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copy of his early poems, and perhaps Byron was hurt at the neglect. Perhaps his works furnished too many ideas and sentiments to his contemporary, who, having pilfered from his rich stores, was ashamed to acknowledge him as an acquaint
Perhaps Byron never heard of him; or dreaded his superior genius. None of these “perhaps” seem completely to satisfy even Chateaubriand himself, and as Byron is dead, the poor viscount is likely never to have his mind put at ease upon this deeply interesting portion of English literature. We pity him much--for “a wounded spirit who can bear ?"
ART. IV.-Astoria; or, Anecdotes of an Enterprise beyond the
Rocky mountains. By WASHINGTON Irving. 2 vols. 12mo.
We hail with great pleasure the appearance of a work, recommended at once by the general favour of the author, by the novelty and romantic interest of its incidents and details, and by the congeniality of the great enterprise which is its general subject, to the genius and tendencies of the age-for commerce is the visible body in which the spirit of the age, so constantly talked about, is most often manifested ; commerce, which enriches nations, strengthens defence, averts war, and fertilizes peace; commerce, which stimulates the inertness of man's nature through his wants, till he reaches out his hand over half the world to his brother; commerce is the dominant principle of the time. The fame of the conqueror is a song, and happily now dying away, with the shrieks and groans that were its burden ; and the craft of the diplomatist is become an evil savour; but the merchant is merciful and he inherits the earth, going forth with benefit and reciprocity, and reaping where he has not sowed by the glad consent of those who have. The armed combinations of miscalled merchants, in reality, pirates, have passed away : they ravaged India and South America, they had plunder abroad to sustain them, and taxation and monopoly at home, but their military vices and diplomatic pride wasted their resources and laid their prosperity in the dust. Individual enterprise will step into their places and repair the mischief they have done; it will introduce instruction where monopolies cherished ignorance, and raise up
industry and prosperity where tyranny brooded over barbarism. Commerce can never appear to the world in its own dimensions, efficiency and beauty, till it is completely emancipated from all subjection to power, and completely dissevered from all connection with it. It is so here, or nearly so; more nearly than any where else in the world; and here, accordingly, it is held in honour and reputation, it ennobles and liberalizes and elevates its professors, and fills every man's hand with blessings, which he distributes gladly, with the sower's confidence that they will spring up to his hand again. But widely different is the state of things existing where trade is made the slave of military force, or the thrall of aristocratic stagnation, rendering toilsomely an unthanked service, and only suffered to drag on a despised and precarious existence. So it is in Russia, Germany and Italy, so it was in France and Belgium, and though its fetters are now deemed to be knocked off, their brands still remain, and the iron has entered into its soul. Under arbitrary power, however, there is still the apology of constraint; but there is a worse light in which commerce may stand before the world, and in which, to those who have not seen its better face, it seems like the impersonation of the destroying angel. This is when it becomes the ally of power, and the two principles corrupt each other ; neutralizing each other's benefits, and aggravating to the utmost each other's tendencies to evil. Commerce then becomes the tempter, and power the spoiler; the trader's avidity is the fiery eye of the fiend, and the rulers force is his iron claw, and no heart of man possessing both ever did or ever can restrain them from robbery and oppression. The worst form, because the most energetic, in which these combinations can appear, is that of a royal monopoly in an arbitrary government. Of the effects of this all the Spanish American colonies can tell ; and long, very long will it be, freed as they now are, before its traces disappear from among them. The next form is that of chartered companies, with political powers and functions, of which the most conspicuous examples are the British and Dutch East India Companies : for the proceedings of the former of which, those who wish to sup full of horrors may look into Burke and Sheridan, and the evidence on the trial of Warren Hastings. Chartered companies, with simple privilege of exclusion, come next in the scale of dishonesty and mischief; institutions of which an old saw says wisely, that they are exempt from the responsibilities of soul and body; and it leaves you to infer that they do what none would dare to do that had either. In the progress of the narrative under consideration, we shall encounter such a company, and we shall have occasion to contrast their conduct with that of an individual with whom they come, in the course of trade, into competition and collision, and we shall find it no exception to the rule. The individual merchant is frank, liberal, and above board: he depends on his own skill and resources, and the fair principles of trade, for his success; and is willing his rivals should succeed too, if they can. Their spirit, on the contrary, is grasping and crushing; they importune their governments to turn the storm of war upon his colony; they stimulate the zeal of the naval heroes sent to destroy it by illusory tales of plunder to be obtained, and at the same time they hustle the property which was to supply that plunder by a legerdemain treaty, by bribery and fraud, into their own pockets ; thus balking the legalised piracy of its prey, after using its terrors to aid their underhand proceedings. And the result is, that an enterprise fails in which many interests of this country, and vast schemes of ambition, and honour of its projector, were bound up together; an enterprise which ought to have succeeded upon all the rules by which human foresight and opinion are usually guided, which was wisely planned, and vigorously sustained, but was met, time after time, by fresh and various calamities, and only betrayed and crushed at last by the treachery of a trusted agent, when success was within its reach. Mr. Irving says :
“It is painful, at all times, to see a grand and beneficial stroke of genius fail 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 nnd 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 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 harbour on that coast. In our hands, beside 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 anticipation 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.?” Vol. II. p. 261.
