Слике страница
PDF
ePub

ment in the absence of Mr. Hunt, and already in affliction at the unpromising state of matters, was now, or pretended to be, in despair. The clerks were disheartened; and as the supposed loss of the Beaver took away all means of withdrawing themselves by water, it was hastily determined to fly before the dangers threatened from a state of hostility, break up the establishment, and retreat across the Rocky Mountains to the United States. In pursuance of this resolution, they suspended all further trading operations. These purposes were communicated to Messrs. Stuart and Clarke, two partners in the concern, stationed at successful hunting posts in the interior. They strongly disapproved the rash conclusions which had been adopted, and hastened to Astoria to oppose them. They soon found reason to suspect Mr. McDougal of disloyalty to the interests of the establishment. Their strenuous opposition occasioned the postponement of the projected desertion of the post, till the ensuing year ; but the continued non-arrival of the Beaver, and the gloomy prospect of affairs, in other respects, induced even Messrs. Clarke and Stuart to unite in signing a manifesto, in which (agreeably to the articles of partnership) they announced their purpose of retiring from it, if, before June of the following year, relief was not received from Mr. Astor.

While things were proceeding in this train at Astoria, great alarm was felt by the founder of the enterprise at New York. He received certain intelligence, that the North-west Company had, by exaggerated statements of the importance of Astoria, urged a second time upon the British government to send a force to the Columbia River, and that the frigate Phæbe had, in consequence, been despatched to convoy the Isaac Todd. Mr. Astor once more applied to the government, and the frigate Adams was ordered to the Pacific.

He determined to send the Enterprise under her convoy, with supplies for the establishment. Before either vessel could be despatched, the exigencies of the public service were deemed to require that the crew of the Adams should be transferred to the lakes; and the port of New York being blockaded by a British squadron, the Enterprise was prevented from sailing.

In the mean time disaster had followed disaster in the Pacific Ocean. The Beaver had not been lost, but had been most unfortunately delayed on the coast. These delays had

so much retarded her movements, that instead of proceeding in her directly down to the Columbia River, according to his instructions, Mr. Hunt deemed it his duty to hasten her voyage to Canton, where she might dispose of the furs collected on the coast. Proceeding in her himself to the Sandwich Islands, he there left her. She held on her way to Canton ; and instead of exchanging her cargo as she then might have done for a return cargo, which would have realized three hundred thousand dollars in the United States, Captain Sowle held on for a bigher price for his furs, till the market declined, and he saw himself compelled, in consequence of “a pressure in the money market,” which then prevailed in the celestial empire, to borrow money, on Mr. Astor's account, at eighteen per cent., and lay up his ship till the return of peace! Mr. Hunt, meantime, was delayed at the Sandwich Islands. He waited in vain for the arrival of the ship, which, according to the plan of the establishment, was annually to be sent. On the 20th of June, 1813, the Albatross arrived at the Sandwich Islands from China, with news of the war. This intelligence explained to Mr. Hunt the cause of the non-appearance of the annual vessel ; and supposing that the factory at Astoria must be in great want of supplies, he chartered the Albatross to take him, with such articles as he was able to procure, to the mouth of the Columbia River. Here he arrived on the 20th of August, ten months later than the time he had fixed for his return in the Beaver. He found the settlement in the midst of the festivities, occasioned by the absurd marriage of Mr. McDougal to the daughter of the one-eyed Chinook chief Comcomly.

Mr. Hunt was not slow to perceive the depressed condition of affairs; and though at first shocked with the idea of abandoning the establishment, he found himself at last compelled to acquiesce in it, as an unavoidable calamity. He turned his thoughts, therefore, to the means of withdrawing from it with the least loss to Mr. Astor. To effect this object, he deemed it necessary to find somewhere in the Pacific a vessel, in which he could take the stock of peltries collected at Astoria to a market. The Albatross was bound to the Marquesas, and thence to the Sandwich Islands; and Mr. Hunt determined, after a visit of but six days at Astoria, to take passage in this vessel, in search of a ship for the service stated. He was to return by the 1st of January, 1814, and is any thing occurred

[ocr errors]

a

to detain him, Mr. McDougal was left in sole charge of the affairs of the factory. Arrived at the Marquesas, Mr. Hunt learned from Commodore Porter, who was at those islands in the Essex, that the Phæbe, Cherub, and Raccoon, British vessels of war, were on their way to the Pacific, bound as was supposed, for the mouth of the Columbia River. Mr. Hunt failed in all his attempts to obtain a vessel at the Marquesas, and after remaining there till the 23d of November, a prey to the most afflicting anxieties, he proceeded to the Sandwich Islands in the Albatross. While awaiting here in the longdeferred hope that a vessel despatched by Mr. Astor might arrive, he had the pain of witnessing the disastrous result of another voyage undertaken by that enterprising merchant. The Lark, whose departure from New York bas already been mentioned, was cast on one of the Sandwich Islands, a perfect wreck, having all but foundered, a short time before, in a furious gale. She arrived with the loss of several of her men, a shattered hulk; and king Tamaahmaah took advantage of the distressed condition of the ship's company, to stipulate for the entire abandonment of the wreck to him, as the sole condition on which he agreed to dole out some scanty supplies to the survivors. Had even this unfortunate vessel accomplished her voyage in season and in safety, the entire ruin of Astoria might have been averted. Its fate, however, had by this time already been pushed to its crisis. In the month of October, Mr. McTavish appeared with a party of sixty or seventy men, in the employ of the North-west Company, and after some resistance on the part of the other partners at the post, Mr. McDougal took upon himself to sell out to this gentleman, as agent for the North-west Company, all the property of Mr. Astor, and the good will of the establishment. The terms of the bargain were dictated by the purchasers, and forty thousand dollars paid for furs worth one hundred thousand dollars.

