American Fur Trading Company and John Jacob Astor

2208 WordsMar 10, 20089 Pages
The American Fur Company and John Jacob Astor I. Introduction "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton). John Jacob Astor was a man that had absolute power during his era and used his power and wealth to benefit himself and not the "social fabric of society". Astor lived during the time of a post-revolutionary America which allowed him to build a monopolist empire with little restraint from government or society. Starting out in American as a young German immigrant, John Jacob Astor became involved in the fur trading business "without ever having set a trap" (Stokesbury) and eventually built a fur trading company that extended across the United States and into Canada and made him the richest man in…show more content…
He was the "personification of monopoly, determined to rule or ruin," wrote historian Hiram Martin Chittenden in 1903. "And he was thoroughly hated even by those who respected his power" (Crossen). The issue arises should one person be able to control that much power and isn't held accountable for the use of that power to society? One complicated issue of the American Fur Company reign was its impact on the expansion of the United States westward. It strongly influenced the history of the west, not only making way for permanent settlements but by also opening the Great Lakes commercial fishing, steamboat transportation, and trade in that area (Stokesbury). But was the benefit derived from this westward expansion justified by the "extraction" that took place against its stakeholders or those it affected? Is injustice every justified? III. Analysis of Issues Astor, in his desire for more money and greater profit, completely disregarded the needs of the people his actions affected. This lack of social responsibility was the American Fur Company's worst offense. His was constantly looking for ways to improve his financial bottom line. Whatever means were needed to increase his company's hold on the American fur trading industry was permissible. When Astor learned that President George Washington was having the government set up fur-trading posts "to be run with benevolent policies", which would require goods

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