translator and interperator for the group. She would help the groups communicate with each other avoiding conflict so that no one would die or cause another war.
Also her knowledge of the land was very needed. She was very good at helping track the area and helped with where they were, she could help the men from dieing by showing them what plants were edible and wouldn’t kill them with poison. Sacagawea was kind of pulled into the trip by her husband but she became a vital part of the group, as small of a role she had. Without them they probably would have died many times over whether by natives or a poisonous berry. After the expedition her son Little Pomp was so adored by Clark that he asked to keep him.
After awhile they finally accepted his offer and went to St. Luis with him after getting paid 500 something thousand dollars and 302 acres of land. They decided that life was not for them and left St. Luis while leaving little Pomp in Clarks care. Sacagawea does not have a widely accepted history of what happened to her after her death, but everyone can agree that while not being the main guide or interpretor to the group, she had a very vital small role.
Hero With Flaws
Lewis was an amazing man, able to do what he did and come back from it or even to just succeed what he did. So when I got to where he killed himself it stunned me honestly and I had to research a bit.
Lewis was a very depressed person who had always been like that since childhood, so when he got back to civilized life he was in extreme crushing debt and that’s the weight he felt on his shoulder the whole time he was back. He drank alot and sometimes got in to fights. He would treat people poorly, not answer the president Thomas Jefferson at the time. many things came together and culminated in his suicide.
On the other hand though… you KNOW what Lewis did, you know how he did it and that’s how he is a hero. I mean he saved countless people on the journey he crossed great rivers scaled mountains, made peace with natives and successfully completing his journey. He is a man with two faces and I would say that is properly recounted in the book.
Clark was also a man of both sides and rights and wrongs, he was a very strong hearty leader. He seemed to always do the right thing and in the book that much is obvious. Except the hint or two of just what are you doing? So I researched. Clark was a very, I would say tempered man. A guy that can easily be pushed over into such a rage or fit that he does something he may not mean/want to do.
After he got back to St. Luis with York his childhood friend and all the other people he would beat York occasionally and even jail him because he was “uppity”. That’s just appalling to me. Honestly that he would do that. In the book you can see where he WOULD do that and so I think Ambrose did a good job of reconciling both of the sides by showing us both and kind of make our own opinions off of what happened.
Social Conventions on the Expedition
During the time the “social conventions” as they are called were light years away from what we have now, or the progress that we have made. We will start with black people. They were obviously still enslaved and slavery would have lasted for years AFTER the expedition. Blacks were treated horribly like animals and like they were not to be anything but working mules who did the bidding of some fool.
While today black people are much considered as equal to whites and better in a lot of subjects or ways. It’s not really skin color anymore at least for me, it’s just about the person. There are those idiots around though that stick to the outdated old ways and try and put down people of color and blah blah they are dumb.
Next are women, who have never had it AS bad as blacks or even maybe natives but you could look at and say dang we did not treat them right at all or that they should not have been in the situation they were in. Women were not laborers or workers or even thinkers of themselves, they were around the house for the sole purpose of breeding, cleaning, cooking, all the house work and some.
Men obviously may have loved their wives but held the strong beliefs of these and those at times can cause them to treat them poorly. Today women are just like blacks, they have the same exact opportunities as anyone else and need to just work for it, they can vote they can go out and work construction for all they want, it does not matter. You can do anything today.
Natives, this is where this subject gets kind of bad. It looks good when you see how far society has come with other types of people that are not white males like women and blacks and natives are kind of blurred. The native people were heavily just slaughtered throughout history and even now I feel like are heavily frowned upon on their reservations. Not so much that they are Indian and the race part of it but they have land. Lots of that land has oil. So now today they are constantly being pushed to put a pipeline on it and blah blah. So I feel like its gotten better but the natives are still somewhat pushed on.
How It Pushed Westward Expansion (Conclusion)
Lewis and Clark are what kind of did the final drive to push Westward Expansion into its start. They were the reason million of pioneers and people would do the journey to go over and settle lands. They laid down an American presence in the land they just bought. If they would not have went on this expedition then the gold rush might not have ever happened and if it did then it would have taken years upon years longer to.
On the journey they pioneered many ideas to new modern society, the correct treatment of other people, the way that people have flaws, things like that. Their story is a great one and many lessons could be learned from it. They are heros in their own right and I’m glad that their mistakes have not tainted their legacy.
They are souley responsible for the westward expansion and creating of new states in America, causing many historical things to happen, new inventions, a country to grow and a land of the free to become even free, and garner opportunities never even conceived before. They are. Lewis and Clark.
- Ambrose, Stephen, Undaunted Courage (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1996), 521 pages
- Kelly, Kate, “Sacagawea, the only woman on Lewis and Clark’s expedition”. Chegg Step-By-Step instructions to fundamentals. https://americacomesalive.com/2014/04/01/sacagawea-woman-accompany-lewis-clark-expedition/ (accessed November 14th, 2018)
- Cohen, Betsy, “Historian: Lewis and Clark Had Their Flaws.” Missoulian, https://missoulian.com/news/local/historian-lewis-and-clark-had-their-flaws/article_3fee3c5e-be4f-5065-9e29-8a690d7c7021.html (November 15th, 2018)
- Walker, Marian, Duenas, Dominique, “Lewis and Clark: Westward Expansion” Marian Walker. https://lewisandclarkwwexpansion.weebly.com/expedition.html (November 15th, 2018)