On January 18, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson requested a congressional authorization of $2,500 to underwrite an expedition by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to determine the expanse of the country. According to History.com, the cost ramped up to $50,000; an equivalent of $1,177, 765 in contemporary currency.
Sixteen months later, the two explorers—along with a company of fifty– set out on their mission. It included a former African American slave “and a female Native American guide named Sacagawea. The team, which Jefferson called the Corps of Discovery, first surveyed the territory that comprised the Louisiana Purchase, a vast expanse that reached as far north as present-day North Dakota, south to the Gulf of Mexico and stopped at the eastern border of Spanish territory in present-day Texas. The team then crossed the Rockies and navigated river routes to the Pacific coast of present-day Oregon. Upon their return, the duo’s reports of the exotic and awe-inspiring new lands they had encountered sparked a new wave of westward expansion,” as reported by History.com.
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Corps of Discovery: A Novel Based on the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806 by Jeffrey W. Tenney.
On January 27, 1888, a party of 33 geographers, explorers, teachers, lawyers, cartographers, military officers, and financiers convened in Washington D.C., and inaugurated the National Geographic Society.
History.com says they all “shared an interest in scientific and geographical knowledge, as well as an opinion that in a time of discovery, invention, change and mass communication, Americans were becoming more curious about the world around them. With this in mind, the men drafted a constitution and elected as the Society’s president a lawyer and philanthropist named Gardiner Greene Hubbard. Neither a scientist nor a geographer, Hubbard represented the Society’s desire to reach out to the layman.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The National Geographic Society: 100 years of adventure and discovery by C. D. B. Bryan.
During the Civil War, Union forces frequently freed slaves wherever they were found; then, after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect January 1, 1863, bondage was declared illegal, and the President’s Executive order dusted up discord over the issues of states’ rights–and “what to do about slavery in border states that had not seceded or in areas that had been captured by the Union before the proclamation,” reports History.com
A year later, the Senate passed the 13th amendment—a tryout to officially trounce the “institution” –but the House Democrats rejected the reform. Lincoln, however, was re-elected with significant majorities—in each house—enough to sweep up posthumous ratification—and recognition—in 1864. The amendment was finally passed in the two houses of Congress on January 31, 1865.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment by Michael Vorenberg.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.