Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 1/Issue number 4 Documents I
All of the following newspaper articles were taken from a single year of the New York Tribune. They serve well to indicate the interest with which Oregon Territory was regarded throughout the country in 1842:
[From the Tribune (New York), January 18, 1842.]
EXTRACT OF A LETTER DATED WILHAMET, FEBRUARY 19, 1842.
I will now tell you something of the people of this country. There are about seventy-five to eighty French Canadians settled in this country, principally discharged from the service of the Hudson Bay Company; there are also about fifty Americans settled in and about this country, making, perhaps, one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and thirty male inhabitants, who are married to Indian women. They raise from their farms, on an average, from three to five hundred, and some from ten to twelve hundred bushels of wheat, besides great quantities of pease, potatoes, oats, barley, corn, etc. The Hudson Bay Company have in their employ at Fort Vancouver about one hundred and twenty-five persons, and many in several other forts both sides of the Rocky Mountains.
These people, as I said before, are married to Indian women, and live very much the same, in all respects, as our farmers at home, with the exception of not being obliged to labor half as much. They generally have from fifty to one hundred head of horses, half as many cows, and about the same number of hogs; these all take care of themselves. The people here cut no hay and make no pastures; they do not give^their hogs any feed, excepting about a month before they kill them. There is one church here, and the people have contracted for a brick church and other buildings necessary, such as a school house for the French and one for the Americans. The French have one priest here and one at Fort Vancouver.
The Americans generally attend at the_mission, and, as far as I can see, the people here are as well behaved and moral as in our town. We have now a committee at work drafting a constitution and code of laws; have in nomination a governor, an attorney-general, three justices of the peace, etc.; overseers of the poor, road commissioners, etc. We have already chosen a supreme judge with probate powers, a clerk of the court and recorder, a high sheriff, and three constables; so that you see we are in a fair way of starting a rival republic on this side of the mountains, especially as we are constantly receiving recruits those people whose time has expired with the Hudson Bay Company, and from mountain hunters coming down to settle.—National Intelligencer.
[From the Tribune (New York), Friday morning, March 24, 1842.]
Oregon is now the theme of general interest at the west. Large meetings to discuss the policy of taking formal possession of and colonizing it have been held at Columbus, Ohio, and several other places. Many are preparing to emigrate. A band of hardy settlers will rendezvous at Fort Leavenworth, and set out thence for Oregon early in May, under the command of Major Fitzpatrick.
[From the Tribune (New York), April 26, 1842].
FROM OAHU. The ship William Gray brings to Salem, Massachusetts, date from Honolulu, November 27. * * * Late intelligence from Oregon confirms previous accounts with regard to missionary operations. From the fewness of the Indians and their migratory habits it is feared that little good can be effected among them. Many of the missionaries have become farmers and others are preparing to leave.
[From the Tribune (New York), March 13, 1842.
The following letter is from an intelligent sea captain just returned from the Pacific Ocean. It gives information of the progress of the British appropriation of the trade and all the accessible regions of the Northern Pacific, which should be impressed upon the American public. Globe.
BOSTON, May 1, 1842.
SIR: Thinking it may be interesting or important to know some of the late operations and present plans of the Hudson's Bay Company in the North Pacific Ocean, I beg leave to present to your notice some facts in relation to the same, and which have come to my knowledge from personal observation, or from sources entitled to the fullest credit.
All that extensive line of coast comprehending the Russian possessions on the Northwest Coast of America, from Mount Saint Elias south to the latitude 54 40' north (the last being the boundary line between the Russian and American territories), together with the sole and exclusive right or privilege of frequenting all ports, bays, sounds, rivers, etc., within said territory, and establishing forts and trading with the Indians, has been leased or granted by the Russian- American Fur Company to the British Hudson's Bay Company, for the term of ten years from January, 1842; and for which the latter are to pay, annually, four thousand seal skins, or the value thereof in money, at the rate of thirty-two shillings each, say 6,400 sterling, or $30,720.
