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An Scottish Explorer Discovers a Northwest Passage

Alexander Mackenzie was an English explorer in North America who discovered a Northwest Passage through Canada to the Pacific in 1793. Although praised for his efforts, the route he mapped out was too difficult to sustain real trade or further exploration. His 1801 book Voyages from Montreal was, however, a success at garnering interest in further westward exploration.

By opening this intercourse between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and forming regular establishments through the interior and at both extremes, as well as along the coasts and islands, the entire command of the fur trade of North American might be obtained from 480 North to the pole, except that portion of it which the Russians have in the Pacific. To this may be added the fishing in both seas and the markets of the four quarters of the globe. Such would be the field for commercial enterprise and incalculable would be the produce of it, when supported by the operations of that credit and capital which Great Britain so pre-eminently possesses. Then would this country begin to be remunerated for the expenses it has sustained in discovering and surveying the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which is at present left to American adventurers…. Such adventurers, and many of them, as I have been informed, have been very successful, would instantly disappear before a well-regulated trade…. Many political reasons, which it is not necessary here to enumerate, must present themselves to the mind of every man acquainted with the enlarged system and capacities of British commerce in support of the Measure which I have very briefly suggested, as promising the most important advantages of the trade of the united kingdoms.

Source | Alexander Mackenzie, Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the Years 1789 and 1793 (London, England: T. Cadell, 1801).
Creator | Alexander Mackenzie
Item Type | Book (excerpt)
Cite This document | Alexander Mackenzie, “An Scottish Explorer Discovers a Northwest Passage,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 7, 2020, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/602.

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