The reader, in perusing my first chapter, found a description of the city of New York in 1810, and of the neighboring village of Brooklyn. It would be superfluous to establish a comparison at this day. At that time, it will be observed, the mere breaking out of war between America and England was thought to involve the sacrifice of an American commercial establishment on the Pacific, on the ground of its supplies being necessarily cut off (it was supposed), and of the United States government being unable to protect it from hostile attack. At present it suffices to remark that while New York, then so inconsiderable a port, is now perhaps the third city in the world, the United States also, are, undoubtedly, a first-rate power, unassailable at home, and formidable abroad, to the greatest nations.
As in my preface I alluded to Mr. Irving’s “Astoria,” as reflecting, in my opinion, unjustly, upon the young men engaged in the first expedition to the mouth of the Columbia, it may suffice here to observe, without entering into particulars, that my narrative, which I think answers for its own fidelity, clearly shows that some of them, at least did not want courage, activity, zeal for the interests of the company, while it existed, and patient endurance of hardship. And although it forms no part of the narrative or my voyage, yet as subsequent visits to the West and an intimate knowledge of St. Louis, enable me to correct Mr. Irving’s poetical rather than accurate description of that place, I may well do it here. St. Louis now bids fair to rival ere long the “Queen of the West;” Mr. Irving describes her as a small trading place, where trappers, half-breeds, gay, frivolous Canadian boatmen, &c., &c., congregated and revelled, with that lightness and buoyancy of spirit inherited from their French forefathers; the indolent Creole of St. Louis caring for little more than the enjoyment of the present hour; a motley population, half-civilized, half-barbarous, thrown, on his canvas, into one general, confused (I allow highly picturesque) mass, without respect of persons: but it is fair to say, with due homage to the talent of the sketcher, who has verged slightly on caricature in the use of that humor-loving pencil admired by all the world, that St. Louis even then contained its noble, industrious, and I may say, princely merchants; it could boast its Chouteaus, Soulands, Cere, Cheniers, Vallees, and La Croix, with other kindred spirits, whose descendants prove the worth of their sires by their own, and are now among the leading business men, as their fathers were the pioneers, of the flourishing St. Louis.
With these remarks, which I make simply as an act of justice in connection with the general subject of the founding of “Astoria,” but in which I mean to convey no imputation on the intentional fairness of the accomplished author to whom I have alluded, I take a respectful leave of my readers.