HISTORY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN FORTUNES

CHAPTER II

THE INCEPTION OF THE ASTOR FORTUNE



The founder of the Astor fortune was John Jacob Astor, a butcher’s son.  He was born in Waldorf, Germany, on July 17, 1763.  At the age of eighteen, according to traditional accounts, he went to London, where a brother, George Peter, was in the business of selling musical instruments.  Two years later with “ one good suit of Sunday clothes, seven flutes and five pounds sterling of money ”1 he emigrated to America.  Landing at Baltimore he proceeded to New York City.

Here he became an apprentice to George Dieterich, a baker at No. 351 Pearl street, for whom he peddled cakes, as was the custom.  Walter Barrett insists that this was Astor’s first occupation in New York.  Later, Astor went into business for himself.  “ For a long time,” says Barrett, “he peddled [fur] skins, and bought them where he could ;  and bartered cheap jewelry, etc., from the pack he carried on his back.”2  Another story is that he got a job beating furs for $2 a week and board in the store of Robert Bowne, a New York merchant ;  that while in this place he showed great zest in quizzing the trappers who came in to sell furs, and that in this fashion he gained considerable knowledge of the fur animals.  The story proceeds that as Bowne grew older he entrusted to Astor the task of making long and fatiguing journeys to the Indian tribes in the Adirondacks and Canada and bargaining with them for furs.


ASTOR’S EARLY CAREER.


Astor got together enough money to start in the fur business for himself in 1786 in a small store on Water street.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that at this time he, in common with all the fur dealers of the time, participated in the current methods of defrauding the Indians.  It is certain that he contrived to get their most valuable furs for a jug of rum or for a few toys or notions.  Returning from these strokes of trade, he would ship large quantities of the furs to London where they were sold at great profit.

His marriage to Sarah Todd, a cousin of Henry Brevoort, brought him a good wife, who had the shining quality of being economical, and an accession of some means and considerable family connections.  Remarkably close-fisted, he weighed over every penny.  As fast as his means increased he used them in extending his business.  By 1794 he was somewhat of an expansive merchant.  Scores of trappers and agents ravaged the wilderness at his command.  Periodically he shipped large quantities of furs to Europe.  His modest, even niggardly, ways of living in rooms over his store were not calculated to create the impression that he was a rich man.  It was his invariable practice habitually to deceive others as to his possessions and plans.  But when, in 1800, he removed to No. 223 Broadway, at the corner of Vesey street, then a fashionable neighborhood, he was rated, perforce, as a man of no inconsiderable means.  He was, in fact, as nearly as can be gathered, worth at this time a quarter of a million dollars — a monumental fortune at a period when a man who had $50,000 was thought rich ;  when a good house could be rented for $350 a year and when $750 or $800 would fully defray the annual expenses of the average well-living family.

The great profits from the fur trade naturally led him into the business of being his own shipowner and shipper, for he was a highly efficient organizer and well understood the needlessness of middlemen.  A beaver skin bought for one dollar from the Indian or white trappers in Western New York could be sold in London for six dollars and a quarter.  On all other furs there were the same large profits.  But, in addition to these, Astor saw that his profits could be still further increased by investing the money that he received from the sale of his furs in England, in English goods and importing them to the United States.  By this process, the profit from a single beaver skin could be made to reach ten dollars.  At that time the United States depended upon British manufactures for many articles, especially certain grades of woolen goods and cutlery.  These were sold at exorbitant profit to the American people.  This trade Astor carried on in his own ships.


HIS METHODS IN BUSINESS.


It is of the greatest importance to ascertain Astor’s methods in his fur trade, for it was fundamentally from this trade that he reaped the enormous sums that enabled him to become a large landowner.  What these methods were in his earlier years is obscure.  Nothing definite is embodied in any documentary evidence.  Not so, however, regarding the methods of the greatest and most successful of his fur gathering enterprises, the American Fur Company.  The “ popular writer ” referred to before says that the circumstances of Astor’s fur and shipping activities are well known.  On the contrary, they are distinctly not well known nor have they ever been set forth.  None of Astor’s biographers have brought them out, if, indeed, they knew of them.  And yet these facts are of the most absolute significance in that they reveal the whole foundation of the colossal fortune of the Astor family.

