Thomas Jefferson's decision to buy the Louisianna Puchase should be considered one of the greatest executive decisions of all-time. Not only did it give the infant U.S. a massive new chunk of land, but it animated the inaginations of everyone. In preparation for the Lewis and Clark expedition, Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis exchanged a number of letters listing their assumptions about what laid before them. In several of these Letters, Thomas Jefferson shows just how stubborn Virginians could be. He insisted that a water passage existed somewhere on the continent that connected the Atlantic to the Pacific (even though previous expeditions and scores of Indians had stated otherwise for over 100 years). Jefferson and Lewis also shared another assumption. They sincerely believed that in the far western parts of the Continent the 10 lost tribes of Israel were "hidden" or "lost" and that they would be able to find them. As strange of a notion as this may sound today, it is worth noting that Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortes, John Smith and others believed the same thing about the New World.
I think it is interesting just how long such beliefs permeated the "New World" and its people. Clearly this serves as evidence that the ideas of the Enlightenment had changed perspective is such a way that romantic ideas were deeply embraced. Unfortunately for Lewis and Jefferson, the trek turned up no sign of any "white skinned Indian Israelites." Despite such a personal disappointment for both Jefferson and Lewis, the voyage is still a remarkable part of American history and a wonderful legacy to the American revolutionary ideas.