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WOOL. The Albany Cultivator estimates the number of sheep in the wool-growing states of the north, at 15,000,000. At the rate of three pounds per fleece, the clip of 1839 would be forty-five millions of pounds. The price of wool has ranged from forty to sixty cents per pound. Taking the low average of forty-five cents, the last clip of wool would be worth more than twenty millions of dollars.
The growing of wool at the present prices of the article, is thought to be a good business. The Cultivator, however, suggests very sensibly, that something more than ordina. ry care should be extended to the flocks; and that good wool, bringing good profits, is not to be expected from sheep that get their living as they can find it, being exposed in the mean time to all the vicissitudes of a severe and variable climate. Careful attention to those animals will be abundantly repaid to the farmer. It is known that the quality of the fleece may be greatly improved by a course of attentive nurture and feeding the sheep. The best English breeds have been brought to their fine condition by such
Mr. Bakewell, by proper management, and a judicious system of crossing, reared his excellent stock out of ordinary breeds.
LAUNCH OF AN IRON SHIP. The “ Iron Duke,” the first iron ship built on the Clyde, was recently launched at Glasgow. The figure head is a full-length of the Duke of Wellington, in his field marshall's uniform, in the act of giving directions at the battle of Waterloo, and is a beautiful likeness. The following are the dimensions of this vessel, viz: length, 103 feet; breadth of beam, 27 feet; depth of hold, 16 feet; register of tonnage, 390 ; expected to carry from 600 to 700 tons. The Iron Duke is intended for the East India trade.
THE FRENCH SUGAR BILL. The Sugar Bill has been voted in the French Chambers by 230 out of 297 votes, so that after all, the malcontents are few, great as were their noise and resistance at first. The minister and the commission proposed an additional duty of 20 francs the 100 kilo. grams upon foreign sugar. The prohibitionists wished to raise this 30 francs, in which they did not succeed. The result, however, is much the same, 20 francs amounting to prohibition. If all the beet-root manufactories were to close, however, the French islands furnishing only for two-thirds of the consumption, the French would have recourse to foreigners for the rest. To meet such a contingency, the ministry has reserved to itself the right of lowering the duty on foreign sugars by ordonnance. The Chamber, by a vote, has deprived the government of this right, with respect to colonial and home. grown sugar.
THE SPONGE FISHERY. “When at the island of Rhodes,” says M. Madmont, “I went to the sponge fishery, which is curious and interesting. It is a laborious and dangerous employment, but so lucrative, that five or six successful days afford those engaged in it the means of support for an entire year. The sponge is attached to rocks at the bottom of the sea, serving as a retreat to myriads of small crustaceous animals, which occupy its cavities. The fishermen dive for it to the depth of even a hundred feet, and sometimes continue for five or six minutes under water, unless the quantity of sponge they may have collected becomes inconvenient or unmanageable, when they are hauled to the surface by the crew of the boat to which they belong. The divers occasionally fall victims to sharks that attack them under water. The sponge is prepared for the market by being pressed to dislodge the animalculæ it contains, and afterwards washed in lye to deprive it of mucilaginous matter."
ART. I.—THE AMERICAN FUR TRADE.
The operations of the fur trade, which for more than two centuries has been in existence in our western forests, and which is now acting within the boundaries of the United States, are not generally known to the people of the country. This is not strange, for it has achieved its demi-savage triumphs in silence and solitude. Its theatre of action has been an un. measured wilderness, stretching thousands of miles from Hudson's Bay to the mouth of the Mississippi, and from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the banks of the Pacific, remote from the central points of civilization. It has launch. ed its fleets of canoes upon waters never before navigated by white men, and waged its wars with wild beasts. It has coursed the tracks of streams which had not before been crossed, penetrated the twilight of the most dense forests, kindled its camp fires in the remotest Indian village, and fol. lowed the track of the most distant Indian trail. It has skimmed the sur. face of the largest lakes in the world with its light barks, followed the meandering of the most obscure rivulet to find the dam of the beaver, and traversed the ocean-like prairies of the west, for the herds of elks and buffaloes which made them their ranging grounds. It has carried its packs of furs over rivers and through fens. It has scaled mountain heights cov. ered with eternal snows, and grappled with their savage monarch, the grisly bear, in his icy den. It has silently collected its cargoes of furs and peltry into their respective places of shipment on the seaboard, and transported them to foreign ports, adding vast sums to the amount of na. tional wealth. Within our own territory its enterprises are probably des. tined to exercise an important bearing upon our foreign relations, for they involve nothing less than the territorial boundaries of the United States. We design in this paper to sketch an outline of its progress within our own domain, as well as its general features in the northern part of our continent, it having been the grand commercial enterprise of the west when the west was a mere wilderness.
