The Partners Displeased With M'Dougal.- Equivocal Conduct of That Gentleman-
Partners Agree to Abandon Astoria.- Sale of Goods to M'Tavish.- Arrangements for the
Year.- Manifesto Signed by the Partners- Departure of M'Tavish for the Interior.
THE partners found Mr. M'Dougal in all the bustle of preparation; having about nine
days previously announced at the factory, his intention of breaking up the
establishment, and fixed upon the 1st of July for the time of departure. Messrs. Stuart
and Clarke felt highly displeased at his taking so precipitate a step, without waiting for
their concurrence, when he must have known that their arrival could not be far distant.
Indeed, the whole conduct of Mr. M'Dougal was such as to awaken strong doubts as to
his loyal devotion to the cause. His old sympathies with the Northwest Company seem
to have revived. He had received M'Tavish and his party with uncalled for hospitality,
as though they were friends and allies, instead of being a party of observation, come to
reconnoitre the state of affairs at Astoria, and to await the arrival of a hostile ship. Had
they been left to themselves, they would have been starved off for want of provisions,
or driven away by the Chinooks, who only wanted a signal from the factory to treat them
as intruders and enemies. M'Dougal, on the contrary, had supplied them from the
stores of the garrison, and had gained them the favor of the Indians, by treating them
Having set his mind fixedly on the project of breaking up the establishment at Astoria,
in the current year, M'Dougal was sorely disappointed at finding that Messrs. Stuart
and Clarke had omitted to comply with his request to purchase horses and provisions
for the caravan across the mountains. It was now too late to make the necessary
preparations in time for traversing the mountains before winter, and the project had to
In the meantime, the non-arrival of the annual ship, and the apprehensions entertained
of the loss of the Beaver and of Mr. Hunt, had their effect upon the minds of Messrs.
Stuart and Clarke. They began to listen to the desponding representations of M'Dougal,
seconded by M'Kenzie, who inveighed against their situation as desperate and forlorn;
left to shift for themselves, or perish upon a barbarous coast; neglected by those who
sent them there; and threatened with dangers of every kind. In this way they were
brought to consent to the plan of abandoning the country in the ensuing year.
About this time, M'Tavish applied at the factory to purchase a small supply of goods
wherewith to trade his way back to his post on the upper waters of the Columbia,
having waited in vain for the arrival of the Isaac Todd. His request brought on a
consultation among the partners. M'Dougal urged that it should be complied with. He
furthermore proposed, that they should give up to M'Tavish, for a proper consideration,
the post on the Spokan, and all its dependencies, as they had not sufficient goods on
hand to supply that post themselves, and to keep up a competition with the Northwest
Company in the trade with the neighboring Indians. This last representation has since
been proved incorrect. By inventories, it appears that their stock in hand for the supply
of the interior posts, was superior to that of the Northwest Company; so that they had
nothing to fear from competition.
Through the influence of Messrs. M'Dougal and M'Kenzie, this proposition was
adopted, and was promptly accepted by M'Tavish. The merchandise sold to him
amounted to eight hundred and fifty-eight dollars, to be paid for, in the following spring,
in horses, or in any other manner most acceptable to the partners at that period.
This agreement being concluded, the partners formed their plans for the year that they
would yet have to pass in the country. Their objects were, chiefly, present subsistence,
and the purchase of horses for the contemplated journey, though they were likewise to
collect as much peltries as their diminished means would command. Accordingly, it was
arranged that David Stuart should return to his former post on the Oakinagan, and Mr.
Clarke should make his sojourn among the Flatheads. John Reed, the sturdy
Hibernian, was to undertake the Snake River country, accompanied by Pierre Dorion
and Pierre Delaunay, as hunters, and Francis Landry, Jean Baptiste Turcotte, Andre la
Chapelle, and Gilles le Clerc, Canadian voyageurs.
Astoria, however, was the post about which they felt the greatest solicitude, and on
which they all more or less depended. The maintenance of this in safety throughout the
coming year, was, therefore, their grand consideration. Mr. M'Dougal was to continue in
command of it, with a party of forty men. They would have to depend chiefly upon the
neighboring savages for their subsistence. These, at present, were friendly, but it was
to be feared that, when they should discover the exigencies of the post, and its real
weakness, they might proceed to hostilities; or, at any rate, might cease to furnish their
usual supplies. It was important, therefore, to render the place as independent as
possible, of the surrounding tribes for its support; and it was accordingly resolved that
M'Kenzie, with four hunters, and eight common men, should winter in the abundant
country of Wollamut, from whence they might be enabled to furnish a constant supply
of provisions to Astoria.
As there was too great a proportion of clerks for the number of privates in the service,
the engagements of three of them, Ross Cox, Ross, and M'Lennan, were surrendered
to them, and they immediately enrolled themselves in the service of the Northwest
Company; glad, no doubt, to escape from what they considered a sinking ship.
Having made all these arrangements, the four partners, on the first of July, signed a
formal manifesto, stating the alarming state of their affairs, from the non-arrival of the
annual ship, and the absence and apprehended loss of the Beaver, their want of
goods, their despair of receiving any further supply, their ignorance of the coast, and
their disappointment as to the interior trade, which they pronounced unequal to the
expenses incurred, and incompetent to stand against the powerful opposition of the
Northwest Company. And as by the 16th article of the company's agreement, they were
authorized to abandon this undertaking, and dissolve the concern, if before the period
of five years it should be found unprofitable, they now formally announced their
intention to do so on the 1st day of June, of the ensuing year, unless in the interim they
should receive the necessary support and supplies from Mr. Astor, or the stockholders,
with orders to continue.
This instrument, accompanied by private letters of similar import, was delivered to Mr.
M'Tavish, who departed on the 5th of July. He engaged to forward the despatches to
Mr. Astor, by the usual winter express sent overland by the Northwest Company.
The manifesto was signed with great reluctance by Messrs. Clarke and D. Stuart,
whose experience by no means justified the discouraging account given in it of the
internal trade, and who considered the main difficulties of exploring an unknown and
savage country, and of ascertaining the best trading and trapping grounds, in a great
measure overcome. They were overruled, however, by the urgent instances of
M'Dougal and M'Kenzie, who, having resolved upon abandoning the enterprise, were
desirous of making as strong a case as possible to excuse their conduct to Mr. Astor
and to the world.