Early in November, 1806, Meriwether Lewis set out from St. Louis, bound for Washington, D.C., with a stop en route for a visit with his mother. On December 13th he arrived at Locust Hill, the 2,000-acre family plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia, among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In nearby Charlottesville on the 15th, about fifty of "the most respectable inhabitants of the country" gathered to welcome him home.1

A spokesman for the assembled citizens expressed their affection and congratulations, and welcomed him back "to civilized life."

"The difficult and dangerous enterprize which you have so successfully atchieved," the orator continued, "is pregnant with consequences."

We indulge not in the delusions of hope, nor the visions of fancy; when we behold in this expedition . . . the germ of extended civilization, science and liberty: when we behold the federative system, and the principles of representative democracy extending their genial influence and receiving in their parental embrace, nations still in the infancy of reason and government; and regions yet groaning under unviolated forests.

Lewis responded with appropriate modesty, sharing credit for the expedition's success with his "dear and interesting friend capt. Clark," and to the rest of the Corps of Discovery. Finally, he reassured his friends:

With you I trust, that the discoveries we have made, will not long remain unimproved; and that the same sentiment which dictated to our government, an investigation into the resources so liberally bestowed by nature in this fair portion of the globe, will prompt them to avail themselves of those resources, to promote the cause of liberty and the honour of America, and then to relieve distressed humanity, in whatever shape she may present herself.

According to the local newspaper in which the speeches were reported, "the company then sat down to an excellent dinner: many appropriate toasts were given, the social song went round; and they passed the evening in that spirit of festivity and mirth, which the joyful occasion, and the presence of their friend, safely returned from his perilous expedition, and in the bloom of health, inspired."

1. Donald Jackson, Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783–1854, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 2:692-693.