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fraud. The heavy losses involved in the forced sales were fully accounted for in the fact that the factory buildings were prac tically valueless, the goods on hand were largely unsaleable because antiquated or damaged in transportation (e. g., at Chicago the stock in trade sold for only 54 cents on the dollar), while in some instances combination on the part of local merchants had systematically depressed prices. At several of the posts there were outstanding debts which could not be collected. (E. g., at the Choctaw factory these amounted to 33 per cent of the total assets.) 24
It was generally understood that the abolition of the government factories would be accompanied by a more rigid regulation of private trade, but these expectations were not fulfilled. The act of May 6, 1822, continued the function of granting licenses in the superintendent of Indian Affairs and the several agents in the field. The licensee must be a citizen of the United States, and was required to give bond for the due observance of the laws, in proportion to the capital involved but not to exceed $5000. The term for a license for trade beyond the Mississippi was seven years, for trade among the nearer tribes two. A list of licensees must be returned to the Secretary of Wa ach ye for his inspection, but there was no stipulation as to mor character and no license fee was exacted. An attempt to r strict the sale of whiskey was made in the provision that "Stor and packages of goods of all Indian traders are to be searche upon suspicion or information that ardent spirits are carrie into the Indian countries by said traders in violation of the act
The triumph of laissez faire in the Indian trade was signalize by the immediate appearance in the Missouri River territory o two great rivals; the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, for whic William Ashley 25 and Andrew Henry secured a license on Apri 11, 1822, and the American Fur Company, whose Western De partment was organized in the same year under the immediate management of Ramsay Crooks. The career of these two enter prises has been so fully and brilliantly treated by Captain Chittenden that it need not be developed here.26 Suffice to say that
"American State Papers. Indian Affairs. II, 417-27.
Ashley's capital was $8,000 and his bond $4,000.
*H. M. Chittenden, History of the American Fur Trade of the Far West. F. P. Harper, 1902.
it was cut-throat competition in very truth. The rival traders did not hesitate to mislead each other by fraud and trickery, to rob each other's stores, to seduce and murder each other's men. Whiskey, the most effective lure of the red man, was carried up the river under the very noses of the government inspectors at Fort Leavenworth. It was difficult for the great barges of the American Fur Company to escape detection, but McKenzie, factor at Fort Union, solved the difficulty by setting up a distillery where the parti-colored Mandan corn was converted into "as fine a liquor as need be drunk." In justification, he pleaded that his rivals, Sublette and Campbell, had brought in quantities of alcohol. "Liquor I must have or quit any pretension to trade in this part."27
The effect of a few years of freedom from restraint is made evident in reports rendered by Colonel Snelling and Governor Cass, witnesses whose intimate knowledge of the frontier and sympathy with its interests will not be called in question. Both speak of the upper Mississippi district. "The neighborhood of the trading houses where whiskey is sold presents a disgusting scene of drunkenness, debauchery, and misery; it is the fruitful source of Ill our difficulties, and of nearly all the murders committed in the Indian country. In my route from St. Peters to this place, I passed Prairie du Chien, Green Bay, and Mackinac ; no language can describe the scenes of vice which there presented themselves; herds of Indians are drawn together by the fascination of whiskey, and they exhibit the most degraded picture of human nature I ever witnessed. . . . . . The present year there have been delivered to the agent of the North American Fur Company at Mackinac (by contract) three thousand, three hundred gallons of whiskey, and two thousand, five hundred of high wines.... An inquiry into the manner in which the Indian trade is conducted, and especially by the North American Fur Company is a matter of no small importance to the tranquility of the border. "28 Governor Cass was no less severe in his condemnation of the traders and recommended that "In granting licenses, a discretionary power should be vested in the agent. Many persons obtain licenses who are utterly unfit to enter the Indian "H. M. Chittenden, History of the American Fur Trade of the Far West. I, 358.
"Col. J. Snelling, August 23, 1825. American State Papers. Indian Affairs. II, 661.
and produce the From the nature
country. While there, they violate the laws, worst effects upon the morals of the Indians. of the trade, and the residence of the persons engaged in it, it is difficult, almost impossible to detect breaches of the laws committed in the Indian country. Offenders too often escape with impunity; and, although some restraint is imposed by the abundant security which is given by all the traders, still an irreproachable character in life is a better guaranty for the correct conduct of the applicant than any previous security or eventual fear of punishment.... It is also important that, when a person has been once detected in a breach of the laws regulating trade and intercourse with the Indians, he should be forever excluded from the Indian country. In the existing state of things, a trader may go on sinning against the law, year after year, without paying the penalty of misdemeanor or being discovered, and still be entitled to a license as often as he applies for it."29
The demoralization of the Indians proceeded without let or hindrance until they could no longer be relied upon as hunters, and trapping parties of white men were substituted. These were less rapidly but no less surely demoralized by liquor and the credit system, until the frontier became a synonym for lawlessness and debauchery. Larpenteur, who served the American Fur Company, first as engagee and later as clerk, during the years of its decline, bears abundant witness to the unscrupulous methods to which both the Great Company and the opposition were obliged to resort and to the deadly effects of whiskey on white men and redskins alike. Fur-bearing animals, the otter, beaver, and buffalo, were exploited with a ruthless disregard of every interest but the immediate profit of the party in the field. Twenty years of the competitive regime sufficed to exhaust the resources of the Cordilleran area and terminate the epoch of the fur trade
in the United States.
