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Hart, Albert Bushnell 1854-

Historian; born in Clarksville, Pa., July 1, 1854; graduated at Harvard College in 1880; appointed Professor of History there. His publications include Formation of the Union; Epoch maps; Introduction to the study of federal government; Life of Salmon P. Chase; Practical essays on American government; American history, told by contemporaries, etc.

The future of the Mississippi Valley. —The great size of the Mississippi Valley, its wonderful fertility, its natural resources, its phenomenal growth in manufactures and commerce, its rapidly increasing population, and its promise for the future, suggest the part which the States included in the Mississippi Valley may play in this country's history.

Professor Hart has written the following essay on the history and the outlook of this section:

“There can be no doubt that the French settlers in the Mississippi Valley will (without timely precaution) greatly effect both the trade and safety of these his Majesty's plantations.” This warning, uttered by Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, in 1718, is perhaps the earliest statement of the intimate relation between coast and interior, and of the importance of the Mississippi Valley to Anglo-Saxon civilization; and after 180 years the “trade and safety” of the United States are still powerfully “effected.” As a land, as a long-contested region, and as the scene of a great immigration, the Mississippi Valley yields to no region in the world in interest, in romance, and in promise for the future. Here, if anywhere, is the real America—— the field, the theatre, and the basis of the future civilization of the Western World. The history of the Mississippi Valley is the history of the United States; its future is the future of one of the most powerful of modern nations.

The word “valley” somehow suggests a narrow defile like the Hudson gorge or the cañon of the Colorado, but the conception of the Mississippi Valley is very different; as may be seen on the map, it is a vast shallow shell tilted up to the westward, and pouring out its waters through the delta at the extreme southern point. If we perambulate the border of this shell, the edges will be seen to fit into and sometimes to dominate the East, North, West, and Southwest of the United States. Starting at the salt inlets north of New Orleans, the rim of the basin runs through a low region till it strikes the southernmost extension of the Appalachian range, in northern Alabama; thence for many hundred miles, as far as western New York, it follows the chain of the mountains— “Backbone Ridge,” as it used to be called-and on its way it passes some of the hardest-fought battle-fields of the Civil WarPittsburg Landing and Chattanooga to the west of it, Stanton and Winchester a little to the east. In places the edge of the shell is raised 6,500 feet above the sea; but when the boundary has once headed and confined the Alleghany River—at Lake Chautauqua—it sweeps westward and northward around the Great Lakes, which it all but drains, and which the new Chicago Canal actually does drain. West of Lake Superior, which it closely skirts, the line bends to the southward to give room for the Red River of the North, and beyond it rises steadily northwestward up the long slopes to the summit of the Rocky Mountains. These it follows—sometimes 14,000 feet above the sea—till the line runs into the upper Red River country; thence it descends to the coast, and reaches the Gulf again within 120 miles of the mouth of the Mississippi. The figure thus circumscribed bears a whimsical resemblance to an enormous spread eagle—its claws dug into the delta of the great river, its eastern wing somewhat withdrawn from the Atlantic coast, its western wing swung over far into British territory, and flapping lustily towards the Pacific Ocean.

From the rim of this vast hollow start streams which speedily join into the immense river system which finally converges into the Mississippi River. From the farthest source of the farthest tributary of the upper Missouri in the Canadian Rockies, following down the channel to the Gulf, the river is 4.200 miles long; and upon about 5,000 miles of waterway within the valley steamboats may navigate. The Amazon and its giant tributaries surpass it in length of navigable tributaries, and [283]

Map of the Mississippi Valley.

in the area of their watershed, but ages must pass before the tropical Amazon is made the seat of thronging millions; the Congo is broken by rapids, and drains a poisonous land; the Yang-tse-Kiang, mostly comparable to the Mississippi, is an eastern flowing river, while the Mississippi is the great south-flowing stream of the world, and its valley is politically and commercially the most important; its area of 1,240,000 square miles is two-fifths of the whole continental area of the United States, and more than two-thirds of its arable surface. The Mississippi is not only a great river; it waters a temperate area of rich land, spread so freely that from end to end there is no serious obstacle to traffic; and the valley is the home of a vigorous and advancing civilization.

