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Woahoo, from China, bringing information of the war between the United States and Great Britain, and also that the Beaver was blockaded by a British ship at Canton; on learning which, Mr. Hunt chartered the Albatross, and proceeded in her to the Columbia, where he arrived on the 4th of August.
Mr. Hunt was astounded on learning the resolution adopted by the other partners at Astoria during his absence, which he endeavored to induce them to change ; but, finding them determined, he reluctantly acceded to it himself, and, after a few days, he reembarked in the Albatross, for the Sandwich Islands, in search of some vessel to convey the property of the Pacific Company to a place of safety. At the Sandwich Islands no vessel could be found; and Hunt accordingly continued in the Albatross until she arrived at Nooahevah, one of the Washington Islands, discovered by Ingraham, in 1791,) where he learned from Commodore David Porter, who was lying there in the American frigate Essex, that a large British squadron, under Commodore Hillyar, was on its way to the Columbia. This news caused Hunt to hasten back to the Sandwich Islands, which he reached in December, soon after the wreck of the Lark; and, having there chartered a small brig, called the Pedler, he sailed in her to Astoria, where he arrived in February, 1814.
The fate of the Pacific Company, and its establishments in NorthWest America, had, however, been decided some time before the Pedler reached Astoria.
Soon after the departure of Hunt, Mr. Mactavish and his followers of the North-West Company again appeared at Astoria, where they expected to meet a ship called the Isaac Todd, which had sailed from London in March, laden with goods, and under convoy of a British squadron, charged "to take and destroy every thing American on the north-west coast.” They were received as before, and allowed to pitch their camp unmolested near the factory; and private conferences were held between Mactavish and Macdougal, the results of which were, after some days, communicated to the other partners, and then to the clerks of the Pacific Company. These results were set forth in an agreement, signed on the 16th of October, 1813, between Messrs. Mactavish and Alexander Stuart, on the one part, and Messrs. Macdougal, Mackenzie, and Clarke, on the other; by which all the “establishments, furs, and stock in hand,” of the Pacific Company, in the country of the Columbia, were sold to the North-West Company, for about fiftyeight thousand dollars.
Whilst the business of valuing the furs and goods at Astoria, and of transferring them to their new owners, was in progress, the British sloop of war Raccoon appeared at the mouth of the river, under the command of Captain Black, who had been despatched from the South Pacific, by Commodore Hillyar, for the purpose of taking the American forts and establishments on the Columbia, and had hastened thither in expectation of securing some glory, and a rich share of prize-money, by the conquest. On approaching the factory, however, the captain soon saw that he should gain no laurels; and, after it had been formally surrendered to him by Mr. Macdougal, he learnt, to his infinite dissatisfaction, that its contents had become the property of British subjects. He could, therefore, only haul down the flag of the United States, and hoist that of Great Britain in its stead, over the establishment,* the name of which was, with due solemnity, changed to Fort George ; and, having given vent to his indignation against the partners of both companies, whom he loudly accused of collusion to defraud himself and his officers and crew of the reward due for their exertions, he sailed back to the South Pacific.
The brig Pedler arrived in the Columbia, as before said, on the 28th of February, 1814, and Mr. Hunt found Macdougal superintending the factory, not, however, as chief agent of the Pacific Company, but as a partner of the North-West Company, into which he had been admitted. Hunt had, therefore, merely to close the concerns of the American association in that quarter, and to receive the bills on Montreal, given in payment for its effects; after which he reëmbarked in the Pedler, with two of the clerks, and proceeded, by way of Canton and the Cape of Good Hope, to New York. Of the other persons who had been attached to the Pacific Fur Company's establishments, some were murdered by the Indians on Lewis River, in the summer of 1813; some, including Mr. Franchère, the author of the narrative of the expeditions, returned over land to the United States, or to Canada ; and some remained on the Columbia, in the service of the North-West Company. The long-expected ship Isaac Todd reached Fort George on the 17th of April, thirteen months after her departure from England, bringing a large stock of supplies ; by the aid of which the partners of the North-West Company were enabled to extend their operations, and to establish themselves more firmly in the country.
* See the account of the capture of Astoria, extracted from Cox, in the Proofs and Illustrations, under the letter G, No. 3.
Such was the termination of the Astoria enterprise; for no attempt has been since made by any of the persons who were engaged in it to form establishments on the western side of America. It was wisely planned: the resources for conducting it were ample ; and its failure was occasioned by circumstances, the principal of which could not have been reasonably anticipated at the time of its commencement. That ships might be lost at sea, or that parties might be destroyed by savages, or perish from cold or hunger, - casualties such as these were expected, and provisions were made for the contingencies. But, in 1810, when the Beaver sailed from New York, no one believed that, before the end of two years, the United States would be at war with the greatest maritime power in the world. By that war the whole plan was traversed. Communications by sea between the United States and the Pacific coasts became difficult and uncertain, whilst those by land were of little advantage, and were always liable to interruption by the enemy; and there was, in fact, no object in collecting furs on the Columbia, when those articles could not be transported to China.
