Meriwether Lewis

Richard Dillon, Author Western Tanager $12.95 (364p) ISBN 978-0-934136-39-6
This dry, restrained biography of explorer Lewis, out of print since 1970, is nonetheless filled with interesting facts about the land, the Indians, the plants and animals that Lewis came upon as he executed his assignment from President Jefferson: to trace the Missouri river to its source, searching for a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, and to learn the character of the country. Lewis found that the ``animals seemed as tame as those in a zoological garden,'' he acquired knowledge of Native American medicines and noted vast differences in the indigenous peoples. Historian Dillon ( Humbugs & Heros ) also fills his writing with subtle prejudices about native Americans and others (``For a Latin, he came to the point quickly'' and Lewis ``was as much at home in the snow as an Irishman in jail.''). For those who can navigate around such comments, there is meat here, even if only an embarrassing chronicle of an aggressive, self-centered young nation encroaching upon the Western half of the continent, sending con men to make promises that no one intended to keep, for ``the red men were believed to be hostile to further cession of their lands.'' Lewis died at 35, an alcoholic who committed suicide by most accounts, although the author disputes both theories. (August)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1988
Release date: 12/01/1988
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