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Abbé Montesquiou journal, ca. 1798

102 pages

This travel account of Abbé Montesquiou was written in 1798 three years after his trip to American from 1758-1832. The journal covers Montesquiou's travels as well as his thoughts on America, Canada and the mid-Atlantic areas he visits.

Montesquiou's 'journal' is not a standard travel account: it goes beyond pure description to include discussions of the philosophy and the history, the people and government of the nation. The journal appears to have been written following the Abbé's return to France with internal evidence suggesting 1798 as the most likely date. Perhaps because of the time that had elapsed between his voyage and its writing, the journal includes as many opinions on his experiences in North America as it does actual description of what he has seen. Montesquiou is naturally analytical in his writing style, and he has a penchant for 'augmenting' his personal observations with views and opinions that appear to have been culled from written sources. Thus his discussion of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 contains information that may have been derived from the opinions of contemporary scientists, and his discussions of the relative merits of monarchy and democracy are sufficiently generic that the American context seems almost incidental.

Montesquiou is generally an unsympathetic observer of the young United States; while he appreciates the scenery and the productivity of the nation he is strongly critical of the hypocrisy of 'Republican' slaveholders, of the nation's leaders -- particularly Washington and Jefferson. While he admires the Philadelphia prison system, he is repelled by what he considers the crass, ultra-capitalist sensibilities of Americans. Among the more interesting aspects of the 'journal' are his extended discussions of the prison system and a theory of crime and punishment, slavery, the American character, and democracy and monarchy.


Hudson's Bay Company papers, 1775-1914 (majority within 1775-ca. 1790)

0.25 linear feet

Hudson's Bay Company papers consist of correspondence, financial records, and a memorandum book of the Canadian-based company. Also included is a printed version of Andrew Burnaby's Travels through the Middle Settlements In North America... and a manuscript of Thoughts on the Furr Trade With the Indians in N. America, extracted from the papers of the late John Gray of Quebec (1768).

Hudson's Bay Company papers consist of 4 letters, 4 financial records, 1 memorandum book, and 1 printed book containing manuscript contents. The first five items are letters and documents that came from the Hudson Bay Company's post at the mouth of the Michipicoten River (1859-1870), including two business letters between employees Lieutenant Denis de Larondo and James Watts, and an account of payment to Indians living on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The next three items are financial records from the company's New Brunswick post on the Missinaibi Lake near Moose River (1872, 1889, 1914). The Hudson's Bay Company Memorandum book contains a copy of the Hudson's Bay Company charter; copies of the charters for each of the 13 colonies; a map of the towns and rivers . . . that were ceded to Britain by Spain according to the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht (pages 24-25); memoranda and account information such as shipment details, personnel payments, and lists of goods traded; a shaded pencil sketch of a carronade gun (pages 34-35); and various historical reports, including one tracking company stocks from 1676-1779. Other interesting documents include a list of the provisions needed to support 40 men for 6 months, a proposed station for ships in 1790, and "Information of Isaac Ogden of Quebec to David Ogden in London," which describes the interior of North America from the Hudson Bay to the Pacific and discusses terrain and water features, as well as fur trading potential for the regions.

The final item is a single vellum covered volume titled "HB 1770" that contains both a printed version of Andrew Burnaby's Travels through the Middle Settlements In North America... and a manuscript of Thoughts on the Furr Trade With the Indians in N. America extracted from the papers of the late John Gray of Quebec (1768). The volume begins with a map of North America from 1763, just before the beginning of the 107-pages of Burnaby's Travels. The Gray writings detail interaction with the land's native populations and methods of trading for furs in the area (36 pages). Buried in the final 64 blank pages are five pages documenting the Original Proprietors of the Hudsonbay Stock 1667, 7 pages of stock accounts from 1720-1789, and accounts from 1776-1790. The volume also houses a loose letter to the Hudson's Bay House in London confirming a shipment of goods with prices (1791).


John Porteous letter book, 1767-1769

1 volume

The John Porteous letter book documents the business endeavors and concerns of a fur trader and merchant active in New York, Montreal, and Michigan between 1767 and 1769.

The John Porteous letter book contains 83 letters written by Porteous and 4 by his secretary on his behalf, comprising a total of 251 pages of material. Covering the period between March 8, 1767, and November 1, 1769, the letters primarily concern the business affairs of Porteous and his trading firm, Duncan, Sterling & Porteous, located in New York, Michigan, and Montreal. The letters include numerous details of trading activities; travel between Schenectady, Niagara, Detroit, Fort Michilimackinac, and Montreal; relationships and transactions with clients, traders, and Native Americans; and occasional social and family matters. Recipients of letters included James Sterling (22), John Duncan (10), Robert and Alexander Ellice (13), and James Phyn (5).

The letters touch on numerous details of the trade services provided by Duncan, Sterling & Porteous. In his correspondence, Porteous enumerated and discussed shipments of the various items distributed by the company, such as bear and beaver pelts, spirits, salt, clothing, stones, and food items. Several letters also communicate orders for supplies to Porteous' associates. Porteous frequently noted the sale of items to British soldiers, including Lieutenant Perkins Magra, a cartographer and later consul to Tunis, and Captain Patrick Sinclair, who oversaw the construction of Fort Mackinac. On March 15, 1767, he noted that payments owed to him by the 17th Regiment of Foot were in arrears; elsewhere, he recorded the comings and goings of several military officials, including General Thomas Gage (May 26, 1768). Additional letters discuss the quality and prices of the available products and the increasing difficulty of finding labor at a moderate price.

Porteous's correspondence also sheds light on the firm's efforts to serve their many clients. On June 9, 1767, Porteous wrote to Sterling that he was "at a loss how to excuse" him after a client refused to accept a shipment a brandy that had been sent by Sterling in lieu of rum. Another letter provides a glimpse of the difficulty of working with independent-minded trappers, including one whom Porteous found "unwilling to come to any written agrement[.] only says I may depend upon him" (July 16, 1767). On June 6, 1767, he expressed concern that white traders were slow to arrive at Fort Michilimackinac. Coaxing payments from debtors also proved difficult and is the subject of several letters. Porteous commented occasionally on his encounters with Native Americans and their attitudes toward the British. On July 2, 1767, he reported that Jean-Baptiste Marcotte, a trader near Michilimackinac, had been "Pillaged by the Indians," and in other letters he mentioned gifts intended for the Ojibwe. While in Detroit on February 26, 1768, he assessed Native Americans there as "not very well intent'd this spring" but predicted that no war would take place.

Another frequent topic is Porteous' continual travel between various regions, including New York, Michigan, and Montreal. His journeys were sometimes hindered by the elements, as on March 23, 1767, when he noted to fellow merchant Hayman Levy that he was "obliged to remain" in Schenectady "until our river is open." The letters also contain occasional personal news, such as the health and death of family members and references to pastimes.