I. Our country.
- Increase of population and wealth.
The United States of America, whose independence, won on the battle-fields of the Revolution, was tardily and reluctantly conceded by Great Britain on the 30th of November, 1782, contained at that time a population of a little less than Three Millions, of whom half a million were slaves. This population was mainly settled upon and around the bays, harbors, and inlets, which irregularly indent the western shore of the Atlantic Ocean, for a distance of about a thousand miles, from the mouth of the Penobscot to that of the Altamaha. The extent of the settlements inland from the coast may have averaged a hundred miles, although there were many points at which the primitive forest still looked off upon the broad expanse of the ocean. Nominally, and as distinguished from those of other civilized nations, the territories of the Confederation stretched westward to the Mississippi, and northward, as now, to the Great Lakes, giving a total area of a little more than eight hundred thousand square miles. At several inviting localities, the “clearings” were pushed two or three hundred miles westward, to the bases and more fertile valleys of the eastern slope of the Alleghanies; and there were three or four settlements quite beyond that formidable but not impassable barrier, mainly in that portion of Virginia which is now the State of Kentucky. But, in the absence of steam, of canals, and even of tolerable highways, and with the mouth of the Mississippi held and sealed by a jealous and not very friendly foreign power, the fertile valleys of the Illinois, the Wabash, and even of the Ohio itself, were scarcely habitable for civilized communities. No staple that their pioneer population would be likely, for many years, to produce, could be sold on the sea-board for the cost of its transportation, even from the site whereon Cincinnati has since been founded and built, much less from that of Indianapolis or Chicago. The delicate, costly fabrics of Europe, and even of Asia, could be transferred to the newest and most inland settlement for a small fraction of the price at which they would there be eagerly bought; but when the few