These Two Pursuits Have Thus In A Manner Been The Pioneers And
Precursors Of Civilization.
Without pausing on the borders, they
have penetrated at once, in defiance of difficulties and dangers,
to the heart of savage countries:
Laying open the hidden secrets
of the wilderness; leading the way to remote regions of beauty
and fertility that might have remained unexplored for ages, and
beckoning after them the slow and pausing steps of agriculture
It was the fur trade, in fact, which gave early sustenance and
vitality to the great Canadian provinces. Being destitute of the
precious metals, at that time the leading objects of American
enterprise, they were long neglected by the parent country. The
French adventurers, however, who had settled on the banks of the
St. Lawrence, soon found that in the rich peltries of the
interior, they had sources of wealth that might almost rival the
mines of Mexico and Peru. The Indians, as yet unacquainted with
the artificial value given to some descriptions of furs, in
civilized life, brought quantities of the most precious kinds and
bartered them away for European trinkets and cheap commodities.
Immense profits were thus made by the early traders, and the
traffic was pursued with avidity.
As the valuable furs soon became scarce in the neighborhood of
the settlements, the Indians of the vicinity were stimulated to
take a wider range in their hunting expeditions; they were
generally accompanied on these expeditions by some of the traders
or their dependents, who shared in the toils and perils of the
chase, and at the same time made themselves acquainted with the
best hunting and trapping grounds, and with the remote tribes,
whom they encouraged to bring their peltries to the settlements.
In this way the trade augmented, and was drawn from remote
quarters to Montreal.
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