The pursuit and slaughter of fur animals were carried on with such indefatigable vigor in the East that in time that territory became virtually exhausted.  It became imperative to push out into the fairly virgin regions of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and of the Rocky Mountains.  The Northwest Company, a corporation running under British auspices, was then scouring the wilds west and northwest of the Great Lakes.  Its yearly shipments of furs were enormous.3  Astor realized the inconceivably vaster profits which would be his in extending his scope to the domains of the far West, so prolific in opportunities for furs.

In 1808 he incorporated the American Fur Company.  Although this was a corporation, he was, in fact, the Company.  He personally supplied its initial capital of $500,000 and dictated every phase of its policy.  His first ambitious design was to found the settlement of Astoria in Oregon, but the war of 1812 frustrated plans well under way, and the expedition that he sent out there had to depart.4  Had this plan succeeded, Astor would have been, as he rightly boasted, the richest man in the world ;  and the present wealth of his descendants instead of being $450,000,000 would be manifold more.


MONOPOLY BASED ON FORCE.


Thwarted in his project to get a monopoly of the incalculable riches of furs in the extreme Northwest, he concentrated his efforts on that vast region extending along the Missouri River, far north to the Great Lakes, west to the Rocky Mountains and into the Southwest.  It was a region abounding in immense numbers of fur animals and, at that time, was inhabited by the Indian tribes, with here and there a settlement of whites.  By means of Government favoritism and the unconcealed exercise of both fraud and force, he obtained a complete monopoly, as complete and arbitrary as ever feudal baron held over seignorial estates.  Nominally, the United States Government ruled this great sweep of territory and made the laws and professed to execute them.  In reality, Astor’s company was a law unto itself.  That it employed both force and fraud and entirely ignored all laws enacted by Congress, is as clear as daylight from the Government reports of that period.

The American Fur Company maintained three principal posts or depots of receiving and distribution — one at St. Louis, one at Detroit, the third at Mackinac.  In response to an order from Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, to send in complete reports of the fur trade, Joshua Pilcher reported from St. Louis, December 1, 1831 :

About this time [1823] the American Fur Company had turned their attention to the Missouri trade, and, as might have been expected, soon put an end to all opposition.  Backed, as it was, by any amount of capital, and with skillful agents to conduct its affairs at every point, it succeeded by the year 1827, in monopolizing the trade of the Indians on the Missouri, and I have but little doubt will continue to do so for years to come, as it would be rather a hazardous business for small adventurers to rise in opposition to it.5

In that wild country where the Government, at best, had an insufficient force of troops, and where the agents of the company went heavily armed, it was distinctly recognized, and accepted as a fact, that no possible competitor’s men, or individual trader, dare intrude.  To do it was to invite the severest reprisals, not stopping short of outright murder.  The American Fur Company overawed and dominated everything ;  it defied the Government’s representatives and acknowledged no authority superior to itself and no law other than what its own interests demanded.  The exploitation that ensued was one of the most deliberate, cruel and appalling that has ever taken place in any country.


THE DEBAUCHING OF INDIANS.


If there was any one serious crime at that time it was the supplying of the Indians with whisky.  The Government fully recognized the baneful effects of debauching the Indians, and enacted strict laws with harsh penalties.  Astor’s company brazenly violated this law, as well as all other laws conflicting with its profit interests.  It smuggled in prodigious quantities of rum.  The trader’s ancient trick of getting the Indians drunk and then swindling them of their furs and land was carried on by Astor on an unprecedented scale.  To say that Astor knew nothing of what his agents were doing is a palliation not worthy of consideration ;  he was a man who knew and attended to even the pettiest details of his varied business.  Moreover, the liquor was despatched by his orders direct by ship to New Orleans and from thence up the Mississippi to St. Louis and to other frontier points.  The horrible effects of this traffic and the consequent spoliation were set forth by a number of Government officers.

Col. J. Snelling, commanding the garrison at Detroit, sent an indignant protest to James Barbour, Secretary of War, under date of August 23, 1825.  “ He who has the most whisky, generally carries off the most furs,” wrote Col. Snelling, and then continued :

The neighborhood of the trading houses where whisky is sold, presents a disgusting scene of drunkenness, debauchery and misery ;  it is the fruitful source of all our difficulties, and of nearly all the murders committed in the Indian country.  For the accommodation of my family I have taken a house three miles from town, and in passing to and from it, I have daily opportunities of seeing the road strewed with the bodies of men, women and children, in the last stages of brutal intoxication.  It is true there are laws in this territory to restrain the sale of whisky, but they are not regarded. . . .6

Col. Snelling added that during that year there had been delivered by contract to an agent of the North American Fur Company, at Mackinac (he meant the American Fur Company which, as we have seen, had one of its principal headquarters at that post and maintained a monopoly there), 3,300 gallons of whisky and 2,500 gallons of high wines.  This latter liquor was preferred by the agents, he pointed out, as it could be “increased at pleasure.”  Col. Snelling went on :  “ I will venture to add that an inquiry into the manner in which the Indian trade is conducted, especially by the North American Fur Company, is a matter of no small importance to the tranquillity of the borders.”7


VIOLATION OF LAWS.


