How did the Lewis and Clark expedition impact America?

The Lewis and Clark expedition impacted America by establishing an American presence in the West, gathering invaluable information about the geography and indigenous peoples of the West, and making it possible for Westward Expansion to begin.

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At the beginning of the nineteenth century, only a fraction of what is now the United States was actually part of this country. Spain and France both owned a significant portion of land in North America, which was not ideal for the fledgling United States.

A few years after the...

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At the beginning of the nineteenth century, only a fraction of what is now the United States was actually part of this country. Spain and France both owned a significant portion of land in North America, which was not ideal for the fledgling United States.

A few years after the Louisiana territory was acquired by the United States, Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to not only map out the region, but to also establish a route to the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson also hoped that the expedition would establish a powerful American presence in the west, which would deter any European invasions and ideally kick the Spanish out of North America. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis and Clark, aided by the Native American tribes of the west and especially their guide Sacagawea, gained invaluable information not only about the geography of the region but also the flora and fauna, as well as the Native American tribes who lived there and the most effective routes to the Pacific Ocean.

The success of their expedition marked the beginning of the American push westward.

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The Lewis and Clark expedition impacted the United States of America profoundly.  Thomas Jefferson and others who had led the effort to create a new nation in the former British colonies had long sought to expand the nation’s nascent borders. Very formidable obstacles stood in their way, namely the presence of the French and the fact that little was known about the land purchased from the French, let alone what lay beyond it.  The first obstacle was effectively removed when Jefferson was elected president and successfully negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States and pushed its western-most boundaries hundreds of miles further out.  The second obstacle was addressed through the commissioning of the expedition led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and the man he selected to accompany him as co-leader of the journey, William Clark.  Together, and with considerable assistance from their Native American guide Sacagawea, and from Native tribes along the way, they succeeded in exploring much of the continent. They arrived at the Pacific Northwest in November 1805 two and a quarter years after their departure. 

The impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition involved the considerable knowledge the explorers gained during the course of their journey regarding the geographic and topologic features of the terrain and of the peoples who populated it – in effect, the Native tribes who had proved so helpful in facilitating the group’s advance across the continent. With the knowledge accumulated during the expedition, President Jefferson was better able to make informed decisions regarding the westward expansion of the United States. 

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