“A powerful money interest in preventing rudimentary legal and social decency from being established”

“Bribery, the corruption of government agents, the debauch of red Americans, murder, theft, piracy, hijacking, the liquor traffic, private war, the employment of public force in private war, and other criminal practices characterized the Western fur trade. (As they had characterized the French, Canadian, and British fur trade.) They were deplorable. But they must be seen in relation to such facts as the West itself. . . .

“Before legal responsibility could be possible in the West, it was necessary to settle the West.

“The West being settled . . . a rudimentary legal justice, and a rudimentary social justice could not be established till the settlers of the West so changed the sentiments they brought along as to desire them.

“The development of the American social pattern had given the East a powerful money interest in preventing rudimentary legal and social decency from being established in the West. . . .

“The West . . . has always been exploited by absentee owners and managers under the sanction of imported law. . . . The Indians . . . were the first victims of a developing system whose later and successive victims have been white. As such they must be seen in relation to . . . a system of financial control which converted property, manipulated credit, and stripped the resources . . . to the sole end of canalizing eastward whatever wealth the West might produce.”

—Bernard De Voto, Across the Wide Missouri (1947) pp. 300-01
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