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The Dryad Affair: Corporate Warfare and Anglo-Russian Rivalry for the Alaskan Lisière

By J. W. Shelest

This paper was originally presented at a 2-4 June 1989 conference dealing with the Yukon/Alaska/BC border and the issues surrounding this border held in Whitehorse, YT, Canada. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Yukon Historical & Museums Association (YHMA), Yukon College, The University of Victoria's Public History Group, and the Alaska Historical Society. The proceedings were published by the YHMA.

Contents: [Introduction] | [The Expedition] | [Resolution] | [Notes]


One usually finds that a discussion of the present-day boundaries that exist between Canada and the United States in the Pacific Northwest begins with an historical overview of the events that led to the delineation of territorial limits. In most cases, source material is drawn from the documents printed within published accounts of the Alaska Boundary Tribunal and the Fur Seal Arbitration. Unfortunately, a number of these materials are extracts of longer documents and are, of course, chosen to support a particular case in a boundary dispute. A great deal of material that can be used to explain certain events that took place along the Pacific Coast in the nineteenth century are located in the Records of the Russian-American Company1 and in the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) Archive.2 In an attempt to more fully explain the events which led to the delineation of the American-Canadian boundary, this paper will use materials drawn from these archives.

The Dryad Affair, or the Stikine Incident, is an event that essentially determines where the boundaries between American and British territory were to be drawn; and it illustrates the part played by the imperialism of monopoly and by the relationship between the companies, aboriginal groups and the British and Russian governments.

How does one categorize the Northwest Coast of North America in the nineteenth century? Here we have a region that combines the characteristics of informal and formal empire. The authority in British territory was the commercial organization, the Hudson's Bay Company, a company with a trade monopoly. Similarly, Russia possessed territory in this region and while this possession combined aspects of formal and informal empire (the term implies the military and economic predominance of a European presence which recognized and co-operated with indigenous governments in Africa and the East3), the colony of Russian America could be perceived as being slightly more a part of Russia's formal empire because of the nature of the connection between government and colonial authority. The authority in this colony was Russian and commercial; the Russian-American Company, a company which, like the HBC, had a monopoly in trade. The examination of the history of this coast, and of the two companies and their policies and activities indicates a number of similarities in their experiences. How can one compare and contrast these outposts of the British and Russian empires within the context of “Imperialism,” or within the relationship between the metropole and the outpost?

The resolution of this problem lies in finding a definition of “Imperialism” that allows for the territory under examination to be described as being both part of a nation's informal as well as formal empire. This is best achieved by examining the territory within the context of political rule devolved to a monopolied commercial entity, or within the context of “Imperialism” as the “imperialism of monopoly.” Imperialism of monopoly is territorial expansion by a nation that is achieved through the efforts of a monopolied organization. The monopoly is motivated to expand the territory under its control and thus its operations for reasons of economic gain, but turns to its national government to confirm the possession of this newly acquired territory and thus officially expands the operational area of the monopoly. This official recognition of territorial expansion was effected by the issuing of new charters, licences or grants. Where the monopoly comes into contact with the frontier activities of another monopoly, or with the frontier of a nation's sphere of influence, the confirmation of a monopoly's, and thus its mother country's, possession of land enters the diplomatic arena because the issue ceases to be one of defining a region of trade activity, and becomes one of defining the spheres of influence of nations and their territorial boundaries. For reasons of strategy and politics, these territories were at times brought directly under a nation's political control as colonies. This paradigm of expansion along the Northwest Coast of North America allows one to see elements of both formal and informal control by an empire, and allows for the comparison of these elements.4

The majority of the works that deal with the question of imperialism, new imperialism5 or with viewpoints that try to further the understanding of modern history within the context of imperialism, are concerned primarily with Africa, India and the Far East, and to a lesser degree, the countries of Latin and South America. Unfortunately, the Northwest Coast of North America is generally ignored. The studies made of this region deal with the fur trade, the sale of Alaska within the context of Russo- American relations, the Oregon Treaty within the context of Anglo-American relations and the Royal Navy and the Northwest Coast. Some of these works do not achieve what they set out to do because they do not take into account the fact that this coast was the arena in which the frontiers of three empires—British, Russian and American—came into contact, resulting in both accommodation and conflict.6 Of these three players, two were monopolies while the other was a nation expanding into territory it saw as its destiny to possess. The various permutations of the relationships that existed between the three parties indicate the complexity in trying to explain the history of the region.

The year 1821 marked the merger of the HBC and the North West Company, and this union created a new and vital HBC whose territory stretched from Hudson Bay to the Pacific. Like the RAC, the HBC was the sole representative of its mother country's interests in that part of North America, and as such was able to act as it pleased within the restrictions placed upon it by the conditions of its various charters. As the sole representative of Britain on this coast, the HBC played a dual role: it was involved in its own commercial activities, but acted as an information gathering organization for the British Government when required. This is illustrated in a private letter from the Governor and Committee to George Simpson,7 2 June 1824, regarding the 1821 ukaz. Simpson was to provide information about the region west of the Rocky Mountains in a form that could be forwarded to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, while a separate paper was to outline details regarding the coast, the location of rivers north of the Columbia, and the numbers and condition of aboriginal peoples living there.8 This duality in purpose in the correspondence of the employees of the HBC on the Northwest Coast to the Governor and Committee and to the Foreign Secretary—by way of the Governor and Committee—becomes more important at the time of the Anglo-Russian negotiations regarding the Stikine Incident.

The HBC was primarily concerned with expanding its commercial base by the establishment of a network of trading posts which could be used to prove possession of territory and of a system of maritime trade that would include the shipping of furs to Canton for sale, and by an attempt to supplant the Russians in the trade in furs to the Chinese.9 The HBC maritime policy to dominate the trade in furs along the coast was facilitated by hiring Lieutenant Aemilius Simpson10 to be the company's surveyor and hydrographer, to command any of the HBC vessels and to be generally employed wherever his services could be useful.11 He was the Superintendent of the Marine Department for the HBC on the Northwest Coast. The policy of establishing coastal posts required that surveys be made of the coastline and its inhabitants to determine the most favourable location for the construction of company establishments. In 1829, Lieutenant Simpson visited the headquarters of the RAC at New Archangel where he delivered a letter from George Simpson to Captain Peter Egorovich Chistiakov,12 the Chief Manager. This communication proposed an agreement between the two companies which would result in the removal of the Americans from the coast, but Chistiakov refused because he lacked the consent of the RAC directors. Aemilius Simpson discussed the HBC plans to establish a post in the harbour of Nass with the Chief Manager, and George Simpson believed that this post, in conjunction with the other coastal posts and two vessels, would remove the Americans from the coast within five years.13

The Chief Manager of the Russian colonies told Aemilius Simpson of the dangers that would face the enterprise “on account of the large savage population in that quarterþtheir warlike habits and formidable means of offense.”14 The HBC seemed to agree: it intended to send a party of sixty to seventy men with the support of two vessels to establish a post at “Nass harbour” in 1830.15 While the HBC was aware of the hostile nature of the natives north of the Columbia River,16 one has to wonder if the RAC Chief Manager was not trying to prevent HBC expansion of trade by mentioning the threat posed by the Indians inhabiting the coast. This assumption seems to be borne out by an observation made of these Indians by Chief Trader Peter Skene Ogden.17 John McLoughlin,18 the Chief Factor posted to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River, informed the directors of the HBC that“Mr. Ogden writes me that the Natives of Nass have so far comported themselves as well as any Indians that he ever saw” and McLoughlin added, “Yet these very Indians have been represented to us as the most troublesome and hostile tribe to deal with on the Coast.”19