It is well known, that during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the principal monarchs of Europe sent out their ships to explore our coasts, for the VOL. III.-NO. III.
of enlarging their dominions, and to acquire the mines of gold which were supposed to abound in the soil. As early as 1534, Jacques Cartier had been despatched by the French government for that object ; and, during the following year, we find his keels ploughing the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Nearly a century afterwards, in 1603, M. Pontgrave, an in. telligent partner in a house at St. Malo, in France, aided by M. Chatte, the governor of Dieppe, had projected an expedition for the establishment of colonies along the St. Lawrence, and the prosecution of the fur trade upon the wide wilderness which was spread out around it. This company was led by Samuel Champlain, a partner, and subsequently the governor of Canada, who succeeded, in 1608, in founding the city of Quebec; thus planting the basis of French power in that part of the continent which con. tinued to rule it for a century.
It was soon ascertained by the French colonists, who established them. selves upon the St. Lawrence and the bordering lakes and streams, that gems and gold abounded in the soil, but that a mighty wilderness was stretched around them, broken by vast lakes, and intersected by gigantic arteries of navigation, and that it was filled with wild animals, whose furs were of great value in the foreign markets. The facilities for this traffic, held out by the western portion of the country, did not escape the keen sight of the Cardinal de Richelieu, then in the full career of his glory, who, in order to consolidate the operations of the French colonists, organized in 1627 what was denominated the Company of New France, a chartered body comprised of one hundred members, and granted two ships of war by the French crown. From that time the French colonies began to scatter themselves along the great lakes and rivers of the west, and the most effective operations of the fur trade were commenced.
The design of the French government, in sending out explorers, and issuing exclusive charters at the west, was to found a permanent empire on the soil. In accordance with that object, these charters were granted by the crown to titled pets, who were the seigneurs of the country; and the grantees transported from the unsettled population of the frontier towns of the mother country from time to time into the French colonies a large body of idle and somewhat thriftless men, who were ready to embark in any enterprise by which there was a prospect of bettering their for. tunes.
The peculiar system of the French fur trade was aided as much by the character of the people as the spirit and policy of the French colonial gov. ernment. The French colonists, who were scattered in their rude huts at widely separated points from the St. Lawrence to the banks of the Missouri, were calculated in a high degree to advance its enterprise. They consisted of three classes ; the seigneurs, who were deemed the patricians of the country, and who held all its advantages by royal charters; the cler. gy, belonging to the Catholic church, who erected their crosses amid the most distant Indian camps, and were important agents of the French gov. ernment in gaining the friendship of the savages, and in keeping a supervision around the French posts; and the large body of vagrant Frenchmen, who were fit subjects of the feudal system of the Coutume de Paris, or the French colonial law, which acted upon them down to the year 1760, the whole term of the French domination.
The system upon which the trade was conducted by the French, pos. sessed certain peculiar and strongly.marked features. The French colo
nies, which first peopled the west, were mercantile colonies, and it was the policy of the men who held the soil, to strive to secure the greatest amount of temporary advantage from it, rather than to perpetuate the dominion of the mother country to the territory. Accordingly, all their plans were devoted to that object. Bodies of men were despatched, from time to time, from the head-quarters of the French colonial government, Quebec and Montreal, with implements of trade, to erect posts or factories upon the borders of the lakes, that might furnish places of deposit for the peltries collected, and serve as outposts for the protection of the extending jurisdic. tion of the French power. Within the first fifty years after their coloniza. tion, we find these factories extending from Quebec to the remotest shores of Lake Superior, at Detroit, Mackinaw, Duquesne, Chicago, Green Bay, St. Joseph, St. Marie, and St. Vincent. They consisted of clusters of rude houses, erected in the woods, thatched with bark or straw, in the midst of which settlement the jesuit missionary erected his chapel, that was sur. mounted by the cross. A rude fort, constructed from the means at hand, often contained a small garrison of French soldiers, and of persons con. nected with the fur trade. These settlements, however, were used mainly as factories of the trade, where the furs were themselves deposited, and which, at convenient times, were shipped to the Canadian ports.
