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“Manifest destiny.”

In a lecture delivered at the Royal Institute of Great Britain in May, 1880, on the subject of “The manifest destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race,” Prof. John Fiske recalled the story of the three Americans, each of whom proposed a toast.

“Here's to the United States,” said the first speaker— “bounded on the north by British America; on the south by the Gulf of Mexico; on the east by the Atlantic, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.”

The second speaker said: “Here's to the United States—bounded on the north by the North Pole, on the south by the South Pole, on the east by the rising, and on the west by the setting sun.” Emphatic applause greeted the aspiring prophecy. But here arose the third speaker —a very serious gentleman from the Far West. “If we are going,” said this truly patriotic American, “to leave the historic past and present, and take our manifest destiny into the account, why restrict ourselves within the narrow limits assigned by our fellow-countryman who has just sat down? I give you the United States —bounded on the north by the aurora borealis, on the south by the precession of the equinoxes, on the east by the primeval chaos, and on the west by the day of judgment.”

Professor Fiske offered some considerations concerning the future of the United States, which he said might seem unreasonably large to his audience, but which were quite modest, after all, when compared with some other prophecies.

A few short extracts from his lecture are as follows:

Chronic warfare, both private and public, periodic famines, and sweeping pestilences like the Black Death—these were the things which formerly shortened [85] human life and kept down population. In the absence of such causes, and with the abundant capacity of our country for feeding its people, I think it an extremely moderate statement if we say that by the year 2000 the English race in the United States will number at least six or seven hundred millions.

The object for which the American government fought in the Civil War was the perpetual maintenance of that peculiar state of things which the federal Union had created—a state of things in which, throughout the whole vast territory over which the Union holds sway, questions between States, like questions between individuals, must be settled by legal argument and judicial decisions, and not by wager of battle. Far better to demonstrate this point once for all, at whatever cost, than to be burdened hereafter, like the states of Europe, with frontier fortresses and standing armies, and all the barbaric apparatus of mutual suspicion.

It was thought that eleven States which had struggled so hard to escape from the federal tie could not be readmitted to voluntary co-operation in the general government, but must henceforth be held as conquered territory—a most dangerous experiment for any free people to try. Yet within a dozen years we find the old federal relations resumed in all their completeness, and the disunion party powerless and discredited in the very States where once it had wrought such mischief.

It is enough to point to the general conclusion, that the work which the English race began when it colonized North America is destined to go on until every land on the earth's surface that is not already the seat of an old civilization shall become English in its language, in its political habits and traditions, and to a predominant extent in the blood of its people.

We have not yet done away with robbery and murder, but we have at least made private warfare illegal; we have arrayed public opinion against it to such an extent that the police court usually makes short shrift for the misguided man who tries to wreak vengeance on his enemy. Is it too much to hope that by-and- by we may similarly put public warfare under the ban? I think not. Already in America, as we have seen, it has become customary to deal with questions between States just as we would deal with questions between individuals. This we have seen to be the real purport of American federalism. To have established such a system over one great continent is to have made a very good beginning towards establishing it over the world. To establish such a system in Europe will no doubt be difficult, for there we have to deal with an immense complication of prejudices, intensified by linguistic and ethnological differences. Nevertheless, the pacific pressure exerted upon Europe by America is becoming so great that it will doubtless before long overcome all these obstacles. I refer to the industrial competition between the old and the new worlds, which has become so conspicuous within the last ten years. Agriculturally, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas are already formidable competitors with England, France, and Germany; but this is but the beginning. It is but the first spray from the tremendous wave of economic competition that is gathering in the Mississippi Valley. By-and-by, when our shameful Tariff—falsely called “protective” —shall have been done away with, and our manufacturers shall produce superior articles at less cost of raw material, we shall begin to compete with European countries in all the markets of the world; and the competition in manufactures will become as keen as it is now beginning to be in agriculture.

In some such way as this, I believe, the industrial development of the English race outside of Europe will by-and-by enforce federalism upon Europe.

It may after many more ages of political experience become apparent that there is really no reason, in the nature of things, why the whole of mankind should not constitute politically one huge federation.

I believe that the time will come when such a state of things will exist upon the earth.

Then it will be possible to speak of the United States as stretching from pole to pole; or, with Tennyson, to celebrate the “parliament of man and the federation of the world.”


[86]

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