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Thomas Jefferson's Pacific Empire of Astoria

John Jacob Astor is the son of a butcher, but when he immigrates to the United States after the American Revolution, he takes up fur-trading. In the following years he amasses a fortune buying raw hides from Indians and selling the processed fur to England, but when the Embargo Act cuts into his profits, he works with President Jefferson to establish the 1st American colony on the Pacific coast to take advantage of the fur trading opportunities there. It is a two-pronged effort, by land and by sea, to establish Fort Astoria in modern day Oregon. By next year, Captain Thorn will land his ship near the mouth of the Columbia River and begin construction of a trading post. The overland expedition has pre-positioned its British-made equipment in Canada in order to circumvent the American embargo (with permission from American lawmakers). The overland expedition will reach Fort Astoria by 1812. John Astor's Pacific Fur Company will begin operations, but the Indians of the Pacific Northwest will prove to be shrewd bargainers. Astoria will not be as profitable as first hoped and with the War of 1812 begun, the company officers will sell their shares to a competing British fur company and return to the United States in 1813. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Please note the very close relationship between government and business back then. Jefferson was excited by this expedition. He was known to have maps spread out on the White House floor and he could be seen crawling around on his hands and knees inspecting them. Also note that the Pacific Fur Company's ship was manned mostly by British subjects. War with Great Britain was imminent so hiring a British crew shielded them from attack. In fact, the entire expedition was an American effort, funded by a German immigrant and manned by British subjects, French-Canadians and a few Hawaiians. (I know. Hawaii looks like it is out of the way, but the prevailing winds made it a good resupply point for sailing ships.) John Astor was also negotiating a trade deal with a British fur company in the region. That kept business relations friendly... while attempting to stab each other in the back... as normal business practice demanded. [4]

The May Revolution and the Fight for Independence

After the successful American Revolution and the shaky French Revolution, people around the world have longed for independence. Buenos Aires is the capital of a large Spanish viceroyalty called the Rio de la Plata that was formed in 1776 out of several smaller Spanish holdings. It encompasses modern day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. They didn't like domination under the King of Spain and they like domination under Napoleon even less. English warships have attacked Buenos Aires several times and during one such invasion the leadership runs away from the battle and moves the government treasury with it. Even though this was exactly the planned response, it looks bad so a new leader is selected. From here it gets complicated but a series of military governors will be thrown off and an attempt at a representative democracy will result in the break up of the region. Paraguay will declare its independence. By 1814, the last vestiges of a viceroyalty will collapse and Argentina will become an independent state, but the modern Argentina will not be organized until 1861. [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
While Argentina and Paraguay were throwing off their chains, Mexico was working on independence as well. A priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, led a revolt against the Spanish junta. By the next year, the priest was captured, put up against the wall and shot, but the revolt itself continued through a succession of leaders and a lot of shooting. By 1820, the ruling elite was looking for a compromise with the rebels and by September 27, 1821 Mexico won its independence. Cinco de Mayo, or the May 5th celebration is NOT Mexican Independence day. It commemorates a victory over French forces on May 5, 1862, and in the United States it has become a great excuse for a party. The modern Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th. [7] [8] [9]

In Other News

  • The United States population is 7,239,881. This is an increase of almost 2 million from the 1800 census. [10]
  • Billiard rooms open for business in London. 8-ball pool won't appear in the USA until 1908. [5]
  • Homeopathy as a medical practice is established. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann says, "The highest ideal of therapy is to restore health rapidly, gently, permanently; to remove and destroy the whole disease in the shortest, surest, least harmful way, according to clearly comprehensible principles." [11] [5]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1810, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Stark, Peter. Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival. HarperCollins. Retrieved on November 14, 2015. “ASTOR'S SETTLEMENT, 'ASTORIA,' was the first American colony on the West Coast of North America, much in the way that Jamestown and Plymouth were the first British colonies on its East Coast. For John Jacob Astor, the West Coast colony would serve as the epicenter of a global commercial empire that leveraged nearly all the wealth of western North America into one vast trade network that passed through his own hands. For Thomas Jefferson, who had enthusiastically encouraged Astor to start the colony, it would provide the beginnings of a separate country on the West Coast—a sister democracy to the United States that looked out to the Pacific. Both men grasped far ahead of most of their contemporaries that the Pacific would one day take on the central importance in world affairs and trade that the Atlantic held in their day.” 
  2. Astoria, Oregon - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 June 2016. “In 1811, British explorer David Thompson, the first person known to have navigated the entire length of the Columbia River, reached the partially constructed Fort Astoria near the mouth of the river. He arrived just two months after the Pacific Fur Company's ship, the Tonquin.”
  3. Irving, Washington. Astoria, Astoria, or Anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains., Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. OCLC 1074456. 
  4. Alex Shrugged notes: I am aware that in 1810, James Madison was President, but from the government side, this expedition was largely the work of Thomas Jefferson before he left office.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 380-381. 
  6. Argentina - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 June 2016. “Beginning a process from which Argentina was to emerge as successor state to the Viceroyalty,[13] the 1810 May Revolution replaced the viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros with the First Junta, a new government in Buenos Aires composed by locals.[40] In the first clashes of the Independence War the Junta crushed a royalist counter-revolution in Córdoba,[41] but failed to overcome those of the Banda Oriental, Upper Peru and Paraguay, which later became independent states.”
  7. Mexico - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 May 2016. “On September 16, 1810, a 'loyalist revolt' against the ruling Junta was declared by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato.”
  8. Mexican War of Independence - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 June 2016. “The reinstatement of the liberal Constitution of Cadiz in 1820 caused a change of mind among the elite groups who had supported Spanish rule. Monarchist Creoles affected by the constitution decided to support the independence of New Spain; they sought an alliance with the former insurgent resistance.”
  9. Cinco de Mayo - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 June 2016. “In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken to be Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16.”
  10. United States Census - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 17 June 2016. “1800 August 4, 1800 5,308,483”
  11. Hahnemann Biography. skylarkbooks.co.uk (2014). Retrieved on 17 June 2016. “In 1810, Hahnemann published the fruits of his labours in a systematic treatise called The Organon of the Medical Art. This publication laid out the original principles and practices of homoeopathy for the benefit of other physicians and for mankind in general. Early in the text he describes and defines the goal of physician: 'The highest ideal of therapy is to restore health rapidly, gently, permanently; to remove and destroy the whole disease in the shortest, surest, least harmful way, according to clearly comprehensible principles.'”

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