Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Alexander Mackenzie, 9 November 1794

From Alexander Mackenzie1

Montreal Novr. 9th. 1794.


Agreeable to your request I will give you Some few remarks on my last expedition.2

Having had no particular directions from the Company of course no promise on my part of undertaking such a jaunt. I left the Grand portage about the usual time for Arabasca,3 but previously had obtained permission to remain the summer inland with no other view than of employing that time in discovery. The Cause of my not consulting the Company was the ill usage I had received upon my return from my former Expedition.4 Upon my arrival as well as that of all the Canoes at Arabasca. I left Mr. R. McKenzie5 in charge of the principal post and went to winter at the Last of our settlements in the peace river or Unjegah Latitude 56°. 9” north Longitude 117°. 43” West from Greenwich.6

In the spring after I sent off all the property from Arabasca I on the 9th. May 1793 took my departure in a North Canoe, accompanied by A. Mc.Kay,7 Six Canadians, and two young Indians up the peace river against a very strong current, in our route we were rather unfortunate in not meeting with Inhabitants till we had nearly got to the Mountains & come near the source of the river, and then we saw but three men with their families; they were well furnished with spears, daggers, bar Iron &ca. I prevailed with one of those men to come & guide us to the heighth of Land which he did; wishing to bring him further he deserted from us. The heighth of Land is only Seven hundred paces across; pass two small lakes & two small carrying places; from there we continued our route down a small river much embarrassed with wood rocks &ca, we broke our canoe lost all our Balls; we at last got into a large river8 & this in half a days time led us into a more considerable body of water;9 It was not before the third day from hence we met with Natives who were not very amicable at our first appearance; however, Peace being established, they gave us an account of the Country and informed us they got what european articles they had from the West by Land and that they did not know where this River emptied into the sea. I got some of them to conduct me to the next tribe; here I was convinced that the distance by the river which is very rapid, was great, and that I could not be able to perform it in the course of the season had I been better provided than I was; therefore I returned up the river according to the Indians directions to take the Route by which they procure their Goods, here I left my Canoe and the greatest part of what we had in her; Latitude 53°. North Longitude 122°. 43 West travelled fifteen days to get to the sea coast,10 there being many Islands I borrowed a Canoe from the Natives, wen⟨t⟩ about twenty leagues out amongst the Islands where ⟨I⟩ found the Latitude to be 52°. 23” Longitude 128, 15, the 22 July 1793. I returned by the way I went, and was ba⟨ck⟩ at our settlement the 24th. Augt.   I am Sir


Alex M, Kenzie

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Alexander Mackenzie, a native of Scotland, was employed as an explorer by the North West Company.

2An account of this expedition may be found in the second part of 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; With a Preliminary Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Fur Trade of that Country: With Original Notes by Bougainville, and Volney, Members of the French Senate; Illustrated with Maps: By Alexander Mackenzie Esq. (2 Vols., London: Printed for Cadell and Davies, Strand; Cobbett and Morgan, Pall-Mall; and W. Creech, Edinburgh, by R. Noble, Old Bailey, 1802).

3Lake Athabaska.

4In 1789 Mackenzie had set out from Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabaska and at the northwestern end of the Great Slave Lake found the Mackenzie River, which he followed to its outlet in the Arctic Ocean. His partners in the North West Company made little of his discovery, for they hoped that he would instead find a route to the Pacific.

5Roderick Mackenzie, Alexander Mackenzie’s cousin, was permanently based at Fort Chipewyan.

6Mackenzie is referring to Fork Fort near the junction of the Peace and Smoky rivers, which had been settled by men from the North West Company in the spring of 1792. Mackenzie arrived there on November 1, 1792 (Voyages, II, 12). In Voyages, II, 37, he gives the position of Fork Fort as latitude 56°9’ and longitude 117°35’15".

7Alexander McKay had been in the service of the North West Company since 1791 or earlier. He later became a prominent Canadian fur trader.

8McGregor River.

9Fraser River (Voyages, II, 116).

10Mackenzie arrived at the Pacific on July 20, 1793, by way of the Bella Coola River (Voyages, II, 236).

Index Entries