In 1829 the HBC Committee pressed McLoughlin to establish a post at or near the “Port of Nass” in the summer of 1830 without delay. The expedition that was to effect this plan was to number no less than fifty men under the command of Ogden because of his “enterprising character and active habits,” which were displayed in his efforts in the Snake Country.20 In March 1830, Aemilius Simpson was sent to Nass to search for a suitable location upon which a trading establishment could be constructed. He arrived at the Nass on 28 August and found a suitable location for the planned post seven or eight miles upstream where a vessel could lie at anchor “within Pistol shot of the shore."21 He tried to obtain information from the Indians there concerning the details of the river and the country upstream, but it was not provided. Aemilius Simpson noted that these natives enjoyed a monopoly of trade with those native groups located upstream and did not wish to lose their middleman position by describing the land to the interior.22 Simpson traded with the local Indians, the Nishga, and spoke with one Native who came from farther upriver. The information he provided indicated that this river had its source in New Caledonia and was probably the Babine or Simpson River if not the one falling into Port Essington.23 This expedition left Nass on 3 September and returned to Fort Vancouver, where the majority of the population, including Ogden, was ill with malaria. This state of affairs delayed the expedition to construct the Nass post until the spring of the following year.24

The reticence of the Indians to provide Simpson with information regarding the topography or trade of the interior is a common occurrence within the context of the fur trade. The Indians in direct contact with the “White” trader were able to obtain desired trade goods with the furs they obtained from Indian groups removed from this area of direct contact. There were established trade routes from the coast to the interior and the coastal Indians were very protective of these routes. The HBC wanted to remove the Americans and the Russians from the competition for the trade of the coast, and facilitate their own trade using a network of posts that were linked by a transportation system using steam or sailing vessels. At this time, the HBC restricted itself to establishing posts on or very near the coast at the mouths of rivers. When it began its policy of constructing posts inland of the Russian lisière (a coastal strip), it began to encroach on a sphere of influence that was, in effect, two-tiered: the area encompassed by Russian trade and that of the coastal Indians.

One can apply the model of imperialism of monopoly to explain the actions of the British and Russian companies. The chief manager of Russian America did not have the resources, personnel and material to expand and consolidate Russia's holdings in North America so his intent was to preserve the status quo. After learning, from Lieutenant Simpson, of the HBC's plan to establish posts along the coast and inland, he realized that the British traders would acquire furs that would normally have made their way into Russian hands through the Native trade network. He tried to dissuade the British from taking this action by implying that the expense in setting up such a network of posts would be expensive because of the hostile nature of the natives living in the region. Here, Chistiakov is using an economic argument in an attempt to prevent future British encroachment on Russian trade and thus Russian territory.

In 1831, Aemilius Simpson was ordered to transport Ogden and his party to Nass in the Dryad and the Vancouver, and to supply any required assistance. He was then to proceed to the coast to trade while adhering to the articles of the Anglo-Russian Treaty. He was to trade as little liquor, arms and ammunition as was possible to the Indians—even within British territory—as was to examine the Stikine to determine if, as reported, a large river fell into the ocean there.25 In the autumn of that year, Captain Simpson died as a result of an illness, and Ogden replaced him as the superintendent of shipping on the Northwest Coast. Ogden's instructions from McLoughlin ordered him to avail himself of every opportunity to cultivate a friendly relationship with the RAC, and to “examine Stikine River and endeavour to ascertain if there is a situation Eligible to erect and Establishment on its Banks about thirty miles from the ocean and also at Port Essington."26 He was to go to Sitka if it was convenient and provide the Russians with goods at cost if asked and if he could do so without injuring his own trade. If he was criticized for trading arms, ammunition and liquor to the Indians, he was to indicated that the HBC was averse to the practise, but was forced to do so because American traders traded these items to the coastal Indians.

In the 1820s the HBC was concerned with plans to establish a system of trade along the coast which would connect with the interior trade and remove American and Russian competition. In the 1830s, the HBC was turning more to establishing an alliance of sorts with the RAC to oust the Americans from the trade along the coast while damaging the Russian trade by constructing posts in British territory close to the Russian lisière. It was for this reason that Simpson and Ogden were sent to investigate various rivers flowing into the Pacific for their suitability as transportation routes into the interior.

Ogden was not able to follow McLoughlin's instructions and examine the Stikine River until 1833,27 and it was his opinion that it would not suit the plans of the HBC.28 The Governor and Committee of the HBC were pressing McLoughlin to “establish one or two more posts on the Coast say at Stikine or Port Stevens, or at both those places. . . as we consider such Establishments highly important to our views in regard to the Coasting Trade."29 Their view was that posts located on the Stikine River (at latitude 56º 40'), at Siqually in the Cowlitz Portage on Puget Sound (latitude 47º 30') and at Millbank Sound (latitude 52º), in conjunction with two vessels that would be used in the coastal fur trade but would be used in the off season to ship timber, salmon and other goods to the Sandwich Islands, and a steam vessel that the company planned to send to the coast, would remove the American traders from this coast.30 This correspondence indicates that a post on the Stikine was integral to the coastal- trading policy of the HBC, and Ogden was ordered to establish such a post.

The RAC policies with regard to the Stikine River were reactionary in that action was taken to frustrate the ambitions of the HBC rather than to effect some aspect of its own commercial plans. The ambitions of the HBC were made clear to the Governor of Russian America, Chistiakov, during his conversations with Aemilius Simpson and Ogden when they visited Sitka. Lieutenant Simpson visited Sitka in 1829 and delivered George Simpson's letter to the Governor. This letter stated that Aemilius Simpson was to survey the harbour of Nass where the HBC would form an establishment to trade with the natives there the following year. The letter and other correspondence from the HBC to Chistiakov and to the directors of the RAC was forwarded by the latter to the Russian government.31 These letters suggested a commercial agreement between the companies which could be used to remove the American traders from the Pacific Coast. The RAC directors were of the opinion that the presence of American traders on the coast led to a decline in the furs obtained by the RAC and, therefore, to financial loss. They asked the governor, Baron Ferdinand Petrovich Vrangel',32 to restrict the company's trade with the Americans.33 The RAC was also concerned with the activities of the HBC; it could not remain a passive witness to the activities of the English in Russian territory in the trade with the Kolosh, the Russian term for the Tlingit Indians, but had to take measures to restrict this trade. This required a sufficient stock of goods in Russian America to be used in the Kolosh trade, but it would be difficult to compete with the English because the trade goods brought around the world be way of Siberia were at least twice as expensive as those obtained directly from England by the HBC.34 The HBC was a greater threat to the RAC than the Americans because of the resources it could bring to bear on and its interest in the coast. The HBC, in trying to gain the RAC as a ally against the American traders, laid out its plans for the coast before Vrangel' who could then use this information to take action to frustrate them.

On 26 April 1832 (OS),35 Peter Skene Ogden arrived at Sitka on the schooner Cadboro to discuss with Vrangel' the possibility of the HBC replacing the Americans as the supplier of the colony's goods. As a result of the conversations between himself and Ogden, Vrangel' learned of the future intentions of the British company. He knew that the HBC planned to establish a post on the Stikine and sent the brig Chichagov, under the command of Lieutenant Zarembo, with instructions to construct a fort there.36 Vrangel' was also informed that the HBC planned to establish posts at Port Essington and on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and Ogden repeated the HBC proposal to supply Russian America in return for river beaver pelts. This offer was refused by Vrangel'. If the HBC wanted the RAC to join it in its efforts to oust the Americans from the coast, Vrangel' believed the HBC should supply the Russians with goods at prices favourable to the RAC so the latter could dispense with their American suppliers.37

Vrangel' was concerned with making the Russian-American colonies self-sufficient, as well as with trying to consolidate Russia's hold on the coast, but was frustrated by the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1825. The Chief Manager was aware of what the effects on Russia's trade with the Indians of, and Russian's claims to, the Pacific Coast would be if the British were allowed to establish trading posts upstream of Russia's territorial boundaries: he had seen Russia's influence and trade decline at Nass. For these reasons he petitioned the Directors of the RAC to take action to rescind the clause permitting free navigation of rivers and streams in Russian territory by the British but did not think such a restriction would be acceptable. He suggested that free navigation from British territory through Russian territory be allowed but that free navigation upstream into British territory be forbidden. He informed the directors: “I from my side, until receiving instruction, will hold the English by force if they decide to sail up the river Stikine.”38

