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navigation. Here, in a frightful, howling waste, a country scarcely habitable in summer, they encountered winter and famine : they bore up and kept together while they could, but at last separated, and several small parties, after excessive suffering, arrived successively at Astoria in February and March, 1812. The narration of all these adventures should be perused in Mr. Irving's words, no pen is so fit as his to exhibit all its various phases. He sympathizes perfectly in all the exultation, the hardihood, the sufferings and patient endurance of the hunter; he enters, with spontaneous glee, into all the odd traits and wild originality of the fresh characters he encounters, and he interests himself equally with gossiping inquisitiveness in the domestic relations of Pierre Dorion, or the marriage of Duncan McDougal with the clean princess, the daughter of the one-eyed Comcomly. We can give but little idea of all this by extracts, nor have we space for many; but the original book is within every body's reach.
Mr. Astor remained at New York without information as to the expeditions by sea and land; but he acted on his plan as laid down, and on the presumption that every thing had gone right. He fitted out another ship, the Beaver, in October, 1811, which arrived at Astoria in May, 1812, with supplies and reinforcements, and having staid long enough to concert operations for her return and homeward voyage, she sailed along the coast to trade with the Russian settlements. Every thing at Astoria depended on her return; she had taken Mr. Hunt from that post, where his presence soon afterwards became exceedingly necessary, as the news of war with England had arrived there, and many dangers were growing out of it for the American interests at Astoria. But the Beaver never did return. By an unfortunate decision of Mr. Hunt, after getting a load of seal skins, she left him at the Sandwich Islands and sailed for Canton ; the agents of the Northwest Company came down the Columbia upon Astoria, and Mr. McDougal, the partner in command, received them hospitably, supplied them with provisions to enable them to stay in the country, made them friends among the natives, and furnished them goods to trade with them, and, finally, sold out to them Mr. Astor's merchandise, furs, and posts on the Columbia and its tributaries, at a base price, and entered into partnership with them to get a share in the profits of the operation. Mr. Hunt arrived in time to protest against all this, but the mischief was consummated; the pretext for it was, that an armed ship of the Northwest Company was expected, which had obtained the aid of several vessels of war from the British government, and that unless the Astorians would sell peaceably, they would be plundered forcibly. A sloop of war did, in fact, come there soon after, and landed
some agents of the Northwest Company, but the party at Astoria were strong, the coast most dangerous and inhospitable, the fort inaccessible from the sea, and could only be attacked by parties landed for the purpose, who would have been opposed by the Indians, now fully in the American interest. And in the worst event, the furs might have been carried up the river and secreted; there was no force to prevent that, and had they even been lost it would have been more satisfactory to the feelings of Mr. Astor, and infinitely better for the honour of Duncan McDougal.
In the mean time, the ship Lark was fitted out from New York by Mr. Astor for the colony, and wrecked on the Sandwich Islands, and another yet, the Enterprise, had been prepared and loaded, and would have sailed under convoy of the frigate John Adams, when the sailors of the frigate were taken for the service of the lakes, and the harbour of New York being blockaded by the enemy, the Enterprise was unloaded and laid up. Such perseverance as this in the face of uncertainties, disappointment and disaster, indicates no ordinary character; but this is not all, nor near all, that Mr. Astor did for his colony. He wrote to Canton to have the Beaver go back from thence, but Captain Sowle took it upon him to disobey the order and act upon some opinions of his own; neglecting what he was directed to do, and marring what he attempted. Mr. Astor had sent an agent to St. Petersburgh, and concluded an advantageous arrangement with the Russian Northwest Company for an amicable intercourse and interchange of supplies, merchandise and services, and he had applied to the government of the United States for a little reinforcement of forty or fifty men for his fort, which one of their armed ships might drop at the Columbia river, while the arrival of his merchant vessels was very uncertain. He spared no forethought nor expenditure, he left no stone unturned to find assistance, he never hesitated nor doubted for a moment in proceeding on the principles he had once laid down. But war, fraud, disobedience, and the disasters of the desert and the sea, were at last too much for him, and this great undertaking was abandoned. “ Were I among you," he writes to Mr. Hunt, just before the final catastrophe, “and had the management of affairs, I would defy them all ; but as it is, every thing depends upon you, and your friends about you. Our enterprise is grand, and deserves success, and I hope in God it will meet it. If my object was merely gain of money, I should say, think whether it is best to save what we can, and abandon the place; but the very
idea is like a dagger to my heart.”
An important and characteristic feature of this affair, is the interest with which it was viewed by the rulers of several of
the greatest nations of the earth. The Russian government, having complained to ours of the irregular traders on the northwest coast, who supplied the savages with firearms, it is to Mr. Astor's company that our government looks for the only remedy our laws enable us to apply in such a case. The Russian cabinet, accordingly, sanctions an agreement of its own Northwest Company with Mr. Astor, for mutual aid and benefit, tending to the suppression of the irregular trade in question, while the British government sees in the new colony the germ of a state, and of an ally for its rivals, and stretches out its hand to destroy it. These are such wheels as a private individual can but rarely put in motion ; if, peradventure, he can ride on one as it moves he esteems himself honoured and advanced. To have been charged by any one of these governments with any thing they wished to do in this business, would have been a post eagerly coveted by many a man who would have thought the commerce which was the inspiring principle of it all, a matter infinitely beneath him. The captain of the Racoon, which was the British armed ship sent to take Astoria, and his officers and crew, had all their energies for six months directed to that point, and all their thoughts employed on the rich prize which a small modicum of Mr. Astor's wealth would make to divide
them. What to him, considered with reference merely to its value in money, was a very small object, was to them all, a great one; what he had brought knowledge and genius to create, they were bringing brute force to destroy; the unreasoning hirelings of their own government, they were lent, like wooden or iron tools, to a trading company who artfully stimulated their avarice to sharpen their zeal, as the picador mocks and tortures the bull in the arena, that he may roar and fight the better. Yet this arena, and such employment as this, has been esteemed more honourable in the world than the extension of civilization, the diffusion of light, and the planting of cities!
