Prairie Pulse 922; Clay Jenkinson; Author: "The Character of Meriwether Lewis"


Uploaded by PrairiePublicBcast on 23.03.2012

Transcript:
>> HELLO AND WELCOME TO "PRAIRIE PULSE."
JOINING ME TODAY IS CLAY
JENKINSON AND HE'S HERE TO TALK
ABOUT HIS NEWEST BOOK AND WE'LL
GET INTO THAT IN JUST A LITTLE WHILE.
BUT, CLAY, THANKS SO MUCH FOR
JOINING US TODAY.
>> IT'S A DELIGHT TO BE HERE. THANK YOU.
>> AS WE GET STARTED, TELL THE
FOLKS WHO MIGHT NOT KNOW YOU,
KNOW WE'VE GOT A LOT OF
LISTENERS AND VIEWERS OUT THERE
AND OF COURSE WITH THE JEFFERSON
HOUR THAT YOU ARE KNOWN FOR SO
MUCH ON RADIO, BUT TELL THE
FOLKS A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF
AND YOUR BACKGROUND.
>> WELL, I'M A NORTH DAKOTAAN.
I GREW UP IN DICKENSON.
I STUDIED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
MINNESOTA AND THEN AT OXFORD.
I'VE HAD A LONG CONNECTION WITH
PUBLIC RADIO AND PUBLIC TELEVISION.
I'VE BEEN DOING THE "THOMAS
JEFFERSON HOUR" FOR A VERY LONG
TIME AND IT'S BROADCAST HERE IN
NORTH DAKOTA AND IN MINNESOTA.
I'VE ALSO BEEN IN A FEW OF KEN
BURNS' FILMS, THE THOMAS
JEFFERSON FILM FROM 1997, THE
NATIONAL PARKS, AND NOW I'M ONE
OF THE CONSULTANTS, TOO, AND A
TALKING HEAD IN THE ROOSEVELT FILM.
HE'S DOING A 14-HOUR FILM ON
THEODORE ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN
ROOSEVELT AND ELEANOR ROOSEVELT.
AND I JUST CAME BACK A FEW WEEKS
AGO FROM TIME IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
WORKING WITH HIM ON IT.
IT'S GOING TO BE I THINK HIS
BEST FILM, EVEN BETTER THAN THE
CIVIL WAR, IF THAT'S POSSIBLE.
>> WELL, NOW, THAT'S SAYING
SOMETHING THERE.
BUT THAT IS INTERESTING.
BUT THEN SO LET'S TALK THEN
ABOUT YOUR NEWEST BOOK HERE, THE "THE CHARACTER OF MERIWETHER
LEWIS: EXPLORER IN THE WILDERNESS."
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FASCINATION
AS WE GET STARTED HERE WITH
LEWIS AND WHAT STARTED THAT.
>> WELL, I'M A NORTH DAKOTAN.
THEY SPENT MORE TIME IN NORTH
DAKOTA THAN ANY OTHER STATE.
THEY HAD THEIR MOST SUCCESSFUL
RELATIONS WITH NATIVE PEOPLES HERE.
THE MANDAN AND HIDOGSA.
THEY OBTAINED THE SERVICES OF
THE FAMOUS INDIAN WOMAN SALVAGE
JA WEE YA HERE -- SAC SACAJAWEA HERE.
AND SO THIS WAS A REALLY CENTRAL
STORY FOR THEM.
BUT ALSO ONE OF THE THREE OR
FOUR MOST IMPORTANT STORIES IN
NORTH DAKOTA HISTORY.
SO I'VE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED BY IT.
AND THEN I BEGAN TO LOOK AT THE
CHARACTER OF MERIWETHER LEWIS
ABOUT 25 YEARS AGO AND I
REALIZED THAT HE WAS A VERY
COMPLICATED MAN AND SORT OF,
THERE ARE MYSTERIES THAT
SURROUND HIS LIFE AND DEATH, AND
SO LIKE ALL HISTORIANS I TRY TO
HONE IN WHERE THE MYSTERIES ARE
AND SEE IF THEY CAN BE SOLVED
AND I'VE BEEN WORKING AT IT FOR
A VERY LONG TIME AND THIS IS THE
FRUIT OF THAT WORK.
>> WITH THAT SAID, I MEAN THE RESEARCH FOR THE BOOK, IT HAS TO
BE A LABOR OF LOVE I WOULD THINK.
BUT WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WERE GOING TO WRITE THE BOOK?
>> ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO.
I HAD WRIT AN SMALL LITTLE
MONOGRAPH ON LEWIS A NUMBER OF
YEARS AGO AND IT'S OUT OF PRINT.
AND SO THE DAKOTA INSTITUTE
PRESS SAID WOULD I BE WILLING TO
REISSUE IT.
I SAID LET ME TAKE A LOOK AT IT,
MAYBE I'LL MAKE A FEW
ADJUSTMENTS OR WRITE A NEW AFTERWARD OR SOMETHING.
WHEN I READ IT I THOUGHT I'M 56
YEARS OLD.
YOU DON'T GET AN ENDLESS LIFE.
IF I'M GOING TO WRITE A MAJOR
BOOK IN AMERICAN HISTORY, A BOOK
THAT'S GOING TO REALLY HAVE A
CHANCE TO BE SOMETHING I WANT THE WORLD TO LOOK AT AND -- AND
WRESTLE WITH, NOW IS THE TIME TO DO IT.
