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Such was the unfortunate catastrophe of the Lark; had she reached
her destination in safety, affairs at Astoria might have taken a
different course. A strange fatality seems to have attended all
the expeditions by sea, nor were those by land much less

Captain Northrop was still at the Sandwich Islands, on December
20th, when Mr. Hunt arrived. The latter immediately purchased,
for ten thousand dollars, a brig called the Pedler, and put
Captain Northrop in command of her. They set sail for Astoria on
the 22d January, intending to remove the property from thence as
speedily as possible to the Russian settlements on the northwest
coast, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the British.
Such were the orders of Mr. Astor, sent out by the Lark.

We will now leave Mr. Hunt on his voyage, and return to see what
has taken place at Astoria during his absence.


Arrival of M'Tavish at Astoria.- Conduct of His Followers.-
Negotiations of M'Dougal and M'Tavish. - Bargain for the Transfer
of Astoria- Doubts Entertained of the Loyalty of M'Dougal.

0N the 2d of October, about five weeks after Mr. Hunt had sailed
in the Albatross from Astoria, Mr. M'Kenzie set off with two
canoes, and twelve men, for the posts of Messrs. Stuart and
Clarke, to appraise them of the new arrangements determined upon
in the recent conference of the partners at the factory.

He had not ascended the river a hundred miles, when he met a
squadron of ten canoes, sweeping merrily down under British
colors, the Canadian oarsmen, as usual, in full song.

It was an armament fitted out by M'Tavish, who had with him Mr.
J. Stuart, another partner of the Northwest Company, together
with some clerks, and sixty-eight men - seventy-five souls in
all. They had heard of the frigate Phoebe and the Isaac Todd
being on the high seas, and were on their way down to await their
arrival. In one of the canoes Mr. Clarke came as a passenger, the
alarming intelligence having brought him down from his post on
the Spokan. Mr. M'Kenzie immediately determined to return with
him to Astoria, and, veering about, the two parties encamped
together for the night. The leaders, of course, observed a due
decorum, but some of the subalterns could not restrain their
chuckling exultation, boasting that they would soon plant the
British standard on the walls of Astoria, and drive the Americans
out of the country.

In the course of the evening, Mr. M'Kenzie had a secret
conference with Mr. Clarke, in which they agreed to set off
privately before daylight, and get down in time to appraise
M'Dougal of the approach of these Northwesters. The latter,
however, were completely on the alert; just as M'Kenzie's canoes
were about to push off, they were joined by a couple from the
Northwest squadron, in which was M'Tavish, with two clerks, and
eleven men. With these, he intended to push forward and make
arrangements, leaving the rest of the convoy, in which was a
large quantity of furs, to await his orders.

The two parties arrived at Astoria on the 7th of October. The
Northwesters encamped under the guns of the fort, and displayed
the British colors. The young men in the fort, natives of the
United States, were on the point of hoisting the American flag,
but were forbidden by Mr. M'Dougal. They were astonished at such
a prohibition, and were exceedingly galled by the tone and manner
assumed by the clerks and retainers of the Northwest Company, who
ruffled about in that swelling and braggart style which grows up
among these heroes of the wilderness; they, in fact, considered
themselves lords of the ascendant and regarded the hampered and
harassed Astorians as a conquered people.

On the following day M'Dougal convened the clerks, and read to
them an extract from a letter from his uncle, Mr. Angus Shaw, one
of the principal partners of the Northwest Company, announcing
the coming of the Phoebe and Isaac Todd, "to take and destroy
everything American on the northwest coast."

This intelligence was received without dismay by such of the
clerks as were natives of the United States. They had felt
indignant at seeing their national flag struck by a Canadian
commander, and the British flag flowed, as it were, in their
faces. They had been stung to the quick, also, by the vaunting
airs assumed by the Northwesters. In this mood of mind, they
would willingly have nailed their colors to the staff , and
defied the frigate. She could not come within many miles of the
fort, they observed, and any boats she might send could be
destroyed by their cannon.

There were cooler and more calculating spirits, however, who had
the control of affairs, and felt nothing of the patriotic pride
and indignation of these youths. The extract of the letter had,
apparently, been read by M'Dougal, merely to prepare the way for
a preconcerted stroke of management. On the same day Mr. M'Tavish
proposed to purchase the whole stock of goods and furs belonging
to the company, both at Astoria and in the interior, at cost and
charges. Mr. M'Dougal undertook to comply; assuming the whole
management of the negotiation in virtue of the power vested in
him, in case of the non-arrival of Mr. Hunt. That power, however,
was limited and specific, and did not extend to an operation of
this nature and extent; no objection, however, was made to his
assumption, and he and M'Tavish soon made a preliminary
arrangement, perfectly satisfactory to the latter.

Mr. Stuart, and the reserve party of Northwesters, arrived
shortly afterwards, and encamped with M'Tavish. The former
exclaimed loudly against the terms of the arrangement, and
insisted upon a reduction of the prices. New negotiations had now
to be entered into. The demands of the Northwesters were made in
a peremptory tone, and they seemed disposed to dictate like
conquerors. The Americans looked on with indignation and
impatience. They considered M'Dougal as acting, if not a
perfidious, certainly a craven part. He was continually repairing
to the camp to negotiate, instead of keeping within his walls and
receiving overtures in his fortress. His case, they observed, was
not so desperate as to excuse such crouching. He might, in fact,
hold out for his own terms. The Northwest party had lost their
ammunition; they had no goods to trade with the natives for
provisions; and they were so destitute that M'Dougal had
absolutely to feed them, while he negotiated with them. He, on
the contrary, was well lodged and victualled; had sixty men, with
arms, ammunition, boats, and everything requisite either for
defense or retreat. The party, beneath the guns of his fort, were
at his mercy; should an enemy appear in the offing, he could pack
up the most valuable part of the property and retire to some
place of concealment, or make off for the interior.

These considerations, however, had no weight with Mr. M'Dougal,
or were overruled by other motives. The terms of sale were
lowered by him to the standard fixed by Mr. Stuart, and an
agreement executed on the 16th of October, by which the furs and
merchandise of all kinds in the country, belonging to Mr. Astor,
passed into the possession of the Northwest Company at about a
third of their value. * A safe passage through the Northwest
posts was guaranteed to such as did not choose to enter into the
service of that Company, and the amount of wages due to them was
to be deducted from the price paid for Astoria.

The conduct and motives of Mr. M'Dougal, throughout the whole of
this proceeding, have been strongly questioned by the other
partners. He has been accused of availing himself of a wrong
construction of powers vested in him at his own request, and of
sacrificing the interests of Mr. Astor to the Northwest Company,
under the promise or hope of advantage to himself.

He always insisted, however, that he made the best bargain for
Mr. Astor that circumstances would permit; the frigate being
hourly expected, in which case the whole property of that
gentleman would be liable to capture. That the return of Mr. Hunt
was problematical; the frigate intending to cruise along the
coast for two years, and clear it of all American vessels. He
moreover averred, and M'Tavish corroborated his averment by
certificate, that he proposed an arrangement to that gentleman,
by which the furs were to be sent to Canton, and sold there at
Mr. Astor's risk, and for his account; but the proposition was
not acceded to.

Notwithstanding all his representations, several of the persons
present at the transaction, and acquainted with the whole course
of the affair, and among the number Mr. M'Kenzie himself, his
occasional coadjutor, remained firm in the belief that he had
acted a hollow part. Neither did he succeed in exculpating
himself to Mr. Astor; that gentleman declaring, in a letter
written some time afterwards, to Mr. Hunt, that he considered the
property virtually given away. "Had our place and our property,"
he adds, "been fairly captured, I should have preferred it; I
should not feel as if I were disgraced."

All these may be unmerited suspicions; but it certainly is a
circumstance strongly corroborative of them, that Mr. M'Dougal,
shortly after concluding this agreement, became a member of the
Northwest Company, and received a share productive of a handsome

* Not quite $40,000 were allowed for furs worth upwards of
$100,000. Beaver was valued at two dollars per skin, though worth
five dollars. Land otter at fifty cents, though worth five
dollars. Sea-otter at twelve dollars, worth from forty-five to
sixty dollars; and for several kinds of furs nothing was allowed.
Moreover, the goods and merchandise for the Indian trade ought to
have brought three times the amount for which they were sold.

