“Of courage undaunted, possesing a firmness & perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from it’s direction,”
-Thomas Jefferson, commenting on Meriwether Lewis
I just finished one of the largest reading projects I’ve ever undertaken (besides Tolkien and C.S. Lewis readings.) Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose is a truly fascinating read. I love reading biographies, but any biography that numbers 521 pages has to be really, really fascinating to keep my attention. Undaunted Courage is about Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the opening of the American West.
If you’ve ever wondered how the Corps of Discovery and the Lewis & Clark Expedition came to be, and what they really accomplished on their big jaunt to the Pacific Ocean; then please read this book! It’s an amazing, un-biased look at everything relating to Meriwether Lewis. I’ve read the Lewis and Clark journals before, and this book makes those finally come to life in my mind. I can see the reasons now behind every decision Lewis made, and what influenced him to be the great leader he was.
As a leader, I encourage this to others in leadership. There is so much to be learned from a man that planned such an awesome adventure, led his men as a valiant Captain, discovered things previously undiscovered (and undocumented) to the white man, journaled most details relating to this trip, came home a National Hero, yet killed himself within 3 years of returning. Lewis life is a tragic example of an unevolving leadership style, but I’ll let you read the book for exactly what it was that he did so wrong.
This is my favorite quote by Meriwether Lewis, and he wrote it in his journal on his 31st birthday.
“This day I completed my thirty first year, and conceived that I had in all human probability now existed about half the period which I am to remain in this Sublunary world. I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little, indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now soarly feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended. but since they are past and cannot be recalled, I dash from me the gloomy thought, and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least endeavour to promote those two primary objects of human existence, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestowed on me: or in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.”
-Meriwether Lewis, on his 31st birthday