Even in our day, when explorers disappear in African forests and years after emerge upon the other side of the continent, we may share the stimulus and the excitement of the first discoverers of the great river. De Soto found it in 1542, “near half a league broad and 16 fathoms deep, and very furious, and ran with a great current.” Marquette in 1673 rejoiced to behold the celebrated river, “whose singularities,” he says, “I have attentively studied.” La Salle in 1682 came to a reach where “the water is brackish; after advancing on we discovered an open sea, so that on April 9, with all due solemnity, we performed the ceremony of planting the cross and raising the arms of France.” La Salle did not think he was preparing an empire for his country's greatest rival, to be occupied by the children of the Englishman.

Throughout colonial history romance and adventure still hung about the great river and its tributaries. In 1699 came the first French settlers on the coast, and a few [284] years later they founded a city known throughout the world, and named after their own beloved town of Orleans.

Fifty years later a wave of English settlement came rolling up above the crest of the Alleghanies, and began to flow into the country of the “Belle Riviere,” the Ohio River, still beautiful where factories, mines, and coal-dust permit. Pioneer, surveyor, commander, and popular leader, came the young George Washington across the water-shed into the Mississippi Valley, the first English officer to be captured by the enemy in 1754, the last to leave the field after Braddock's defeat in 1755; and the brave and canny Virginian so much admired what he saw of the country that he acquired 40,000 acres upon the Little Kanawha and the Ohio. “What inducement have men to explore uninhabited wilds,” said he, “but the prospect of getting good land?” Into the valley penetrated also Daniel Boone in 1769.

A discoverer of the Mississippi.

“My wife and daughter,” said he, “being the first white women that ever stood on the banks of the Kentucke River.” In 1803 to 1806, across the Mississippi Valley, all the way from Washington to the farthest wall of the Rocky Mountains, passed Lewis and Clark, first of white men to find the road from the waters of the Mississippi to the waters of the Columbia. On Aug. 12, 1805, they reached the point where one of the party bestrode the Missouri River, up which they had labored so many months, and just beyond was the long-sought western rim of the valley.

From the year 1715, when France and England went mad over a Mississippi bubble, down to the present time, the Mississippi has been a household word throughout the civilized world. Ships of Marseilles, ships of Bordeaux, ships of Bremen, ships of Liverpool, set their course for the mouth of the Mississippi, that they may bring eager immigrants into the promised land; and the stolid peasant in Bohemia or Hungary lays down his guldens for a slip of pasteboard upon which are printed the talismanic words “New York—St. LouisKansas CityHelena.” Into a land which a century ago had not 100,000 people has converged a stream of settlers from East, South, and North, heaping up activity and prosperity as the meteors are said to sustain the heat [285] of the sun into which they fall. Mountains have been no barrier, and a civil war could not tear apart the northern and the southern halves of the great valley.

When in 1790 Congress was discussing the question of a permanent seat of government, Mr. Vining, of Delaware, favored the lower Potomac:

From thence, it appears to me, the rays of government will most naturally diverge to the extremities of the Union. I declare that I look on the Western territory in an awful and striking point of view. To that region the unpolished sons of earth are flowing from all quarters— men to whom the protection of the laws and the controlling force of the government are equally necessary. From this great consideration I conclude that the banks of the Potomac are the proper station.

Mr. Vining was justified in looking upon the colonization of the West with uneasiness; for few parts of the earth have so heterogeneous a population; when he spoke, there were already within those territories the then numerous, fierce, and warlike Indians, numerous settlements of French people in the Illinois country and in the Mississippi, and Spanish garrisons and colonists on the lower Mississippi; men of English race had already brought Kentucky and Tennessee almost to the point of statehood; and negro slaves were to be found in most of the settlements, by their presence slowly preparing for the great catastrophe of the Civil War.