The following estimate has been made of the articles on hand, and
the prices:

17,705 lbs. beaver parchment, valued at $2.00 worth $5.00
465 old coat beaver, valued at 1.66 worth 3.50

907 land otter, valued at .50 worth 5.00
68 sea-otter, valued at 12.00 worth 45 to 60.00
30 sea-otter, valued at 5.00 worth 25.00

Nothing was allowed for
179 mink skins, worth each .40
22 raccoon, worth each .40
28 lynx, worth each 2.00
18 fox, worth each 1.00
106 fox, worth each 1.50
71 black bear, worth each 4.00
16 grizzly bear, worth each 10.00


Arrival of a Strange Sail.- Agitation at Astoria.- Warlike Offer
of Comcomly. - Astoria Taken Possession of by the British. -
Indignation of Comcomly at the Conduct of His Son-in-Law.

0N the morning of the 30th of November, a sail was descried
doubling Cape Disappointment. It came to anchor in Baker's Bay,
and proved to be a ship of war. Of what nation? was now the
anxious inquiry. If English, why did it come alone? where was the
merchant vessel that was to have accompanied it? If American,
what was to become of the newly acquired possession of the
Northwest Company?

In this dilemma, M'Tavish, in all haste, loaded two barges with
all the packages of furs bearing the mark of the Northwest
Company, and made off for Tongue Point, three miles up the river.
There he was to await a preconcerted signal from M'Dougal, on
ascertaining the character of the ship. If it should prove
American, M'Tavish would have a fair start, and could bear off
his rich cargo to the interior. It is singular that this prompt
mode of conveying valuable, but easily transportable effects
beyond the reach of a hostile ship should not have suggested
itself while the property belonged to Mr. Astor.

In the meantime, M'Dougal, who still remained nominal chief at
the fort, launched a canoe, manned by men recently in the employ
of the American Fur Company, and steered for the ship. On the
way, he instructed his men to pass themselves for Americans or
Englishmen, according to the exigencies of the case.

The vessel proved to be the British sloop of war Raccoon, of
twenty-six guns, and one hundred and twenty men, commanded by
Captain Black. According to the account of that officer, the
frigate Phoebe, and two sloops of war Cherub and Raccoon, had
sailed in convoy of the Isaac Todd from Rio Janeiro. On board of
the Phoebe, Mr. John M'Donald, a partner of the Northwest
Company, embarked as passenger, to profit by the anticipated
catastrophe at Astoria. The convoy was separated by stress of
weather off Cape Horn. The three ships of war came together again
at the island of Juan Fernandez, their appointed rendezvous, but
waited in vain for the Isaac Todd.

In the meantime, intelligence was received of the mischief that
Commodore Porter was doing among the British whale ships.
Commodore Hillyer immediately set sail in quest of him with the
Phoebe and the Cherub, transferring Mr. M'Donald to the Raccoon,
and ordered that vessel to proceed to the Columbia.

The officers of the Raccoon were in high spirits. The agents of
the Northwest Company, in instigating the expedition, had talked
of immense booty to be made by the fortunate captors of Astoria.
Mr. M'Donald had kept up the excitement during the voyage, so
that not a midshipman but revelled in dreams of ample prize-
money, nor a lieutenant that would have sold his chance for a
thousand pounds. Their disappointment, therefore, may easily be
conceived, when they learned that their warlike attack upon
Astoria had been forestalled by a snug commercial arrangement;
that their anticipated booty had become British property in the
regular course of traffic, and that all this had been effected by
the very Company which had been instrumental in getting them sent
on what they now stigmatized as a fool's errand. They felt as if
they had been duped and made tools of, by a set of shrewd men of
traffic, who had employed them to crack the nut, while they
carried off the kernel. In a word, M'Dougal found himself so
ungraciously received by his countrymen on board of the ship,
that he was glad to cut short his visit, and return to shore. He
was busy at the fort, making preparations for the reception of
the captain of the Raccoon, when his one-eyed Indian father-in-
law made his appearance, with a train of Chinook warriors, all
painted and equipped in warlike style.

Old Comcomly had beheld, with dismay, the arrival of a "big war
canoe" displaying the British flag. The shrewd old savage had
become something of a politician in the course of his daily
visits at the fort. He knew of the war existing between the
nations, but knew nothing of the arrangement between M'Dougal and
M'Tavish. He trembled, therefore, for the power of his white son-
in-law, and the new-fledged grandeur of his daughter, and
assembled his warriors in all haste. "King George," said he, "has
sent his great canoe to destroy the fort, and make slaves of all
the inhabitants. Shall we suffer it? The Americans are the first
white men that have fixed themselves in the land. They have
treated us like brothers. Their great chief has taken my daughter
to be his squaw: we are, therefore, as one people."

His warriors all determined to stand by the Americans to the
last, and to this effect they came painted and armed for battle.
Comcomly made a spirited war-speech to his son-in-law. He offered
to kill every one of King George's men that should attempt to
land. It was an easy matter. The ship could not approach within
six miles of the fort; the crew could only land in boats. The
woods reached to the water's edge; in these, he and his warriors
would conceal themselves, and shoot down the enemy as fast as
they put foot on shore.

M'Dougal was, doubtless, properly sensible of this parental
devotion on the part of his savage father-in-law, and perhaps a
little rebuked by the game spirit, so opposite to his own. He
assured Comcomly, however, that his solicitude for the safety of
himself and the princess was superfluous; as, though the ship
belonged to King George, her crew would not injure the Americans,
or their Indian allies. He advised him and his warriors,
therefore, to lay aside their weapons and war shirts, wash off
the paint from their faces and bodies, and appear like clean and
civil savages, to receive the strangers courteously.

Comcomly was sorely puzzled at this advice, which accorded so
little with his Indian notions of receiving a hostile nation, and
it was only after repeated and positive assurances of the
amicable intentions of the strangers that he was induced to lower
his fighting tone. He said something to his warriors explanatory
of this singular posture of affairs, and in vindication, perhaps,
of the pacific temper of his son-in-law. They all gave a shrug
and an Indian grunt of acquiescence, and went off sulkily to
their village, to lay aside their weapons for the present.

The proper arrangements being made for the reception of Captain
Black, that officer caused his ship's boats to be manned, and
landed with befitting state at Astoria. From the talk that had
been made by the Northwest Company of the strength of the place,
and the armament they had required to assist in its reduction, he
expected to find a fortress of some importance. When he beheld
nothing but stockades and bastions, calculated for defense
against naked savages, he felt an emotion of indignant surprise,
mingled with something of the ludicrous. "Is this the fort,"
cried he, "about which I have heard so much talking? D-n me, but
I'd batter it down in two hours with a four pounder!"

When he learned, however, the amount of rich furs that had been
passed into the hands of the Northwesters, he was outrageous, and
insisted that an inventory should be taken of all the property
purchased of the Americans, "with a view to ulterior measures in
England, for the recovery of the value from the Northwest

As he grew cool, however, he gave over all idea of preferring
such a claim, and reconciled himself, as well as he could, to the
idea of having been forestalled by his bargaining coadjutors.

On the 12th of December, the fate of Astoria was consummated by a
regular ceremonial. Captain Black, attended by his officers,
entered the fort, caused the British standard to be erected,
broke a bottle of wine and declared, in a loud voice, that he
took possession of the establishment and of the country, in the
name of his Britannic Majesty, changing the name of Astoria to
that of Fort George.

The Indian warriors, who had offered their services to repel the
strangers, were present on this occasion. It was explained to
them as being a friendly arrangement and transfer, but they shook
their heads grimly, and considered it an act of subjugation of
their ancient allies. They regretted that they had complied with
M'Dougal's wishes, in laying aside their arms, and remarked,
that, however the Americans might conceal the fact, they were
undoubtedly all slaves; nor could they be persuaded of the
contrary, until they beheld the Raccoon depart without taking
away any prisoners.