In the above-named lease the Russians have, however, reserved to themselves the Island of Sitka, or New Archangel; in which place, you probably are aware, the Russians have a large settlement the depot and headquarters of their fur trade with the Fox Islands, Aleutian Islands, and the continental shore westward of Mount Saint Elias. All the trading establishments of the Russians lately at Tumgass, Stickene, and other places within said territory, leased to the Hudson's Bay Company, have of consequence been broken up. Thus the Hudson's Bay Company not content with monopolizing the heretofore profitable trade of the Americans, of supplying the Russian settlements on the Northwest Coast, have now cut them off also from all trade with the most valuable fur regions in the world.
Whether the arrangements made between the Russians and English, above alluded to, are conformable to the treaties existing between the United States on the one part, and those nations respectively on the other, I leave to your better knowledge to determine.
With the doings of the Hudson's Bay Company at Puget Sound and the Columbia River you are doubtless fully informed; those, however, lately commenced by them in California will admit of my saying a few words.
At San Francisco they purchased a large house as a trading establishment and depot for merchandise; and they intend this year to have a place of the same kind at each of the principal ports in Upper California. Two vessels are building in London, intended for the same trade that is, for the coasting trade; and after completing their cargoes, to carry them to England. These things, with others, give every indication that it is the purpose of the Hudson's Bay Company to monopolize the whole hide and tallow trade of California, a trade which now employs more than half a million of American capital. At the Sandwich Islands the company have a large trading establishment, and have commenced engaging the commerce of the country, with evident designs to monopolize it, if possible, and to drive off the Americans, who have heretofore been its chief creators and conductors.
I have been informed, by one of the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company, that the agricultural and commercial operations of the English at Puget Sound, Columbia River, California, and Sandwich Islands, are carried on, not actually by the Hudson's Bay Company, but by what may be termed a branch of it by gentlemen who are the chief members and stockholders of said company, and who have associated themselves under the firm Pelly, Simpson & Co., in London, and with a capital of more than $15,000,000!
Seeing these companies, then, marching with iron footsteps to the possession of the most valuable portion of country in the Northern Pacific, and considering, too, the immense amount of their capital, the number, enterprise, and energy of their agents, and the policy pursued by them, great reason is there to fear that American commerce in that part of the world must soon lower its flag. But, sir, it is to be hoped that our government will soon do something to break up the British settlements in the Oregon Territory, and thereby destroy the source from which now emanates the dire evils to American interests in the western world. In the endeavor to bring about that desirable object, you have done much; and every friend to his country, every person interested in the commerce of the Pacific, must feel grateful for the valuable services rendered them by you.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
HENRY A. PRICE.
HON. LEWIS F. LINN, Senator of the United States, Washington.
[From the Ti'ibune (New York), July 4, 1842.]
The Missouri Reporter of the fourteenth instant contains a notice of the expedition of Lieutenant Fremont, of the United States Topograpical Engineers, to the base of the Rocky Mountains, in the latitude of the Platte and Kanzas rivers, with a view to ascertain positions and localities, to explore the face of the country, and to make the government fully acquainted with that remote and important point of our extended territory now becoming of so much greater interest from the extension of our trade to the northern parts of Mexico and California, and the settlement growing up in the valley of the Columbia River.
The line of communication now followed by immigrants, traders and travelers to the Columbia and California, is upon this route, and through the famous South Pass a depression in the Rocky Mountains at the head of the River Platte, which makes a gate in that elevated ridge, passable in a state of nature, for loaded wagons, of which many have passed through. This examination of the country on this side of the Rocky Mountains comes at a very auspicious moment to complete our researches in that direction, and to give more value to the surveys and examinations of the Columbia River, its estuary, and the surrounding country, made by Lieutenant Wilkes in his recent voyage, and of which a full report has been made to the government. These two examinations will give us an authentic and interesting view of the important country belonging to the United States on each side of the Rocky Mountains; and taken in connection with the great scientific survey of Mr. Nicollet, commencing at the mouth of the Missouri River, and extending north to the head of the Mississippi, and to latitude 49, and covering all the country in the forks of these two rivers, over an extent of ten degrees of latitude, will shed immense light upon the geography and natural history of the vast region west of the Mississippi River. Globe.