In 1787 began the never-ceasing current of immigrants into the Mississippi Valley from the Eastern States; through the Mohawk Valley to the Western Reserve; through southern Pennsylvania to the Ohio; through Virginia to Kentucky and Tennessee—a steady procession of stalwart men and stout-hearted women; and still the same procession is in motion. About 1830 began the great western movement of foreign immigrants, which has grown till in 1890 there were 280,000 Germans in Wisconsin, 150,000 Irish in Illinois, 220,000 Scandinavians in Minnesota, 140,000 English-born in Michigan, and more than 400,000 Slavs in the Northwestern States together. In the State of Minnesota only one-fourth of the people in 1890 were born even of American parents. The foreign passer-by in the streets of Cincinnati, or St. Louis, or Kansas City, may well say with the Jews of old time: “And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues.”

These inflowing streams of immigration have combined with the rapid rate of natural increase to raise the population more rapidly than in any similar area in the world. In 1810 the dwellers in the Mississippi Valley numbered about 1,000,000, in 1850 they were 8,000,000, in 1890 about 28,000,000; to-day they are probably 35,000,000. Cincinnati was in 1830 already a flourishing town with some pretence to refined civilization; and fifty years ago the railway from the East had almost reached Chicago. Now half the population of the Union lives in the Mississippi basin, and of this half about one-fourth lives in cities.

The population has not only been distributed, it has been redistributed. From the earliest settlement to the present day there is to be found a race of men the birthplaces of whose children mark their temporary resting-places as they moved from State to State. Thus flowing back and forth, northward and southward, westward and eastward, pass the units of population, exchanging experiences, knocking off prejudices, and coming to a common understanding and a sympathy of man with man, which may ignore State boundaries, but kneads the people into a homogeneous nation.

The word “wealth” seems to carry with it a rattling of silver dollars and the crisp crackle of fresh coupon bonds; or, at least, it suggests the dark facades of towering buildings, and train-loads and steamer-cargoes of valuable goods. All these the Mississippi Valley has in plenty, and it had them all potentially before ever a bank opened its doors in the West or a locomotive whistle shrieked; for the accumulations have all come from the face [286] of the land and the depths of the earth beneath. The first gift of the Almighty to this favored land was its soil—the rich lower slopes of the Alleghanies, the great timbered regions of the eastern and southern valley, and the inestimable prairie soil of the broad Western States. Nowhere in the world is there a better watered land; little streams everywhere abound and there is a copious rainfall up to the foot-hills of the Rockies. In all the region crinkled by the North American ice-sheets, lovely lakes abound. As the Kentuckian poor white reverently said of his own neighborhood: “Nature has made ponds up on the mounting.” Even on the long and desolate eastern slopes of the Rockies some few places are made to blossom by irrigating canals.

Pioneers farming.

Next in value comes the timber. Birkbeck saw in southern Ohio walnut-trees “almost 7 feet in diameter, green and straight as an arrow,” and thousands of white-oak trees “measuring 14 or 15 feet in circumference; every tree stands upright without a branch to the height of 70 or 80 feet.” Most of these trees were burned where they were felled or were rolled into the streams to be rid of them; but they furnished comfortable homes for three generations of men, and some of the largest fortunes in the West have been sawed out of the forests on the upper Mississippi.

Below the surface of the ground lies the coal, which takes its revenge for its displacement by fouling the homes of the men who exploit it; the limestone, which [287]

High water, Mississippi.

tears from the ore that earthy part which prevents it from becoming iron; and much of the iron ore from which comes the universal steel tree, yielding branches in every shape and for every purpose. Far to the west, in the heart of the Rockies, the mountains cover gold, silver, and the copper slave of the electric lamp.

The wealth that comes from above the ground is vastly greater than the mineral. A large part of the valley abounds in grazing regions and raises an immense hay crop. The great staple, corn, flourishes on almost every square mile of the valley. The wheat belt follows the line of the North American ice-sheet; and farther south is the best and the largest cotton-field in the world, every year expanding in area and importance; while the Louisiana sugar-planter, when the sound of the grinding is low, ruminates upon the tariff. In the single year 1895 the corn product of the United States (mostly raised in the Mississippi Valley) was more than 2,000,000,000 bushels; the wheat crop was 467,000,000 bushels; and the total value of the cereal crop was over $1,000,000,000.