As to Comcomly, he no longer prided himself upon his white son-
in-law, but, whenever he was asked about him, shook his head, and
replied, that his daughter had made a mistake, and, instead of
getting a great warrior for a husband, had married herself to a


Arrival of the Brig Pedler at Astoria.- Breaking Up of the
Establishment .-Departure of Several of the Company. - Tragical
Story Told by the Squaw of Pierre Dorion.- Fate of Reed and His
Companions. - Attempts of Mr. Astor to Renew His Enterprise.-
Disappointment. - Concluding Observations and Reflection.

HAVING given the catastrophe at the Fort of Astoria, it remains
now but to gather up a few loose ends of this widely excursive
narrative and conclude. On the 28th of February the brig Pedler
anchored in Columbia River. It will be recollected that Mr. Hunt
had purchased this vessel at the Sandwich Islands, to take off
the furs collected at the factory, and to restore the Sandwich
Islanders to their homes. When that gentleman learned, however,
the precipitate and summary manner in which the property had been
bargained away by M'Dougal, he expressed his indignation in the
strongest terms, and determined to make an effort to get back the
furs. As soon as his wishes were known in this respect, M'Dougal
came to sound him on behalf of the Northwest Company, intimating
that he had no doubt the peltries might be repurchased at an
advance of fifty per cent. This overture was not calculated to
soothe the angry feelings of Mr. Hunt, and his indignation was
complete, when he discovered that M'Dougal had become a partner
of the Northwest Company, and had actually been so since the 23d
of December. He had kept his partnership a secret, however; had
retained the papers of the Pacific Fur Company in his possession;
and had continued to act as Mr. Astor's agent, though two of the
partners of the other company, Mr. M'Kenzie and Mr. Clarke, were
present. He had, moreover, divulged to his new associates all
that he knew as to Mr. Astor's plans and affairs, and had made
copies of his business letters for their perusal.

Mr. Hunt now considered the whole conduct of M'Dougal hollow and
collusive. His only thought was, therefore, to get all the papers
of the concern out of his hands, and bring the business to a
close; for the interests of Mr. Astor were yet completely at
stake; the drafts of the Northwest Company in his favor, for the
purchase money, not having yet been obtained. With some
difficulty he succeeded in getting possession of the papers. The
bills or drafts were delivered without hesitation. The latter he
remitted to Mr. Astor by some of his associates, who were about
to cross the continent to New York. This done, he embarked on
board the Pedler, on the 3d of April, accompanied by two of the
clerks, Mr. Seton and Mr. Halsey, and bade a final adieu to

The next day, April 4th, Messrs. Clarke, M'Kenzie, David Stuart,
and such of the Astorians as had not entered into the service of
the Northwest Company, set out to cross the Rocky Mountains. It
is not our intention to take the reader another journey across
those rugged barriers; but we will step forward with the
travellers to a distance on their way, merely to relate their
interview with a character already noted in this work.

As the party were proceeding up the Columbia, near the mouth of
the Wallah-Wallah River, several Indian canoes put off from the
shore to overtake them, and a voice called upon them in French
and requested them to stop. They accordingly put to shore, and
were joined by those in the canoes. To their surprise, they
recognized in the person who had hailed them the Indian wife of
Pierre Dorion, accompanied by her two children. She had a story
to tell, involving the fate of several of our unfortunate

Mr. John Reed, the Hibernian, it will be remembered, had been
detached during the summer to the Snake River. His party
consisted of four Canadians, Giles Le Clerc, Francois Landry,
Jean Baptiste Turcot, and Andre La Chapelle, together with two
hunters, Pierre Dorion and Pierre Delaunay; Dorion, as usual,
being accompanied by his wife and children. The objects of this
expedition were twofold: to trap beaver, and to search for the
three hunters, Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner.

In the course of the autumn, Reed lost one man, Landry, by death;
another one, Pierre Delaunay, who was of a sullen, perverse
disposition, left him in a moody fit, and was never heard of
afterwards. The number of his party was not, however, reduced by
these losses, as the three hunters, Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner,
had joined it.

Reed now built a house on the Snake River, for their winter
quarters; which being completed, the party set about trapping.
Rezner, Le Clerc, and Pierre Dorion went about five days' journey
from the wintering house, to a part of the country well stocked
with beaver. Here they put up a hut, and proceeded to trap with
great success. While the men were out hunting, Pierre Dorion's
wife remained at home to dress the skins and prepare the meals.
She was thus employed one evening about the beginning of January,
cooking the supper of the hunters, when she heard footsteps, and
Le Clerc staggered, pale and bleeding, into the hut. He informed
her that a party of savages had surprised them, while at their
traps, and had killed Rezner and her husband. He had barely
strength left to give this information, when he sank upon the

The poor woman saw that the only chance for life was instant
flight, but, in this exigency, showed that presence of mind and
force of character for which she had frequently been noted. With
great difficulty, she caught two of the horses belonging to the
party. Then collecting her clothes and a small quantity of beaver
meat and dried salmon, she packed them upon one of the horses,
and helped the wounded man to mount upon it. On the other horse
she mounted with her two children, and hurried away from this
dangerous neighborhood, directing her flight to Mr. Reed's
establishment. On the third day, she descried a number of Indians
on horseback proceeding in an easterly direction. She immediately
dismounted with her children, and helped LeClerc likewise to
dismount, and all concealed themselves. Fortunately they escaped
the sharp eyes of the savages, but had to proceed with the utmost
caution. That night they slept without fire or water; she managed
to keep her children warm in her arms; but before morning, poor
Le Clerc died.

With the dawn of day the resolute woman resumed her course, and,
on the fourth day, reached the house of Mr. Reed. It was
deserted, and all round were marks of blood and signs of a
furious massacre. Not doubting that Mr. Reed and his party had
all fallen victims, she turned in fresh horror from the spot. For
two days she continued hurrying forward, ready to sink for want
of food, but more solicitous about her children than herself. At
length she reached a range of the Rocky Mountains, near the upper
part of the Wallah-Wallah River. Here she chose a wild lonely
ravine, as her place of winter refuge.

She had fortunately a buffalo robe and three deer-skins; of
these, and of pine bark and cedar branches, she constructed a
rude wigwam, which she pitched beside a mountain spring. Having
no other food, she killed the two horses, and smoked their flesh.
The skins aided to cover her hut. Here she dragged out the
winter, with no other company than her two children. Towards the
middle of March her provisions were nearly exhausted. She
therefore packed up the remainder, slung it on her back, and,
with her helpless little ones, set out again on her wanderings.
Crossing the ridge of mountains, she descended to the banks of
the Wallah-Wallah, and kept along them until she arrived where
that river throws itself into the Columbia. She was hospitably
received and entertained by the Wallah-Wallahs, and had been
nearly two weeks among them when the two canoes passed.

On being interrogated, she could assign no reason for this
murderous attack of the savages; it appeared to be perfectly
wanton and unprovoked. Some of the Astorians supposed it an act
of butchery by a roving band of Blackfeet; others, however, and
with greater probability of correctness, have ascribed it to the
tribe of Pierced-nose Indians, in revenge for the death of their
comrade hanged by order of Mr. Clarke. If so, it shows that these
sudden and apparently wanton outbreakings of sanguinary violence
on the part of the savages have often some previous, though
perhaps remote, provocation.

The narrative of the Indian woman closes the checkered adventures
of some of the personages of this motley story; such as the
honest Hibernian Reed, and Dorion the hybrid interpreter. Turcot
and La Chapelle were two of the men who fell off from Mr. Crooks
in the course of his wintry journey, and had subsequently such
disastrous times among the Indians. We cannot but feel some
sympathy with that persevering trio of Kentuckians, Robinson,
Rezner, and Hoback, who twice turned back when on their way
homeward, and lingered in the wilderness to perish by the hands
of savages.

The return parties from Astoria, both by sea and land,
experienced on the way as many adventures, vicissitudes, and
mishaps, as the far-famed heroes of the Odyssey; they reached
their destination at different times, bearing tidings to Mr.
Astor of the unfortunate termination of his enterprise.

That gentleman, however, was not disposed, even yet, to give the
matter up as lost. On the contrary, his spirit was roused by what
he considered ungenerous and unmerited conduct on the part of the
Northwest Company. "After their treatment of me," said he, in a
letter to Mr. Hunt, "I have no idea of remaining quiet and idle."
He determined, therefore, as soon as circumstances would permit,
to resume his enterprise.