The general course of the trade, as it operated through the lakes, was uniform, conducted as it was upon a settled and well-digested plan. The seigneurs, who, with the governor-general of Canada, were invested with the sovereign power, subject to the cognizance of the king of France, were oftentimes the partners of the company, and the mass of the traders were but little better than their serfs. It was, in consequence, the studied policy of these seigneurs to divert the enterprises of the great bulk of the traders from the pursuits of agriculture, and to direct them into the channels of the fur trade, from which the greatest amount of temporary profit could be reaped ; and husbandry was encouraged only so far as it was required to furnish the means of subsistence.
The active agents of the French fur trade were the Coureurs des Bois, or rangers of the woods, a body of men eminently fitted for the station which they occupied. As a class, they were reckless and improvident ; accustomed to the hardships of the forest, loving to roam the deepest wil. derness, and to ply the paddle on the most solitary stream ; as fond of the wild and wandering life of the woods as the mariner is of the ocean; and not unlike mariners in their character, for the wilderness, to them, was like the ocean, without inhabitants, save the wild beasts which they pursued, or the savage tribes that were roaming through it, or stationed in their wigwams, which were thinly scattered through its broad domain, and the scattered postsof the fur trade stood like lighthouses on its coast. Ever the dress of the Coureurs des Bois was demi-savage ; consisting of leggins, moccasins, a capote or blanket coat, and a red sash twined around them as a girdle, in which was stuck a steel scalping-knife. It was made their duty to advance periodically through the great chain of the northwesiern lakes, which furnished the most convenient channels of navigation to the interior posts, and thence through the forest streams to those points where the Indians were in the habit of resorting; and when they had collected their cargoes of furs and peltry, to return to Quebec and Montreal, sweeping down through the clear waters of the lakes, from which named ports they were shipped for France. The vehicles of the traffic were large
canoes of bark, sufficiently capacious to contain six men, and space for the storage of the manufactured goods, which were transported into the inte. rior for barter, as well as the furs received in exchange. The articles used in the trade were generally imported from France, and were enclosed in packages of convenient size. They consisted of cotton-cloths, blankets, calicoes, guns, hatchets, and other kinds of hardware, cheap ornaments suited to the taste of the Indians, as well as all articles required by the wants of the savages. Thus provided, it was the custom of the fur traders to advance into the Indian territory, and either hunt and trap, themselves, or to exchange their goods with the Indians for the furs which were de. posited in the hands of what were termed the “ Farmers of the Beaver Skins," who were probably nothing more than modern factors, and by these they were shipped abroad.
The system of policy pursued in the French fur trade clearly exhibits the feudal spirit of that period. The old French companies who had been invested with broad charters from the French crown, constituting vast com. mercial monopolies, lording it over the forest, did not, however, accom. plish the objects which were designed by the parent government. Holding the great bulk of the traders in an iron subjection, they grasped themselves all the advantages which were secured by the traffic, so that the traders were often willing to escape from the vassalage under which they labored, and to wander away from the French posts, to take up a permanent resi. dence in the camps of savages, to secure to themselves Indian wives or concubines, and finally to incorporate themselves with the Indians.
In order to prevent the emigration of the traders from the posts, it was soon found necessary to exercise a more rigid power over their operations. Accordingly, it was ordained that no person should be permitted to trade with the Indians without licenses from the French king, and all persons who had not these licenses were prohibited from the going out of the colony under the penalty of death. The ordinary price of these licenses, according to La Hontan, was six hundred crowns, and they were purchased from the governor-general of Canada by the merchants, and by them sold out to the Coureurs des Bois or rangers, at an advance of about fifteen per cent more than they could command in ready money at the colony.. The privileges granted in these licenses was the loading of two large canoes with cargoes of manufactured goods, valued at about a thousand crowns, each of which was manned by six men. On their voyages made through the lakes annually, the ordinary profit was one hundred per cent, from which the merchant took a thousand crowns for the prime cost of his exported goods, six hundred crowns for his license, and forty per cent for bottomry, so that there remained, from the two cargoes, only six hundred and eighty crowns, which were divided among the twelve Coureurs des Bois. During every year the traders would sweep down the lakes and streams from the remotest banks of Lake Superior, through the Ottawas river, or across the portage of Niagara Falls, with full freights, which were easily disposed of at the principal marts of the trade, Quebec and Montreal.
The character of Quebec and Montreal, produced by the annual arrival of the French ships with cargoes of European goods, destined for the fur irade, and ready to receive in return their freights of furs which were ready stored for shipment to France, was of a highly commercial cast. Society in these prominent posts was polished and elegant ; sailing, fishing, hunt. ing, driving their carrioles upon the ice of the St. Lawrence in winter, or