After Ogden's visit to Sitka, Vrangel' sent two reports to the directors of the RAC commenting on Russia's trade along the coast in relation to that of the British and the Americans. In the first, Vrangel' stated that the HBC was paying the Tlingit, the Indian group which inhabited the Stikine Territory, two to three times the price for furs than that offered by American traders in an effort to remove the latter from the trade, and mentioned Ogden's invitation to the RAC to join the HBC in trying to effect this goal.39 In the second, Vrangel' described the success of the HBC trade at Nass; he mentioned that the HBC had planned to establish a post in British territory alongside the Stikine River, but that the death of Aemilius Simpson had postponed such action, and stated that an HBC post on the Stikine would destroy Russian trade with the Tlingit if the latter company was not to command the trade of the Pacific Coast from Cross Sound or points farther north, to the south as far as California. He did not want the RAC to be a passive witness to English actions, rather to take measures against them, but was unable to broaden the trade of the RAC with the then “shortage of goods and stinginess in pay” to the Kolosh (Tlingit).40

In 1833 Vrangel', motivated by the need to enter the trade with the Tlingit at a competitive level, sent the brig Chichagov under the command of Captain Adolf Karlovich Etholen,41 to the straits inhabited by that Indian group and located in Russian territory.42 Vrangel' arranged for the Chichagov to accompany one of the HBC ships on the latter's trading expedition to obtain an idea of how and where trade with the Tlingit was carried on. The principal task of this first visit to the straits was to gather detailed information concerning the prices by which the trade was conducted, and the place where the trade was carried out. In the instructions sent to Etholen, Vrangel' stated that during the months of March and April, when the coastal trade took place, the Chichagov shadow the HBC shop, but in the latter part of May, when the HBC ships would leave the area, Etholen should travel to the Stikine area to determine where and when furs could be acquired from the Tlingit, and what goods and prices would be necessary to acquire those furs. Etholen was to remain on good terms with the HBC and not compete with it, and was to tell the HBC that the RAC was ready to co-operate with the English to push the Americans from the straits. The goal was for the English ship to act as a leader for acquainting the RAC with the course of business in that region.43

Vrangel''s report to the RAC directors, dated 1 May 1833 (OS), stated the Chichagov's voyage had a number of objectives: to familiarize the RAC with the places and means of trade in the straits lying within Russia's borders; to engage in trade actively to complicate that of the Americans and to see that the Conventions of 1824 and 1825 were adhered to by foreigners; to declare to American skippers that the term of free trade for them in the straits would expire in 1834 and in 1835 for the British, and to inform them that the RAC would not tolerate violations of the Conventions. He stated that the company had not visited this area before because it would suffer a commercial loss since it would not trade in goods prohibited by the Convention. The company was not able to prevent foreigners trading these goods since it could not hold them at the borders of Russian America.44

Vrangel' did not favour a renewal of the Conventions since he wanted competition with the British and Americans to end; he was of the opinion that British and American traders had destabilized the region by trading arms, ammunition and liquor to the native peoples inhabiting Russian territory. It would be possible to remove the American traders through competition in the fur trade, especially with the assistance of the HBC, but the British would not be as easy to oust.

When Etholen returned from the Stikine he informed Vrangel' that the Tlingit there had invited the HBC to settle at the river's mouth. Vrangel' took action to forestall such an occurrence. On 12 June 1833 he instructed Fleet Lieutenant Zarembo, the commander of the brig Chichagov, to sail to the mouth of the Stikine where he was to construct a Russian establishment. Zarembo was to winter there with a threefold purpose: to engage in the fur trade, to prevent the HBC from executing their plans for the Stikine trade, and to cut the timber needed to construct a redoubt. Vrangel' cautioned Zarembo to take steps to ensure that hostilities with the Tlingit be avoided, and the additional instructions he sent to Zarembo on 27 August 1833 stated the latter should provide the toens, or chiefs, there with gifts to gain their support in order to prevent their impeding the construction of the establishment. Lieutenant Zarembo was not to inform the Kolosh of his intention to construct a post but work on the assumption that the Indians would ask him to remain there. He would then agree and build the post. Zarembo was told to concentrated his efforts on gaining the support of the toens Kek-khal'-tsel and his brother Zhkhya-ti-sti since the former “has a much better disposition towards us that Seiks, who is tied more to the English.”45 It was hoped that the favourable disposition of two of the three brothers towards the RAC would facilitate the establishment of Russia's presence at the mouth of the Stikine while hindering that of Britain.

The Russians assumed that the HBC would come to the mouth of the Stikine to trade and Zarembo was to prevent such as occurrence by referring to Article Two46 of the Anglo-Russian Convention and by telling the captain t\of the British vessel to leave Russian territory. He was to raise the RAC flag over the establishment that was to be constructed and the chief of the Kolosh was to be presented with a medal that was inscribed “Ally of Russia.”47 Even though the Russians at Stikine were to remain on friendly terms with the natives, the expedition was always to be in a state of readiness to repulse an attack.48

Regardless of the information and opinions sent to the RAC directors by Vrangel', the directors were opposed to competition with the HBC in the coastal trade. They wanted the new establishment at Stikine to be made safe first before any thought was given to trade. Vrangel' noted that his was not the policy followed by the British and if the directors' plan was to be brought to effect, the Kolosh would suspect the activities of the RAC.49 The establishment of a post that was not trade-oriented would necessarily raise suspicion, while a trading establishment would be readily accepted: “to settle among them, strengthen our position and not trade with them is the surest means to array them against us from the first step and such a mistake would be very hard to correct.”50

Vrangel' had written to the RAC directors stating his views on how British and American traders were to be dealt with in Russian territory and on the renewal of the Conventions of 1824 and 1825, and asked them if the RAC should compete with the HBC in the straits. The instructions he received were contradictory: he was told to adhere to the letter of the Conventions and to contravene them.51 Thus it is understandable that Vrangel' would find it easier to act as he saw fit in order to improve Russia's position in North America until he received instructions to do otherwise. In 1834 Vrangel' appointed Sergei Miskvitinov commander of the establishment constructed at the mouth of the Stikine, and named the post Sv. Dionisiya (St. Dionysius). Fleet Lieutenant Zarembo was to station the brig Chichagov near the post and was to be in command of the Russians there. The Chief Manager instructed Zarembo to frustrate any British attempt to establish a post on the Stikine by refusing them entry into the river's mouth.52 The post was nearing completion in June of 1834.

The Expedition

In December of 1833 the HBC had on the Northwest Coast seven vessels ,of which five were to be used in the coastal trade. As John McLoughlin was informed by the governor and committee: “We are anxious to prosecute this branch of the business with vigour, and as you will now have five Vessels, say either the Nereide, Dryade or Ganymede, the Eagle, the Lama, Cadboro and Vancouver to act in concert with the Establishments.”53 In the spring of 1834 the plans of the HBC on the coast were clear. Ogden was placed in charge of the HBC expedition that was to establish a post at least thirty miles upstream on the Stikine River, and he was to take the men required for this task from Forts McLoughlin and Simpson. The Vancouver54 was to examine “the Coast between Mount St Elice [sic] and Stikine to endeavour to discover if there is any River in that space of Country sufficiently large to enable us to form Establishments in the Interior and to where the Copper Mine is.” Ogden was further instructed that “If the Russians are established at Point Highfield you will be required by the Russians Tariff in your dealings with the Indians and if they give no Rum to the Indians you will also forbear to give them any."55 In short, the trade was to be directed by Russian practices to preserve good relations with the latter.

At Fort Vancouver, Ogden and a contingent of men embarked on the Company brig Dryad, with a crew of seventeen56 under the command of Charles Kipling, and from there sailed to Nass where the remainder of the expedition was waiting. The complete party of sixty-four servants and eight officers57 then set sail for the river Stikine and on 18 June the Dryad came within sight of the Russian establishment which had been built at Point Highfield.