At the return of peace, Astoria, with the adjacent country,
reverted to the United States by the treaty of Ghent, on the
principle of status ante bellum, and Captain Biddle was
despatched in the sloop of war, Ontario, to take formal

In the winter of 1815, a law was passed by Congress prohibiting
all traffic of British traders within the territories of the
United States.

The favorable moment seemed now to Mr. Astor to have arrived for
the revival of his favorite enterprise, but new difficulties had
grown up to impede it. The Northwest Company were now in complete
occupation of the Columbia River, and its chief tributary
streams, holding the posts which he had established, and carrying
on a trade throughout the neighboring region, in defiance of the
prohibitory law of Congress, which, in effect, was a dead letter
beyond the mountains.

To dispossess them would be an undertaking of almost a
belligerent nature; for their agents and retainers were well
armed, and skilled in the use of weapons, as is usual with Indian
traders. The ferocious and bloody contests which had taken place
between the rival trading parties of the Northwest and Hudson's
Bay Companies had shown what might be expected from commercial
feuds in the lawless depths of the wilderness. Mr. Astor did not
think it advisable, therefore, to attempt the matter without the
protection of the American flag; under which his people might
rally in case of need. He accordingly made an informal overture
to the President of the United States, Mr. Madison, through Mr.
Gallatin, offering to renew his enterprise, and to reestablish
Astoria, provided it would be protected by the American flag, and
made a military post; stating that the whole force required would
not exceed a lieutenant's command.

The application, approved and recommended by Mr. Gallatin, one of
the most enlightened statesmen of our country, was favorably
received, but no step was taken in consequence; the President not
being disposed, in all probability, to commit himself by any
direct countenance or overt act. Discouraged by this supineness
on the part of the government, Mr. Astor did not think fit to
renew his overtures in a more formal manner, and the favorable
moment for the re-occupation of Astoria was suffered to pass

The British trading establishments were thus enabled, without
molestation, to strike deep their roots, and extend their
ramifications, in despite of the prohibition of Congress, until
they had spread themselves over the rich field of enterprise
opened by Mr. Astor. The British government soon began to
perceive the importance of this region, and to desire to include
it within their territorial domains. A question has consequently
risen as to the right to the soil, and has become one of the most
perplexing now open between the United States and Great Britain.
In the first treaty relative to it, under date of October 20th,
1818, the question was left unsettled, and it was agreed that the
country on the northwest coast of America, westward of the Rocky
Mountains, claimed by either nation, should be open to the
inhabitants of both for ten years, for the purpose of trade, with
the equal right of navigating all its rivers. When these ten
years had expired, a subsequent treaty, in 1828, extended the
arrangement to ten additional years. So the matter stands at

On casting back our eyes over the series of events we have
recorded, we see no reason to attribute the failure of this great
commercial undertaking to any fault in the scheme, or omission in
the execution of it, on the part of the projector. It was a
magnificent enterprise; well concerted and carried on, without
regard to difficulties or expense. A succession of adverse
circumstances and cross purposes, however, beset it almost from
the outset; some of them, in fact, arising from neglect of the
orders and instructions of Mr. Astor. The first crippling blow
was the loss of the Tonquin, which clearly would not have
happened, had Mr. Astor's earnest injunctions with regard to the
natives been attended to. Had this ship performed her voyage
prosperously, and revisited Astoria in due time, the trade of the
establishment would have taken its preconcerted course, and the
spirits of all concerned been kept up by a confident prospect of
success. Her dismal catastrophe struck a chill into every heart,
and prepared the way for subsequent despondency.

Another cause of embarrassment and loss was the departure from
the plan of Mr. Astor, as to the voyage of the Beaver, subsequent
to her visiting Astoria. The variation from this plan produced a
series of cross purposes, disastrous to the establishment, and
detained Mr. Hunt absent from his post, when his presence there
was of vital importance to the enterprise; so essential is it for
an agent, in any great and complicated undertaking, to execute
faithfully, and to the letter, the part marked out for him by the
master mind which has concerted the whole.

The breaking out of the war between the United States and Great
Britain multiplied the hazards and embarrassments of the
enterprise. The disappointment as to convoy rendered it difficult
to keep up reinforcements and supplies; and the loss of the Lark
added to the tissue of misadventures.

That Mr. Astor battled resolutely against every difficulty, and
pursued his course in defiance of every loss, has been
sufficiently shown. Had he been seconded by suitable agents, and
properly protected by government, the ultimate failure of his
plan might yet have been averted. It was his great misfortune
that his agents were not imbued with his own spirit. Some had not
capacity sufficient to comprehend the real nature and extent of
his scheme; others were alien in feeling and interest, and had
been brought up in the service of a rival company. Whatever
sympathies they might originally have had with him, were
impaired, if not destroyed, by the war. They looked upon his
cause as desperate, and only considered how they might make
interest to regain a situation under their former employers. The
absence of Mr. Hunt, the only real representative of Mr. Astor,
at the time of the capitulation with the Northwest Company,
completed the series of cross purposes. Had that gentleman been
present, the transfer, in all probability, would not have taken

It is painful, at all times, to see a grand and beneficial stroke
of genius fall of its aim: but we regret the failure of this
enterprise in a national point of view; for, had it been crowned
with success, it would have redounded greatly to the advantage
and extension of our commerce. The profits drawn from the country
in question by the British Fur Company, though of ample amount,
form no criterion by which to judge of the advantages that would
have arisen had it been entirely in the hands of the citizens of
the United States. That company, as has been shown, is limited in
the nature and scope of its operations, and can make but little
use of the maritime facilities held out by an emporium and a
harbor on that coast. In our hands, besides the roving bands of
trappers and traders, the country would have been explored and
settled by industrious husbandmen; and the fertile valleys
bordering its rivers, and shut up among its mountains, would have
been made to pour forth their agricultural treasures to
contribute to the general wealth.

In respect to commerce, we should have had a line of trading
posts from the Mississippi and the Missouri across the Rocky
Mountains, forming a high road from the great regions of the west
to the shores of the Pacific. We should have had a fortified post
and port at the mouth of the Columbia, commanding the trade of
that river and its tributaries, and of a wide extent of country
and sea-coast; carrying on an active and profitable commerce with
the Sandwich Islands, and a direct and frequent communication
with China. In a word, Astoria might have realized the
anticipations of Mr. Astor, so well understood and appreciated by
Mr. Jefferson, in gradually becoming a commercial empire beyond
the mountains, peopled by "free and independent Americans, and
linked with us by ties of blood and interest."

We repeat, therefore, our sincere regret that our government
should have neglected the overture of Mr. Astor, and suffered the
moment to pass by, when full possession of this region might have
been taken quietly, as a matter of course, and a military post
established, without dispute, at Astoria. Our statesmen have
become sensible, when too late, of the importance of this
measure. Bills have repeatedly been brought into Congress for the
purpose, but without success; and our rightful possessions on
that coast, as well as our trade on the Pacific, have no rallying
point protected by the national flag, and by a military force.

In the meantime, the second period of ten years is fast elapsing.
In 1838, the question of title will again come up, and most
probably, in the present amicable state of our relations with
Great Britain, will be again postponed. Every year, however, the
litigated claim is growing in importance. There is no pride so
jealous and irritable as the pride of territory. As one wave of
emigration after another rolls into the vast regions of the west,
and our settlements stretch towards the Rocky Mountains, the
eager eyes of our pioneers will pry beyond, and they will become
impatient of any barrier or impediment in the way of what they
consider a grand outlet of our empire. Should any circumstance,
therefore, unfortunately occur to disturb the present harmony of
the two nations, this ill-adjusted question, which now lies
dormant, may suddenly start up into one of belligerent import,
and Astoria become the watchword in a contest for dominion on the
shores of the Pacific.

Since the above was written, the question of dominion over the
vast territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, which for a time
threatened to disturb the peaceful relations with our
transatlantic kindred, has been finally settled in a spirit of
mutual concession, and the venerable projector whose early
enterprise forms the subject of this work had the satisfaction of
knowing, ere his eyes closed upon the world, that the flag of his
country again waved over "ASTORIA."


