Friday, October 11, 2013
OCTOBER 11 = Merriweather Lewis Commits Suicide
"Governor Lewis had, from early life, been subject to hypochondriac affections. It was a constitutional disposition in all the nearer branches of the family of his name, and was more immediately inherited by him from his father. While he lived with me in Washington, I observed at times sensible depressions of mind; but, knowing their constitutional source, I estimated their course by what I had seen in the family. During his western expedition the constant exercise which that required of all the faculties of body and mind suspended these distressing affections; but, after his establishment at St. Louis in sedentary occupations, they returned upon him with redoubled vigour, and began seriously to alarm his friends."
- Thomas Jefferson on Merriweather Lewis.
The Journey of "the Corps of Discovery"
This was the comment made by President Thomas Jefferson on Merriweather Louis upon being told of his death by suicide on today's date, October 11 in 1809. Merriweather Louis and Captain William Clark and the journey of their band of explorers - the Corps of Discovery ("Lewis and Clark") through the newly
Lewis Is Unable to Face Life After the Journey
But as Jefferson observed, Lewis had a personal disposition that had always been prone to periods of depression. As long as his command of the exploration of the American northwest had been the task in front of him, he had been able to keep his mental darkness at bay. But the personal qualities of leadership and self-discipline that served Lewis so well during his exploration were inadequate to the trials he faced on his return. Jefferson appointed Lewis as the Governor of the Northwest Territory. The politics of territorial administration were a job for which Lewis was singularly unsuited. The mounds of paperwork, and the political intrigue left him bewildered and depressed. He had committed to penning a multi-volume published version of his notes from the journey. It was a mammoth undertaking which he never even began.
The Depression of Lewis Worsens
By the autumn of 1809, Jefferson had left the presidency, and under his successor James Madison some in the U.S. Congress and elsewhere began to raise serious questions about the financial records that Lewis had kept during the journey, and during his term as Governor. It was during an eastward journey from St. Louis to Washington to answer such questions that his woes finally overwhelmed him. He had stopped to rest at a tavern (reproduction pictured below) on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. The tavern's proprietor, Mrs. Grinder noticed his curious
To ALL my readers: PLEASE, if you are dealing with depression make an appointment with your doctor and tell them about it. Depression is an illness for which there are medicines available. There is no need to let it come to this.
"Undaunted Courage" by Steven Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996