I SHOULDN'T JUST REISSUE THIS.
SO I STEPPED BACK.
IT TOOK ABOUT 15 MONTHS TO WRITE THE BOOK.
BUT IT'S TAKEN MANY, MANY YEARS
TO THINK ABOUT IT AND TO RESEARCH IT.
I'VE BEEN SO LUCKY.
I'VE TRAVELED ALL OVER THE LEWIS
AND CLARK TRAIL.
I'VE BEEN IN THE WHITE CLIFFS
AREA OF MONTANA MANY TIMES.
I'VE CANOED IT, KAYAKED IT, I'VE HIKED IT. I'VE HIKED THE LITTLE MISSOURI
RIVER FROM ITS SOURCE TO ITS MOUTH.
I'VE BEEN EVERYWHERE YOU CAN GO THAT'S A LEWIS AND CLARK PLACE,
AND THEN I'VE HAD ACCESS TO THE
ORIGINAL JOURNALS AND ALL OF THE
PUBLICATIONS OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK WORLD.
AND I'VE HOSTED -- I CREATED FOR
PUBLIC RADIO A 13-HOUR, 13-PART
RADIO DOCUMENTARY ON LEWIS AND
CLARK CALLED "TUN FINISHED
JOURNEY" -- "THE UNFINISHED
JOURNEY" AND I GOT TO INTERVIEW EVERYONE WHO HAD SOMETHING TO
SAY IN THE LEWIS AND CLARK WORLD.
SO I'VE BEEN VERY FORTUNATE IN
THAT I'VE HAD UNUSUALLY GOOD
ACCESS TO ALL THE DOCUMENTS AND
ALL THE EXPERTS.
>> CAN YOU TALK SOME ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS THAT WERE DONE ESPECIALLY FOR THE BOOK?
>> YEAH.
MICHAEL HAYNES LIVES IN MISSOURI. HE'S CONSIDERED THE DEAN OF
LEWIS AND CLARK ILLUSTRATION AND PAINTING.
AND I LOVE HIS WORK, A LOT OF
HIS WORK IS ON DISPLAY AT FORT
MANDAN AND WASHBURN AND HE'S
BASICALLY THE ILLUSTRATOR OF
MOST BOOKS ON LEWIS AND CLARK NOW.
WHEN I DECIDED TO WRITE THIS
BOOK, WE CONTACTED HIM AND I
SAID TO HIM WOULD YOU BE WILLING
TO DO ORIGINAL PAINTINGS THAT
SORT OF EXAMINE THE INTERIOR LEWIS?
WE ALL KNOW THAT -- WHAT HE SHOT
AND WHERE HE TRAVELED AND HOW
MANY MILES PER DAY AND SO ON.
BUT I WANTED TO LOOK INSIDE THE
MYSTERY OF LEWIS.
AND SO THESE ILLUSTRATIONS ARE
OF LEWIS WHEN HE'S WRITHELY
ALONE -- QUIETLY ALONE
COLLECTING PLANTS UP IN THE
BITTERROOT MOUNTAINS OR WHEN HE
UNFORTUNATELY HAD TO KILL A
BLACKFOOT INDIAN IN MONTANA IN
JULY OF 1806 AND HE'S KNEELING
OVER THE DEAD MAN AND REALLY
CONTEMPLATING WHAT HE'S DONE.
AN ILLUSTRATION OF HIM AT FORT
MANDAN STANDING ALONE ON THE
ICE, WHICH HE WAS A LONER.
AND THE SHADOW OF LEWIS HAS AN
ICE CRACK IN IT.
BUT MICHAEL HAYNES IS A
BRILLIANT ARTIST AND HE DID
THESE EXPLORATIONS OF THE
INTERIOR SOUL OF LEWIS BY WAY OF
ILLUSTRATING THIS BOOK.
I'M IMMENSELY PROUD OF WHAT HE DID.
>> WELL, WITH THAT SAID, YOU
ALMOST ALOUD TO IT, YOU STUDIED
THE LEWIS AND CLARK JOURNALS
EXTENSIVELY I UNDERSTAND, AND WHAT DID YOU REVEAL ABOUT
MERIWETHER LEWIS AS A PERSON?
>> I'LL TELL YOU WHAT I DID.
WE ALL KNOW THE STORY.
IT'S A PART OF AMERICAN
MYTHOLOGY AND WE HAD THE BICENTENNIAL AND MILLIONS, TENS
OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WERE
THROWN AT THE STORY.
SO EVERYBODY IS SORT OF AWARE OF IT.
BUT I THINK WE'VE BEEN STUCK IN
A KIND OF MYTHOLOGY ABOUT LEWIS
AND CLARK, AND THE MYTHOLOGY IS
THAT THEY NEVER HAD A BAD DAY,
THAT LEWIS AND CLARK WERE ESSENTIALLY INTERCHANGEABLE,
THAT THEIR FRIENDSHIP WAS
AS STEVEN AMBROSE LIKED TO PUT
IT THE BEST FRIENDSHIP IN AMERICAN HISTORY AND SO ON.
AND SOME OF THAT IS TRUE.
WHAT I WANTED TO DO WAS LIKE IN
THE "MEN IN BLACK" MOVIES WHERE
THEY TAKE THAT THING AND ZAP
YOUR BRAIN AND MAKE IT WIPE OUT,
I WANTED TO READ LEWIS AND CLARK
AS IF FOR THE FIRST TIME AND NOT TO BRING THAT ACCUMULATED
PRE-SUPPOSITION ABOUT IT WITH ME.
