The Journals of Lewis and Clark

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The Journals of Lewis and Clark

The book “The Journals of Lewis and Clark,” as edited by John Bakeless and written by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, chronicles the various events that Lewis and Clark experienced during the exploration of some Western territories. Lewis and Clark both wrote down notes through their journals about their various experiences during their journey. The first journal entry, dated May 13, 1804, was written by Clark upon his correspondence with Lewis to join the expedition to explore some territories in the West.

Clark was able to contribute to the needed provisions for the exploration. The succeeding journal entries were both written by Lewis and Clark, which detailed daily weather conditions, problems or difficulties they have encountered through their transport in a barge, relations and discussions with the commanding officer and his men, the places they have passed, the food they ate, the geographical and topographical details and conditions of the places they have seen and camped in, and so on.

(Bakeless, Lewis, & Clark, 2002) Aside from the journals written by Lewis and Clark, Bakeless has included numerous notes to explicate further some of the details in the journals that might be foreign to the readers. Since the book was a reissue or a reprint of the original manuscripts, Bakeless made it a point that there would be new information or details, which would allow the readers to understand deeply the relevance or significance of reading about Lewis and Clarks experiences during the expedition.

For instance, Bakeless has included notes on the meaning of some of the abbreviated words written by Lewis and Clark, such as “Starboard” for the “S. S. ” abbreviations, “Larboard” for “L. S. ,” and so on. (Bakeless, Lewis, & Clark, 2002) Furthermore, some of the words and details found in the original transcript of the journals of Lewis and Clark during their expedition were wearisome, uninteresting, and sometimes difficult to understand.

In this reprint of the original transcripts, Bakeless has successfully edited out some of the details and changed some of the words to provide a clear and concise transcript on the expedition of Lewis and Clark. With regards to the embedded messages in the book based on the statements of the author, Bakeless sought to provide the readers with an understandable and comprehensible text that the readers would be able to relate to as opposed to earlier prints of the original transcripts that were uninteresting and incomprehensible.

Although there was a need to simplify or abridge the original transcripts of Lewis and Clark’s journals, Bakeless believed that there was also a similar need to preserve the information and thoughts written by Lewis and Clark in their journals in order to provide a vivid or lucid picture on what both explorers had to go through in order to explore the unchartered territories of the West and be able to contribute to social and cultural development.

This was Bakeless’ response to the numerous attempts to recreate the expedition of Lewis and Clark through other books and documentaries, such as “Lewis & Clark: The Great Journey West,” (Meehan, Miller, Truitt, & Neibaur, 2002) which seemed to him as lacking in comprehensive and relevant information. (Bakeless, Lewis, & Clark, 2002)

With Lewis and Clark, both explorers understood the need to take down notes during the expedition as a means of reference as contributions to history and archaeology, and human knowledge as a whole, and as notes that shall allow them to remember the events that happen to substantiate how they were able to accomplish the goals and objectives of the expedition in relation to the Louisiana Purchase under the supervision and control of the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine was a political maneuver by James Monroe for the purpose of acquiring foreign territories by strengthening international relations with other nations. (Leavitt, 1863) Since the book contains journals written personally by Lewis and Clark throughout their expedition, judging the existence of biased opinions in the entries is difficult to determine. The entries were retelling of the various events experienced by Lewis and Clark during their expedition.

Their narratives and thoughts were based on their personal points of views, perspectives, and interpretations, but they were also based on what they have seen through their observations. Furthermore, Lewis and Clark would have written the journal as a means to present a clear, descriptive, and somewhat scientific account of the things, people, places, situations, etc. that they have encountered during the expedition to the administrator or director of the expedition upon their arrival.

Therefore, the thoughts, ideas, and opinions written by Lewis and Clark in the book were influenced by both their own perspectives and personal interpretations, as well as the goals and objectives of the expedition to gather comprehensive and detailed information on the unchartered territories in the West, which was later purchased by America from France (Leavitt, 1863).

On the other hand, the ideas included by Bakeless in the book were unbiased or impartial since they were substantiations or explications of the information and details, written in the journal entries of Lewis and Clark, based on further research on the Lewis and Clark expedition including perhaps the documentary previously mentioned, “Lewis and Clark: The Great Journey West” (Meehan, Miller, Truitt, & Neibaur, 2002) and further readings on the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe Doctrine.

As previously mentioned, Bakeless was able to provide unbiased, reliable, and valid information in his inclusion of notes and substantiations on the information and ideas presented by Lewis and Clark in their journals by utilizing other books, research studies, and reputable online sites, which presented factual and comprehensive information on the expedition of Lewis and Clark. Most of the references used were books written by other authors on the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Monroe Doctrine, and other scientific substantiations of what Lewis and Clark saw in their journey.

Bakeless was able to use relevant and valid information in order to provide the readers with complete information on the journey of Lewis and Clark. Bakeless’ contributions to the journals of Lewis and Clark was extremely important in helping readers understand what both explorers wrote and grasping the significance of the expedition through Bakeless’ inclusion of information regarding the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe Doctrine, as well as the implications of what Lewis and Clark discovered and the results or outcomes of these discoveries to the history of mankind.

By and large, the contributions of Bakeless to the reissue of the journals of Lewis and Clark were extremely important. Bakeless’ arguments on the necessity to provide a piece of information that comes directly from Lewis and Clark themselves, consequently providing readers with a vivid picture of the entire expedition, without extracting the essence of the journal entries, have made the book an important reference for readers who would want to learn about Lewis and Clark’s journey in the West.

The book as edited by Bakeless and written by Lewis and Clark is a must read for everyone, especially those in search of information on the Monroe Doctrine, Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, and the expedition itself, as well as those who are looking for a book that portrays a factual and scientific adventure into the once unchartered territories of the United States of America.

References Bakeless, J. , Lewis, M. & Clark, W. (2002). The Journals of Lewis and Clark. New York, NY: Signet Classic. Leavitt, J. 1863. The Monroe Doctrine. Harvard University. Meehan,E. , Miller, J. T. , Truitt, L. (Producer) & Neibaur, B. (Director). (2002). Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West [Documentary]. United States: National Geographic Television.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 23 September 2016

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