The following is the article from the Missouri Reporter:
Lieutenant Fremont, of the corps of the topographical engineers, left here under orders from the war department, about ten days ago, with a party of twenty men on a tour to the Rocky Mountains. The object of the expedition is an examination of the country between the mouth of the Kanzas and the headwaters of the great River Platte, including the navigable parts of both these rivers, and what is called the Southern Pass in the Rocky Mountains, and intermediate country, with the view to the establishment of a line of military posts from the frontiers of Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River. This expedition is connected with the proposition now before congress to occupy the territory about the Columbia River as proposed by Dr. Linn's bill.
The great River Platte is the most direct line of communication between this country and the mouth of the Columbia, and that route is known to be practicable and easy. It therefore becomes important to ascertain the general character of that river and the adjacent country, and the facilities it will be likely to afford in prosecuting contemplated settlements in Oregon. This Southern Pass, or depression in the Rocky Mountains, is near the source of the extreme branch of the River Platte, and affords an easy passage for wagons and other wheel carriages, which have frequently passed over the mountains on that route without difficulty or delay; and it is important that the latitude of this point should be ascertained, as it is thought that it will not vary much from the line established between the United States and Mexico by treaty with Spain, 1819. If this pass should fall south of that line (the forty-second degree of north latitude) it may become necessary to examine the country north of it, the line of the Yellowstone and south branch of the Columbia would, it is thought, afford the next best route.
Lieutenant Fremont, though young, has had much experience in surveys of this kind, having made the topographical survey of the Des Moines River, and having assisted the scientific Mr. Nicollet in his great survey of the Upper Mississippi. He is well supplied with instruments for making astronomical observations; for fixing the longitude and latitude of important points; and a daguerrotype apparatus for taking views of important points and scenes along the route; and, if not obstructed in his operations by large bands of wild, wandering Indians, which sometimes trouble small parties passing through that region, may be expected to impart much valuable information to the government and to the country.
Since the attention of the country has been directed to the settlement of the Oregon Territory by our able senator (Doctor Linn), and by the reports of those who have visited that region in person, the importance of providing ample security for settlers there, and of opening a safe and easy communication from the western boundary of Missouri to the Columbia River has been universally admitted.
The day is not far distant when, if the general government shall do its duty in the matter, Oregon will be inhabited by a hardy, industrious, and intelligent population, and the enterprise of our citizens find a new channel of trade with the islands of the Pacific, the western coast of this whole continent, and perhaps with Eastern Asia. Notwithstanding the many obstacles at present in the way of the settlement of this territory, emigrants are rapidly pouring into it, and only demand of government that protection which is due to all our citizens, wherever they may choose to reside. While negotiations are pending at Washington to adjust all existing difficulties between this country and Great Britain, our right to this territory should not be forgotten. At present, it may seem a small matter to the negotiations; but they should remember that every year's delay will only render the final adjustment of the disputed northwestern boundary more difficult.
We are pleased to learn that the proper authorities at Washington evince a disposition to do something toward encouraging the early occupation of Oregon by permanent American settlers. It is known that many of the islands in the Pacific have already been settled by Americans, and trading houses established, by which a large and profitable business is carried on with the Indian tribes on the northwestern coast of America, and with the East Indies and China. There is nothing to prevent trading establishments in Oregon from ultimately securing a large share of this trade, and adding much to the wealth and prosperity of the whole union.
But, regardless of these ultimate advantages, the prospect of immediate success is so great that many of our hardy pioneers are already turning their attention to the settlement of Oregon, and many years will not elapse before that territory contains a large population. Doctor Linn has done much to urge a speedy occupation of it by permanent American residents. If Lieutenant Fremont shall be successful in his contemplated exploration of the route, and if the government shall furnish proper protection to those who shall seek a home in that distant region, the English may not only be completely dislodged from the foothold they have already acquired there, but prevented from making further inroads upon our western territory, and long monopolizing the greater part of the trade at present carried on with the Indian tribes at the Northwest and West.
[From the Tribune (New York) July 15, 1842.]
THE EXPLORING EXPEDITION.