To move these fruits of the earth and sky, the country is gridironed with railroads; and the rivers, which once were the usual highways, have now ceased even to be impediments to travel, for they are everywhere spanned with strong and expensive bridges. The farm buildings throughout the northern valley are, without doubt, the best houses for an agricultural population that the world has ever known; and the cities, however unkempt and grimy, give more comfort for the artisan and his family than can anywhere else be found.

Prairie soil, coal, bridges, and great buildings crammed with dry goods, are wealth, but they may not be civilization. Among a certain class of Americans there is a habit of wagging the head at the broad West, of accusing it of more devotion to hog and hominy than to the development and culture of the race. Until a few years ago this gibe had some foundation, for the first element in the untiring contest with nature was the taming of the wilderness, the housing of the settler, the clothing of children, and the preparation of a stock of food that might last until the next year. Roughhewn and often forbidding was the West of three-quarters of a century ago, and still more the Southwest. Can it be only sixty-four years ago that Featherstonehaugh, upon an Arkansas stream, saw his steamer boarded by a gang of passengers, including two officers of the regular army? “The effect produced on us was something like that which would be made upon passengers in a peaceful vessel forcibly boarded by pirates of the most desperate character, whose manners seemed to be what they aspired to imitate. Rushing into the cabin, all but red-hot with whiskey, they crowded round the stove, and excluded all the old passengers from it as much as if they had no right whatever to be in the cabin. Putting on a determined, bullying air of doing what they [288] pleased because they were in the majority, and armed with pistols and knives expressly made for cutting and stabbing, 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches broad, noise, confusion, spitting, smoking, cursing, and swearing, drawn from the most remorseless pages of blasphemy, commenced and prevailed from the moment of this invasion.” In 1830 Flint, a keen observer, was struck by the multiplicity of “floating river monsters,” keel-boats, slow boats, sleds, mackinaw skiffs, common skiffs, canoes, dug-outs, horse-boats, broad-horns, and Kentucky flats, that he predicted that “the inhabitants will ultimately become celebrated as the Chinese for having their habitancy in boats.” Until the railroads penetrated far into the West the Mississippi Valley was simply a broad frontier, with all the frontier tumult, coarseness, uproar, and also with all the alertness and vigor and self-confidence of an infant commonwealth.

Crude were the conditions of the Western settler. Take, as an example, an Indiana hunter in 1818: “The cabin in which he entertained us is the third building he has built within the last twelve months, and a very slender motive would place him in a fourth before the ensuing winter; he is incarcerated, shut ‘from the common air,’ buried in the depths of the boundless forest; the breeze of health never reaches these poor wanderers; the

Low water, Mississippi.

broad prospect of distant hills having faded away, the semblance of clouds never cheered their sight; they are tall and pale, like vegetables that grow in a vault pining for light.”

Even the religious life half a century ago was crude and emotional. Peter Cartwright, the political rival of Abraham Lincoln, and a real intellectual and moral force, gives us a vivid picture of the home missionary's life at a time when all the clergy were practically home missionaries. Starting in 1816 as a travelling preacher, on a nominal allowance of “eighty dollars a year, and a few dollars over made as marriage fees” ; preaching four hundred times a year, and receiving converts who “jumped from bench to bench, knocking the people against one another on the right and left, front and rear.” Even to this day the “Old-two-seed-in-the spirit Predestinarian Baptists” have thousands of members in the Mississippi States.

Education was long a crude affair, and a boy like Abraham Lincoln found “some schools, so-called, but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond ‘readina, writina, and cipherina’ to the rule of three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to stimulate ambition for education.” The [289] earliest university, Western Reserve, founded at Hudson, Ohio, to be a Western Yale, was for many years a small school, and in the class of 1840 there were but five graduates. But just as great and beautiful cities have sprung from the prairies and in the midst of the forests, so out of these troublesome and ignorant conditions came a master of English style like Abraham Lincoln.

