Read Richard Aregood, Grand Forks Herald's review: "For the Love of ND’ offers history, expertise and modesty in a collection of essays" - Click Here
Clay's new book For the Love of North Dakota and Other Essays is now available.
Click HERE for more information or to purchase your copy.
The Character of Meriwether Lewis Explorer in the Wilderness
by Clay S. Jenkinson
The Character of Meriwether: Explorer in the Wilderness takes a fresh look at Meriwether Lewis, the commander of the most important exploration mission in the early history of the United States. Jenkinson’s Lewis is not a paper cutout hero, but a hyper-serious young man of great complexity, who found the wilderness of upper Louisiana as burdensome as it was exhilarating.
Jenkinson sees Lewis as a man who had a fissure in his soul before he left St. Charles, Missouri, in May 1804, whose experiences in lands “upon which the foot of civilized man had never trodden” further fractured his sense of himself. Jenkinson sees Lewis’s 1809 suicide not as an inexplicable mystery, but the culmination of a series of pressures that extend back into the expedition and perhaps beyond.
Jenkinson’s argument is that Lewis’s hiring of William Clark as his “partner in discovery” was the most intelligent decision he ever made. When Clark is nearby Lewis manages to maintain a stable and productive leadership. When Clark is absent, when he is unable to provide a calming influence on his mercurial friend, Lewis tends to get into trouble. Jenkinson argues that if Clark had been with Lewis on the Natchez Trace, the Governor of Upper Louisiana would not have killed himself.
The Character of Meriwether Lewis features chapters on Lewis’s sense of humor, his oft-stated fear that the expedition he was leading might collapse, his propensity for employing his learnedness in a self-conscious manner, and his inability to re-enter “polite society” after his return.
Jenkinson attempts to reconstruct Lewis’s rich, troubled, and self-consciously heroic personality from his journal entries and letters. When the encrustations of American mythology are removed and Lewis is allowed to reveal himself, he emerges as a fuller, more human, and endlessly fascinating explorer.
Click HERE to read a review of Clay's book The Character of Meriwether Lewis Explorer in the Wilderness