NOT JUST ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER LAND (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End # 152)

Geography be damned:

In speaking of the motives which actuated Mr. Astor in an enterprise so extensive, Mr. Irving, we are willing to believe, has done that high-minded gentleman no more than the simplest species of justice. “He was already,” says our author, “wealthy beyond the ordinary desires of man, but he now aspired to that honorable fame which is awarded to men of similar scope of mind, who, by their great commercial enterprises, have enriched nations, peopled wildernesses, and extended the bounds of empire. He considered his projected establishment at the mouth of the Columbia, as the emporium to an immense commerce; as a colony that would form the germ of a wide civilization; that would, in fact, carry the American population across the Rocky Mountains, and spread it along the shores of the Pacific, as it already animated the shores of the Atlantic.”

(Edgar Allan Poe, reviewing Washington Irving’s biography of John Jacob Astor, Jan. 1837–“Astoria,” The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe, Running Press 1983 edition)

You see, it’s never really about the money. Poe, Irving and Astor understood and accepted that the crucial American enterprise was conquest. If you could make money off it, so much the better, but first, conquest.

Or, as they wold have called it, just before it became a dirty word: Empire.

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