It would be rash to assert that the adoption of the suggestion of Chouteau, Calhoun, Biddle, and Atkinson, that the monopoly of the Indian trade on the upper Missouri be granted to a large and responsible company, would have obviated the disastrous effects of competition; but one should in all fairness bear in mind the policy of the great monopoly of the Canadian fur
"Gov. Lewis Cass, 1826. American State Papers. Indian Affairs. II, 659. Cf. Account of private traders at Chickasaw Bluffs, 1819. Nuttall's Journal, 88. Early Western Travels. XIII, 88.
trade, the Hudson's Bay Company. Assured of exclusive control of the vast area between Labrador and the Columbia River, the management had every inducement to conserve its resources. The hunt was confined to the winter season, and the taking of females and young was discouraged. The loyalty and respect of the Indians was cultivated, and liquor rigorously banned from the trade. The factors were men of intelligence and character, such as Dr. McLoughlin of Fort Vancouver, and their decisions were accepted as having the force of law by clerk, engagee, and free trapper alike. Nathaniel J. Wyeth was assuredly not a partisan of the Hudson's Bay Company, but in his Memoir on the Fur Trade, submitted to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1839, he thus contrasts the British and American policies: "By the indiscriminate trading of all persons with the Indians, individual safety, profit, national policy, and good of the Indians are alike sacrificed. Where one murder is committed on English parties or individuals, I am certain there are more than ten on our people. With the British traders everything is different; one company has the exclusive control of the trade in all places, except where the Americans have enjoyed an equal right, west of the mountains. They can trade as many beaver from a district as they think it will bear without diminishing the breeding stock, and thus continue their trade instead of destroying it. They can prevent the beaver being taken except at the best season. They can refuse supplies of ammunition beyond necessary and immediate consumption, and thereby prevent any accumulation dangerous to themselves. Besides, and stranger than all which, is the fact that the white man's inventions in the hands of one tribe at once become articles of absolute necessity to all others; and, there being but one party' from whom to obtain them, they must be at peace with that party. Thus the trader who is without competition in an Indian country, however weak his force, not only may compel the Indians to respect him and his property, but, if he chooses, prevent one tribe from warring with another; the practical illustration of which is, that in all the country where the Hudson's Bay Company have exclusive control, they are at peace with the Indians, and the Indians among themselves. Wars with the Indians on the British frontiers have long since ceased; and this has been affected by giving the control of the Indian trade to one company and keeping control of that company in their own hands. The power to revoke the
and later as cleri witness to the unscra
Spagy and the
deadrefers of the bearing animals, t with a ruthless
Et of the part
me sufficed to exho
charter of the Hudson's Bay Company renders them subservient to the will of the government when they have any object in view."
The American fur traders had no such code of morals. Competition forced the best of them to sell cheap whiskey to Indians and trappers alike and cheat them out of their furs. The employees were not bred to the business as were the Scotchmen who entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company with full expectation of sure and speedy advancement. The former were often wild young men, weary of the restraints of civilization, or renegades, ready and ripe for any crime. Wyeth's Memoir bears out this statement. "A further evil that attends our loose laws and their looser execution is that the Indian country is becoming a receptacle for fugitives from justice. The preponderance of bad character is already so great amongst [our] traders and their people, that crime carries with it little or no shame." The frontiersman was bred to contempt of the Indians and preferred force to the conciliatory policy instinctive with the French Canadians and half-breeds. Finally during the epoch of the fur trade, there was no law, no police, no civil authority in the territory between the Missouri River and the Rockies, whereas the British government had constituted the Hudson's Bay Company factors justices of the peace, making them responsible for the maintenance of peace and order. A clerk in Dr. McLoughlin's employ at Fort Vancouver thus describes the competitive regime prevailing in the United States. "In the American mode of commerce with the natives, there was no unity of purpose; no communion of interest, no fraternity of feeling, no system, no guiding spirit to direct and control it; but it was a loose, dissipated, jealous sort of thing -jealous not only of British rivalry, but of American rivalryand eager to grasp at any article of trade, however worthless, and by any means, however unworthy."30
Dunn, Oregon and the History of the British North American Fur Trade,