The Washington correspondent of the Journal of Commerce writes as follows of the results of the exploring expedition:
The universal opinion here on the subject of the conduct and results of the exploring expedition is highly favorable to the officers who had charge of it. It has certainly given to Lieutenant Wilkes a reputation as an accomplished seaman and an energetic and scientific officer.
He delivered before the national institute a course of lectures, at the request of that body, on the subject of the expedition, which gave satisfaction and instruction to a numerous and enlightened auditory—among whom were Mr. J. Q. Adams, Mr. Poinsett, Mr. Woodbury, the members of the cabinet, and many scientific gentlemen from every portion of the union.
At the close of his last lecture the honorable Secretary of the Navy (Mr. Upshur) rose and addressed the assembly in the warmest terms of commendation of the successful labors and efforts of Captain Wilkes, and the officers and scientific corps under his command. He adverted to one fact which of itself spoke strongly of the skill with which the expedition had been conducted that it had visited the remotest quarters of the globe, traversed the most dangerous seas, surveyed the most impenetrable coasts, and encountered the vicissitudes of every climate with so little difficulty or loss.
The secretary also remarked on the immense treasures in natural science which the officers of the expedition had collected and transmitted to the government in such admirable order, and which now formed the basis of the museum of the national institute.
He commented, also, on Captain Wilkes' report upon the Oregon Territory, and declared that this report was alone an ample compensation to the country for the whole cost of the expedition. He expressed the opinion, in fine, that the results of the expedition were highly valuable and honorable, not to this country alone, but to the cause of civilization in the world.
[From the Tribune (New York), August 10, 1842.]
Correspondence from Washington.
Points of the treaty. * * * The boundary line agreed upon runs to the Rocky Mountains, and leaves unsettled the question of the Oregon Territory. There is nothing lost by this, for our emigrants are daily settling this question. We grow stronger there by time, and become nearer, too.
In the same paper of the same date as the above:
THE OREGON FUR TRADE.
This valuable traffic, which is at once the instrument of exploration and the nursery of seamen, was by the convention of 1818 suffered to be pursued promiscuously by British and Americans, and in consequence of that suicidal provision is fast being diverted from the latter to the former. Our exports of furs to Canton amounted in 1821, to $480,000; in 1832, to about $200,000, and in 1839, to $56,000, showing a gradual decrease between the years 1821 and 1839 of more than seveneighths, in the amount and value of this trade. A better practical commentary is not needed upon the effect of our legislation, and while Americans are thus annually withdrawing from this trade, Great Britain is extending her facilities for commanding it every day. Her hunters and trappers are scattered over the whole extent of the territory; nor are they content with the legitimate profits of the business. While within the British Territory the strictest provisions are made to prevent the destruction of game unnecessarily, no such precautions are enforced here, but on the contrary the Indians and others are encouraged to hunt at all seasons of the year without regard to the preservation of game. The result of this will be the extermination of the beaver and other animals killed for their fur within a few years unless the United States interferes.
[ From the Tribune (New York), December 14, 1842. ]
THE NORTHWEST COAST.
Some apprehension exists that a settled design is entertained by Great Britain of disputing our claim to the territory beyond the Rocky Mountains and the whole Pacific Coast in that quarter. A letter to the editor of the Globe from an officer of the United States ship Dale, belonging to the Pacific Squadron, dated "Bay of Panama, September 23, 1842," contains the following paragraph:We sailed from Callao seventh instant in company with the frigate United States (Commodore Jones' flagship), and sloop-of-war Cyane, but we separated from them and bore up for this port on the seventh day out. Just previously to our departure two British ships-of-war (the razee Dublin, and sloop-of-war Champion) sailed thence on secret service! Of course this mysterious movement of Admiral Thomas elicited a thousand conjectures as to his destination, the most probable of which seemed to be that he was bound for the Northwest Coast of Mexico, where, it is surmised, a British station is to be located in accordance with a secret convention between the Mexican and English governments! And it is among the on dits in the squadron that the frigate, the Cyane, and the Dale, are to rendezvous as soon as practicable at Monterey to keep an eye upon John Bull's movements in that quarter.