So far as intellectual appliances were concerned, the great West grew very slowly and from small beginnings. James Hall, in 1835, attempted to gather some of the traditions of the past into his Sketches of the West, and edited a magazine—The Western souvenir—and about the same time Timothy Flint began to publish his Western monthly review. Newspapers there were in plenty. About 1830, in the little city of Cincinnati, regularly appeared the semi-weekly Liberty Hall and the Cincinnati gazette, the National Republican and Cincinnati Advertiser, the weekly Emporium and Independent press, and one daily, the Commercial Advertiser. To this day many parts of remote regions like Arkansas and the Mississippi lowlands are less civilized than the Ohio of seventy years ago. In reformatory and charitable institutions the Mississippi Valley has learned slowly. Our frontier greatgrandfathers were frankly cruel—cruel to their children, cruel to their apprentices, cruel to the insane, cruel to the paupers, cruel to convicts, and cruel to slaves. The border fights and gougings of the West shocked foreign and Eastern travellers, and Fearon has preserved a handbill of 1818 describing all “extraordinary fight of furious animals” in New Orleans:

1st Fight—A strong Attakapas Bull, attacked and subdued by six of the strongest dogs in the country.

2d Fight—Six Bull-dogs against a Canadian Bear.

3d Fight—A beautiful Tiger against a black Bear.

4th Fight—Twelve dogs against a strong and furious Opelousas Bull.

The political effect of the Mississippi Valley upon the Union and its policy is a story yet to be written. The great

A bit of old New Orleans.

slavery contest set North against South, and this obscured the normal coherence and weight of the central Western States. Perhaps the first evidence of the political influence of the valley was the intense desire of the people of the United States to occupy it; Rogers Clark in 1778 was a herald of national interest in the West. The earliest settlers on the head-waters of the Tennessee and the Cumberland instinctively saw that their highway was the [290] Mississippi and their gateway was New Orleans; and the annexation of Louisiana was from the first as inevitable as the plunge of the waters over Niagara. It was not in human power to keep the eastern and the western banks of the Mississippi apart from each other; and in the cession of west Florida and Texas the edge of the great valley was rounded out and became a part of the United States. Thus the Mississippi Valley, from 1783 to 1845, was well accustomed to schemes of annexation; and perhaps for that reason the influence of Western sentiment has been in favor of the increase of the Union by taking territory on the Pacific and in outlying islands.

Several other great lines of public policy have been dominated, if not created, by the West. The first and second United States Banks were Eastern concerns founded by Eastern and foreign capital, and the West instinctively disliked them both; hence Jackson, in his war upon the bank, was in a way a champion of the Mississippi Valley against the Atlantic coast, and to this day there is a feeling of rivalry, or rather of injury, in the minds of the people of the West against what they believe to be an undue advantage of Eastern capital, a feeling which is as yet too little understood or heeded by the older sections of the Union.

Internal improvements are a Western necessity, and the expenditure of national money upon roads and canals has always commended itself to the West. That the system of river and harbor improvement, neglected by Jefferson, disliked by Madison, vetoed by Monroe, frowned upon by Jackson, set back by Polk and Pierce and Buchanan, should nevertheless have become a permanent part of the national activities is a striking proof of the immense political force of the West. The protective tariff has also for many years owed its strength in the country to the Western vote; the attitude of Kentucky and Ohio made possible the tariffs of 1816, 1828, and 1832; and the revival of the protective system at the beginning of the Civil War, and its continuance at the present day, have depended upon the votes of the great Northwestern agricultural States, as well as of manufacturing communities like Ohio and Illinois.

If there be one distinct American principle, it is that of political equality; and political equality is distinctly a Western and not an Eastern or a Southern idea. In none of the colonies was there manhood suffrage; in none of the early States was there an expectation that numbers would rule. It was on the frontier, the ever-advancing frontier, for many years identical with the West, that the principle became practical. That influence has spread eastward and modified the coast communities; but it is a Western conception; it affects France and makes headway in England; but it is even now stronger in the Mississippi Valley than in the direct offshoots of EnglandCanada and Australia.