AND SO I READ THE JOURNALS FROM
THE INSIDE OUT THANKS TO GARY
MOLTEN'S MARVELOUS 13-VOLUME
EDITION OF THEM AND I LET THEM
TELL ME WHAT LEWIS WAS DOING,
WHAT HE WAS SAYING, WHEN HE WAS
SILENT, WHAT HIS MOODS WERE, HOW
HE WAS REACTING TO STRESS, WHAT
HIS RELATIONS WITH CLARK WERE,
HOW HE FELT ABOUT INDIANS, HOW
HE FELT ABOUT HIS LIFE AS AN EXPLORER.
YOU KNOW, I CHOSE THE SUBTITLE
"EXPLORER IN THE WILDERNESS"
BECAUSE HE WASN'T ON A CAMPING TRIP.
HE WAS AN ENLIGHTENMENT FIGURE
WHO LIKED TO THINK OF HIMSELF
WITH RESPECT TO CAPTAIN JAMES
COOK, THE GREATEST TRAVELER OF
THE 18th CENTURY OR CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS OR
MAGELLAN.
HE WASN'T JUST SOMEBODY WHO WAS
OPENING THE WEST.
HE WANTED TO BE ONE OF THE GREAT
ONES, AND THAT I THINK SHAPED
HIS CHARACTER MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE.
SO I TRIED TO LET THE STORY TELL ME WHAT IT WAS ABOUT RATHER THAN
FOR ME TO GO IN AND FIND WHAT PLEASED ME.
>> INTERESTING.
BUT YOU ALSO WROTE THAT YOU FEEL
HE WAS MOST ALIVE IN 1805,
BETWEEN HIS TIME IN FORT MANDAN
AND THEN ARRIVING IN MONTANA.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THIS.
>> THIS IS WHAT FOR ME IS SO INTEREST. THE FIRST 1600-MILES FROM
ST. LOUIS TO THE MIDDLE OF NORTH
DAKOTA, FIRST YEAR OF TRAVEL, HE
DIDN'T REALLY FIND THAT
INTERESTING BECAUSE OTHERS HAD DONE IT.
IT HAD BEEN MAPPED.
THE RIVERS HAD BEEN NAMED.
THE INDIANS HAD BEEN MET.
THERE WAS LITTLE LEFT TO DISCOVER.
AND SO HE REALLY REGARDED THAT
AS SORT OF GETTING TO THE STAGING POINT.
THEN THEY WINTER AT FORT MANDAN, 146 DAYS.
ON APRIL 7th, 1805, THEY MOVE
OFF THAT SPOT, WHICH HE REGARDED
AS THE LAST OUTPOST OF WHITE CIVILIZATION.
A TEENY LITTLE SLENDER OUTPOST,
BUT THE LAST ONE.
AND HE FELT THAT EVERY STEP HE
TOOK WEST OF FORT MANDAN WAS A
STEP INTO TERRA INCOGNITA.
THAT HE WAS THE FIRST, QUOTE,
UNQUOTE, CIVILIZED MAN EVER TO
SEE THAT BLUFF, THAT BEND IN THE RIVER, THAT INDIAN TRIBE.
AND SO THIS IS WHEN HE FELT
TRULY ALIVE AS AN EXPLORER.
AND FROM THE MOMENT THAT THEY
LEFT FORT MANDAN, APRIL 7th,
1805, UNTIL THEY GOT OVER THE
BITTERROOT MOUNTAINS IN EARLY
SEPTEMBER 1805, HE WROTE VIRTUALLY EVERY DAY.
AND HE IS AS GREAT A WRITER
DURING THAT PERIOD AS ANY
EXPLORER WHO HAS EVER BEEN ANYWHERE.
ONCE THEY GOT OVER THE
BITTERROOT MOUNTAINS, HE SORT OF
SHRUGGED IT OFF AND STOPPED
WRITING, WENT SILENT FOR THE
COLUMBIA BASIN, DOWN THE
COLUMBIA, DOWN THE SNAKE, HE WAS SILENT FOR THAT ENTIRE PORTION OF THE JOURNEY.
AND MY VIEW IS HE WAS REALLY A
MISSOURI RIVER MAN AND HE WAS
HAPPIEST IN MONTANA.
AND BY MONTANA, I SORT OF MEAN
FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS TO FORT MANDAN.
BUT THAT PORTION OF THE JOURNEY,
THE MISSOURI THAT HAD NEVER BEEN DISCOVERED, AT LEAST TO HIS OWN
SENSE OF IT, THAT'S WHERE HE
FELT LIKE HE WAS REALLY A MAN OF
DESTINY AND HE WROTE ABOUT IT
WITH EQUAL CAPACITY.
>> TALK SOME ABOUT LEWIS'
BACKGROUND AS A PERSON AND HOW,
OF COURSE, JEFFERSON CHOSE HIM
AND CLARK TO LEAD WHAT IS NOW OF
COURSE A LEGENDARY EXPEDITION.
>> WELL, THIS WAS ALL THE
BRAINCHILD OF JEFFERSON.
AND IN THIS BOOK, JEFFERSON HAS A BIG ROLE.
I'M A JEFFERSON SCHOLAR.
I'M A JEFFERSON IMPERSONATOR, A
LOT OF MY LIFE IS SPENT WITH
THOMAS JEFFERSON AND I LOVE
JEFFERSON AND I THINK THAT THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEWIS AND JEFFERSON HAS BEEN UNDER-PLAYED.