Draught of a Petition to Congress, sent by Mr. Astor in 1812.

To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States, in Congress assembled,

The petition of the American Fur Company respectfully showeth:

THAT the trade with the several Indian tribes of North America
has, for many years past, been almost exclusively carried on by
the merchants of Canada; who, having formed powerful and
extensive associations for that purpose, being aided by British
capital, and being encouraged by the favor and protection of the
British government, could not be opposed, with any prospect of
success by individuals of the United States.

That by means of the above trade, thus systematically pursued,
not only the inhabitants of the United States have been deprived
of commercial profits and advantages, to which they appear to
have just and natural pretensions, but a great and dangerous
influence has been established over the Indian tribes, difficult
to be counteracted, and capable of being exerted at critical
periods, to the great injury and annoyance of our frontier

That in order to obtain at least a part of the above trade, and
more particularly that which is within the boundaries of the
United States, your petitioners, in the year 1808, obtained an
act of incorporation from the State of New York, whereby they are
enabled, with a competent capital, to carry on the said trade
with the Indians in such a manner as may be conformable to the
laws and regulations of the United States, in relation to such a

That the capital mentioned in the said act, amounting to one
million of dollars, having been duly formed, your petitioners
entered with zeal and alacrity into those large and important
arrangements, which were necessary for, or conducive to the
object of their incorporation; and, among other things, purchased
a great part of the stock in trade, and trading establishments,
of the Michilimackinac Company of Canada. Your petitioners also,
with the expectation of great public and private advantages from
the use of the said establishments, ordered, during the spring
and summer of 1810, an assortment of goods from England, suitable
for the Indian trade; which, in consequence of the President's
proclamation of November of that year, were shipped to Canada
instead of New York, and have been transported, under a very
heavy expense, into the interior of the country. But as they
could not legally be brought into the Indian country within the
boundaries of the United States, they have been stored on the
Island of St. Joseph, in Lake Huron, where they now remain.

Your petitioners, with great deference and implicit submission to
the wisdom of the national legislature, beg leave to suggest for
consideration, whether they have not some claim to national
attention and encouragement, from the nature and importance of
their undertaking; which though hazardous and uncertain as
concerns their private emolument, must, at any rate, redound to
the public security and advantage. If their undertaking shall
appear to be of the description given, they would further suggest
to your honorable bodies, that unless they can procure a regular
supply for the trade in which they are engaged, it may languish,
and be finally abandoned by American citizens; when it will
revert to its former channel, with additional, and perhaps with
irresistible, power.

Under these circumstances, and upon all those considerations of
public policy which will present themselves to your honorable
bodies, in connection with those already mentioned, your
petitioners respectfully pray that a law may be passed to enable
the President, or any of the heads of departments acting under
his authority, to grant permits for the introduction of goods
necessary for the supply of the Indians, into the Indian country
that is within the boundaries of the United States, under such
regulations, and with such restrictions, as may secure the public
revenue and promote the public welfare.

And your petitioners shall ever pray, &c.

In witness whereof, the common seal of the American Fur Company

hereunto affixed, the day of March, 1812.

By order of the Corporation.

AN ACT to enable the American Fur Company, and other citizens, to
introduce goods necessary for the Indian trade into the
territories within the boundaries of the United State.

WHEREAS, the public peace and welfare require that the native
Indian tribes, residing within the boundaries of the United
States, should receive their necessary supplies under the
authority and from the citizens of the United States: Therefore,
be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States, in Congress assembled, that it shall be lawful for
the President of the United States, or any of the heads of
departments thereunto by him duly authorized, from time to time
to grant permits to the American Fur Company, their agents or
factors, or any other citizens of the United States engaged in
the Indian trade, to introduce into the Indian country, within
the boundaries of the United States, such goods, wares, and
merchandise, as may be necessary for the said trade, under such
regulations and restrictions as the said President or heads of
departments may judge proper; any law or regulation to the
contrary, in anywise, notwithstanding.

Letter from Mr. Gallatin to Mr. Astor, dated

New York, August 5, 1835.

DEAR SIR, - In compliance with your request, I will state such
facts as I recollect touching the subjects mentioned in your
letter of 28th ult. I may be mistaken respecting dates and
details, and will only relate general facts, which I well

In conformity with the treaty of 1794 with Great Britain, the
citizens and subjects of each country were permitted to trade
with the Indians residing in the territories of the other party.
The reciprocity was altogether nominal. Since the conquest of
Canada, the British had inherited from the French the whole fur
trade, through the great lakes and their communications, with all
the western Indians, whether residing in the British dominions or
the United States. They kept the important western posts on those
lakes till about the year 1797. And the defensive Indian war,
which the United States had to sustain from 1776 to 1795, had
still more alienated the Indians, and secured to the British
their exclusive trade, carried through the lakes, wherever the
Indians in that quarter lived. No American could, without
imminent danger of property and life, carry on that trade, even
within the United States, by the way of either Michilimackinac or
St. Mary's. And independent of the loss of commerce, Great
Britain was enabled to preserve a most dangerous influence over
our Indians.

It was under these circumstances that you communicated to our
government the prospect you had to be able, and your intention,
to purchase one half of the interest of the Canadian Fur Company,
engaged in trade by the way of Michilimackinac with our own
Indians. You wished to know whether the plan met with the
approbation of government, and how far you could rely on its
protection and encouragement. This overture was received with
great satisfaction by the administration, and Mr. Jefferson, then
President, wrote you to that effect. I was also directed, as
Secretary of the Treasury, to write to you an official letter to
the same purpose. On investigating the subject, it was found that
the Executive had no authority to give you any direct aid; and I
believe you received nothing more than an entire approbation of
your plan, and general assurances of the protection due to every
citizen engaged in lawful and useful pursuits.

You did effect the contemplated purchase, but in what year I do
not recollect. Immediately before the war, you represented that a
large quantity of merchandise, intended for the Indian trade, and
including arms and munitions of war, belonging to that concern of
which you owned one half, was deposited at a post on Lake Huron,
within the British dominions; that, in order to prevent their
ultimately falling into the hands of Indians who might prove
hostile, you were desirous to try to have them conveyed into the
United States; but that you were prevented by the then existing
law of non-intercourse with the British dominions.

The Executive could not annul the provisions of that law. But I
was directed to instruct the collectors on the lakes, in case you
and your agents should voluntarily bring in and deliver to them
any part of the goods above mentioned, to receive and keep them
in their guard, and not to commence prosecutions until further
instructions: the intention being then to apply to Congress for
an act remitting the forfeiture and penalties. I wrote
accordingly, to that effect, to the collectors of Detroit and

The attempt to obtain the goods did not, however, succeed; and I
cannot say how far the failure injured you. But the war proved
fatal to another much more extensive and important enterprise.

Previous to that time, but I also forget the year, you had
undertaken to carry on a trade on your own account, though I
believe under the New York charter of the American Fur Company,
with the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains. This project was
also communicated to government, and met, of course, with its
full approbation, and best wishes, for your success. You carried
it on, on the most extensive scale, sending several ships to the
mouth of the Columbia River, and a large party by land across the
mountains, and finally founding the establishment of Astoria.

This unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy during the
war, from circumstances with which I am but imperfectly
acquainted - being then absent on a foreign mission. I returned
in September, 1815, and sailed again on a mission to France in
June, 1816. During that period I visited Washington twice - in
October or November, 1815, and in March, 1816. On one of these
occasions, and I believe on the last, you mentioned to me that
you were disposed once more to renew the attempt, and to
reestablish Astoria, provided you had the protection of the
American flag; for which purpose, a lieutenant's command would be
sufficient to you. You requested me to mention this to the
President, which I did. Mr. Madison said he would consider the
subject, and, although he did not commit himself, I thought that
he received the proposal favorably. The message was verbal, and I
do not know whether the application was ever renewed in a more
formal manner. I sailed soon after for Europe, and was seven
years absent. I never had the pleasure, since 1816, to see Mr.
Madison, and never heard again anything concerning the subject in

I remain, dear sir, most respectfully, Your obedient servant,


John Jacob Astor, Esq.,
New York.

