Suicide or Murder

Little Bits of History

Meriwether Lewis by Charles Wilson Peale Meriwether Lewis by Charles Wilson Peale

October 11, 1809: Thirty-five year old Meriwether Lewis dies … of something. After returning from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Lewis was rewarded with 1,600 acres of land. He intended to publish the Corps of Discovery journals, but was having editorial difficulties. In 1807, Thomas Jefferson made Lewis governor of the Louisiana Territory. His record as governor is mixed but much of what is seen as negative comes from letters written by Frederick Bates, the territorial secretary. Bates has been accused of undermining Lewis because he, himself, wanted the governorship.

Lewis had funded a mission to return a Mandan chief to his tribe. Because of a letter written by Bates, the promised reimbursement from the federal government was rescinded. Lewis’s creditors called in their notes and Lewis was forced to sell off most of his private property, including his land, to pay them. He was…

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