STEVEN AMBROSE GAVE IT A
CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF
ATTENTION, BUT I THINK IN SOME
WAYS HE WHITE-WASHED IT.
JEFFERSON WAS AN ENORMOUSLY
GIFTED VISIONARY, BUT HE COULD
NOT HAVE SURVIVED THREE DAYS ON
THE LEWIS AND CLARK TRAIL.
AND SO HE CHOSE SOMEBODY, THIS
IS HIS FOURTH ATTEMPT, HE CHOSE
SOMEBODY THAT HE THOUGHT COULD
REALLY SHOW THE RIGHT STUFF.
AND THAT WAS MERIWETHER LEWIS.
LEWIS WAS YOUNG ENOUGH TO BE
JEFFERSON'S SON, JEFFERSON HAD
NO SON'S HE GREW UP WITHIN SIGHT
OF MONTICELLO.
LEWIS' MOTHER WAS A FRIEND OF JEFFERSON'S. JEFFERSON CHOSE LEWIS BECAUSE HE
KNEW THAT HE HAD ENORMOUS
WILDERNESS SKILLS.
NOT PARTICULARLY WELL EDUCATED,
BUT HE HAD THE CAPACITY TO
ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH THIS THING.
AND THEN JEFFERSON GOT HIM A
LITTLE SHORT COURSE ON THE
ENLIGHTENMENT BY SENDING HIM TO
PHILADELPHIA AND HAVING HIM WORK
WITH BENJAMIN RUSH AND JAMES
PATTERSON, ALL THESE ENLIGHTENMENT FIGURES FROM THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY.
SO THEY WERE SORT OF FRIENDS,
BUT REALLY PATRON AND STUDENT,
AND JEFFERSON THEN SENT HIM ON HIS WAY.
WELL, THE GREATEST DECISION THAT LEWIS EVER MADE WAS TO HIRE CLARK AS HIS CO-CAPTAIN.
JEFFERSON CHOSE LEWIS.
LEWIS RECOGNIZED THAT HE COULD
NOT PULL THIS OFF ALONE, THAT IT
WAS TOO COMPLEX.
SO HE CHOSE WILLIAM CLARK AS HIS
PARTNER IN DISCOVERY AS HE PUT
IT, AND THAT WAS PROBABLY THE
MAKING MOMENT OF THE SUCCESS OF
THE EXPEDITION.
>> WITH THAT SAID, CAN YOU PUT
INTO WORDS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE
LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION AND
WHAT IT MEANT TO AMERICA AND AMERICANS?
>> WELL, IT'S GIVEN US ONE OF
OUR GREAT ROAD STORIES.
AND JAMES, THE GREAT LEWIS AND
CLARK STOLL PARTICULAR WAS AT
MONTICELLO FOR THE KICKOFF OF
THE BICENTENNIAL AND HE SAID
AMERICAN LOVES ROAD STORIES,
"GRAPES OF WRATH," AND SO ON.
BUT THE FIRST GREAT ROAD STORY
IN AMERICA IS THE LEWIS AND CLARK STORY.
SO IT'S ABOUT AN EPIC JOURNEY.
THEY OPENED THE AMERICAN WEST
AND EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD TROUBLE
WITH A COUPLE OF INDIAN TRIBES,
THE LAKOTA IN WHAT'S NOW SOUTH
DAKOTA AND THE BLACK FEET IN
WHAT'S NOW MONTANA, IN MORE THAN
51 DIFFERENT TRIBES THAT THEY
MET ON THE WHOLE, THEIR
ENCOUNTERS WERE HARMONIOUS AND MUTUALLY GENEROUS AND RESPECTFUL
AND THE ETHNOGRAPHIC DATA, THE
DESCRIPTIONS THAT LEWIS BROUGHT
BACK OF THOSE TRIBES ARE REALLY
IMPORTANT IN THE ANNALS OF ANTHROPOLOGY.
AND SO THIS HAD -- THIS HELPED
TO SET THE TONE FOR AMERICA'S
WESTWARD MOVEMENT, BUT IT HAS TO
BE SAID THEY WERE ALSO AGENTS OF EMPIRE. THEY WOULD COME TO AN INDIAN
TRIBE AND SAY WE DON'T WANT TO
BUY A SINGLE ACRE OF YOUR LAND,
BUT THERE'S A NEW SOVEREIGN.
IT'S THE RED-HEADED CHIEF BACK
IN WASHINGTON AND ANY RELATIONS THAT YOU HAVE WITH THE EUROPEAN
DERIVED GOVERNMENT HEREAFTER
MUST BE WITH US AND NOT WITH THE
FRENCH, NOT WITH THE BRITISH,
NOT WITH THE SPANISH, ETC.
SO BENEVOLENT, PEACEFUL,
SCIENTIFIC MAP THE WEST, NAME
THE WEST, OPEN THE WEST.
BUT WE HAVE TO ADMIT THAT THEY
WERE ALSO THE WHATEVER BINGERS
OF THE CONQUEST -- HARBINGERS OF
THE WEST AND FROM THE NATIVE
WEST AND FROM A -- THAT'S BEEN
LARGELY A NEGATIVE STORY.
>> TALK SOME ABOUT LEWIS AFTER
THE EXPEDITION.
