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MACKENZIE REACHES THE ARCTIC SEA.
unable to proceed farther, in consequence of the hostile dispositions of the natives.
Between 1788 and 1794, two other expeditions were made from Fort Chipewyan by Mr. Alexander Mackenzie, the superintending proprietor at that place, of which a particular account should be here given, as the geographical information obtained in them was highly interesting, and led to important commercial and political results.*
The Athabasca Lake is a basin about two hundred miles in length from east to west, and about thirteen in average breadth, situated under the 59th parallel of latitude, midway between the Pacific Ocean and Hudson's Bay. It is supplied by several streams, of which the principal are the Athabasca or Elk River, flowing from the south, and the Unjigah or Peace River, from the Rocky Mountains, on the west; and its waters are discharged through the Slave River, running about two hundred miles north, into the Great Slave Lake, discovered by Hearne in 1771. All these rivers join the Athabasca Lake at its south-west end, near which Fort Chipewyan was then situated.
Mackenzie's first expedition was made in 1789, and its principal object was to ascertain the course of the waters from the Great Slave Lake to the sea, which Hearne had left undetermined. For this purpose, he left Fort Chipewyan, with his party, in bark canoes, on the 3d of June, 1789, and, passing down the Slave River into the Great Slave Lake, he discovered a large stream flowing out of the latter basin, at its north-west extremity, to which he gave the name of Mackenzie River; and this stream he descended about nine hundred miles, in a north-west direction, along the base of a chain of mountains, to its termination in the sea. On his return, he examined the country east of his great river, which had been traversed by Hearne, and arrived at Fort Chipewyan on the 12th of September, after an absence of nearly three months.
The mouth of the Mackenzie was supposed by its discoverer to be situated near the 69th degree of latitude, and about 25 degrees of longitude, or five hundred miles, west of the mouth of Hearne's Coppermine River, which is not far from its t.ue position. Still
Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Lawrence, through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and the Pacific Oceans, in 1789 and 1793, with a preliminary Account of the Fur Trade of that Country; by Sir Alexander Mackenzie. London, 1801.
| Its principal mouth is in latitude 69°, longitude 136° west from Greenwich.
farther west must, of course, be situated any passage or sea con necting the Pacific with the part of the ocean into which both those rivers were supposed to empty; and the existence of any such passage east of Bering's Strait became, in consequence, much less probable.
In his second expedition, Mackenzie quitted Fort Chipewyan on the 10th of October, 1792, and ascended the Unjigah or Peace River, from the Athabasca Lake, with much difficulty, to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where he spent the winter in camp. In June of the following year, he resumed his voyage up the same stream, which he traced, in a south-west direction, through the mountains, to its springs, near the 54th degree of latitude, distant more than nine hundred miles from its mouth. Within half a mile of one of these springs, he embarked on another stream, called by the natives Tacoutchee- Tessee, down which he floated in canoes about two hundred and fifty miles; then, leaving the river, he proceeded westward about two hundred miles over land, and, on the 22d of July, 1793, he reached the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of an inlet, in the latitude of 52 degrees 20 minutes, which had, a few weeks previous, been surveyed by Vancouver, and been named the Cascade Canal. Having thus accomplished a passage across the American continent at its widest part, he retraced his steps to Fort Chipewyan, where he arrived on the 24th of August.
By this expedition, Mackenzie ascertained beyond all doubt the fact of the extension of the American continent, on the Pacific Ocean, undivided by any water passage, as far north as the latitude of 52 degrees 20 minutes; which fact was, about the same time, rendered nearly, though not absolutely, certain by the examinations of Vancouver. The River Tacoutchee-Tessee was supposed to be the upper part of the Columbia, until 1812, when it was traced to its mouth, in the Strait of Fuca, near the 49th degree of latitude; and since that time it has been called Fraser's River.
The discoveries of Mackenzie, taken in conjunction with the results of Vancouver's surveys, strengthened the conclusion, at which Cook had arrived, that the American continent extended uninterruptedly north-westward to Bering's Strait; and Mackenzie imself conceived, though certainly without sufficient grounds, that he had clearly determined in the negative the long-agitated question as to the practicability of a voyage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, around the northern shores of America. For the advancement of British interests in the North Pacific, he recommended that the 1792.)
JOURNEYS OF FIDLER AND TRUDEAU.
Hudson's Bay and the North-West Companies, which had been opposed to each other ever since the formation of the latter, should be united; that the British government should favor the establishment of commercial communications across North America, for which the rivers and lakes in the portion claimed by him for that power afforded unrivalled facilities; and that the East India Company should throw open to their fellow-subjects the direct trade between the north-west coasts of America and China, which was , then, he says, “ left to the adventurers of the United States, acting without regularity or capital, or the desire of conciliating future confidence, and looking only to the interest of the moment.” These recommendations were not thrown away, but were nearly all adopted by those to whom they were addressed; and the result has been, the extension of British commerce and dominion throughout the whole northern section of America.
