Messrs. Halsey and Wallace having been sent on the 23d, with fourteen men, to establish a trading post on the Willamet, and Mr. M’Dougal being confined to his room by sickness, Mr. Clapp and I were left with the entire charge of the post at Astoria, and were each other’s only resource for society. Happily Mr. Clapp was a man of amiable character, of a gay, lively humor, and agreeable conversation. In the intervals of our daily duties, we amused ourselves with music and reading; having some instruments and a choice library. Otherwise we should have passed our time in a state of insufferable ennui, at this rainy season, in the midst of the deep mud which surrounded us, and which interdicted the pleasure of a promenade outside the buildings.
Uneasiness respecting the “Beaver.”—News of the Declaration of War between Great Britain and the United States.—Consequences of that Intelligence.—Different Occurrences.—Arrival of two Canoes of the Northwest Company.—Preparations for abandoning the Country.—Postponement of Departure.—Arrangement with Mr. J.G. M’Tavish.
The months of October, November, and December passed away without any news of the “Beaver,” and we began to fear that there had happened to her, as to the Tonquin, some disastrous accident. It will be seen, in the following chapter, why this vessel did not return to Astoria in the autumn of 1812.
On the 15th of January, Mr. M’Kenzie arrived from the interior, having abandoned his trading establishment, after securing his stock of goods in a cache. Before his departure he had paid a visit to Mr. Clark on the Spokan, and while there had learned the news, which he came to announce to us, that hostilities had actually commenced between Great Britain and the United States. The news had been brought by some gentlemen of the Northwest Company, who handed to them a copy of the Proclamation of the President to that effect.
When we learned this news, all of us at Astoria who were British subjects and Canadians, wished ourselves in Canada; but we could not entertain even the thought of transporting ourselves thither, at least immediately: we were separated from our country by an immense space; and the difficulties of the journey at this season were insuperable: besides, Mr. Astor’s interests had to be consulted first. We held, therefore, a sort of council of war, to which the clerks of the factory were invited pro forma, as they had no voice in the deliberations. Having maturely weighed our situation; after having seriously considered that being almost to a man British subjects, we were trading, notwithstanding, under the American flag: and foreseeing the improbability, or rather, to cut the matter short, the impossibility that Mr. Astor could send us further supplies or reinforcements while the war lasted, as most of the ports of the United States would inevitably be blockaded by the British;