AND AS YOU PUT IT, HIS REENTRY
PROBLEMS AND I GUESS AS YOU WRITE, YOU BELIEVE HE SUFFERED
WHAT IS NOW KNOWN AS THE BUZZ
ALSALDRIN SYNDROME.
>> I COINED THAT.
I'M FASCINATED BY THE MOON LANDING IN 1969. I CAN REMEMBER SITTING IN FRONT
OF MY PARENTS' BLACK AND WHITE TELEVISION AND TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SCREEN.
I CAN TELL YOU THE THROW WEIGHTS
OF SAT URN 5 ROCKETS AND SO ON.
I WAS UTTERLY FASCINATED.
THAT WAS OUR LEWIS AND CLARK STORY.
ONE OF THE GREATEST MOMENTS IN
THE HISTORY OF MANKIND.
BUT BUZZ ALDRIN CAME BACK AND HE
HAD LOTS OF TROUBLE.
HE HAD OR I NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. HIS MARRIAGE BROKE UP.
HE BEGAN WHAT TO WONDER WHAT DO
YOU DO AFTER YOU'VE BEEN TO THE MOON?
WHEN YOU'VE BEEN TO THE MOON WHAT'S LEFT.
HE ACTUALLY SAYS AT ONE POINT HE
WOULD BE AT THESE PICNICS OR
BARBECUES AND LOOK UP, GO OUT
ALONE AND LOOK UP AT THE MOON
AND ASK HIMSELF DID I EVER
REALLY EVEN GO THERE?
LOTS OF EXPLORERS HAVE REENTRY PROBLEMS. THEY'VE SEEN TOO MUCH.
THEY'VE GONE TOO FAR.
ONE OF THE KEY INSIGHTS THAT
CAME TO ME, AND IT'S IN THIS
BOOK WAS FROM A ESSAYIST IN
OREGON NAMED BARRY LOPEZ.
HE'S A MARVELOUS MAN.
HE WROTE ARCTIC DREAMS AND RIVER
NOTES AND DESERT NOTES.
AND SO ON.
I HAD DINNER WITH HIM AND I SAID
WHAT IS IT ABOUT LEWIS?
AND BARRY LOPEZ SAYS HERE'S THE QUESTION.
HOW FAR CAN YOU GO OUT AND STILL COME BACK?
HE SAID LEWIS AND CLARK MADE THE
SAME TRIP, BUT IT TURNS OUT THEY
MADE VERY DIFFERENT JOURNEYS.
CLARK COMES BACK, GETS MARRIED
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY, STARTS
HAVING CHILDREN, BUYS PROPERTY,
SUCCESS AFTER SUCCESS IN HIS
CAREER, NEVER HAS ANY TROUBLE
WITH THE WAR DEPARTMENT OR WASHINGTON.
LEWIS COMES BACK, NEVER
REMARRIES, ALTHOUGH HE TRIES,
NEVER MARRIES I MEAN.
HE LIVES IN RENTAL PROPERTY.
HE CAN'T WRITE THE BOOK THAT
HE'S SUPPOSED TO WRITE.
HE QUARRELS WITH THE WAR DEPARTMENT.
HE STOPS COMMUNICATING WITH JEFFERSON.
CLARK COMES BACK AND HIS LIFE
TURNS OUT TO BE A SPECTACULARLY
SUCCESSFUL LIFE OF A MAN OF ACHIEVEMENT.
LEWIS COMES BACK AND FALTERS AND
SORT OF SPIRALS DOWNWARD INTO
DEPRESSION AND DRINK AND SELF-PITY.
SO SOMETHING HAPPENED.
SAME TRIP, DIFFERENT JOURNEY.
THEY'RE SORT OF LIKE
DOPPLE-GANGERS, BUT ONE THRIVES
AND ONE DECLINES.
AND SO THE CONTRAST BECOMES MORE
AND MORE GLARING DURING THE
THREE YEARS THAT LEWIS LIVED
AFTER THE EXPEDITION.
SO REENTRY ISSUES.
>> WELL, AND YOU MENTIONED HE
DIDN'T EVER GET THE REPORT
WRITTEN FOR THE PRESIDENT.
I MEAN WHY WAS THAT?
JUST BECAUSE OF THESE ISSUES?
>> SOME OF THAT.
WE DON'T KNOW.
THESE ARE MYSTERIES.
BUT, YOU KNOW, JEFFERSON SAID
KEEP A DAILY JOURNAL.
CLARK DID ALL BUT NINE DAYS.
LEWIS MISSED 441 DAYS OUT OF TWO
AND A HALF YEARS.
SO MORE THAN HALF.
SO HE COMES BACK AND HE HAS TO
WRITE THIS THING AND HE DOESN'T
HAVE THE DATA BASE TO WRITE IT.
HE ALSO AT SEVERAL POINTS IN THE
JOURNEY SAYS I WISHED I COULD
DESCRIBE THE GREAT FALLS
ACCORDING TO THEIR SUB LIMBTY
AND MAGNIFICENCE, BUT MY PEN FAILS ME.
I DON'T HAVE THE POETIC
CAPACITY TO COME TO TERMS WITH
THIS MAGNIFICENT OBJECT WHICH
HAS BEEN HIDDEN FROM THE EYES OF
MAN SINCE TIME AND MEMORIAL --
HE GETS ALL WORKED UP ABOUT HIS
INCAPACITY TO DESCRIBE IT ACCURATELY.
SO I THINK THAT CONTRIBUTED TO IT.