Whilst Mackenzie was engaged in his journey to the Pacific coast, Mr. Fidler, a clerk in the service of the North-West Company, made an expedition from Fort Buckingham, a trading-post on the Saskatchawine River, south-westward, to the foot of the Rocky Mountains,* along which he seems to have travelled, through the regions drained by the head-waters of the Missouri. About the same time, several trading voyages were made up the Missouri by the French and Spaniards of St. Louis; particularly by the members of a company formed at that place by a Scotchman named Todd, under the special protection of the Spanish government, the object of which was to monopolize the whole trade of the interior and western portions of the continent.t
The trade of the citizens of the United States with the Indians in the central portion of the continent was much restricted, for many years after the establishment of the independence of the republic, in consequence of the possession of Louisiana by the Spaniards, and the retention by the British of several important posts south of the great lakes, within the territory acknowledged as
* On Arrowsmith's “Map of all the new Discoveries in North America,” published at London in 1795, several streams are represented, on the authority of Mr. Fidler, as Aowing from the Rocky Mountains on both sides; but none corresponding with them in course or position have been since found.
+ The journal of one of these voyages, made by M. Trudeau, in 1794, has been preserved in the archives of the Department of State at Washington; it is, however, devoted chiefly to the numbers, manners, customs, religion, &c., of the natives on the banks of the Missouri, particularly of the Arickaras, inhabiting the country under the 46th parallel of latitude.
belonging to the Union, by the treaty of 1783. At length, by the treaty of November 19, 1794, between Great Britain and the United States, it was agreed that these posts should be given up to the Americans, and that the people of both nations, and the Indians “dwelling on either side of the boundary line, should have liberty freely to pass and repass, by land or inland navigation, into the respective territories of the two parties, on the continent of America, (the country within the limits of the Hudson's Bay only excepted,) and to navigate all the lakes, rivers, and waters thereof, and freely to carry on trade with each other.” The surrender of these posts, especially of Detroit and Michilimackinac, was very inconvenient to the North-West Company, whilst the trade of the Americans with the central regions was thereby increased ; and large quantities of furs were annually transported to the Atlantic cities, principally to New York, from which place they were distributed throughout the United States, or shipped for London or Canton.
On the North Pacific, the direct trade between the American coasts and China remained, from 1796 to 1814, almost entirely, as Mackenzie said, in the hands of the citizens of the United States : the British merchants were restrained from engaging in it by the opposition of their East India Company; the Russians were not admitted into Chinese ports ; and few ships of any other nation were seen in that part of the ocean. That these American “adventurers acted without regularity or capital, or the desire of conciliating future confidence, and looking only to the interest of the moment," was also, to a certain extent, true; though the facts can scarcely be considered discreditable to them, as Mackenzie insinuated, even supposing their operations to have been conducted in the manner represented by a British writer, whose hostility to the United States and their citizens was even more violent than that of Vancouver.
“These adventurers,” says the writer above mentioned, * “set out on the voyage with a few trinkets of very little value. In the Southern Pacific, they pick up some seal-skins, and perhaps a few butts of oil; at the Gallipagos, they lay in turtle, of which they
* Review of “A Voyage around the World, from 1806 to 1812, by Archibald Campbell," in the London Quarterly Review for October, 1816, written in a spirit of the most deadly hatred towards the United States, and filled with assertions most impudently false.
AMERICAN COMMERCE IN THE PACIFIC.
preserve the shells; at Valparaiso, they raise a few dollars in exchange for European articles; at Nootka, and other parts of the north-west coasts, they traffic with the natives for furs, which, when winter commences, they carry to the Sandwich Islands, to dry and preserve from vermin; here they leave their own people to take care of them, and, in the spring, embark, in lieu, the natives of the islands, to assist in navigating to the north-west coast, in search of more skins. The remainder of the cargo is then made up of sandal, which grows abundantly in the woods of Atooi and Owyhee, of tortoise shells, sharks' fins, and pearls of an inferior kind, (meaning, probably, mother-of-pearl shells,] all of which are acceptable in the China market; and with these and their dollars they purchase cargoes of tea, silks, and nankins, and thus complete their voyage
in the course of two or three years.” This account appears to be, in most respects, correct, with regard to many of the American vessels engaged in the Pacific trade at the period to which it relates; and it serves only to prove the industry, energy, courage, and skill, of those who embarked in such difficult and perilous enterprises, and conducted them so successfully. It would, however, be easy to show, from custom-house returns and other authentic evidence, that the greater number of the vessels sent from the United States to the north-west coasts were fine ships or brigs, laden with valuable cargoes of West India productions, British manufactured articles, and French, Italian, and Spanish wines and spirits ; and that the owners were men of large capital and high reputation in the commercial world, some of whom were able to compete with the British companies, and even occasionally to control their movements.
The American traders in the Pacific have also been accused, by British writers, of practising every species of fraud and violence in their dealings with the natives of the coasts of that sea : yet the acts cited in support of these general accusations are only such as have been, and ever will be, committed by people of civilized nations, — and by none more frequently than the British, - when unrestrained by laws, in their intercourse with ignorant, brutal, and treacherous savages, always ready to rob or murder upon the slightest prospect of gain, or in revenge for the slightest affront. Seldom did an American ship complete a voyage through the Pacific without the loss of some of her men, by the treachery or the ferocity of the natives of the coasts which she visited; and