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In One Ear: Dear John

Letters from Jefferson to Astor highlight trade in the early 1800s
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on November 10, 2017 12:01AM


Did you know that Thomas Jefferson (pictured, left) and Astoria’s founder, John Jacob Astor (pictured, right), were writing lengthy letters to each other between 1808 and 1813? (http://tinyurl.com/JeffLetters).

The correspondence was mainly about the trade business and ousting those pesky British from the Pacific Northwest. The last missive was from Jefferson to Astor, dated Nov. 9, 1813. Here are a few excerpts, courtesy of Founders Online:

“… I learn with great pleasure the progress you have made towards an establishment on Columbia river. I view it as the germ of a great, free & independant empire on that side of our continent, and that liberty & self government spreading from that, as well as this side, will ensure their compleat establishment over the whole.

“It must be still more gratifying to yourself to foresee that your name will be handed down with that of Columbus & Raleigh, as the father of the establishment and founder of such an empire … while you are doing so much for future generations of men, I sincerely wish you may find a present account in the just profits you are entitled to expect from the enterprize.”

Astor certainly did benefit from his “enterprize,” as between his fur trading ventures and real estate investments, he was worth at least $20 million ($6 billion today) at his death in 1848, and was considered one of the richest men in the world at the time.



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