HE ALSO SET HIS HEIGHTS TOO HIGH.
INSTEAD OF SAYING I'LL WRITE A
BOOK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS, HE
WAS GOING TO WRITE A THREE
VOLUME ENLIGHTENMENT MASTER WORK
IN WHICH ETHNOLOGY, THERE WAS
GOING TO BE AN ESSAY ON WHY THE
GREAT PLAINS ARE TREELESS AND A PROPOSED PLAN FOR OUR POLICY
WITH RESPECT TO NATIVE AMERICANS
AND THE FUR TRADE AND HE HAD --
HE SET HIS -- HE WROTE A PROSPECTIVE US.
-- A PROSPECT US.
IT WAS SO LOFTY THAT JEFFERSON
COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT.
NOW, THE GREAT GERMAN EXPLORER
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLT COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT.
SO LEWIS SHOULD HAVE JUST SAID I'LL SEE WHAT I CAN WRITE AND
PROBABLY THEN HE WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PRODUCE SOMETHING.
BUT AS HE COULDN'T WRITE THE
BOOK HE START GETTING LETTERS
FROM JEFFERSON.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET THESE
LETTERS SAYING WHEN CAN WE
EXPECT YOUR FIRST VOLUME?
SO IMAGINE IF PRESIDENT OBAMA
CALLED YOU TODAY AND SAID I'D
LIKE YOU TO PRODUCE A REPORT ON PUBLIC TELEVISION. THERE'S PRESSURE.
NOW IMAGINE THAT IT'S AMERICA'S
DA VINCI WRITING YOU AND SAYING
WHEN CAN WE EXPECT THE BOOK YOU PROMISED EVERYONE?
AND SO LEWIS THEN STOPS
COMMUNICATING WITH JEFFERSON
BECAUSE HE HAS WRITER'S BLOCK
AND THE SHAME OF IT.
SO THIS CONTRIBUTED TO HIS
DEMISE THAT HE COULDN'T PRODUCE THE BOOK.
FROM JEFFERSON'S POINT OF VIEW, THE JOURNAL YIP WAS LESS
IMPORTANT THAN THE BOOK ABOUT THE JOURNEY.
BECAUSE ONLY A FEW PEOPLE GOT TO
BE ON THE JOURNEY.
THE WORLD WANTS TO READ THE BOOK
ABOUT THE JOURNEY.
>> WELL, YOU MENTIONED PRESIDENT
JEFFERSON PICKED HIM BECAUSE HE
HAD THE RIGHT STUFF.
I DON'T KNOW IF -- I PICKED UP ON THAT.
BUT SO WHAT WAS THE RELATIONSHIP?
MAYBE AS PRESIDENT JEFFERSON,
HOW WOULD YOU SAY THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS?
>> WELL, JEFFERSON WAS A GREAT
MAN AND A GREAT VISIONARY AND HE
NEVER HAD A BAD DAY AND HE NEVER
HAD WRITER'S BLOCK AND SO FAR
AS WE KNOW HE NEVER HAD MOODS.
HE WAS JUST ONE OF THOSE MEN WHO
WAS EQUAL TO EVERY CHALLENGE IN LIFE.
HE WROTE THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
HE BUILT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.
HE DESIGNED THE CAPITOL AT RICHMOND.
HE CREATED THE LIBRARY
CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM FOR AMERICA.
HE WROTE 22,000 LETTERS.
JEFFERSON NEVER HAD A BAD DAY.
HE'S HITTING HOME RUNS AND
TRIPLES ALL OF HIS LIFE.
HE, JEFFERSON'S GREAT MISTAKE WAS HE THOUGHT EVERYBODY COULD BE A KIND OF LITTLE JEFFERSON,
THAT YOU TOO COULD DO ALL THESE THINGS.
MAYBE NOT AT HIS LEVEL, BUT HE
DIDN'T REALIZE THAT LEWIS
BECAUSE MOODY, SELF-PUNISHING,
TIGHTLY WOUND MERCURIAL MAN WHO
DIDN'T HAVE JEFFERSON'S FAMOUS
STABILITY AND EQUINIMITY.
HE LOVED LEWIS AND WANTED LEWIS
TO SUCCEED, BUT HE DIDN'T
REALIZE THIS IS A TROUBLED YOUNG
MAN AND THE PRESSURES THAT I'M PUTTING HIM UNDER MAY BE TOO
GREAT FOR HIM TO SUSTAIN.
AND SO HE DIDN'T HAVE THE KIND
OF SYMPATHY YOU WOULD WANT WHEN
YOU ARE DEALING WITH A TROUBLED GENIUS.
JEFFERSON WAS AN UNTROUBLED GENIUS.
HE COULDN'T QUITE UNDERSTAND WHAT A TROUBLED GENIUS LOOKED
LIKE AND HE WOULD SAY, WELL,
JUST SIT DOWN AND WRITE THE BOOK
OR JUST DO IT.
IT'S SO EASY.
I CAN DO IT.
EVERYBODY CAN DO IT, CAN'T THEY? THAT'S OF COURSE PART OF THE PARADOX OF AMERICA.
JEFFERSON ASSUMED WE COULD BE
LITTLE JEFFERSONS AND LOOK AT US.
LOOK AT THE ELECTION OF 2012.
THIS IS NOT A JEFFERSONIAN DEMOCRACY. WHAT IS IT I DON'T KNOW.
BUT WE ARE NOT LITTLE JEFFERSONS.
