On This Date in History:
There are two things that we see as normal. One is the idea that Thomas Jefferson was the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution. The other is that the President submits a complete budget. Well, people forget that President Jefferson sent American troops and ships all the way to North Africa to fight the Barbary Pirates, who were Muslims. It was an undeclared war yet Jefferson maintained that it was Constitutional even though he didn’t go to Congress for a war declaration. On this date in 1803, Jefferson secretly sent a request to Congress for funding for the Lewis and Clark expedition as he was afraid of the formal, Constitutional budgeting process.
Jefferson had already determined in 1802 to explore the west. He had already determined that his personal
secretary, Meriwether Lewis, would lead the expedition. He asked Lewis to come up with the costs necessary and they ended up at $2500 which included nearly $700 for gifts to the Indians.
Small problem. The expedition would take the men beyond US territory. So, it was a big secret. So much so that for months only maybe a few people beyond Jefferson and Lewis knew about it. So secret, that Jefferson was advised to not include it in his budget request to Congress. Instead, he sent a secret message to Congress asking for the money. Congress, I suppose, secretly approved the money. They probably didn’t care too much since they had just approved over $9 million for the purchase of Louisiana. Actually, Jefferson only wanted to buy New Orleans from the French but Napoleon was short on money for his latest military escapades and wasn’t able to defend the territory anyway. So, he offered up what amounts to about a third of the Continental United States along with New Orleans for $15 million and Jefferson jumped on it and the treaty was signed on April 30, 1803. It was rather controversial….see…many constitutional scholars didn’t think that the purchase was Constitutional either. Jefferson just did it.
Eventually, Lewis chose his old military friend William Clark to be his second. The expedition was originally expected to have ten men besides Lewis but that number grew to nearly 3 dozen. Most historical references have the expedition starting on May 14, 1804 near St. Louis but local historians point out that Lewis got his crew together in Louisville several weeks before so locals say it really started here. But, St. Louis was just about as far as civilization stretched so how could someone explore something that was already inhabited. Anyway, one of the guys they took with them was Sargent Charles Floyd of Clarksville. There’s a county on the sunny side of Louisville that bears his name. He is the only fatality of the expedition, having died of appendicitis a few months after they began.
Anyway….the point here is that you need to check things out before you assume things are true. Jefferson, though one of our founding fathers, was more than capable of navigating around the Constitution when it suited his fancy and when he thought it was in the best interest of the nation for the long term. In each instance, he seems to have been correct. Today, Presidents are rarely given that benefit of the doubt.
Weather Bottom Line: Space heaters suck. I’ve got three of them in my house and its still freezing. Snow White and I got under 3 blankets and had the two fat cats on board to keep us warm last night. Figures that my heater would go out on a Friday night. Can’t get a new one until Monday. Good news is that its warming up. Bad news is that the warm up only takes us to the low 30′s for Sunday and Monday and maybe Tuesday. Come along Wednesday or Thursday we get to the 40′s again and by then I’m sure I’ll have a heater and be lighter about $2000. I need a bailout.