A similar report was made the next winter by Thomas L. McKenney, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to the Secretary of War.  In a communication dated Feb. 14, 1826, McKenney wrote that “ the forbidden and destructive article, whisky, is considered so essential to a lucrative commerce, as not only to still those feelings [of repugnance] but lead the traders to brave the most imminent hazards, and evade, by various methods the threatened penalties of law.”  The superintendent proceeded to tell of the recent seizure by General Tipton, Indian Agent at Fort Wayne, of an outfit in transit containing a considerable supply of whisky, which was owned in large part, he says, by the American Fur Company.  He then continued :  “ The trader with the whisky, it must be admitted, is certain of getting the most furs. . . . There are many honorable and highminded citizens in this trade, but expediency overcomes their objections and reconciles them for the sake of the profits of the trade.”8

In stating this fact, McKenney was unwittingly enunciating a profound truth, the force of which mankind is only now beginning to realize, that the pursuit of profit will transform natures inherently capable of much good into sordid, cruel beasts of prey, and accustom them to committing actions so despicable, so inhuman, that they would be terrified were it not that the world is under the sway of the profit system and not merely excuses and condones, but justifies and throws a glamour about, the unutterable degradations and crimes which the profit system calls forth.

Living in a more advanced time, in an environment adjusted to bring out the best, instead of the worst, Astor and his henchmen might have been men of supreme goodness and gentleness.  As it was, they lived at a period when it was considered the highest, most astute and successful form of trade to resort to any means, however base, to secure profits.  Let not too much ignominy be cast upon their memories ;  they were but creatures of their time ;  and their time was not that “ golden age,” so foolishly pictured, but a wild, tempestuous, contending struggle in which every man was at the throat of his fellowman, and in a vortex which statesmen, college professors, editors, political economists, all praised and sanctified as “ progressive civilization.”

Like all other propertied interests, Astor’s company regarded the law as a thing to be rigorously invoked against the poor, the helpless and defenseless, but as not to be considered when it stood in the way of the claims, designs and pretensions of property.  Superintendent McKenney reported that all laws in the Indian country were inoperative — so much dead matter.  Andrew S. Hughes, reporting from St. Louis, Oct. 31, 1831, to Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, wrote :

. . . The traders that occupy the largest and most important space in the Indian country are the agents and engagees of the American Fur Trade Company.  They entertain, as I know to be the fact, no sort of respect for our citizens, agents, officers or the Government, or its laws or general policy.

After describing the “baneful influence of these persons,” Hughes went on

The capital employed in the Indian trade must be very large, especially that portion which is employed in the annual purchase of whisky and alcohol into the Indian country for the purpose of trade with the Indians.  It is not believed that the superintendent is ever applied to for a permit for the one-hundredth gallon that is taken into the Indian country.  The whisky is sold to the Indians in the face of the [Government] agents.  Indians are made drunk, and, of course, behave badly. . . .

PROFIT AND ITS RESULTS.


Not only, however, were the Indians made drunk with the express purpose of befuddling and swindling them,9 but in the very commission of this act, an enormous profit was made on the sale of the whisky.  Those who may be inclined to recoil with horror at the historic contemplation of this atrocity, will do well to remember that this was simply one manifestation of the ethics of the trading class — the same class which formed and ruled government, made and interpreted laws, and constituted the leading, superior and exclusive groups of high society.  Hughes continued :

I am informed that there is but little doubt, but a clear gain of more than fifty thousand dollars has been made this year on the sale of whisky to the Indians on the river Missouri ;  the prices are from $25 to $50 a gallon.  Major Morgan, United States sutler at Cantonment Leavenworth, says that thousands of gallons of alcohol has passed that post during the present year, destined for the Indian country.10

These official reports were supplemented by another on the same subject from William M. Gordon to General William Clark, at that time Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  In his report, Gordon, writing from St. Louis, pointed out that, “ whisky, though not an authorized article, has been a principal, and I believe a very lucrative one for the last several years.”10a