Notices of the Present State of the Fur Trade, chiefly extracted
from an article published in Silliman's Magazine for January,

THE Northwest Company did not long enjoy the sway they had
acquired over the trading regions of the Columbia. A competition,
ruinous in its expenses, which had long existed between them and
the Hudson's Bay Company, ended in their downfall and the ruin of
most of the partners. The relict of the company became merged in
the rival association, and the whole business was conducted under
the name of the Hudson's Bay Company.

This coalition took place in 1821. They then abandoned Astoria,
and built a large establishment sixty miles up the river, on the
right bank, which they called Fort Vancouver. This was in a
neighborhood where provisions could be more readily procured, and
where there was less danger from molestation by any naval force.
The company are said to carry on an active and prosperous trade,
and to give great encouragement to settlers. They are extremely
jealous, however, of any interference or participation in their
trade, and monopolize it from the coast of the Pacific to the
mountains, and for a considerable extent north and south. The
American traders and trappers who venture across the mountains,
instead of enjoying the participation in the trade of the river
and its tributaries, that had been stipulated by treaty, are
obliged to keep to the south, out of the track of the Hudson's
Bay parties.

Mr. Astor has withdrawn entirely from the American Fur Company,
as he has, in fact, from active business of every kind. That
company is now headed by Mr. Ramsay Crooks; its principal
establishment is at Michilimackinac, and it receives its furs
from the posts depending on that station, and from those on the
Mississippi, Missouri, and Yellow Stone Rivers, and the great
range of country extending thence to the Rocky Mountains. This
company has steamboats in its employ, with which it ascends the
rivers, and penetrates to a vast distance into the bosom of those
regions formerly so painfully explored in keel-boats and barges,
or by weary parties on horseback and on foot. The first irruption
of steamboats in the heart of these vast wildernesses is said to
have caused the utmost astonishment and affright among their
savage inhabitants.

In addition to the main companies already mentioned, minor
associations have been formed, which push their way in the most
intrepid manner to the remote parts of the far West, and beyond
the mountain barriers. One of the most noted of these is Ashley's
company, from St. Louis, who trap for themselves, and drive an
extensive trade with the Indians. The spirit, enterprise, and
hardihood of Ashley are themes of the highest eulogy in the far
West, and his adventures and exploits furnish abundance of
frontier stories.

Another company of one hundred and fifty persons from New York,
formed in 1831, and headed by Captain Bonneville of the United
States army, has pushed its enterprise into tracts before but
little known, and has brought considerable quantities of furs
from the region between the Rocky Mountains and the coasts of
Monterey and Upper California, on the Buenaventura and Timpanogos

The fur countries, from the Pacific, east to the Rocky Mountains,
are now occupied (exclusive of private combinations and
individual trappers and traders) by the Russians; and on the
northwest from Behring's Strait to Queen Charlotte's Island, in
north latitude fifty-three degrees, and by the Hudson's Bay
Company thence, south of the Columbia River; while Ashley's
company, and that under Captain Bonneville, take the remainder of
the region to California. Indeed, the whole compass from the
Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean is traversed in every direction.
The mountains and forests, from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of
Mexico, are threaded through every maze, by the hunter. Every
river and tributary stream, from the Columbia to the mouth of the
Rio del Norte, and from the M'Kenzie to the Colorado of the West,
from their head springs to their junction, are searched and
trapped for beaver. Almost all the American furs, which do not
belong to the Hudson's Bay Company, find their way to New York,
and are either distributed thence for home consumption, or sent
to foreign markets.

The Hudson's Bay Company ship their furs from their factories of
York Fort and from Moose River, on Hudson's Bay; their collection
from Grand River, &c., they ship from Canada; and the collection
from Columbia goes to London. None of their furs come to the
United States, except through the London market.

The export trade of furs from the United States is chiefly to
London. Some quantities have been sent to Canton, and some few to
Hamburg; and an increasing export trade in beaver, otter, nutria,
and vicunia wool, prepared for the hatter's use, is carried on in
Mexico. Some furs are exported from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and
Boston; but the principal shipments from the United States are
from New York to London, from whence they are sent to Leipsic, a
well-known mart for furs, where they are disposed of during the
great fair in that city, and distributed to every part of the

The United States import from South America, nutria, vicunia,
chinchilla, and a few deer-skins; also fur seals from the Lobos
Islands, off the river Plate. A quantity of beaver, otter, &c.,
are brought annually from Santa Fe. Dressed furs for edgings,
linings, caps, muffs, &c., such as squirrel , genet, fitch-skins,
and blue rabbit, are received from the north of Europe; also cony
and hare's fur; but the largest importations are from London,
where is concentrated nearly the whole of the North American fur

Such is the present state of the fur trade, by which it will
appear that the extended sway of the Hudson's Bay Company, and
the monopoly of the region of which Astoria was the key, has
operated to turn the main current of this opulent trade into the
coffers of Great Britain , and to render London the emporium
instead of New York, as Mr. Astor had intended.

We will subjoin a few observations on the animals sought after in
this traffic, extracted from the same intelligent source with the
preceding remarks.

Of the fur-bearing animals, "the precious ermine," so called by
way of preeminence, is found, of the best quality, only in the
cold regions of Europe and Asia. * Its fur is of the most perfect
whiteness, except the tip of its tail, which is of a brilliant
shining black. With these back tips tacked on the skins, they are
beautifully spotted, producing an effect often imitated, but
never equalled in other furs. The ermine is of the genus mustela
(weasel), and resembles the common weasel in its form, is from
fourteen to sixteen inches from the tip of the nose to the end of
the tail. The body is from ten to twelve inches long. It lives in
hollow trees, river banks, and especially in beech forests; preys
on small birds, is very shy, sleeping during the day, and
employing the night in search of food. The fur of the older
animals is preferred to the younger. It is taken by snares and
traps, and sometimes shot with blunt arrows. Attempts have been
made to domesticate it; but it is extremely wild and has been
found untameable.

The sable can scarcely be called second to the ermine. It is a
native of Northern Europe and Siberia, and is also of the genus
mustela. In Samoieda, Yakutsk, Kamtschatka, and Russian Lapland,
it is found of the richest quality, and darkest color. In its
habits, it resembles the ermine. It preys on small squirrels and
birds, sleeps by day, and prowls for food during the night. It is
so like the marten in every particular except its size, and the
dark shade of its color, that naturalists have not decided
whether it is the richest and finest of the marten tribe, or a
variety of that species: It varies in dimensions from eighteen to
twenty inches.

The rich dark shades of the sable, and the snowy whiteness of the
ermine, the great depth, and the peculiar, almost flowing
softness of their skins and fur, have combined to gain them a
preference in all countries, and in all ages of the world. In
this age, they maintain the same relative estimate in regard to
other furs, as when they marked the rank of the proud crusader,
and were emblazoned in heraldry: but in most European nations,
they are now worn promiscuously by the opulent.

The martens from Northern Asia and the Mountains of Kamtschatka
are much superior to the American, though in every pack of
American marten skins there are a certain number which are
beautifully shaded, and of a dark brown olive color, of great
depth and richness.

Next these in value, for ornament and utility, are the sea-otter,
the mink, and the fiery fox.

The fiery fox is the bright red of Asia; is more brilliantly
colored and of finer fur than any other of the genus. It is
highly valued for the splendor of its red color and the fineness
of its fur. It is the standard of value on the northeastern coast
of Asia.

The sea-otter which was first introduced into commerce in 1725,
from the Aleutian and Kurile Islands, is an exceedingly fine,
soft, close fur, jet black in winter, with a silken gloss. The
fur of the young animal is of a beautiful brown color. It is met
with in great abundance in Behring's Island, Kamtschatka,
Aleutian and Fox Islands, and is also taken on the opposite
coasts of North America. It is sometimes taken with nets, but
more frequently with clubs and spears. Their food is principally
lobster and other shell-fish.

In 1780 furs had become so scarce in Siberia that the supply was
insufficient for the demand in the Asiatic countries. It was at
this time that the sea-otter was introduced into the markets for
China. The skins brought such incredible prices, as to originate
immediately several American and British expeditions to the
northern islands of the Pacific, to Nootka Sound, and the
northwest coast of America; but the Russians already had
possession of the tract which they now hold, and had arranged a
trade for the sea-otter with the Koudek tribes. They do not
engross the trade, however; the American northwest trading ships
procure them, all along the coast, from the Indians.