A “whale boat” with a swivel or blunderbuss on the bow and manned by four men came alongside the Dryad, and the man in charge presented Ogden with a number of written questions that were to be answered.58 There then began the presentation of a series of written declarations from Vrangel', Zarembo and Sergei Moskvitinov telling Ogden that the Dryad had no legal right to travel up the Stikine and that the British expedition should remove itself from Russian territory. A further two visits from the Russians indicated to Ogden that communication would be difficult since the Russians did not have a knowledge of English, French, Latin or Spanish. A baidarka (a kayak with open hatches for one, two or three persons) was sent to Sitka by the Russians to inform the governor of the Dryad's arrival. On 19 June Dr. William Fraser Tolmie59 and Captain Duncan visited Lieutenant Zarembo on the Chichagov, formerly the Tally Ho!,60 which was armed with twelve cannon and four swivel guns. Again, they were informed the Dryad could neither in the sound or proceed up the river. Baidarkas sent to Sitka on 18 and 19 June carried Ogden's complaints to the governor.61

Etholen, the acting governor in Sitka, informed Zarembo that his letter of 8/20 June had been received and reiterated Vrangel''s instruction to prevent the British from travelling upstream. Zarembo was to do this using the terms outlined in Article Two of the Convention of 1825 and Etholen stressed that Zarembo adhere to the terms of Article Eleven62 not to resort to force. He added that he was sending the translator Dal'strem, the only interpreter at Sitka, who had some knowledge of English, and that he would send the Chilkat, with the translator Gideon aboard, to the Stikine to aid Zarembo in his communications with both the British and the Kolosh.63

Two chiefs of the Stikine Indians, Seiks and Anacago, came on board the Dryad and informed Ogden that the British could establish a trading post at the mouth of the river without opposition from them.64 These Indians were aware that the two posts competing for their furs would result in their receiving higher prices, but would oppose any movement to establish a post further upstream since the fur trade would bypass them. Tolmie stated Seiks “had undoubtably been egged up to this line of conduct by our opponents the Russians, who have not failed to point out to him the danger of our intercepting his supply of furs from the interior tribes."65 The Tlingit traded with the interior tribes and sold the furs acquired to traders plying the coast. If the trade moved inland they realized they would lose their position of middleman and be reduced to one of poverty, having to trade with tribes in the interior to obtain desired European trade goods.

On 29 June, Ogden visited Zarembo and was handed a written reply to his complaints from Etholen. This letter stated that Vrangel' was absent from Sitka and would not be returning until the end of August and that, as a result, permission for the British to proceed up the Stikine would not be forthcoming. However, he could meet with Vrangel' at Sitka at a later date to discuss the matter.66 Zarembo informed Ogden

that any attempt to ascend the river would be opposed by force. On his return [to the Dryad], he asked the opinion of each gentlemen & we all agreed with him in thinking that opposed as we are by both the Russians and Natives it would be highly imprudent to persist in the undertaking.67

Ogden was legally entitled to travel up the Stikine by Article VI of the 1825 Anglo-Russian Convention, but was intimidated from doing so by the opposition presented by the Indians and the Russians. The Russians had the brig Chichagov stationed at the mouth of the river. She was a formidable ship with a crew of eighty-four men and sixteen guns,68 more than double the complement and armament on board the Dryad. Rather than fight an Indian-Russian alliance, Ogden decided to leave the mouth of the Stikine, promising Zarembo that he would speak to Vrangel' in Sitka at the end of August.

On 27 September the Dryad arrived at Sitka. Ogden tried to reason with the Russian Chief Manager regarding the rights allowed him by the Convention of 1825 and how the articles of that agreement were violated by Zarembo, but met with no success. Vrangel' continued to support the actions taken by the commander of the Chichagov and based his claims of their legality on Article II of the same convention. At Sitka, Ogden received a letter from Vrangel' dated 19 September/1 October 1834 which stated the latter's belief that the Stikine was not suitable for navigation, that no HBC establishment existed in British territory alongside the river and that “The true aim of your projected establishment 10 marine leagues up the course of the Stikine, is none other, than to harm our trade."69 On 7 October Ogden left Sitka with the Dryad expedition after failing in every attempt to complete his assignment.


Chief Factor McLoughlin learned of the Dryad's being prevented from travelling up the Stikine when Ogden returned with the vessel to Fort Vancouver. He then informed the Government and Committee of the HBC in London of the events that had occurred and enclosed a statement of the losses he believed the company would incur as a result, £22,150 10s.70 On 24 October 1835, J. H. Pelly71 informed the British Foreign Secretary, Viscount Palmerston,72 of the violation of several articles of the 1825 Convention, and asked to meet with him in order to discuss the means to obtain redress from the Russians. The Russians were believed to have violated a formal agreement between themselves and England, and since every attempt to settle the problem of the Dryad Affair at the company level had failed, the HBC decided to press their claims at a diplomatic level.

The claims of the Company became a diplomatic issue when Palmerston informed Britain's ambassador in St. Petersburg, Lord Durham:73

Your E[xcellency] is therefor instructed to bring the Subject without delay before the Russian Cabinet, to claim Redress and Compensation for the British Subjects who have been therefore aggrieved, and to express the Confident Expectation of H. M. Govt. that such orders will be given to the Russian Authorities on the Coast, as may prevent the recurrence of similar violations of the Treaty.74
When Durham raised the matter with Nesselrode, the Russian Foreign Minister, the latter state that he had no official information regarding the incident but stated that he would look into the matter immediately. After making enquiries Nesselrode came to the conclusion that the Russians had violated the Treaty of 1825, but that the financial claims of the HBC were unjustified. The latter was based on the fact “that there were no forcible measures taken against Captain Ogden.”75 If Ogden failed to proceed up the Stikine when no threat of force was forthcoming from the Russians, it was his fault alone that the expedition did not attain its objective. Since Ogden was at fault, in Nesselrode's estimation, any losses incurred by the HBC were his liability and not the Russians'.

The diplomatic settlement of the British claims resulting from the Dryad Affair was not forthcoming because of the problem experienced in trying to determine whether or not the Russians threatened the Dryad expedition with force. The Russian brig stationed at the mouth of the Stikine and the fort there implied a threat of violence which, even though not realized, was successful in deterring the Dryad from travelling up the river. In the words of George B. Roberts, one of the members of the Stikine expedition: “The Russians bluffed us off they had a brig the Tally Ho! purchased from the Americans. . . .”76 Ogden might have tried sailing upstream past the Russians but to try to attempt to bypass the Indians would have been a different matter. He was unsure as to whether the Russians would resort to force but the Indian tribes assured him they would. The latter threat was actual, not probable, and was the determining factor of the two. The documents sent to Palmerston to substantiate the case of the HBC were extracts taken from the accounts written by individuals who had been present on the Dryad during the incident.77 These edited excerpt were chosen without mentioning the mitigating circumstances such as Indian opposition and the difficulty of communication. In their dealings at the mouth of the Stikine, the British and the Russians communicated in languages in which both parties were not fluent, and this may have resulted in one misunderstanding the intentions of the other. This edited document sent to the Foreign Office is an indication of how the HBC controlled the information sent to the British government to suit its own goals. If the more important factor of Indian hostility had been made known, the justification for the case for losses brought against the RAC may have been removed, or it may have resulted in the British government calling for a reduction in the amount of monies claimed.

There were a number of factors which complicated t he discussions concerning the HBC claims. Pelly and Simpson arrived in St. Petersburg 27 August 1838 with the intention of resolving the HBC claims by meeting with the Directors of the RAC. They soon learned any such negotiation would be fruitless because “the Board of Directors had little power and would not determine any important measure with international ramifications without the sanction of Count Nesselrode.”78 The Russian company was under the aegis of the Minister of Finance and any communication that took place between the government and the company was the responsibility of Baron Vrangel'. Pelly and Simpson found that they were unable to negotiate on an international level since the issue had entered the realm of international law and diplomacy. The persons that Pelly and Simpson should have dealt with were occupied with the Americans, who were trying to negotiate a renewal of their 1824 Convention with Russia.79

On 9 December 1838 (O.S.) Nesselrode wrote to Count Kankrin, the Minister of Finance, regarding the negotiations between Britain and Russian concerning the claims of the HBC resulting from the Dryad Affair. He stated that the Tsar

was pleased to admit that it would be more in accord with the rules of strict justice to admit the principles on which the claim is based and to enter into negotiations with the Hudson's Bay Company in regard to the amount of the indemnification claimed by the Company rather than continue a dispute, which we shall be obliged ultimately to give in to. . . . I take it upon myself to ask Your Excellency to consider whether it might not be advisable for the Russian- American Company to enter into friendly negotiations with the Hudson's Bay Company, looking towards such a settlement.80
This desire was being realized by Simpson and Vrangel' who had been in correspondence concerning a possible means of settling the disagreement between the HBC and RAC. They were in agreement on many of the proposed terms that would comprise the legal resolution of the Dryad Affair, but Simpson proposed they meet in Berlin on the last day of 1838 to discuss some of the details, both armed with the authority to negotiate and sign binding agreements for their respective companies. Count Nesselrode sent a report to Nicholas I asking that Vrangel' be permitted to meet with Simpson in Berlin. This report mentioned the proposed terms of the agreement which were forwarded to Nesselrode from the Directors of the RAC by the Minister of Finance.

