But since that period many changes have occurred in the scenes which I so long ago visited and described. Though they are well known, I may be pardoned for alluding to them.
The natives of the Sandwich islands, who were in a state of paganism at that time, have since adopted a form of Christianity, have made considerable progress in imitating the civilization of Europe, and even, at this moment, begin to entertain the idea of annexation to the United States. It appears, however, that the real natives are rapidly dwindling away by the effects of their vices, which an exotic and ill-assimilated civilization has rather increased than diminished, and to which religion has not succeeded in applying a remedy.
At the mouth of the Columbia, whole tribes, and among them, the Clatsops, have been swept away by disease. Here again, licentious habits universally diffused, spread a fatal disorder through the whole nation, and undermining the constitutions of all, left them an easy prey to the first contagion or epidemic sickness. But missionaries of various Christian sects have labored among the Indians of the Columbia also; not to speak of the missions of the Catholic Church, so well known by the narrative of Father De Smet and others; and numbers have been taught to cultivate the soil, and thus to provide against the famines to which they were formerly exposed from their dependence on the precarious resources of the chase; while others have received, in the faith of Christ, the true principle of national permanence, and a living germ of civilization, which may afterward be developed.
Emigration has also carried to the Oregon the axe of the settler, as well as the canoe and pack of the fur-trader. The fertile valleys and prairies of the Willamet—once the resort of the deer, the elk, and the antelope, are now tilled by the industrious husbandman. Oregon City, so near old “Astoria,” whose first log fort I saw and described, is now an Archiepiscopal see, and the capital of a territory, which must soon be a state of the Union.
Of the regions east of the mountains described in my itinerary, little can be said in respect to improvement: they remain in the same wild state. The interest of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as an association of fur-traders, is opposed to agricultural improvements, whose operation would be to drive off and extinguish the wild animals that furnish their commerce with its object. But on Lake Superior steamboats have supplanted the birch-bark canoe of the Indian and the fur-trader, and at Saut Ste. Marie, especially on the American side, there is now every sign of prosperity. How remote and wild was the region beyond, through which I passed, may be estimated by the fact that in thirty-eight years the onward-rolling wave of our population has but just reached its confines.
Canada, although it has not kept pace with the United States, has yet wonderfully advanced in forty years. The valley of the Ottawa, that great artery of the St. Lawrence, where I thought it worth while to notice the residence of an enterprising farmer and lumber merchant, is now a populous district, well cultivated, and sprinkled with villages, towns, and cities.