There are passages scattered through this book which make us fear that Mr. Irving himself has but an inadequate idea of the true beauty and dignity of commerce. Otherwise than as an American he could not feel, and we are at present the commercial nation, having, doubtless, much more commerce in proportion to our numbers than any other. Mr. Irving, then, could not fail to respect commerce, and feel kindly towards it, but there are certain common-places about the corrupting infuence of trade, &c. &c. of which he ought long ago to have purged his mind, but it appears he has not entirely done so. It was not to be expected that, with the documents before him, from which he has given so many pictures of the vices and misery of the savages of the northwest, from which he has
inferred that by the effects of those vices they are tending to extinction, and were so “long before the advent of the white men,” (see vol. i. p. 241): in this same book, we say, we should not have expected to find the thievishness, laziness, and impudence of the Indians of Wish-ram ascribed to the habits of trade and the avidity of gain,” (see vol. i. p. 111). On the contrary, trade brings honesty into request and makes it profitable, and it takes root and becomes habitual and the stock of many virtues. Instances of this might be cited from these volumes, and, indeed, the savages generally on the northwest coast appear to have appreciated the benetits of trade, and to have dealt with the white men most usually like customers who meant to come again. Old Comcomly was not, probably, over conscientious, but he saw his own interest, and understood that of his son-in-law, McDougal, and the interest of his reputation too, better than McDougal did himself, and this intelli gence made him friendly and faithful.
With regard to the life and character of Mr. Astor, they are dealt with in these volumes in the most sparing manner possible: every thing that cannot be brought to bear upon the fur trade is suppressed. Enough appears, however, to give a strong and distinct impression to a certain extent, and to excite a strong curiosity to know more. There was an expectation, before this book appeared, that it would contain a biography of the man who, during half a century, has been following the chase we are all most eager in, and who has constantly outstripped us all. From an obscure stranger, he has made himself one of the "celebrities” of the country, constructing for himself a fortune first, he has taken his stand on that, as on a pedestal, from whence he could command distinction. Endowed with an intuitive discernment of character, and a native logical clearness of head and perception of the adaptation of means to ends, he always used the instrument or the word he wanted, with singular justice of selection. There was nothing omitted, and nothing superfluous, nothing to attract or dazzle; he never sought to command attention, but rather, as far as possible, to avoid it. Working thus with noiseless machinery, but with untiring vigour, he has comprehended the ends of the earth in his schemes, and filled them with his agents, and made them acquainted with his name. Nations have taken cognizance of his individual enterprises, statesmen have studied them, and laboured to favour or thwart them, and among them there has been one at least, as this book proves, where failure was a general misfortune for mankind.
We say again, we wish to see the life of such a man set forth by a master hand, and we hope we may yet receive it from that of the annalist of Astoria. It should be written by the
consent and with the aid of its subject-it should be conceived in a commercial spirit, and should detail enterprises which none but he could communicate: whose motives, connection, and ramifications he only could disentangle and display. Such a book would bear to the history of a great commercial country the same relation that the life of an eminent warrior does to the history of a martial state. It follows, therefore, that as the honour and fame of a nation which grows great by the arts of peace are to those of a military one, so is the merchant individually to the individual warrior, and whoever disparages the species of distinction we are all now striving for, insults us both nationally and individually. Between the histories of war and peace, let the reader judge which is more worthy to be written, which more novel, and which more commonplace, and which casts the stronger light on the yearnings and strivings of the world that now is. For Agamemnon and Napoleon are gathered to the Lernæn hydra and the wild boar of Ery. manthus : violence is entombed, and commerce is come forth, the twice blessed, to rule like mercy, giving gifts unto men.
There are yet some strange mists before our eyes, even in this free world, about those ideas of greatness and distinction, though every day, as we grow older, is helping to dispel them. A political puppet, if he happened to be a prime minister, was once a great man, decidedly; so was a military coxcomb, if he could contrive to make himself talked about. Yet the great object of the late remodellings of the world has been to dispense with both these sorts of pre-eminence by means of self-government and peace--and, accordingly, exactly in proportion to the advance of civilization is their decline ; the one to a mere clerk of supplies and appropriations, the other to a simple police officer. For our own country, for the last half century, diplomacy and war have had little to do, and have raised but few sterling and unequivocal reputations. To these, as many as there are, we would yield their deserved respect, and, as few as they are, the peaceful aspect of the times gives promise (for which we thank God) that in future years the harvest will be less. Two of the greatest names our country has produced since it was free, are unquestionably Dewitt Clinton and Fulton, and with what are those names associated ? With the alliance of art and nature, whose plenipotentiaries they were for a certain object, and that object was, in each case, the furtherance of commerce. Dewitt Clinton governed New York because he was made to govern it, and not because he was chosen. That he happened to be a governor was an accident, but God made him for a leader. He saw where our energies stagnated, and he gave them arteries and circulation, and brought the ocean into acquaintance with the lakes. Mr. Astor's enterprise to open a communication