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In the 1780s, while Minister to France, Jefferson met John Ledyard in Paris and discussed a proposed trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Jefferson had also read Captain James Cook's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784), an account of Cook's third voyage, and Le Page du Pratz's The History of Louisiana (London, 1763), all of which greatly influenced his decision to send an expedition.
Like Captain Cook, Jefferson also wished to discover a practical route through the Northwest to the Pacific coast.
Alexander Mackenzie had already charted a route in his quest for the Pacific, first following the later-named Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean in 1789.
However, the story remained relatively shallow, a celebration of U. conquest and personal adventures, until the mid-century, since which time it has been more thoroughly researched and retold in many forms to a growing audience.
For years, Jefferson had heard of and read accounts of the various ventures of other explorers in parts of the western frontier and consequently had a long-held interest in further exploring this largely still unknown region of the continent.
He used a secret message to ask for funding due to poor relations with the opposition party in Congress.
Le Page's description of Moncacht-Apé's route across the continent, which neglects to mention the need to cross the Rocky Mountains, may be the source of Lewis and Clark's mistaken belief that they could easily carry boats from the Missouri's headwaters to the westward-flowing Columbia. Loos of Louisiana State University wrote William Clark's Part in the Preparation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, a 511-page manuscript published in 1954 by the Missouri Historical Society.Lewis, however, was not ignorant of science and had demonstrated to Jefferson a marked capacity to learn, especially with Jefferson as his teacher.