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Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803 to explore the northwest territory in order to observe a transcontinental route and natural resources. In 1804, about 45 men headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark moved up the Missouri River, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and from the Columbia River, reached the Pacific Ocean by November 1805. They returned to St. Louis by September 1806 with great fanfare and important information on native people, plants and animals, and geography.
Jefferson drew upon his education in law and Enlightenment philosophy when he wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776) and A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774), two treatises that grappled with liberty and slavery.