What a climax of trading methods, first to debauch the Indians systematically in order to swindle them, and then make a large revenue on the rum that enabled the company to do it !  Undoubtedly it was by these means that Astor became possessed of large tracts of land in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the West.  But the methods thus far enumerated were but the precursors of others.  When the Indians were made maudlin drunk and bargained with for their furs were they paid in money ?  By no means.  The American Fur Company had another trick in reserve.  Astor employed the cunning expedient of exchanging merchandise for furs.  Large quantities of goods, especially woolens, made by underpaid adult and child labor in England and America, and representing the sweat and suffering of the labor of the workers, were regularly shipped by him to the West.  For these goods the Indians were charged one-half again or more what each article cost after paying all expenses of transportation.11  Reporting from St. Louis, Oct. 24, 1831, in a communication to the Secretary of War, Thomas Forsyth gave a description of this phase of the American Fur Company’s dealings.  He said :

In the autumn of every year [when the hunting season began] the trader carefully avoids giving credit to the Indians on many costly articles such as silver works, wampum, scarlet cloth, fine bridles, etc., etc., as also a few woolens, such as blankets, strouds, etc., unless it be to an Indian whom he knows will pay all his debts.  In that case he will allow the Indian, on credit, everything he wishes.

Traders always prefer giving credit on gunpowder, flints, lead, knives, tomahawks, hoes, domestic cottons, etc. ;  which they do at the rate of 300 or 400 per cent, and if one-fourth of the price of these articles be paid, he is amply remunerated.11

Nor were these the final injustices and infamies heaped upon the untutored aborigines.  It was not enough that they should be pillaged of their possessions ;  that the rights guaranteed them by the solemn treaties of Government should be blown aside like so much waste paper by the armed force of the American Fur Company ;  that whole tribes should be demoralized with rum and then defrauded ;  that shoddy merchandise, for which generally no market could be found elsewhere, should be imposed upon them at such incredibly high prices, that they were bound to be beggared.13  These methods were not enough.  Never were human beings so frightfully exploited as these ignorant, unsophisticated savages of the West.  Through the long winters they roamed the forests and the prairies, and assiduously hunted for furs which eventually were to clothe and adorn the aristocracy of America, Europe and Asia.  When in the spring they came with their spoil, they were, with masterly cunning, artfully made intoxicated and then robbed.  Not merely robbed in being charged ruinous prices for merchandise, but robbed additionally in the weight of their furs.  Forsyth relates that for every dollar in merchandise that the Astor company exchanged for furs, the company received $1.25 or $1.50 in fur values, undoubtedly by the trader’s low trick of short weighing.


A LONG RECORD OF VIOLENCE.


In law the Indian was supposed to have certain rights, but Astor’s company not only ignored but flouted them.  Now when the Indians complained, what happened ?  Did the Government protect them ?  The Government, and especially the courts, were quick and generous in affording the greatest protection and the widest latitude to Astor’s company.  But when the Indians resented the robberies and injustices to which they were subjected beyond bearing, they were murdered.  They were murderred wantonly and in cold blood ;  and then urgent alarmist representations would be sent to Washington that the Indians were in a rebellious state, whereupon troops would be punitively hurried forth to put them down in slaughter.  In turn, goaded by an intense spirit of revenge, the Indians would resort to primitive force and waylay, rob and murder the white agents and traders.14

From 1815 to 1831 more than 150 traders were robbed and killed by Indians.15  Many of these were Astor’s men.  But how many Indians were killed by the whites has never been known, nor apparently was there any solicitude as to whether the number was great or small.  What did Astor pay his men for engaging in this degrading and dangerous business ?  Is it not a terrifying commentary on the lengths to which men are forced to go in quest of a livelihood, and the benumbing effects on their sensibilities, that Astor should find a host of men ready to seduce the Indians into a state of drunkenness, cheat and rob them, and all this only to get robbed and perhaps murdered in turn ?  For ten or eleven months in the year Astor’s subaltern men toiled arduously through forest and plain, risking sickness, the dangers of the wilderness and sudden death.  They did not rob because it benefited them ;  it was what they were paid to do ;  and it was likewise expected of them that they should look upon the imminent chances of death as a part of their contract.

