An agent, appointed for the term of five years, was to reside at the principal establishment on the northwest coast, and Wilson Price Hunt was the one chosen for the first term. Should the interests of the concern at any time require his absence, a person was to be appointed, in general meeting, to take his place.
Such were the leading conditions of this association; we shall now proceed to relate the various hardy and eventful expeditions, by sea and land, to which it gave rise.
* Carver’s Travels, Introd. b. iii. Philad. 1796.
**Carver’s Travels, p. 360.
*** On this point Mr. Jefferson’s memory was in error. The proposition alluded to was the one, already mentioned, for the establishment of an American Fur Company in the Atlantic States. The great enterprise beyond the mountains, that was to sweep the shores of the Pacific, originated in the mind of Mr. Astor, and was proposed by him to the government.
Two Expeditions Set on Foot.—The Tonquin and Her Crew.— Captain Thorn, His Character.—The Partners and Clerks— Canadian Voyageurs, Their Habits, Employments, Dress, Character, Songs—Expedition of a Canadian Boat and Its Crew by Land and Water.—Arrival at New York.—Preparations for a Sea Voyage.—Northwest Braggarts.—Underhand Precautions— Letter of Instructions.
In prosecuting his great scheme of commerce and colonization, two expeditions were devised by Mr. Astor, one by sea, the other by land. The former was to carry out the people, stores, ammunition, and merchandise, requisite for establishing a fortified trading post at the mouth of Columbia River. The latter, conducted by Mr. Hunt, was to proceed up the Missouri, and across the Rocky Mountains, to the same point; exploring a line of communication across the continent and noting the places where interior trading posts might be established. The expedition by sea is the one which comes first under consideration.
A fine ship was provided called the Tonquin, of two hundred and ninety tons burden, mounting ten guns, with a crew of twenty men. She carried an assortment of merchandise for trading with the natives of the seaboard and of the interior, together with the frame of a schooner, to be employed in the coasting trade. Seeds also were provided for the cultivation of the soil, and nothing was neglected for the necessary supply of the establishment. The command of the ship was intrusted to Jonathan Thorn, of New York, a lieutenant in the United States navy, on leave of absence. He was a man of courage and firmness, who had distinguished himself in our Tripolitan war, and, from being accustomed to naval discipline, was considered by Mr. Astor as well fitted to take charge of an expedition of the kind. Four of the partners were to embark in the ship, namely, Messrs. M’Kay, M’Dougal, David Stuart, and his nephew, Robert Stuart. Mr. M’Dougal was empowered by Mr. Astor to act as his proxy in the absence of Mr. Hunt, to vote for him and in his name, on any question that might come before any meeting of the persons interested in the voyage.