Foreword by Robert J. Moore Jr., PhD
"Meriwether Lewis was famous for two things: leading the Corps of Discovery expedition (1804–06) and committing suicide. Danisi and Jackson (The Piikani Blackfeet: A Culture Under Siege) focus on Lewis's life before the expedition and his term as governor of the Louisiana Territory thereafter. By contrast, Stephen E. Ambrose's Undaunted Courage focuses on the expedition and Lewis's suicide. Danisi and Jackson introduce readers to the rough and tumble of Louisiana Territory politics, both internationally (Spanish territory to the southwest, British to the north and on the seas) and locally, including confusing French-Spanish land claims and relations with various Indian tribes. Through exhaustive, well-sourced research, the authors demonstrate Lewis's competent management of the territory until days before his death in October 1809, highlighting the bitter political battles and indifferent Washington bureaucrats and clearly refuting claims of diminished mental capabilities. They further confirm that Lewis suffered from recurring bouts of malaria, reinforcing a sense of his suffering as a motive for suicide. Whatever the cause of Lewis's early death, the nation has struggled to accept that a hero's life was cut short. This excellent biography does much to let the man shine forth. Highly recommended."
—Library Journal Starred Review
(Margaret Atwater-Singer, University of Evansville Libraries, IN)
"Independent historians Danisi and Jackson offer a meticulously researched ... account of Meriwether Lewis's life, focused primarily on the tragically short years after the famous Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–1806. The authors propose the novel but credible theory that Lewis's mysterious 1809 death, generally considered a suicide, was a result of unwitting self-poisoning with mercury treatments for his recurring, debilitating bouts of malaria. In the process, the authors also effectively debunk conspiracy theorists' suggestions that Lewis was murdered. After the expedition, Lewis served as governor of the Louisiana territory, was embroiled in the convoluted and harsh politics of the territory and worked sedulously on Indian affairs....well researched and insightful."
“Thomas Danisi and John Jackson are diligent and exacting researchers. By combing hitherto unexamined sources they have managed to turn up substantial new information about the life of Meriwether Lewis and to propose a persuasive new theory about his death. This book, which focuses attention on Lewis’s neglected but critical years as governor of Louisiana, contributes an important new piece to the puzzle that is Meriwether Lewis. Anyone who has ever wanted to solve that mystery should have a copy.”
—Carolyn Gilman, author of Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide
October 11, 2009 marks the bicentennial of Meriwether Lewis’s death. As the leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition, an epic exploration of uncharted territory west of the Mississippi, Lewis has been the subject of several biographies, yet much of the published information is unreliable. A number of myths surrounding his life and death persist.
Now independent scholars Thomas C. Danisi and John C. Jackson have written this definitive biography based on twelve years of meticulous research. They have re-examined the original Lewis and Clark documents and searched through obscure and overlooked sources to reveal a wealth of fascinating new information on the enigmatic character and life of Meriwether Lewis.
Instead of focusing on the Lewis and Clark expedition, the authors concentrate on what Lewis was doing immediately before and after the journey through Western territory. They assess his role as a natural scientist and as governor of the Louisiana Territory. His lifelong mentor, Thomas Jefferson, thrust the latter role upon Lewis during a time of crisis. As Danisi and Jackson reveal, he would much rather have devoted this time compiling his notes and scientific findings into a vivid narrative of the expedition’s adventures.
Finally, using medical documentation, the book reveals the actual cause of Lewis’s untimely death. The authors address both the conspiracy theories regarding murder as the cause of Lewis’s death and the longstanding belief that he committed suicide.
The Meriwether Lewis that emerges from this thoroughly researched biography is a man of honorable intentions who met severe challenges and handled difficult confrontations with patience and diplomacy. Both professional historians and armchair devotees of American history will want to add this important new work to their libraries.
Pages: 424 (illustrations)
FURTHER PRAISE FOR MERIWETHER LEWIS:
“Meriwether Lewis biographers and fans will find this exposition of Lewis’s years as the governor of the Louisiana Territory using previously ignored documents an enlightening, new, and refreshing start in understanding the nature of Lewis’s unhappy tenure and the rift between him and territorial secretary Frederick Bates. The book also offers a plausible medical explanation for his untimely death.”
—W. Raymond Wood, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Research Professor
University of Missouri
"Solidly researched, Danisi and Jackson's excellent biography of Meriwether Lewis provides a needed corrective to some common misinformation pertaining to his post-expedition life. They chronicle the explorer's efforts to publish his scientific findings from his expedition to the Pacific, unravel the myriad of challenges he faced as territorial governor of upper Louisiana, and advance a plausible solution to the historical controversy surrounding his death."
—Jay H. Buckley, author of William Clark: Indian Diplomat and co-author of
By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis
“Exhaustive research and thorough documentation are the hallmarks of this welcome new biography of Meriwether Lewis. It deserves a place on every Lewis and Clark bookshelf.”
—William E. Foley
Author of Wilderness Journey: The Life of William Clark
“It’s hard to believe that Thomas Danisi and John Jackson have written the first comprehensive, full-length biography of Meriwether Lewis in fifty years, but it’s true. Danisi and Jackson wade into [the] controversy with fists flying, and to my mind they explain every aspect of Lewis’ death beyond cavil or reconsideration…. Danisi and Jackson have done enough research on the question to satisfy anybody who’s ever going to be satisfied…. This is exactly the kind of lively, exceedingly intelligent, accessibly-written Life & Times that every great figure in history deserves. We’ll never know what kind of a book Lewis could have written if he’d had ample time and ample health with which to do so, but we know what kind of a book Danisi and Jackson have written: meaty, entertaining, and best of all, definitive.”
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
Thomas C. Danisi (St. Louis, MO) and John C. Jackson (Olympia, WA) are freelance writers and historians. In 2004, they received a grant from the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation to research this book. Danisi is the author of Uncovering the Truth about Meriwether Lewis and numerous articles on the history surrounding Meriwether Lewis and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Jackson is the author of four books on the history of the Pacific Northwest, including By Honor and Right: How One Man Boldly Defined the Destiny of a Nation.