>> WITH THAT SAID, I TRY TO WRAP
THIS INTO A COUPLE THINGS HERE.
LEWIS WAS CONSIDERED A HEAVY DRINKER.
HOW MUCH OF THAT TOOK ON THE ASPECT OF HIS PERSONALITY?
BUT ALSO WITH THAT IN TODAY'S
MEDICAL LANGUAGE, DO YOU BELIEVE
LEWIS WOULD BE CATEGORIZED AS BY POLAR?
AGAIN, SO HOW DOES ALL THIS PLAY
INTO THE MAKE-UP OF LEWIS?
>> OF COURSE WE DON'T KNOW. BUT HE DOES SEEM T TO HAVE BEENA HEAVY DRINKER.
JEFFERSON SAYS THAT AFTER HE CAME BACK HE FELL INTO A HEAVY DEPRESSION.
JEFFERSON SAID HE WAS PRONE TO
DEPRESSION, HE WAS MELLEN COLIC.
THEN HE CAME BACK AND BEGAN A
HABIT WHICH ONLY MADE THINGS
WORSE, SO WE PRESUME THAT'S ALCOHOLISM.
AND OF COURSE THE WORST THING A
DEPRESSIVE PERSON CAN DO IS
SELF-MEDICATE WITH GRAIN
ALCOHOL, WHICH IS APPARENTLY PRECISELY WHAT LEWIS WAS DOING.
I'M A LITTLE SKEPTICAL OF THINGS
LIKE POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS
SYNDROME OR BIPOLAR WHEN WE'RE
LOOKING AT SOMEONE WHO ISN'T
HERE TO BE CLINICALLY ANALYZED.
THAT'S ALWAYS A LITTLE DICEY,
BUT SOME OF THIS HAS TO BE TRUE.
WHEN LEWIS IS ON THE TRIP HE'S
EITHER SILENT OR HE'S OUT WALKING ON THE SHORE AND THEN HE'S WRITING.
AND SO HE DOES SEEM TO HAVE GONE
THROUGH UP AND DOWN SWINGS.
IT SOUNDS LIKE BIPOLAR OR MANIC DEPRESSION.
BUT MY VIEW IS THAT LEWIS WAS
JUST A VERY COMPLICATED MAN
SUBJECT TO DEPRESSIONS.
THAT'S WHAT JEFFERSON SAYS.
AND THAT HIS MOODS WERE ENOUGH
TO OVERTAKE HIS CAPACITY TO
FUNCTION AT TIMES.
>> CLAY, TALK ABOUT HIS DEATH QUICKLY HERE.
SOME BELIEVE IT WAS MURDER IN TENNESSEE.
I BELIEVE YOU AND OTHERS BELIEVE
IT WAS SUICIDE.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
>> WELL, IT WILL ALWAYS BE A
MYSTERY BECAUSE THERE WERE NO EYEWITNESSES.
BUT JUST TO PUT IT IN A NUTSHELL, IF YOU HAD A THOUSAND PEOPLE FROM JUPITER WEIGH THE
EVIDENCE, THEY WOULD ALL SAY IT WAS SUICIDE.
IT'S OVERWHELMINGLY THE CASE
THAT LEWIS WAS A SUICIDAL MAN, A
DEPRESSED MAN, AND THAT HE
ALMOST CERTAINLY TOOK HIS OWN
LIFE ON THE NIGHT OF
OCTOBER 11th, 1809.
IT'S POSSIBLE THAT HE WAS MURDERED. VERY UNLIKELY.
BUT IN THIS BOOK I TRY TO WEIGH
THE EVIDENCE AND TO BE FAIR TO
BOTH SIDES AND NOT TO FORCE MY CONCLUSION.
I TRY TO STAY WITH IT, THE
FACTS, AS LONG AS WE CAN.
BUT THE FACTS POINT TO SUICIDE.
THAT'S ACTUALLY HOW I GOT
INTERESTED IN LEWIS.
HERE'S 35 YEARS OLD, THREE YEARS
AFTER STEPPING FOOT AT THE
SOURCE OF THE MISSOURI RIVER,
HE'S NEIL ARMSTRONG.
IF NEIL ARMSTRONG HAD COME BACK
AND THREE YEARS LATER HAD
COMMITTED SUICIDE IN A SEEDY
MOTEL IN ALABAMA THAT WOULD HAVE
ROCKED AMERICA.
LEWIS COMMITTED SUICIDE AT THE
HEIGHT OF HIS POWERS, THREE
YEARS AFTER THE THIS TRIUMPH.
IT'S A HORRIBLE STORY AND I'VE
TRIED CAREFULLY AND SYMPATHETICALLY TO TEASE OUT THE MYSTERY OF WHAT HAPPENED.
>> WELL, CLAY, WHAT'S THE
REACTION BEEN THUS FAR ON THE BOOK?
>> SPECTACULAR SO FAR.
YOU KNOW, EVERYONE WANTS TO
WRITE A BOOK THAT MATTERS.
AND I'VE WRITTEN NINE BOOKS I THINK.
THIS IS MY BIG BOOK.
I'M IMMENSELY PROUD OF THIS BOOK.
MILTON SAID, JOHN MILTON SAID
THAT HE WANTED TO WRITE
SOMETHING "SO WRITTEN TO AFTER
TIMES THAT THEY WOULD NOT
WILLINGLY LET IT DIE."
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT THAT FOR ME,
BUT THAT'S WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO.