The issue moved from the arena of international law and diplomacy to the company level when it was realized that Russia would have to admit a contravention of the Convention of 1825 by its subjects. Rather than continue discussions at the inter-governmental level, it was decided that the companies try to negotiate what indemnities were to be paid. While the Convention had been contravened, the true issue—in the Russian government's interpretation—was not territorial but dealt with the losses suffered by a company involved in a commercial enterprise. In fact, the underlying motivation for the Dryad expedition was both commercial and territorial because the HBC planned to gain economic control of a region which would lead to the removal of the Russian presence from North America because of the losses suffered by the RAC in the fur trade, and the HBC would then acquire Russian America. Russian America would then become a British possession.

Vrangel' and Simpson were unable to meet in Berlin so they met in Hamburg some days later and it was there that they signed an agreement on 27 January/6 February 1839. Article One of the agreement allowed the HBC to lease the lisière, excluding the islands, between Cross Sound and latitude 54ø 40' for a ten-year period beginning 1 June 1840 for the annual rent of 2,000 seasoned land otter skins. The provisioning of the Russian-American colonies by the HBC was mentioned in another article: in 1840 2,000 fenagos (1 fenago=126 pounds) of wheat were to be supplied and after that initial year, 4,000 fenagos were to be delivered yearly at a rate of 10s. and 9d. per fenago.81

One of the factors which had a bearing on the Dryad Affair and its outcome was the relationship that existed between the RAC and the Russian Government. The Company was essentially in control of its own economic affairs but political matters came under the purview of the Russian government. Once Vrangel' had arranged for the Dryad to be prevented from sailing up the river, which violated the convention of 1825, the Company's actions developed political ramifications. The HBC turned to the British Government to present its case to the Russian Government to obtain redress for the RAC preventing Ogden from completing his mission. The factors which complicated these discussions were that the Law Officers of the Crown did not consider the documents forwarded to them by the HBC to be suitable to present as evidence before the representatives of the Russian Government,82 and that it was not clear whether the Russians at Stikine had threatened the Dryad with violence. Russia's government considered the possibility of an agreement being reached between the HBC and the RAC when it was made apparent that Britain would not cease pressing for the resolution of the HBC.

Russia saw three reasons justifying such an agreement: the accord would prevent “unwilling rivalry and unavoidable clashes” between the HBC and the RAC which would result from their attempts to dominate the interior trade; the lease would remove any need for the RAC to pay 135,000 rubles to the HBC; and the lease would prevent—in the opinion of Nesselrode—any clashes with Americans since it would end the latter's attempts to renew the fourth article of the 1824 Convention.83 When Simpson and Vrangel' met in Hamburg to sign the agreement, Simpson was answerable only to the Governor and Committee of the HBC, while Vrangel' was answerable to the Tsar. As a result, the agreement can be seen as an accord entered into by a British company and the Russian Government. The HBC did not notify the British Foreign Office of its progress in reaching an agreement, and the ambassador to Russia continued to present the Company's case in St. Petersburg until he was notified by the Russian Foreign Minister, Nesselrode, that further discussions were unnecessary since the desired agreement was about to be signed.

The 1839 agreement was particularly advantageous to the Russians: the RAC obtained a reliable supply of provisions which later enabled it to sell Ross and its Californian possessions, which were running at a loss, to Sutter. This streamlining of Russia's North American possessions was believed to have created a condition which would allow the Company to govern, and trade within, its remaining possessions more effectively and profitably.

The agreement favoured the RAC in yet another way. If Zarembo had not prevented the Dryad from travelling up the Stikine, the HBC would have established a post in British territory which would have obtained the furs which were being traded to the RAC. The directors of the RAC had informed the Minister of Finance that all the furs that found their way into Russian hands in the area of the Stikine originated in British territory and came to the RAC through trade between Indian groups. Therefore, if the Dryad had been allowed to pass St. Dionysius, the RAC would have lost the income from the trade in furs. Fortunately for the Russians, the Dryad was stopped, an agreement was signed and the RAC was freed of the indemnity claimed by the HBC. Russia retained possession of the Stikine Territory and the RAC obtained 2,000 furs, the equivalent of approximately 118,000 rubles, from the HBC annually.

From the standpoint of the British Government the agreement was efficacious diplomatically. In any commercial or political dispute between Russia and Britain it was hoped the Americans would ally themselves with the former. Russia no longer had to fear that country's territorial ambitions since the Americans had no legal right to visit her possessions for reasons of trade, or any other. Thus, her territorial integrity was maintained while any potential for causing diplomatic ill-feeling between herself and the other two countries concerning her possessions in North America was removed. The amicable settlement resulted in Russia's relations with Britain, her former and potential opponent in European affairs, being more favourable, at least within the context of North America.

The agreement was also highly advantageous to the HBC. The Company acquired control of, while acknowledging Russian sovereignty over, the lisière separating its territories from the Pacific and believed it would, through its trade with the Indian tribes there, gain full possession of the Russian territories in North America. It replaced the Americans as the provisioners of the Russian colonies and, in so doing, removed the Americans from the coastal trade. The RAC remained as the HBC's only rival and the latter did not think the former would survive its competition for long.

In 1834, the HBC vessel Dryad tried to sail up the Stikine River to establish a post in British territory that would drain that region of furs, lower the profits of the RAC and thus assist in the removal of the latter from the trade with the Indians along the Northwest Coast. Peter Skene Ogden, the leader of the HBC expedition, had informed Vrangel' the chief-manager of Russian America, of the HBC's plans in 1832 when he visited Sitka, and Vrangel' realizing that the British voyage was directed at destroying Russian trade and thus Russian tenure of land in North America, took action to prevent the Dryad from travelling up the river. This action constituted a contravention of Article VI of the 1825 Convention—the article that dealt with free navigation of rivers—but Vrangel' was aware this action was necessary if Russian land was not to be lost. Vrangel' realized that the Russian monopoly was unable to deal with British competition and thus the trade and control of that region was threatened. He decided to deal with this threat by interpreting the articles of the convention to suit Russian needs.

Discussions at the inter-company, or inter-monopoly, level were unsuccessful so the HBC approached the British Government to obtain redress. The British government then brought the matter to an international level since it was concerned with the financial losses and loss of access to markets suffered by British subjects due to the contravention of an international agreement. The issue then was dealt with by the British ambassador to St. Petersburg and the Russian minister responsible for foreign affairs. The two monopolies were asked to provide the relevant information that would allow the governments to discuss the matter, and the HBC manipulated the data it provided to remove pertinent factors the mitigated the action taken by the RAC. The documentation that was provided was couched in “proper terms,” the terms of international law, and the HBC was asked by British Crown lawyers to provide additional information within a particular format. After negotiating the matter, the issue remained unresolved because of a stalemate regarding the allocation of fault: both the British and Russian government representatives agreed that the RAC had contravened Article VI of the Convention, but the Russian stance was that HBC financial losses were due to Ogden's actions since he could have bypassed Russian opposition without fear of hostile action being taken by employees of the RAC. As this matter remained without conclusion, the HBC approached the RAC with a proposal that would end the problem. The result was the Stikine Lease: the RAC would lease a lisière to the HBC in return for an annual rent, and the British company would also provide the Russian colony with needed supplies. In this manner, the earlier goal of the HBC was achieved, that of replacing the American traders as suppliers of the Russian colonies and thus removing them from the coastal trade since there was no longer any reason for their sailing along the coast. The HBC also obtained effective control of a portion of Russian territory. The RAC achieved its goals as well; it obtained needed supplies on a regular basis and the HBC was made responsible for the administration of a portion of Russian territory which the RAC did not have the resources to protect from Indian or non-Indian interests.