At one period, the fur seals formed no inconsiderable item in the
trade. South Georgia, in south latitude fifty-five degrees,
discovered in 1675, was explored by Captain Cook in 1771. The
Americans immediately commenced carrying seal skins thence to
China, where they obtained the most exorbitant prices. One
million two hundred thousand skins have been taken from that
island alone, and nearly an equal number from the Island of
Desolation, since they were first resorted to for the purpose of

The discovery of the South Shetlands, sixty-three degrees south
latitude, in 1818, added surprisingly to the trade in fur seals.
The number taken from the South Shetlands in 1821 and 1822
amounted to three hundred and twenty thousand. This valuable
animal is now almost extinct in all these islands, owing to the
exterminating system adopted by the hunters. They are still taken
on the Lobos Islands, where the provident government of
Montevideo restrict the fishery, or hunting, within certain
limits, which insures an annual return of the seals. At certain
seasons, these amphibia, for the purpose of renewing their coat,
come up on the dark frowning rocks and precipices, where there is
not a trace of vegetation. In the middle of January, the islands
are partially cleared of snow, where a few patches of short
straggling grass spring up in favorable situations; but the seals
do not resort to it for food. They remain on the rocks not less
than two months, without any sustenance, when they return much
emaciated to the sea.

Bears of various species and colors, many varieties of the fox,
the wolf, the beaver, the otter, the marten, the raccoon, the
badger, the wolverine, the mink, the lynx, the muskrat, the
woodchuck, the rabbit, the hare, and the squirrel, are natives of
North America.

The beaver, otter, lynx fisher, hare, and raccoon, are used
principally for hats; while the bears of several varieties
furnish an excellent material for sleigh linings, for cavalry
caps, and other military equipments. The fur of the black fox is
the most valuable of any of the American varieties; and next to
that the red, which is exported to China and Smyrna. In China,
the red is employed for trimmings, linings, and robes; the latter

being variegated by adding the black fur of the paws, in spots or
waves. There are many other varieties of American fox, such as
the gray, the white, the cross, the silver, and the dun-colored.
The silver fox is a rare animal, a native of the woody country
below the falls of the Columbia River. It has a long, thick, deep
lead-colored fur, intermingled with long hairs, invariably white
at the top, forming a bright lustrous silver gray, esteemed by
some more beautiful than any other kind of fox.

The skins of the buffalo, of the Rocky Mountain sheep, of various
deer and of the antelope, are included in the fur trade with the
Indians and trappers of the north and west.

Fox and seal skins are sent from Greenland to Denmark. The white
fur of the arctic fox and polar bear is sometimes found in the
packs brought to the traders by the most northern tribes of
Indians, but is not particularly valuable. The silver-tipped
rabbit is peculiar to England, and is sent thence to Russia and

Other furs are employed and valued according to the caprices of
fashion, as well in those countries where they are needed for
defenses against the severity of the seasons, as among the
inhabitants of milder climates, who, severely of Tartar or
Sclavonian descent, are said to inherit an attachment to furred
clothing. Such are the inhabitants of Poland, of Southern Russia,
of China, of Persia, of Turkey, and all the nations of Gothic
origin in the middle and western parts of Europe. Under the
burning suns of Syria and Egypt, and the mild climes of Bucharia
and Independent Tartary, there is also a constant demand, and a
great consumption, where there exists no physical necessity. In
our own temperate latitudes, besides their use in the arts, they
are in request for ornament and warmth during the winter, and
large quantities are annually consumed for both purposes in the
United States.

From the foregoing statements, it appears that the fur trade must
henceforward decline. The advanced state of geographical science
shows that no new countries remain to be explored. In North
America the animals are slowly decreasing, from the persevering
efforts and the indiscriminate slaughter practiced by the
hunters, and by the appropriation to the uses of man of those
forests and rivers which have afforded them food and protection.
They recede with the aborigines, before the tide of civilization;
but a diminished supply will remain in the mountains and
uncultivated tracts of this and other countries, if the avidity
of the hunter can be restrained within proper limitations.

* An animal called the stoat, a kind of ermine, is said to be
found in North America, but very inferior to the European and

* * The finest fur and the darkest color are most esteemed; and
whether the difference arises from the age of the animal, or from
some peculiarity of location, is not known. They do not vary more
from the common marten than the Arabian horse from the shaggy

Height of the Rocky Mountains.

VARIOUS estimates have been made of the height of the Rocky
Mountains, but it is doubtful whether any have, as yet, done
justice to their real altitude, which promises to place them only
second to the highest mountains of the known world. Their height
has been diminished to the eye by the great elevation of the
plains from which they rise. They consist, according to Long, of
ridges, knobs, and peaks, variously disposed. The more elevated
parts are covered with perpetual snows, which contribute to give
them a luminous, and, at a great distance, even a brilliant
appearance; whence they derive, among some of the first
discoverers, the name of the Shining Mountains.

James's Peak has generally been cited as the highest of the
chain; and its elevation above the common level has been
ascertained, by a trigonometrical measurement, to be about eight
thousand five hundred feet. Mr. Long, however, judged, from the
position of the snow near the summits of other peaks and ridges
at no great distance from it, that they were much higher. Having
heard Professor Renwick, of New York, express an opinion of the
altitude of these mountains far beyond what had usually been
ascribed to them, we applied to him for the authority on which he
grounded his observation, and here subjoin his reply:

Columbia College, New York, February 23, 1836.

Dear Sir, - In compliance with your request, I have to
communicate some facts in relation to the heights of the Rocky
Mountains, and the sources whence I obtained the information.

In conversation with Simon M'Gillivray, Esq., a partner of the
Northwest Company, he stated to me his impression, that the
mountains in the vicinity of the route pursued by the traders of
that company were nearly as high as the Himalayas. He had himself
crossed by this route, seen the snowy summits of the peaks, and
experienced a degree of cold which required a spirit thermometer
to indicate it. His authority for the estimate of the heights was
a gentleman who had been employed for several years as surveyor
of that company. This conversation occurred about sixteen years

A year or two afterwards, I had the pleasure of dining, at Major
Delafield's with Mr. Thompson, the gentleman referred to by Mr.
M'Gillivray. I inquired of him in relation to the circumstances
mentioned by Mr. M'Gillivray, and he stated that, by the joint
means of the barometric and trigonometric measurement, he had
ascertained the height of one of the peaks to be about twenty-
five thousand feet, and there were others of nearly the same
height in the vicinity.

I am, dear sir,
To W. Irving, Esq.
Yours truly,

Suggestions with respect to the Indian tribes, and the protection
of our Trade.