I BELIEVE THIS BOOK SHOULD -- I
HOPE -- BE A FOUNDATION BOOK FOR
ALL FUTURE STUDIES OF MERIWETHER LEWIS.
THAT'S MY DREAM ANYWAY.
>> WELL, WITH THAT SAID THIS MAY
BE PART OF YOUR LEGACY.
BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK MERIWETHER
LEWIS' LEGACY IS?
>> I THINK THAT THE JOURNALS
THAT HE WROTE WHEN HE WAS
WRITING PROVIDED A DESCRIPTION
OF MONTANA AND THE AMERICAN WEST
AND THE MISSOURI RIVER THAT ARE
SO BEAUTIFUL THAT THEY INSPIRE
EVERYBODY WHO READS THEM TO WANT
THIS COUNTRY TO MAINTAIN SOME OF
ITS WILDERNESS.
WE WANT MONTANA ALWAYS TO BE MONTANA.
WE WANT TO HAVE FRIENDLY
ENCOUNTERS WITH NATIVE PEOPLES.
WE WANT JOURNEYS AND ADVENTURES
IN OUR LIVES AND WE WANT AMERICA
TO BE AS HIGH-MINDED IN ALL OF
ITS DEALINGS DOMESTIC AND
FOREIGN AS WE WERE ON THIS
JEFFERSON-INSPIRED JOURNEY IN 1804 TO 1806.
>> WITH THAT SAID, WOULD YOU
READ A PASSAGE FROM YOUR BOOK FOR US?
>> I CAN CERTAINLY TRY.
THIS IS ABOUT LEWIS IN MONTANA
WHEN HE WAS ABOUT TO DISCOVER
THE -- WELL, HE JUST HAD DUSS
DISCOVERED THE SHOW SHOWNAN INDIANS.
I'LL READ ONE SHORT PARAGRAPH.
LEWIS' DESCRIPTION OF THE SCENE IS ONE OF THE CLASSICS OF AMERICAN LITERATURE.
HIS USE OF DETAIL IS MAGNIFICENT.
ONE CAN SEE THE SCENE, FOUR
VERAL AND HEAVILY ARMED WHITE
MEN IN BUCK SKINS.
THREE NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN IN
DEER SKIN DRESSES IN THE
PRISTINE MOUNTAINS JUST INSIDE IDAHO, EVERYONE ON EVERAGE.
THE WOMEN WONDERING IF THEY WERE
GOING TO LIVE OUT THE DAY.
THE MEN GLANCING AROUND
NERVOUSLY, RIFLES READY.
LEWIS FEELING CONTINENTAL
SUCCESS WITHIN HIS GRASP, BUT INTENSELY FEARFUL THAT SOMETHING
MIGHT STILL GO TERRIBLY WRONG,
DONNING VERMILLION POWDER ON THE
FACES OF THE WOMEN HE HAS NEVER MET AND WITH WHOM HE COULD FIND
HIMSELF COMMUNICATE, A WORD HE
THINKS MEANS FRIENDLY WHITE MAN
AND THEY PROBABLY REGARD
AS EITHER STRANGER OR JUST PLAIN GIBBERISH.
LEWIS SAYS IT WAS A HOT, DRY, SUNNY DAY.
ONE CAN PICTURE THE SCENE.
ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN OUT IN THE
FOOT HILLS OF MONTANA DURING THE
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER CAN FEEL THAT
MOMENT, REMEMBER DUST IN ONE'S
NOSTRILS, THE LITTLE STIRRINGS
OF THE SUMMER PLEASE, THE INTENSE SOUNDLESSNESS OF THE
HEART OF THE WILDERNESS AND THE
BIG, BIG MONTANA SKY.
SO THAT'S SORT OF THE FLAVOR OF THE PROSE.
>> WELL, IT IS.
AGAIN, IF PEOPLE WANT MORE
INFORMATION OR WANT A COPY, OR
TO BUY THE BOOK, WHERE CAN THEY GO?
>> PUBLISHED BY THE DAKOTA
INSTITUTE PRESS, THEY CAN GO TO
FORT MANDAN.COM OR TO BARNES
AND NOBLE OR TO AMAZON .COM OR ANY BOOKSTORE.
THIS IS NATIONALLY DISTRIBUTED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
SO IT SHOULD BE WIDELY AVAILABLE.
BUT THE WAY TO GET IT SIGNED BY
ME IF THEY WANT THAT IS TO GO TO
FORT MANDAN.COM OR JUST TO YOUR
INDEPENDENT LOCAL BOOKSTORE.
>> CLAY, WHAT'S YOUR NEXT BOOK?
>> I'M WRITING A NOVEL ABOUT
WHITE INDIAN RELATIONS IN NORTH DAKOTA.
THE GULF BETWEEN WHITES AND INDIANS IN NORTH DAKOTA IS VERY
WIDE AND I'M TRYING TO WRITE A
YOUNG PERSON'S NOVEL ABOUT THE
TWO CULTURES AND HOPE THAT WE
CAN CREATE A CONVERSATION.
>> WELL, WE LOOK FORWARD TO THAT.
BUT RIGHT NOW WE APPRECIATE THIS
ONE AND WE'LL SEE HOW IT DOES.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.
I'M THRILLED TO HAVE WRITTEN IT.
>> WELL, THAT'S ALL WE HAVE THIS WEEK.
AND AS ALWAYS, THANKS FOR JOINING US