Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Louis André Pichon, 4 March 1803

From Louis André Pichon

G. Town 4th. March.

Mr. Pichon with his respects incloses herewith the Passport which the President of the United States did him the honor to ask and returns The Passport of Mr Thornton which had been communicated as a model.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 4 Mch. and “passport” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Safe conduct pass, 1 Mch., in French, signed by Pichon, asking civil officials, military and naval officers, and citizens of the French Republic to give protection and aid to Meriwether Lewis and his traveling party, who under the authority of the president of the United States are undertaking a journey of discovery to explore the Missouri River and the western parts of North America; the purpose of the expedition is scientific only, and the party is carrying no more goods than are needed to secure the good will of Indians along the route (Jackson, Lewis and Clark description begins Donald Jackson, ed., The Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with Related Documents, 1783–1854, 2d ed., Urbana, Ill., 1978 description ends , 1:20). (2) Safe conduct pass, 28 Feb., by Edward Thornton as British chargé d’affaires, asking British superintendents of Indian affairs and British subjects engaged in trade with the Indians to allow Lewis’s party to pass, to give them aid and protection, and to advance the objects of their mission; the document seen by Pichon was evidently dated 1 Mch. (same, 19–20, 23).

did him the honor to ask: in a dispatch to Talleyrand dated 4 Mch., Pichon reported that in a conversation at the President’s House the previous day, TJ had used a copy of Aaron Arrowsmith’s 1802 map of North America to show him Lewis’s expected route of travel. For some time, Pichon indicated, the president had hoped that an exploration of the upper Missouri River and the country beyond it would locate the headwaters of the Columbia River. Pichon explained to Talleyrand that while the expedition was for the advancement of science, TJ had to justify his request to Congress for an appropriation on the grounds of promoting trade. When TJ asked him to furnish a passport for Lewis, Pichon inquired if Carlos Martínez de Irujo would be granting such a document on behalf of Spain. TJ replied that Irujo was obliged to do so (in recounting what TJ said, Pichon used the French verb devoir). Pichon anticipated that the safe-conduct document he provided might only be needed for the party’s return journey, for TJ told him that the journeyers would have to find some ship on the Pacific Coast to give them passage back to the United States (Jackson, Lewis and Clark description begins Donald Jackson, ed., The Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with Related Documents, 1783–1854, 2d ed., Urbana, Ill., 1978 description ends , 1:22–3; Vol. 32:69n).

TJ also spoke to Edward thornton about the prospective exploration, outlining the plan in terms very similiar to what he said to Pichon. The president, Thornton wrote to Lord Hawkesbury from Philadelphia on 9 Mch., had contemplated such an expedition “for some years past.” He was eager to see it through, believed Thornton, as a means of “distinguishing his Presidency by a discovery, now the only one left to his enterprize.” The transfer of Louisiana to French control had apparently “accelerated the determination of the President, as he thinks it certain that on their arrival they will instantly set on foot enterprizes of a similar nature” (Jackson, Lewis and Clark description begins Donald Jackson, ed., The Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with Related Documents, 1783–1854, 2d ed., Urbana, Ill., 1978 description ends , 1:25–7).

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