These arrangements being concluded, on the 30th of November, the Raccoon, a British sloop of war, arrived in the river. Its officers were in high spirits. The agents of the North-west Company, (one of whom was on board the Raccoon,) had magnified the riches which were to fall into the hands of the captors of Astoria. This excitement had been kept up during the voyage by the agent on board, “ so that not a midshipman but revelled in dreams of ample prize-money,

a

nor a lieutenant that would have sold his chance for a thousand pounds." Their disappointment therefore may easily be conceived, at finding that their warlike attack on Astoria bad been forestalled in the way described ; - that their anticipated booty had been wrested from them by a trick, and that too by men who had been chiefly instrumental in causing them to be sent on a fool's errand. Mr. McDougal, one of the chief agents of these not very handsome arrangements, was received with pretty cold courtesy on board the Raccoon. In reading the account of this transaction, we have not been able wholly to suppress the query, — what would not have been the exclamations of the horror-struck critical press of Great Britain, over Yankee honesty, had this dexterous manæuvre been the work of brother Jonathan ?

On the 12th of December the British flag was hoisted upon the fort at Astoria. On the 28th of February, 1814, Mr. Hunt arrived in the Columbia on board the Pedlar, a vessel which he had chartered at the Sandwich Islands, and found the establishment transferred to its new masters, and Mr. McDougal entered into partnership with them. To show, however, their liberality, they offered to sell back to Mr. Astor bis own furs, at fifty per cent. advance !

On the return of peace, in virtue of an article in the treaty of Ghent, Astoria, like all other captured places, reverted to the United States; and Commodore Biddle was sent in a vessel of war to take formal possession of it. Mr. Astor, nothing disheartened by the repeated losses he had encountered, endeavored, but unsuccessfully, to induce the government of the United States to coöperate with him in occupying the country. The North-west Company was consequently left to fix itself firmly in the region watered by the Columbia.

This they have done. The spot where the fort of Astoria stood has been abandoned, but another called Fort Vancouver, in the neighbourhood and on the right branch of the river, has been erected by the agents of the North-west Company. The whole region watered by the Columbia is penetrated by their trappers. Hunting parties from the United States also occasionally visit the region from the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains ; but not having a point d'appui in any establishment, and greatly outnumbered by the British Canadian hunters, collisions are sometimes said to occur between them to the disadvantage of the Americans. The population indepenVOL. XLIV. —NO. 94.

30

dent of the hunting business is, of course, small, but is said to be on the increase. Of the restless spirits, who swarm in every part of the country, or flock to it from Europe, a few are already trying their fortunes in this ultima Thule. What natural advantages it may offer as the residence of civilized man, cannot perhaps as yet be fully determined. Its climate, in accordance with the uniform analogy of all countries on the western coast of a continent, is much more mild and equable, than that of the same parallels on the eastern side of the continent. The most recent accounts authorize the opinion, that there is the usual average of fertile land, in those portions of the country, where, for geological or topographical reasons, good land is to be expected in any country. Its position at the outlet of the only large river, flowing into the sea, on the western coast of the continent, seems to mark it out as the centre of that great population, which will, in all probability, one day be supported by the commerce of the thousand islands of the Pacific Ocean.

The messengers of Christian benevolence have not been much in the rear of the adventurers, whom merely temporal interests have drawn to this distant spot. Two missionary stations have been taken up in the country west of the Rocky Mountains ; one under the patronage of the Methodists, and one under that of the American Board of Commissioners. Interesting accounts from these establishments are in possession of the public.

In our number for October, 1828, we entered somewhat at length into the controversy between Great Britain and the United States, concerning the boundary between the two governments in this quarter. Like the controversy relative to the Northeastern boundary between the possessions of the two countries, it is destined, we fear, to bid defiance to amicable adjustment. By an article of the convention, negotiated in 1818, for ten years, it was left undecided, and the country declared open for hunting and habitation to both parties, but not subject to the exclusive occupation of either. When that convention expired in 1828, the article relative to the Columbia River was moulded into a separate convention, of indefinite duration,* leaving the matter on the same footing ; but from which each party is capable of receding on giving

* Not expiring in 1838, as suggested by Mr. Irving.

« ПретходнаНастави »