Economic Beginnings of the Far West: How We Won the Land beyond the Mississippi - Vol. 1

By Katharine Coman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE FUR TRADE

SECTION I
Government Control vs. Laissez-faire

Spanish Policy . -- During the Spanish occupation of Louisiana Territory the fur trade was prosecuted, although under heavy handicaps, along the Missouri, Osage, and Kansas rivers. The firm of Maxent, Laclede & Cie., chartered by the French intendant in 1762, continued to carry on business from St. Louis throughout the Spanish régime. Other lesser houses were granted licenses to trade in restricted areas, on terms varying with the state of the market.1 Permits were put up at auction and knocked down to the highest bidder. The small trader, who had usually offered more than the normal yield of his district, was forced to make good his obligations to the governor and to the merchants of New Orleans by extortionate dealings with the Indians from whom the furs were purchased. Goods were sold them at exorbitant prices, liquor and firearms were offered as the most enticing bait, and the unbusinesslike redman was tricked into the trader's debt by the credit system. Supplies for the winter's hunt were furnished with the stipulation that the advance be repaid in skins the following spring. The unsophisticated Indians regarded these advances as tribute

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