In examining this incident one can see how a commercial altercation with elements affecting the question of international trade was brought into an international arena, but remained unresolved until the monopolies concluded the matter on an inter-monopoly level that had territorial ramifications: the RAC essentially subcontracted the HBC to protect Russian territory from falling into foreign hands, in effect, the preservation of the status quo. As Donald C. Davidson states, the agreement “withdrew the region from any pressures of international rivalries. Its influence on history was preventative, or negative; for example it allowed the territorial agreement which has endured as the Alaska-Canada boundary to mature into an accepted unchallenged fact."84 Thus, the RAC retained possession of the Stikine territory, received supplies on a regular basis, received annual rent for the territory leased to the HBC and left the cost and effort of administering the territory to the HBC.



1. Records of the Russian-American Company, 1802-1867: Correspondence of Governors General File. Microcopies of Records in the National Archives No. 11. 77 rolls. (Henceforth cited as RACR.) These records are the material that were located in Russian America and acquired by the United States when it purchased that territory from Russia. [back]
2. This collection of documents, which deals with all aspects of the operations of the Hudson's Bay Company, is now located in the HBC Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. [back]
3. For more detail regarding the term, see D.K. Fieldhouse, Economics and Empire, 1830-1914 (London: 1976), pp 79-80. [back]
4. If one restricts the examination of this form of imperialism to a strictly economic analysis, one can apply the term “imperialism of monopoly” to the study of contemporary multinational corporations, who, because of their size and resources, can be viewed as possessing de facto monopolies in various parts of the world. In the present-day context, one can view these monopolies as exerting various forms of economic, political and cultural influence (an informal empire through monopoly, if you will). [back]
5. P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas, I: The Old Colonial System, 1688-1850,” Economic History Review, Second Series XXXIX, 4 (1986): 501-525 and “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas, II: The New Imperialism, 1850-1945,” Economic History Review, Second Series XL, 1 (1987): 1-26 deal with expansion motivated not by industrial capitalism but by gentlemanly capitalism, which consists of the evolution and interaction of agricultural, commerical and finacial capitalist enterprise. [back]
6. It would be more specific to say that it was a region populatied by a number of aboriginal groups in which three non-aboriginal empires came into contact, but this study will deal primarily with the activities of the latter. For information regarding the aboriginal groups and the question of Indian-White contact, see Jennifer S. H. Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Families in Indian Country (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980); Robin Fisher, Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Realtions in British Columbia, 1774-1890 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1977); Carol M. Judd and Arthur Ray, eds., Old Trails and New Directions: Papers of the Third North American Fur Trade Conference (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); Arthur J. Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974); Arthur J. Ray and Donald Freeman, “Give Us Good Measure”: An Economic Analysis of Relations Between the Indians and the Hudson's Bay Company Before 1763 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978); Alvin M. Jpsephy, Jr., “By Fayre and Gentle Meanes: The Hudson's Bay Company and the American Indian,” The American West ix, 5 (September, 1972), 4-11 and 61-64; the works of E. E. Rich; and Glyndwr Williams, “The Hudson's Bay Company and the Fur Trade, 1670-1870,” The Beaver, Vol. 314, No. 2 (Autumn 1983), 4-86. [back]
7. George Simpson was born out of wedlock in about 1786 in the parish of Loch Broom. His father was the eldest son of the minister of the parish of Avoch, Morayshire and nothing is known of his mother. He lived with his grandparents and was primarily raised by his aunt, Mary Simpson. For twelve years he worked as a sugar broker's clerk in London, but in 1820, he became Governor-in-Chief Locum Tenens of the Hudson's Bay Company in North America. In 1821 he became Governor of the Northern Department and was given authority over the Southern Department in 1826 but did not become governor of both departments officially until 1839. He was knighted in 1841, and died 7 September 1860.[back]
8. Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBCA), A. 6/20, fol. 164. [back]
9. Governor and Committee to Simpson, 27 February 1822, HBCA, A. 6/20, fol. 12; Governor and Committee to John Haldane and John Dugals Cameron, Chief Factors, Columbia Department, 4 September 1822, HBCA A. 6/20, fol. 58; and Governor and Committee to Perkins and Company, Canton, 9 April 1823, HBCA A. 6/20, fol. 108. [back]
10. Aemilius Simpson was the son of Alexander Simpson, a schoolmaster. His mother died and his father married Mary Simpson, George Simpson's aunt. In April of 1806, aged thirteen, he entered the Royal Navy, rose to the rank of Lieutenant and retired on half-pay in 1816. He was recommended to the HBC by George Simpson and was appointed hydrographer and surveyor as of 1 March 1826. His name was placed on the list of clerks so he would be eligible for promotion. He arrived at Fort Vancouver, Columbia River on 2 November 1826, and he became Superintendent of the Marine Department for the HBC. He was appointed a Chief Trader on 3 November 1830 and died 13 September 1831. For more details, see Hudson's Bay Recodrs Society Publications, Vol. III, pp. 454-5. [back]
11. Governor and Committee to George Simpson, 23 February 1826, HBCA, A. 6/21, fol. 74. [back]
12. Chistiakov was Chief Manager of the Russian-American Company colonies from 14 October 1825 to 1 June 1830. [back]
13. Simpson to the Governor and Committee, 31 July 1829, HBCA, A. 12/1, fols. 332-334 and 337. [back]
14. Ibid., fols. 333-334. [back]
15. Ibid., fol. 337. [back]
16. Ibid., 10 August 1824, HBCA, A. 12/1, fol. 65. [back]
17. Peter Skene Ogden was born in Quebec in 1794, the son of the Hon. Isaac Ogden, a judge of the Admiralty Court. He entered the service of the North West Company and was a bitter enemy of the HBC. This prevented his entering the service of the HBC until March 1823 as a chief clerk. He became a Chief Trader in 1824 and conducted the expeditions to the Snake River Country from 1824-30. He was made a Chief Factor in 1834 and in 1835 was appointed to the New Caledonia district, where he stayed until 1844. He returned to the Columbia district after a furlough in 1844. From 1846 to 1850 he was a member of the board of mangagement of the Columbia district, and after a furlough for the outfits of 1851 and 1852, he was made a member of the board of management of the Oregon department. He died in Oregon City 27 September 1854. For further details, see Hudson's Bay Record Society Publications, Vol. II, p. 238 and Gloria Griffen Cline, Peter Skene Ogden and the Hudson's Bay Company (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974). [back]
18. John McLoughlin was born near Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec on 19 October 1784. He studied medicine but joined the North West Company in 1803, becoming a partner in 1814. With the merger of that company with the HBC he became a chief factor and was placed in charge of the Columbia District when Governor George Simpson visited the region in 1824-25. The relationship between the two men became strained over their opinions regarding the murder of McLoughlin's son at Fort Stikine in 1842. McLoughlin retired in 1846 and settled in Oregon City, Oregon, where he died 3 September 1857. W. Kaye Lamb, “John McLoughlin,” The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1985). [back]
19. McLoughlin to the Governor and Committee, 20 October 1831, in E. E. Rich, ed., The Ltters of John McLoughlin: >From Fort Vancouver to the Governor and Committee, First Series, 1825-38 (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1941), p. 232. [back]
20. Governor and Committee to McLoughlin, 28 October 1829, HBCA A. 6/22, fol. 45. [back]
21. Captain Simpson's Report of his voyage to Nass, A. Simpson to McLoughlin, 23 September 1830, The Letters of John McLouglin, Appendix A, p. 309. [back]
22. Ibid., pp 308-9. [back]
23. Ibid., p. 311. [back]
24. Cline, Peter Skene Ogden and the Hudson's Bay Company, pp 102-3. [back]
