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Corps of Discovery - Why Didn’t Lewis Ever Finish the Journals for Jefferson?

Patrick Gass journal and sketch

When Meriwether Lewis returned to the eastern United States after his explorations, he carried with him the unedited copies of his and William Clark’s journals of the trip. These journals contained a treasure-trove of information on people encountered, terrain, flora and fauna, and navigation. It is suspected that as a result of Lewis’s growing mental illness and other personal problems, he was incapable of getting to the editing job. Jefferson constantly wrote to Lewis asking about the project and its completion, only to be met with virtual silence. After his death in 1809, the journals were returned to Washington where other editors took up the job. In the interim, Patrick Gass, one of the Corps of Discovery members, published his journals of the trip and its findings. This caused both Jefferson and Lewis considerable distress, and probably added to Lewis’s declining frame of mind.

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