The Pacific Company, nevertheless, might, and probably would, have withstood all these difficulties, if the directing partners on the Columbia had been Americans, instead of being, as the greater part of them were, men unconnected with the United States by birth, or citizenship, or previous residence, or family ties. Mr. Astor declares that he would have preferred the loss of the establishments and property by a fair capture, to the sale of them in a manner which he considered disgraceful; yet, although the conduct of Macdougal and Mackenzie, in that sale, and subsequently, was such as to authorize suspicions with regard to their motives, they could not have been expected to engage in hostilities against their compatriots and former friends. Being thus restrained from defending the honor of the Pacific Company by force, they may have considered themselves bound to take care of its interests, by the only means in their power, as they did in the sale. American citizens would have resisted the North-West Company, and would doubtless have maintained their supremacy, in the country of the Columbia, for some time, possibly until peace had been made between Great Britain and the United States.
1814 To 1820.
Restitution of Astoria to the United States by Great Britain, agreeably to the Treaty
of Ghent — Alleged Reservation of Rights on the Part of Great Britain — First Negotiation between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States, respecting the Territories west of the Rocky Mountains, and Convention for the joint Occupancy of those Territories – Florida Treaty between Spain and the United States, by which the Latter acquires the Title of Spain to the NorthWest Coasts - Colonel Long's exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains – Disputes between the British North-West and Hudson's Bay Companies — Union of those Bodies — Act of Parliament extending the Jurisdiction of the Canada Courts to the Pacific Countries — Russian Establishments on the North Pacific Expeditions in Search of Northern Passages between the Atlantic and the Pacific
Death of Tamahamaha, and Introduction of Christianity into the Sandwich Islands.
The capture of Astoria by the British, and the transfer of the Pacific Company's establishments on the Columbia to the NorthWest Company, were not known to the plenipotentiaries of the United States at Ghent, on the 24th of December, 1814, when they signed the treaty of peace between their country and Great Britain. That treaty contains no allusion whatsoever to the northwest coasts of America, or to any portion of the continent west of the Lake of the Woods. The plenipotentiaries of the United States had been instructed by their government to consent to no claim on the part of Great Britain to territory in that quarter south of the 49th parallel of latitude, for reasons which have been already stated; and, after some discussion, they proposed to the British an article similar in effect to the fifth article of the convention signed, but not definitively concluded, in 1807, according to which, * a line drawn along that parallel should separate the territories of the powers so far as they extended west of the Lake of the Woods, provided, however, that nothing in the article should be construed as applying to any country west of the Rocky Mountains. The British plenipotentiaries were willing to accept this article, if it were also accompanied by a provision that their subjects should have access to the Mississippi River, through the territories of the United
For the reasons and the contention here mentioned, see chap. xiii.
States, and the right of navigating it to the sea; but the Americans refused positively to agree to such a stipulation, and the question of boundaries west of the Lake of the Woods was left unsettled by the treaty.
It was nevertheless agreed, in the first article of the treaty of Ghent, that “all territory, places, and possessions, whatsoever, taken by either party from the other during the war, or which may be taken after the signing of this treaty, excepting only the islands hereinafter mentioned, [in the Bay of Fundy,] shall be restored without delay;' and, in virtue of this article, Mr. Monroe, the secretary of state of the United States, on the 18th of July, 1815, announced to Mr. Baker, the chargé d'affaires of Great Britain at Washington, that the president intended immediately to reoccupy the post at the mouth of the Columbia. This determination seems to have been taken partly at the instance of Mr. Astor, who was anxious, if possible, to recommence operations on his former plan in North-West America ; but no measures were adopted for the purpose until September, 1817, when Captain J. Biddle, commanding the sloop of war Ontario, and Mr. J. B. Prevost, were jointly commissioned to proceed in that ship to the mouth of the Columbia, and there “to assert the claim of the United States to the sovereignty of the adjacent country, in a friendly and peaceable manner, and without the employment of force."*
A few days after the departure of Messrs. Biddle and Prevost for the Pacific, on this mission, Mr. Bagot, the British plenipotentiary at Washington, addressed to Mr. J. Q. Adams, the American secretary of state, some inquiries respecting the destination of the Ontario, and the objects of her voyage; and, having been informed on those points, he remonstrated against the intended occupation of the post at the mouth of the Columbia, on the grounds “that the place had not been captured during the late war, but that the Americans had retired from it, under an agreement with the NorthWest Company, which had purchased their effects, and had ever since retained peaceable possession of the coast ;” and that “the territory itself was early taken possession of in his majesty's name, and had been since considered as forming part of his majesty's dominions ;” under which circumstances, no claim for the restitution of the post could be founded on the first article of the treaty of Ghent. At what precise time this possession was taken, or on
* See President Monroe's message to Congress of April 15th, 1822, and the accompanying documents.