For all this what was their pay ?  It was the trifling sum of $130 for the ten or eleven months.  But this was not paid in money.  The poor wretches who gave up their labor, and often their health and lives, for Astor were themselves robbed, or their heirs, if they had any.  Payment was nearly always made in merchandise, which was sold at exorbitant prices.  Everything that they needed they had to buy at Astor’s stores ;  by the time that they had bought a year’s supplies they not only had nothing coming to them, but they were often actually in debt to Astor.

But Astor—how did he fare ?  His profits from the fur trade of the West were truly stupendous for that period.  He, himself, might plead to the Government that the company was in a decaying state of poverty.  These pleas deceived no one.  It was characteristic of his habitual deceit that he should petition the Government for a duty on foreign furs on the ground that the company was being competed with in the American markets by the British fur companies.  At this very time Astor held a virtual monopoly of fur trading in the United States.  One need not be surprised at the grounds of such a plea.  Throughout the whole history of the trading class, this pathetic and absurdly false plea of poverty has incessantly been used by this class, and used successfully, to get further concessions and privileges from a Government which reflected, and represented, its intersts.  Curiously, enough, however, if a mendicant used the same plea in begging a mite of alms on the streets, the law has invariably regarded him as a vagrant to be committed to the Workhouse.


ASTOR’S ENORMOUS PROFITS.


At about the identical time that John Jacob Astor was persistently complaining that the company was making no money, his own son and partner, William B. Astor, was writing from New York on Nov. 25, 1831, to the Secretary of War, that the company had a capital of about $1,000,000 and that, “ You may, however, estimate our annual returns at half a million dollars.”16  Not less than $500,000 annual revenues on a capital of $1,000,000 !  These were inconceivably large returns for the time ;  Thomas J. Dougherty, Indian Agent at Camp Leavenworth, estimated that from 1815 to 1830 the fur trade on the Missouri and its waters had yielded returns amounting to $3,330,000 with a clear profit of $1,650,000.  This was unquestionably a considerable underestimate.

It is hardly necessary to say that Astor, as the responsible head and beneficiary of the American Fur Company, was never prosecuted for the numerous violations of both penal and civil laws invariably committed by his direction and for his benefit.  With the millions that rolled in, he was not only able to command the services of the foremost lawyers in warding off the penalties of law, but to have as his paid retainers some of the most noted and powerful politicians of the day.17  Senator Benton, of Missouri, a leading light in the Democratic party, was not only his legal representative in the West and fought his cases for him, but as United States Senator introduced in Congress measures which Astor practically drafted and the purport of which was to benefit Astor and Astor alone.  Thus was witnessed a notorious violator of the law, invoking aid of the law to enrich himself still further,—a condition which need not arouse exceptional criticism, since the whole trading class in general did precisely the same thing.



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1 Parton’s “Life of John Jacob Astor”:28

2 “The Old Merchants of New York,” I:287.

3 The extent of its operations and the rapid slaughter of fur animals may be gathered by a record of one year’s work.  In 1793 this company enriched itself by 106,000 beaver skins, 2,100 bear skins, 1,500 fox skins, 400 kit fox, 16,000 muskrat, 32,000 martin, 1,800 mink, 6,000 lynx, 6,000 wolverine, 1,600 fisher, 100 raccoon, 1,200 dressed deer, 700 elk, 550 buffalo robes, etc.

4 Astor was accused by a Government agent of betraying the American cause at the outbreak of this war.  In addition to the American Fur Company, Astor had other fur companies, one of which was the Southwest Company.  Under date of June 18, 1818, Matthew Irwin, U.S. factor or agent at Green Bay, Wis., wrote to Thomas L. McKenney, U.S. Superintendent of Indian Affairs :  “It appears that the Government has been under an impression [that] the Southwest Company, of which Mr. John Jacob Astor is the head, is strictly an American company, and in consequence, some privileges in relation to trade have been granted to that company.”  Irwin went on to tell how Astor had obtained an order from Gallatin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, allowing him, Astor, to land furs at Mackinac from the British post at St. Joseph’s.  Astor’s agent in this transaction was a British subject.  “ On his way to St. Joseph’s,” Irwin continued, he [Astor’s British agent] communicated to the British at Maiden that war had been or would be declared.  The British made corresponding arrangements and landed on the Island of Mackinac with regulars, Canadians and Indians before the commanding officer there had notice that war would be declared.  The same course was about to be pursued at Detroit, before the arrival of troops with Gen. Hull, who, having been on the march there, frustrated it.”  Irwin declared that Astor’s purpose was to save his furs from capture by the British, and concluded :  “ Mr. Astor’s agent brought the furs to Mackinac in company with the British troops, and the whole transaction is well known at Mackinac and Detroit.”—U. S. Senate Docs., First Session, Seventeenth Congress, 1821-22, Vol. I, Doc. No. 6o:50-51.

