Astorian adventure: the journal of Alfred Seton, 1811-1815 by Robert F. Jones

By Robert F. Jones

The younger clerk recounts lifestyles and manners within the components the place he lived and labored: the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Russian Alaska, and Spanish dominions in California and Mexico.

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Temperamentally, Alfred was certainly something of a snob, as his concern with genteel status indicates. No one on the expedition measured up to his standards, and he was careful to note his companions' lack of gentlemanly character, particularly the French Canadians and Spanish Californians. He began the journey, and the journal, pious to a fault, especially in his reaction to the loss of two sailors on the voyage out (pp. 51-52). However, the general knocking about, as well as some instances of real physical danger, bred a more tolerant attitude, as witness his calm resignation to the last rites of the Catholic Church, when he seemed near death from malaria in Mexico.

Tammeamea, Roi des Iles Sandwich (Kamehameha I). Watercolor on paper, 3½ × 5'. Port d'Honarourou, sur l'Ile de Vahou (Iles Sandwich). Watercolor and graphite on paper. 6 1/8 × 17¾". Destruction of the Tonquin, from Edward Fanning's Voyage to the South Seas, the Pacific Ocean, and the Northwest Coast. New York, 1838. William Clark's map of the mouth of the Columbia, c. 1806. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia. Neg. number 913. Page x View of Fort Astoria, from West Shore Magazine, February 22, 1890.

American ship captains and traders had been active on that coast, especially in the area of present-day Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, since 1790 and the first voyage of Robert Gray. In 1792, Gray had been the first European known to have sailed into the Columbia River, which was named for his vessel, and thus he became the official discoverer of the river, at least to Western notions of discovery and conquest. The subsequent explorations of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, 1804-1806, an official activity of the United States government, had reinforced the American claim to some share of the coast.

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