25. Burt Brown Barker, ed., Letters of Dr. John McLoughlin: Written at Fort Vancouver, 1829-1832 (Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 1948), McLoughlin to Aemilius Simpson, 10 April [1831], pp 194-95. [back]
26. Ibid., McLoughlin to Ogden, 15 December 1831, pp 237-38. Port Essington, named by Vancouver in 1793, was on the Skeena River. [back]
27. Little is known of Ogden's activities in 1832 and 1833 because the pertinant materials no longer exist. The letters and logbooks that would illustrate Ogden's movements and actions have been lost, Cline, p. 108. Cline states that Ogden travelled to Sitka and was there on 8 may 1832 on the basis of references made of his in HBC correspondence, Cline, p. 108 and note 34. Two letters from the Governor and COmmmittee of the HBC to John McLoughlin, Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver, dated 1 May and 5 June 1833 refer to Ogden and Russian America: “upon the subject of Mr Chief Trader Ogden's visit to Sitka,” and “For Mr Ogden's correspondence (No 5) we notice his observation upon the Russian Settlements and his remarks on the coasting trade in conjunction with the Russians,” HBCA, A. 6/23, fols. 23 and 29. The problems inherent in the study of Ogden's actions at this time are obviated when one turns to RAC correspondence between Vrangel' and the directors of the RAC. These materials are mentioned in detail below. [back]
28. Cline, pp 110-11. [back]
29. Governor and Committee to McLouglin, 11 December 1833, HBCA, A. 6/23, fol. 49. [back]
30. Governor and Committee to George Simpson, 5 March 1834, HBCA, A. 6/23, fol. 70. [back]
31. RAC Directors to Count E. F. Kankrin, the Minister of Finance, 27 February 1830 (O.S.), No. 175, RACR, 7:25. This dispatch enclosed Simpson's letter to the Governor of Russian America and the letter from W. Smith, the Secretary of the HBC, to the Directors of the RAC. [back]
32. Ferdinand Petrovich Vrangel' was born in Pskov to a family of Baltic-German and Swedish merchants on 29 December 1776 (OS). He entered the navy as a cadet and visited the Northwest Coast as a Warrant Officer on board the Kamshatcka, which was sent by the government on a round-the-world expedition to inspect Russian America in 1817-19. Upon his return, he was promoted to Lietenant and given the command of the Kolyma Expedition (1820-1824) to the northeastern shores of Siberia. His success in the latter led to his being promoted to Captain-Lieutenant (Captain of the Second Rank). He visited Russian America again while a participant in another round-the-world expedition (1825-1827). In 1828 her was promoted to Captain of the First Rank and appointed chief manager of the Russian-American colonies. He served in this capacity from 1 June 1830 to 29 October 1835. He returned to Russia in 1836, was promoted to Rear-Admiral and was appointed to the position of Director of the Department of Ship's Timber in the Naval Mininstry. Disputes with his superiors led to his leaving the ministry and joining the RAC as an advisor on colonial and HBC matters for the period 1838-1842. In 1842 he became a member of the Board of Directors and served as its chairman until 1849, when he retired. He had been promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral in 1847. In 1854 he returned to government service as Director of the Hydrographic Department of the Naval Ministry and was a manager within the ministry during the Crimean War. This position allowed him to attend meetings of the State Council and the Council of Ministers. In 1856 he was promoted to General-Adjutant (an honorary military and court title) and to Admiral. In 1857, as Chief of Chancery of the Ministry, he became involved in discussions regarding the possible sale of Russian America to the United States. In 1857 he was appointed to the State Council but could not take up his duties until 1859 due to illness. In 1864 he retired to his estate, Ruil', in Estalinadsky Province and died on 25 March 1870 (OS) in Iuruev (Tartu). For more details, see K. N. Shvarts, “Baron Ferdinand Petrovich Vrangel',” Russkaya Starina, v (1872), 389-418; and Stephen Marshall Johnson, “Baron Wrangel, and the Russian-American Company, 1829-1849, Russian-British Conflict and Cooperation on the Northwest Coast,” unpublished dissertation, University of Manitoba, 1978. [back]
33. RAC Directors to Vrangel', 31 March 1831 (OS), No. 359, 7: 250. [back]
34. RAC Directors to Vrangel', 31 March 1833 (OS), No. 261, RACR, 8: 327-28.[back]
35. This dispatch (6 May 1832, Vrangel' to Chief Management, 34:158-161) indicated that Ogden was at Sitka from 26 April to 1 May 1832. G.G. Cline could not find material in the HBC archives indicating the time of arrival and departure. The Russian materials, however, indicated when Ogden arrived and left Sitka, and the topics discussed by Ogden and Vrangel'. Vrangel' forwarded Ogden's dispatches to the HBC in London by sending them along with his own to St. Petersburg where the RAC directors sent Ogden's letters on to London. [back]
36. Vrangel' to Directors, 28 April 1824 (OS), RACR, Communications Sent, 37:174. [back]
37. Vrangel' to Chief Management, 6 May 1832, RACR, 34:161. [back]
38. Ibid., 37:178. [back]
39. Vrangel' to Directors, 6 May 1832 (OS), RACR, Communications Sent, 34:158-62 [back]
40. Ibid., 34:103-06. [back]
41. Adolf Karlovich Etholen (1799-1876) was chief manager of the Russian-American colonies from 25 May 1840 to 9 July 1845. [back]
42. He had been ordered by the RAC directors in 1831 to send a ship to the straits inhabited by the Kolosh to become acquainted with the navigation and trade in the areas. He was unable to do so because the RAC did not possess the trade goods in Sitka to enter the trade, and if the vessel went empty-handed the company would be considered a laughing-stock. When the goods became available, the vessel was sent. [back]
43. Vrangel' to Etholen, 1 March 1833 (OS), RACR, Communications Sent, 35:12-17. [back]
44. Vrangel' to Directors, 1 May 1833 (OS), RACR, Communications Sent, 35:70-73. [back]
45. Vrangel' to Zarembo, 27 August 1833 (OS), RACR, Communications Sent, 35:221-29. [back]
46. Article Two stated that British subjects could not land where there was a Russian establishment without the permission of its Commandant or the Governor. The same was true for Russians at British establishments. [back]
47. This medal was granted to Kek-khal'-tsel for selling a parcel of land to the RAC. This land, where his own residence was situated, was to be the location of the redoubt. See Certificate granting medal to Kek-khal'-tsel, signed by Baron Vrangel' in New Archangel, 12 May 1834. RACR, 36:281. [back]
48. Vrangel' to Zarembo, 12 June 1833, RACR, 35: 149. [back]
49. Vrangel' to Directors of the RAC, 10 April 1834, RACR, 36:104. [back]
50. Ibid. [back]
51. “I consider it my duty to ask the Chief Management to explain to me the important contradiction in dispatch No. 267 concerning the sale of strong drinks and firearms to the Kolosh,—about what is mentioned in one place, 'we cannot act in violation of the Conventions concerning the sale of firearms and alcoholic drinks to the savages,' and in another place 'to you is granted full rights to sell not only strong drinks to the Kolosh, but also firearms and ammunition.' Similarly in dispatch No. 258 it is stated: 'although the Americans and the English long ago violated the Conventions, we must follow their example and therefore, to the expiration of the terms of the Conventions, the sale of strong drinks to the savages cannot be permitted.' But in 1832 I received in dispatch No. 301, the permission to sell drinks to the Kolosh. How am I to understand all this?” Vrangel' to RAC Directors, 10 April 1834, RACR, 35:105. [back]
52. Vrangel' to Zarembo, 16 May 1834 (OS), RACR, Communications Sent, 36:301-07. [back]
53. Governor and Committee to McLoughlin, 4 December 1833, HBCA, A.6/23, fol.49. [back]
54. This vessel sank on its return voyage and its captain and crew joined the Dryad expedition at Nass. [back]
55. McLoughlin to Ogden, 6 May 1834, HBCA, B.223/b/10, fol.7. [back]
56. Robt. Young, Jas Blackie, John Meyers, Archd. Campbell, Geo. Washington, Jas. Stirlin, John Flinn, James Wilson, John Harmes, Jack Kanaka, J. Ward, W. Berth, G. Pirey (?), Ridley, Johs Frobisha, Jack Calder, and John Dunn. For more details, see LOg Book of the Dryad, HBCA, C.1/281. [back]
57. Ogden, Alexander Anderson, a clerk, and sixteen men boarded the vessel at Fort Vancouver while William Fraser Tolmie, a surgeon, James Birnie, a clerk, Alexander Duncan, and the officers and crew of the schooner Vancouver boarded at Nass. Ogden to McLoughlin, 20 December 1834, HBCA, B.223/c/1, fol. 34. [back]

name of Vessel:
name of Master:
under what Flag:
her burthen:
number of men:
number of guns:
object in coming here:


