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Chapter 27: White progress.

Under the menace of such an invasion from China, threatening at no distant date to swallow up the civilization of Europe in the barbarism of Asia, has not the time arrived for White men of all sections in America to review the situation?

White conquest in America has been so rapid and so uniform that men are not unlikely to be careless of the future, fancying that their work is done, their tenure of the land secured. When Hancock and his comrades signed the Declaration of Independence, Thirteen Colonies were represented at the Congress in Philadelphia; Thirteen Colonies, covering less than five hundred thousand square miles of surface, peopled by something under two million five hundred thousand souls, of whom nearly five hundred thousand were Africans, held in slavery. At the end of a century those Thirteen Colonies [284] have grown into Thirty Nine States and Eight Territories, covering more than three million square miles of surface, counting upwards of forty millions of free inhabitants, without numbering the Kickapoos, who cannot be caught, and the Comanches and Cheyennes, who cannot be taxed.

A mere fringe of sea-board, the young Republic lay along the shores and inlets of a narrow mountain slope. From Penobscot river in Maine to Attamaha river in Georgia the inhabitable land was seldom more than a hundred miles in depth. Here and there a fertile valley ran up two or three hundred miles, but the foot of the Alleghannies usually came down within a hundred miles of the sea. At one point only had these mountain barriers been crossed; an opening in the Blue Ridge, through which a few adventurous planters had passed into the plains, now covered by West Virginia and Kentucky; and these stragglers from their kind had to live at the mercy of Red savages, who from time to time burned the homesteads, scalped the men, and carried the women to their camps. In patriotic talk the setting sun was called the western boundary; but the sun was then supposed to set, not in the [285] Pacific Ocean, over towards Japan, but on the peaks and summits stretching from the Adirondack to the Blue Ridge. Pittsburg, a village only nine years old, stood in the desert. A man who ventured down the Ohio in a canoe was honoured as an explorer. On the spots where Wheeling and Cincinnati stand to-day, with their schools and churches, railways and manufactories, the adventurer saw the smoke of Indian fires, and heard the war-whoop of Indian camps. Red men hunted buffalo on the plains of Indiana, paddled canoes down the Ohio, and snared fish in the tributaries of the Big Drink.

South of the young Republic stood a watchful and suspicious enemy, who was all the more difficult to treat since she had formerly been a friend. France held the mouth of the Mississippi, and, in her ignorance of true political science, she had practically closed that artery of commerce to Americans. In a country without canals, and with hardly any roads, free use of the great river was a first condition of settlement in the Mississippi Valley, and nothing like a free use of that river could be obtained from the French viceroys reigning at New Orleans. By nature and events alike the young Republic seemed [286] confined to her original seat, the shores and inlets running down from Maine to Georgia.

When the War of Independence closed, not a few good men were saddened by the out-look. The nobler passions, called into activity by the war, were spent, and nothing but the ordinary waste and wreck of civil strife was left. Even Washington's steadfast nerves were shaken. As he rode about the settlements, thinking of what was yet to come, his mind gave way to doubts and fears. The country lay waste. Homesteads, abandoned by their owners, were choked with mud and over-run by vermin. Towns had been destroyed by the contending armies. Bridges were gone, mills burnt, reservoirs emptied. The roads and tracks were injured. Every man in the States was poorer than he had been in the Colonies, and moody with the loss of many comforts which use had made a second nature. Every hamlet was beset by wounded, men, often by wretches in rags pretending to be wounded men. One soldier in seven was supposed to be a cripple, with a claim on his compatriots for bread. The people were unsettled and in debt. After a life of danger and excitement, no one had a mind to settle [287] down. All works of peace had fallen back. All noble efforts had relaxed. There is no leveller like war; and the levelling done by war is always downward, crushing the higher and the lower things together; as in the Holy City, in the hurry of defence, the porphyry shaft and ornamented frieze were cast in to a common wall, along with clay and pebbles, earth and unhewn stones.

Love of drink, a habit of the young Norse gods, had grown under the hardships and privations of war. A habit of cursing and swearing, also a custom of the young Norse gods, had crept, under the same malific influence, into every colony, almost into every household. Education, once the first thought in every town, had fallen into neglect; and teachers and professors, finding no field for their abilities in the Republic, sailed to Europe, where their talents might hope to meet with some reward. Personal vice had grown into a fashion, and the fine ladies of Boston and Richmond thought it an accomplishment to prattle in the jargon of Voltaire.

“ The spirit of freedom,” said Washington, seven years after the Declaration of Independence, “has long since subsided, and every selfish passion has [288] taken its place.” But, in the same high spirit, Washington set himself to heal the wounds and repair the miseries caused by war. And see with what results!

France has been bought off; the outlets of the Mississippi are in American hands. Spain has been ousted from Florida, and Mexico driven from California, Arizona, and Texas. Nearly all the temperate, and some of the semi-tropical, zones of America have been brought under the rule of English idioms and American laws. Thirty States and Territories, each about the size of Spain, have been added to the Republic in a hundred years. In these States and Territories there are forty millions of free citizens, sixty three thousand churches, with twenty-one million sittings; a hundred and forty-one thousand schools, two hundred and seventy thousand teachers, and more than seven million boys and girls attending school. Spread about these States and Territories are fifty-six thousand public libraries, containing nearly twenty million volumes; a hundred thousand private libraries, containing nearly twenty-six million volumes. The States and Territories produce five thousand eight hundred newspapers, with a yearly issue of fifteen thousand [289] million copies. They are covered by four hundred millions of farms, and these farms are valued at two thousand million pounds sterling. There are seven million five hundred thousand separate families, with seven million separate houses, so that, with a few exceptions, every head of a family in this Republic has a separate home.

During the hundred years of her young life the United States may claim their share in the inventions which have done the most to serve mankind. Setting aside, as open to dispute, their claim to the invention of steam-ships and electric wires, the list of inventions and improvements on inventions is a long and curious document. An American invented the cotton-gin. An American invented the rotatory printing-press. The apple-parer and the knife-cleaner are American. The grass-cutter, the steam-mower, and the planing-machine are all American. Is not the hot-air-engine American? Is not the whole India-rubber business American? One American taught us how to make wool-cards, another to make horse-shoes by machinery. The sand-blast is American, the grain-elevator is American. Americans claim the electro-magnet and the artificial [290] manufacture of ice. The land is rich in genius, and especially in suggesting and contriving genius. America has the biggest cataract and the broadest mountain range in the world ; but she has known how to throw a bridge over that cataract and to carry a railway over that mountain range.

More obvious, perhaps, though not more striking, is the growth of her several capitals. New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, and San Francisco have been noticed by strangers more than others; yet it is doubtful whether the growth of either New York or Chicago has been so striking as that of Philadelphia.

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