5 Document No. 90, U.S. Senate, First Session, 22d Congress, ii: 30.

6 Document No. 58, U. S. Senate Docs. First Session, 19th Congress: 7-8.

7 Ibid.  That the debauching of the Indians was long continuing was fully evidenced by the numerous communications sent in by Government representatives.  The following is an extract from a letter written on October 6, 1821, by the U. S. Indian Agent at Green Bay to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs (or Indian Trade) :  “Mr. Kinzie, son to the sub Indian Agent at Chicago, and agent for the American Fur Company, has been detected in selling large quantities of whisky to the Indians at and near Milwaukee of Lake Michigan.”— Senate Docs., First Session, Seventeenth Congress, 1821-22, Vol. I, Doc. No. 60: 54.

8 Doc. No. 58: 10.

9 Of this fact there can be no doubt.  Writing on February 27, 1822, to Senator Henry Johnson, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Superintendent McKenney said :  “ . . . The Indians, it is admitted, are good judges of the articles in which they deal, and, generally when they are permitted to be sober, they can detect attempts to practise fraud upon them.  The traders knowing this (however, few of the Indians are permitted to trade without a previous preparation in the way of liquor,) would not be so apt to demand exorbitant prices. . . This may be illustrated by the fact, as reported to this office by Matthew Irwin, that previous to the establishment of the Green Bay factory [agency] as much as one dollar and fifty cents had been demanded by the traders of the Indians, and received, for a brass thimble, and eighteen dollars for one pound of tobacco ! ”—U.S. Senate Docs., First Session, Seventeenth Congress, 1821-22, Vol. 1, Document No. 60: 40.

10 Document No. 90, U.S. Senate Docs., First Session, 22d Congress, ii: 23-24.

10a Ibid : 54.

11 “For a white 3 point blanket which cost $4.00 they were charged $10 ;  for a beaver trap costing $2.50, the charge was $8 ;  for a rifle costing $11 they had to pay $30 ;  a brass kettle which Astor could buy at 48 cents a pound, he charged the Indians $30 for ;  powder cost him 20 cents a pound ;  he sold it for $4 a pound ;  he bought tobacco for 10 cents a pound and sold it at the rate of five small twists for $6, etc., etc., etc.

12 Document No. 90: 72.

13 Many of the tribes, the Government reports show, not only yielded up to Astor’s company the whole of their furs, but were deeply in debt to the company.  In 1829 the Winnebagoes, Sacs and Foxes owed Farnham & Davenport, agents for the American Fur Company among those tribes, $40,000 ;  by 1831 the debts had risen to $50,000 or $60,000.  The Pawnees owed fully as much, and the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Sioux and other tribes were heavily in debt.— Doc. No. 90: 72.

14 Forsyth admits that in practically all of these murders the whites were to blame.— Doc. No. 90:76.

15 Doc. No. 90.—This is but a partial list.  The full list of the murderer whites the Government was unable to get.

16 Document No. 90: 77.

17 Some of the original ledgers of the American Fur Company were put on exhibition at Anderson’s auction rooms in New York city in March, 1909.  One entry showed that $35,000 had been paid to Lewis Cass for services not stated.  Doubtless, Astor had the best of reasons for not explaining that payment ;  Cass was, or had been, the Governor of Michigan Territory, and he became the identical Secretary of War to whom so many complaints of the crimes of Astor’s American Fur Company were made.
      The author personally inspected these ledgers.  The following are some extracts from a news account in the New York “ Times,” issue of March 7, 1909, of the exhibition of the ledgers :
      “ They cover the business of the Northern Department from 1817 to 1835;  and consist of six folio volumes of about 1,000 pages each, in two stout traveling cases, fitted with compartments, lock and key.  It is said that these books were missing for nearly seventy-five years, and recently escaped destruction by the merest accident.
      “ The first entry is April 1, 1817.  There are two columns, one for British and the other for American money.  An entry, May 3, 1817, shows that Lewis Cass, then Governor of Michigan Territory and afterward Democratic candidate for the Presidency against Gen. Zachary Taylor, the successful Whig candidate, took about $35,000 of the Astor money from Montreal to Detroit, in consideration of something which is not set down.”