Brig Dryad
Charles Kipling
203 tons
4 officers and 26 men
6 guns

Declaration of Charles Kipling, 17 November 1836, HBCA, C./742, fol. 13. [back]
59. William Fraser Tolmie was born in Inverness, Scotland, on 3 February 1812. He studied medicine at Glasgow University and graduated with the degree of M.D. in 1832. On 12 September of the same year he entered the service of the HBC as physician and surgeon. He arrived at Fort George, at the mouth of the Columbia River, on 1 May 1833. From 30 May to 12 December he was at Nisqually and from 23 December 1833 to May 1834 he was at Fort McLoughlin. He joined Ogden's expedition to the Stikine and it sailed from Fort McLouglin on the Dryad on 30 May. After spending some time at Fort Simpson, he returned to Fort McLoughlin on 3 November. He was stationed at Fort Vancouver from 1836 to 1841, whe he returned to Great Britain for a visit. Upon his return in 1843, he was made superintendent of the Nisqually farms of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) and retained this position until 1859. He then moved to Victoria, took over the management of the RSAC farms on Vancouver Island and become one of the three members of the Board of Management of the HBC. He retired in 1870 and died on 8 December 1866. For more details of his life see S. F. Tolmie, “My Father: William Fraser Tolmie,” British Columbia Quarterly, i, 4 (October 1937): 227-240. [back]
60. Recollections of George B. Roberts, Bancroft Library, P-A83, p. 9. I thank the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California, for allowing me to cite these materials from its collections. [back]
61. See William Fraser Tolmie, The Journals of William Fraser Tolmie, Physician and Fur Trader (Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1963), pp. 283-286 and Ogden's Report of transactions at Stikine 1834, The Letters of John McLoughlin, Appendix A, pp. 317-322. [back]
62. Article XI states the following: “In every case of complaint on account of an infraction of the ARticles of the present Convention, the civil and military authorities of the High Contracting Parties, without previously acting or taking any forcible measures, shall make an exact and circumstancial report of the matter to their respective Courts, who engage to settle the same, in a friendly manner, and according to the principles of justice.” Convention between Great Britain and Russia, signed at St. Petersburg, 16/28 February 1825, Boundary between the Dominion of Canada and the Territory of Alaska, Argument presented on the part of the Government of His Britannic Majesty (London: Printed at the Foreign Office, 1903), p. 39. [back]
63. Etholen to Zarembo, 13/25 June 1834, pp. 426-429. [back]
64. The Letters of John McLoughlin, p. 319. [back]
65. Tolmie, p. 285. [back]
66. For a more detailed account of the voyage of the Dryad, see Dryad — Ship's Log, HBCA, C.1/281, fols. 178-89 and C.1/282, fols. 20-22. [back]
67. Tolmie, p. 286. [back]
68. The number of guns varies: Ogden's Report of transactions at Stikine 1834 in The Letters of John McLoughlin, p. 318, and the Times, 3 November 1835 state there were fourteen while G. G. Cline, p. 114 and Tolmie, p. 284, state there were sixteen, twelve cannon and four swivel guns. [back]
69. Vrangel' to Ogden, 19 September/1 October 1834, F.29/2, fols. 37-39. [back]
70. For a more complete account see “McLoughlin's Statment of the Expenses Incurred in the 'Dryad' Incident of 1834,” British Columbia Historical Quarterly x, (1946), pp. 291-97. [back]
71. John Henry Pelly was born 31 March 1777 at Upton, Essex. He became a director of the HBC in 1806, Deputy Governor in 1812 and Governor in 1822. He retained the latter position until his death. In 1838 Pelly, accompanied by George Simpson, went to Russia to meet with the Directors of the RAC to resolve the Dryad Affair. He was a director of the Bank of England, from 1939-41 he was Deputy Governor and from 1841-2 he was Governor. He was knighted on 6 July 1840. He died on 13 August 1852. For more details see Reginald Saw, “Sir John H. Pelly, Bart.,” British Columbia Historical Quarterly, xiii, 1 (January 1949), pp. 23-32, and Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1917), vol. xv, p. 720.[back]
72. Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, was born on 20 October 1784 at Broadlands, the family estate, Hampshire. He was junior lord of the Admiralty 1807-09 and secretary at war from 1809-28. He was secretary of state for foreign affairs from 22 November 1830 to 1841, except for the period 17 November 1834 to 17 April 1835, and from 1846 to 1851. In the Aberdeen Coalition of 1852-1855, Palmerston was home secretary. He was prime minister from 1855-58 and 1859-65. He died at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, 18 October 1865. For more details, see The Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xi, pp. 463-66. [back]
73. John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham was born in London on 12 April 1792. He represented the county of Durham in the House of Commons as a Whig from 1813 to 1828, when he was created Baron Durham. He was Lord Privy Seal in the administration of Lord Grey, his father-in-law, and was one of the persons who drew up the Reform Bill. He resigned in 1833, the year he was made an earl, and from 1835 to 1837 he was ambassador extraordinary to St. Petersburg. In 1838 he was appointed governor-general of Canada but he returned to England five months later because the House of Lords voted against the approval of some of his acts. He died at Cowes on 28 July 1840. For more details, see The Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xi, pp. 463-466. [back]
74. Palmerston to Durham, 13 November 1835, Palmerston Papers, B.M., ADD.MSS 48534, fol. 18. [back]
75. Department of Manufacture and Inland Trade to the Directors of the RAC, 31 December (O.S.), No. 4174, RACR, Communications Received, 10:51. [back]
76. Recollections, p.9. [back]
77. See Ogden's Report of Transactions at Stikine 1834, Letters of John McLoughlin, Appendix A, pp. 317-322. [back]
78. Report of Governor J. H. Pelly, 1838, HBCA, F.29/2, fol. 141. [back]
79. This renewal would have given to further American competition with the RAC for Indian furs, something the latter did not want. In 1838 the American Minister in St. Petersburg, George M. Dallas, was informed by the Russian Government that the treaty would not be renewed. One of the three competitors for the control of the Pacific Northwest Coast was thus removed. [back]
80. Nesselrode to Kankrin, 9 December 1838 (O.S.) Proceedings of the Alaska Boundary Tribunal (PABT), Appendix to the Case of the United States, ii, pp. 307-08. [back]
81. For a more detailed listing of the conditions of the lease see Appendix to the Case of His Majesty's Government, Alaska Boundary Tribunal, i, pp. 150-52. [back]
82. The lawyers wanted each amount to be formally certified by the agents on the spot, listing by whom disbursements were made and including supporting vouchers. The statements were lacking in that no mention was made of to what extent the wages of the men in the expedition became a total loss to the company; deductions were to be made from the claims for the other work done by these persons in the period under discussion and for other uses the Dryad may have been put to. J. Backhouse to J.H. Pelly, 20 July 1836, HBCA, A.13/1, fols. 324-25.[back]
83. These reasons are presented in Zapiski o vozobnovlenii kontrakt s Gydzonbaiskoyu Kompanieyu, St. Petersburg, 1848, pp. 1-3.[back]
84. Donald C. Davidson, “Relations of the Hudson's Bay Company with the Russian American Company on the Northwest Coast, 1829-1867," British Columbia Historical Quarterly, 5, 1(1941), p. 51. [back]