IN the course of this work, a few general remarks have been
hazarded respecting the Indian tribes of the prairies, and the
dangers to be apprehended from them in future times to our trade
beyond the Rocky Mountains and with the Spanish frontiers. Since
writing those remarks, we have met with some excellent
observations and suggestions, in manuscript, on the same subject,
written by Captain Bonneville, of the United States army, who had
lately returned from a long residence among the tribes of the
Rocky Mountains. Captain B. approves highly of the plan recently
adopted by the United States government for the organization of a
regiment of dragoons for the protection of our western frontier,
and the trade across the prairies. "No other species of military
force," he observes, "is at all competent to cope with these
restless and wandering hordes, who require to be opposed with
swiftness quite as much as with strength; and the consciousness
that a troop, uniting these qualifications, is always on the
alert to avenge their outrages upon the settlers and traders,
will go very far towards restraining them from the perpetration
of those thefts and murders which they have heretofore committed
with impunity, whenever stratagem or superiority of force has
given them the advantage. Their interest already has done
something towards their pacification with our countrymen. From
the traders among them, they receive their supplies in the
greatest abundance, and upon very equitable terms; and when it is
remembered that a very considerable amount of property is yearly
distributed among them by the government, as presents, it will
readily be perceived that they are greatly dependent upon us for
their most valued resources. If, superadded to this inducement, a
frequent display of military power be made in their territories,
there can be little doubt that the desired security and peace
will be speedily afforded to our own people. But the idea of
establishing a permanent amity and concord amongst the various
east and west tribes themselves, seems to me, if not wholly
impracticable, at least infinitely more difficult than many
excellent philanthropists have hoped and believed. Those nations
which have so lately emigrated from the midst of our settlements
to live upon our western borders, and have made some progress in
agriculture and the arts of civilization, have, in the property
they have acquired, and the protection and aid extended to them,
too many advantages to be induced readily to take up arms against
us, particularly if they can be brought to the full conviction
that their new homes will be permanent and undisturbed; and there
is every reason and motive, in policy as well as humanity, for
our ameliorating their condition by every means in our power. But
the case is far different with regard to the Osages, the Kanzas,
the Pawnees, and other roving hordes beyond the frontiers of the
settlements. Wild and restless in their character and habits,
they are by no means so susceptible of control or civilization;
and they are urged by strong, and, to them, irresistible causes
in their situation and necessities, to the daily perpetuation of
violence and fraud. Their permanent subsistence, for example, is
derived from the buffalo hunting grounds, which lie a great
distance from their towns. Twice a year they are obliged to make
long and dangerous expeditions, to procure the necessary
provisions for themselves and their families. For this purpose
horses are absolutely requisite, for their own comfort and
safety, as well as for the transportation of their food, and
their little stock of valuables; and without them they would be
reduced, during a great portion of the year, to a state of abject
misery and privation. They have no brood mares, nor any trade
sufficiently valuable to supply their yearly losses, and endeavor
to keep up their stock by stealing horses from the other tribes
to the west and southwest. Our own people, and the tribes
immediately upon our borders, may indeed be protected from their
depredations; and the Kanzas, Osages, Pawnees, and others, may be
induced to remain at peace among themselves, so long as they are
permitted to pursue the old custom of levying upon the Camanches
and other remote nations for their complement of steeds for the
warriors, and pack-horses for their transportation to and from
the hunting ground. But the instant they are forced to maintain a
peaceful and inoffensive demeanor towards the tribes along the
Mexican border, and find that every violation of their rights is
followed by the avenging arm of our government, the result must
be, that, reduced to a wretchedness and want which they can ill
brook, and feeling the certainty of punishment for every attempt
to ameliorate their condition in the only way they as yet
comprehend, they will abandon their unfruiful territory and
remove to the neighborhood of the Mexican lands, and there carry
on a vigorous predatory warfare indiscriminately upon the
Mexicans and our own people trading or travelling in that

"The Indians of the prairies are almost innumerable. Their
superior horsemanship, which in my opinion, far exceeds that of
any other people on the face of the earth, their daring bravery,
their cunning and skill in the warfare of the wilderness, and the
astonishing rapidity and secrecy with which they are accustomed
to move in their martial expeditions, will always render them
most dangerous and vexatious neighbors, when their necessities or
their discontents may drive them to hostility with our frontiers.
Their mode and principles of warfare will always protect them
from final and irretrievable defeat, and secure their families
from participating in any blow, however severe, which our
retribution might deal out to them.

"The Camanches lay the Mexicans under contribution for horses and
mules, which they are always engaged in stealing from them in
incredible numbers; and from the Camanches, all the roving tribes
of the far West, by a similar exertion of skill and daring,
supply themselves in turn. It seems to me, therefore, under all
these circumstances, that the apparent futility of any
philanthropic schemes for the. benefit of these nations, and a
regard for our own protection, concur in recommending that we
remain satisfied with maintaining peace upon our own immediate
borders, and leave the Mexicans and the Camanches, and all the
tribes hostile to these last, to settle their differences and
difficulties in their own way.

"In order to give full security and protection to our trading
parties circulating in all directions through the great prairies,
I am under the impression that a few judicious measures on the
part of the government, involving a very limited expense, would
be sufficient. And, in attaining this end, which of itself has
already become an object of public interest and import, another,
of much greater consequence, might be
brought about, namely, the securing to the States a most valuable
and increasing trade, now carried on by caravans directly to
Santa Fe.

"As to the first desideratum: the Indians can only be made to
respect the lives and property of the American parties, by
rendering them dependent upon us for their supplies; which alone
can be done with complete effect by the establishment of a
trading post, with resident traders, at some point which will
unite a sufficient number of advantages to attract the several
tribes to itself, in preference to their present places of resort
for that purpose; for it is a well-known fact that the Indians
will always protect their trader, and those in whom he is
interested, so long as they derive benefits from him. The
alternative presented to those at the north, by the residence of
the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company amongst them, renders the
condition of our people in that quarter less secure; but I think
it will appear at once, upon the most cursory examination, that
no such opposition further south could be maintained, so as to
weaken the benefits of such an establishment as is here

"In considering this matter, the first question which presents
itself is, where do these tribes now make their exchanges, and
obtain their necessary supplies. They resort almost exclusively
to the Mexicans, who, themselves, purchase from us whatever the
Indians most seek for. In this point of view, therefore, coeteris
paribus, it would be an easy matter for us to monopolize the
whole traffic. All that is wanted is some location more
convenient for the natives than that offered by the Mexicans, to
give us the undisputed superiority; and the selection of such a
point requires but a knowledge of the single fact, that these
nations invariably winter upon the head waters of the Arkansas,
and there prepare all their buffalo robes for trade. These robes
are heavy, and, to the Indian, very difficult of transportation.
Nothing but necessity induces them to travel any great distance
with such inconvenient baggage. A post, therefore, established
upon the head waters of the Arkansas, must infallibly secure an
uncontested preference over that of the Mexicans; even at their
prices and rates of barter. Then let the dragoons occasionally
move about among these people in large parties, impressing them
with the proper estimate of our power to protect and to punish,
and at once we have complete and assured security for all
citizens whose enterprise may lead them beyond the border, and an
end to the outrages and depredations which now dog the footsteps
of the traveller, in the prairies, and arrest and depress the
most advantageous commerce. Such a post need not be stronger than
fifty men; twenty-five to be employed as hunters, to supply the
garrison, and the residue as a defense against any hostility.
Situated here upon the good lands of the Arkansas, in the midst
of abundance of timber, while it might be kept up at a most
inconsiderable expense, such an establishment within ninety miles
of Santa Fe or Taos would be more than justified by the other and
more important advantages before alluded to, leaving the
protection of the traders with the Indian tribes entirely out of
the question.

"This great trade, carried on by caravans to Santa Fe, annually
loads one hundred wagons with merchandise, which is bartered in
the northern provinces or Mexico for cash and for beaver furs.
The numerous articles excluded as contraband, and the exorbitant
duties laid upon all those that are admitted by the Mexican
government, present so many obstacles to commerce, that I am well
persuaded, that if a post, such as is here suggested, should be
established on the Arkansas, it would become the place of
deposit, not only for the present trade, but for one infinitely
more extended. Here the Mexicans might purchase their supplies,
and might well afford to sell them at prices which would silence
all competition from any other quarter.

"These two trades, with the Mexicans and the Indians, centring at
this post, would give rise to a large village of traders and
laborers, and would undoubtedly be hailed, by all that section of
country, as a permanent and invaluable advantage. A few pack-
horses would carry all the clothing and ammunition necessary for
the post during the first year, and two light field-pieces would
be all the artillery required for its defense. Afterwards, all
the horses required for the use of the establishment might be
purchased from the Mexicans at the low price of ten dollars each;
and, at the same time, whatever animals might be needed to supply
the losses among the dragoons traversing the neighborhood, could
be readily procured. The Upper Missouri Indians can furnish
horses, at very cheap rates, to any number of the same troops who
might be detailed for the defense of the northern frontier; and,
in other respects, a very limited outlay of money would suffice
to maintain a post in that section of the country.

"From these considerations, and my own personal observations, I
am, therefore, disposed to believe that two posts established by
the government, one at the mouth of the Yellowstone River, and
one on the Arkansas, would completely protect all our people in
every section of the great wilderness of the West; while other
advantages, at least with regard to one of them, confirm and urge
the suggestion. A fort at the mouth of the Yellowstone,
garrisoned by fifty men would be perfectly safe. The
establishment might be constructed simply with a view to the
stores, stables for the dragoons' horses, and quarters for the
regular garrison; the rest being provided with sheds or lodges,
erected in the vicinity, for their residence during the winter

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