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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 among 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 influence 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 benefits 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 faithfu
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 Lernen hydra and the wild boar of Erymanthus 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
between two oceans, was imagined in a similar spirit, and having imagined it, he was free from the next difficulty which met the projector of the Grand canal, we mean the necessity of conveying to other minds the views and convictions of his own, and persuading them to co-operate. On the contrary, he used them without consulting them any farther than was necessary to enable each agent to play his part; he said as the Centurion saith, Do this, and he guarantied them that they should be paid, and it was done. Here, then, is the use of wealth, that it can command; it is power, and such use of it is honour and fame.
Mr. Astor has never regarded his fortune as an end, but as a means, as an instrument with which other and greater ends might be wrought out. He has said that in his active days he never had so much money as he really wanted to use, and that his views were always beyond his means. Over what field those views extended, the history of Astoria shows; and the disastrous part of it brings out in strong relief a character whose perfect simplicity and quietness have usually, during a long life, kept its inherent energies aloof from observation. There are enough sordid examples in the world for the declaimers against the pursuit of wealth to dilate upon, but the story of Astoria tells the other way. It will live to the honour of its founder; and the most malevolent or bigoted disparager of commercial illustration must confess, at least in this instance, that
"something of the spirit of old Greece Flash'd on his soul a few heroic rays,
Such as lit onward to the Golden Fleece
His predecessors in the Colchian days."
We are sorry to observe that these volumes are very carelessly printed. Some gross mistakes occur repeatedly-as set for sit (vol. i. pp. 78, 90); would lay for would lie (vol. i. p. 230, vol. ii. p. 168); council, for counsel, appears once (vol. i. p. 37); notions for motives, as it would seem (id. p. 203); and "in his own land," apparently for "with his own hand" (id. p. 226). If this last is not a misprint, it requires a note to explain it. There are also occasional inaccuracies of style-as the importance to keep, for of keeping (id. p. 122); seventh instant, for "seventh of the month" (id. p. 168); and a passage where Mr. Irving says all hands were busy about something, while others were employed on something else (id. p. 97). These are trifles, and a second edition will no doubt make them all right.
We have taken up this book as we found it, and have penned these remarks upon it with pleasure, zeal, and interest; but, in dismissing the subject, there remains a dissatisfaction, an incompleteness, a curiosity which we suppose cannot be ministered to nor removed. We should have wished to see the adventures of the subordinate agents thrown more into the background,
and the projector of the enterprise brought more into relief; we should have wished to be made acquainted with him—to be told of his views, his hopes, his fears, and the details of what he did and attempted in this matter, and of the springs he brought into play at home and abroad, and the causes that impeded their operation; we should have wished to see him figure as the hero of a great commercial epic, so to speak, and the first one perhaps purely commercial, for which the world has furnished the material, since Jason. But to all this there were insuperable obstacles in the characters of all the parties concerned; and much development of fact, beyond what has been given, might have been made, but for interests still existing which such disclosures might have injured. Had they been made they would only have shown a greater extent of the same energy, and perseverance, and moral courage, for which all we have already seen is so remarkable.
There is one subject on which we shall say a few words here, to contradict a rumour that this work had been ordered by Mr. Astor from Mr. Irving, executed as a job, and paid for with a stipulated price. We have taken some pains to enquire into this, and we have information which enables us to state positively that Mr. Irving has received no compensation nor pecuniary favours of any sort from Mr. Astor, directly or indirectly. As a friend of Mr. Astor, Mr. Irving could not but know something of this story; it interested his curiosity; he talked often with Mr. Astor about it, and chose it himself as a subject for his pen, brought it out at his own risk and expense, and as yet it has been by no means profitable compared with most of his other works. That Mr. Astor would have aided its execution, and willingly, no one can doubt; but, from a delicacy easily to be appreciated, Mr. Irving would not allow the shadow of such an interference to fall on the performance.
We shall conclude with an extract chosen from many we had marked to show Mr. Irving at home in the wilderness, and dealing, with his congenial humour, with its adventures. It is an onslaught of the Indians upon a party who were bearing despatches to Mr. Astor, the loss of which of course made it necessary for the bearer to go back to the fort for more; and the unlucky fantasy which possessed the Indians in relation to them was one more link in the chain of Astorian fatalities.
"The worthies of Wish-ram, however, were not disposed to part so easily with their visiters. Their cupidity had been quickened by the plunder which they had already taken, and their confidence increased by the impunity with which their outrage had passed. They resolved, therefore, to take further toll of the travellers, and, if possible, to capture the tin case of despatches; which, shining conspicuously from afar, and being guarded by John Reed with such especial care, must, as they supposed, be a great medicine.'