Many of our readers, probably, know something in general terms of the foundation of Astoria, but few know any thing of the details; and the particulars which this narrative sets forth could only be known to one to whom the parties interested in the enterprise might think fit to communicate them. In a happy hour they were communicated to Mr. Irving, and they have furnished him a series of such pictures as he especially delights in drawing; the whole subject being one eminently suited to his tastes and turn of mind. He identifies himself so willingly with the heroes of his tale, and sympathizes with them so entirely, he depicts so vividly the scenes through which he makes them pass, from the barbaric pomp and wassail of Montreal, to the ruffling society of Mackinaw, and the border traders of St. Louis, the diplomatic dignity and military pageantry of the Arickara village, and the descending grades of savage life to the poor Snake Indians and wild Upsarokas, all these things are sketched con amore, and pass before you in a lively and attractive panorama. The voyage of the Tonquin, too, her stay at the Sandwich Islands, and the accounts of King Tamaahmaah and Governor John Young, are exceedingly spirited and amusing: but to connect all these things together and show what is the plot of the work, we must make an extract from the first part, where, after speaking of the return of Lewis and Clarke from the Rocky mountains in 1804, Mr. Irving adds :
“It was then that the idea presented itself to the mind of Mr. Astor, of grasping, with his individual hand, this great enterprise, which for years had been dubiously, yet desirously contemplated by powerful associations and maternal governments. For some time he revolved the idea in his mind, gradually extending and maturing his plans as his means of executing them augmented. The main feature of his scheme was to establish a line of trading posts along the Missouri and the Columbia, to the mouth of the latter, where was to be founded the chief trading house or mart. Inferior posts would be established in the interior, and on all the tributary streams of the Columbia, to trade with the Indians; these posts would draw their supplies from the main establishment, and bring to it the peltries they collected. Coasting craft would be built and fitted out, also, at the mouth of the Columbia, to trade, at favourable seasons, all along the northwest coast, and return, with the proceeds of their voyages, to this place of deposit. Thus all the Indian trade, both of the interior and the coast, would converge to this point, and thence derive its sustenance.
“A ship was to be sent annually from New York to this main establishment with reinforcements and supplies, and with merchandise suited to the trade. It would take on board the furs collected during the preceding year, carry them to Canton, invest the proceeds in the rich merchandise of China, and return thus freighted to New York.
" As, in extending the American trade along the coast to the northward, it might be brought into the vicinity of the Russian Fur Company, and produce a hostile rivalry, it was part of the plan of Mr. Astor io conciliate the good will of that company by the most amicable and beneficial arrangements. The Russian establishment was chiefly dependent for its supplies upon transient trading vessels from the United States. These vessels, however, were often of more harm than advantage. Being owned by private adventurers, or casual voyagers, who cared only for present profit, and had no interest in the permanent prosperity of the trade, they were reckless in their dealings with the natives, and made no scruple of supplying them with firearms. In this way several fierce tribes in the vicinity of the Russian posts, or within the range of their trading excursions, were furnished with deadly means of warfare, and rendered troublesome and dangerous neighbours.
“The Russian government had made representations to that of the United States of these malpractices on the part of its citizens, and urged to have this traffic in arms prohibited; but, as it did not infringe any municipal law, our government could not interfere. Yet still it regarded, with solicitude, a traffic which, if persisted in, might give offence to Russia, at that time almost the only power friendly to us. In this dilemma the government had applied to Mr. Astor, as one conversant in this branch of trade, for information that might point out a way to remedy the evil. This circumstance had suggested to him the idea of supplying the Russian establishment regularly by means of the annual ship that should visit the settlement at the mouth of the Columbia (or Oregon); by this means the casual trading vessels would be excluded from those parts of the coast where their malpractices were so injurious to the Russians.
“Such is a brief outline of the enterprise projected by Mr. Astor, but which continually expanded in his mind. Indeed, it is due to him to say, that he was not actuated by mere motives of individual profit. He was already wealthy beyond the ordinary desires of man, but he now aspired to that honourable fame which is awarded to men of similar scope of mind, who, by their great commercial enterprises have enriched nations, peopled wildernesses, and extended the bounds of empire. He considered his projected establishment at the mouth of the Columbia as the emporium to an immense commerce; as a colony that would form the germ of a wide civilization; that would, in fact, carry the American population across the Rocky mountains; and spread it along the shores of the Pacific, as it already animated the shores of the Atlantic.” Vol. I. pp. 37–40.
It is difficult to convey, in the short space of a review, an adequate notion of the energy with which this idea, once matured, was acted on and followed up. A numerous party, consisting of partners in the scheme, clerks, boatmen, trappers, Indian interpreters, &c., recruited from New York, Montreal, Mackinaw, and St. Louis, after many difficulties and delays, left the last named place October 21st, 1810, sixty persons in all, for the mouth of the Columbia, the good ship Tonquin having sailed on the 8th of September for the same destination, from New York. The Tonquin arrived at the Columbia in the end of March, 1811, and landed safely several of the partners, some clerks, hunters, Canadians, and Sandwich Islanders; a party strong enough to build a fort for the nucleus and citadel of the new colony, and to push up the rivers and establish hunting and trapping and commercial posts, which they expected to increase and improve on the arrival of the reinforce