This brief sketch of the historical conditions of the Mississippi Valley is necessary if we are to avoid mere guess and speculation in pointing out the probable future of the region. What is the likelihood that the population of the Mississippi Valley will continue to increase? The problem is chiefly one of making the land available; for there is little danger of the calamity of rapine, familiar pastimes which have depopulated like areas in Europe and Asia. Nowhere in the world are the conditions of subsistence more favorable, for the fertility of the soil and the variety of climate make possible an unequalled food-supply, which so far has sufficed not only for the people of the valley, but for their brethren on the seacoast and for millions of Europeans. For many years to come this food-supply can be steadily increased, both by opening up hitherto untilled lands and by more intensive culture. Although the best arable government lands have long since passed into the hands of settlers, there are still immense tracts of railroad lands not yet occupied; and, especially in the South, quantities of excellent land have never been cleared and submitted to the plough. There is, of course, a limit to the number of people whom the soil will actually support. In the similar Yang-tse-Kiang and Hoang-Ho valleys in China about 300,000,000 people live from an area about as large as the Mississippi Valley. When we compare means of transportation in China [291] with those in the Mississippi Valley, when we see how easy it is in America to send a surplus from one district to supply a deficiency in another, when we consider the enormous credit facilities which enable the community to endure one or two, or even three, years of bad crops without starvation anywhere, there seems to be no reason why the Mississippi Valley may not some time contain a population of 350,000,000 comfortable people, or ten times its present number. The difficult problem is not to raise sufficient crops, but to keep upon the land a sufficient number of persons to till it; but the Mississippi Valley is the home of a most skilful system of machinery, which amplifies the labor of the farmer twenty-fold.

Certainly the West will always be able to clothe itself. Its immense cottonfields already furnish hundreds of millions of yards of fabric for men and women; its cattle-ranges prepare for everybody a leathern carpet between the foot and the too-adherent soil; and if its sheep still shyly hold back from the encouragement of the wool schedules in the tariff, the West has always a surplus of food products and manufactured goods, with which it may buy its woollen clothing from other lands.

The problem of immigration is different. The free land which drew hundreds of thousands of Scandinavians, Germans, and Europeans to the Western prairies is no longer to be found. Even the bottoms of the upper Missouri have been taken up, and the wide plains parallel with it would be occupied too, were it not that, as a distinguished geologist says, “the farmers arrived on the upper Missouri 10,000 years too late; for the river has cut down its channel so deep that they cannot get the water into irrigation canals.” The gross number of immigrants into the West is now only about two-thirds as great as a decade ago, and the conditions of the peasantry in Germany and Ireland have so improved that there is no longer the old incitement to cross the ocean, but other races have seen the westward moving star of empire, and eastern and southern Europe now furnish the crude laborers, the hewers of wood and drawers of water, without whom no community can become great. Relatively to the total population, the immigrants are already becoming fewer every year; and a generation hence, when the children of the Pole and Hungarian, the Italian, the Dane, the Greek, and the Armenian, have been fused in the crucible of the public schools, and shaped by the mutual hammering of playmates and friends, the population of the valley will be more distinctly American— not the old American descended almost wholly from English ancestors, but a vigorous, active, and probably open-minded composite American. The negro problem is serious in only half a dozen of the valley States, and does not hem in the future of the Mississippi basin as it does that of the South Atlantic States.

The greatest checks to the rapid increase of the population of nations in the history of the world have been famine, disease, and war. The days have passed when a Texan could curiously inquire: “What do these people in New York mean by talking about people starving to death? Doesn't any darned fool know enough to take his rifle and shoot a beef critter when he's hungry?” So far as we can look into the future, there will be bread and to spare for the children of this great household. Epidemics and disease may sweep through the country; since the days of La Salle fever and ague has been the bane of every community in the Mississippi Valley, except the one in which you happen to be living at the moment; but there has been no wide-sweeping epidemic in the West since the cholera year of 1832, and the sanitary conditions of the cities tend to improve. The advance of medical science makes the Mississippi Valley reasonably safe from devastation by pestilence. As for war, the Mississippi Valley has now no enemies within the Union, and from invasion St. Louis is as safe as Nijni-Novgorod or Stanley Pool.

Hence the only probable check upon the rapid increase of population is one which has already made itself felt throughout the Union—the increasing difficulty of giving children a good start, and the consequent diminution of the size of families. Seventy years ago plenty of people in Ohio had twenty adult uncles and aunts, many of them married; and some young people could boast of a hundred first [292] cousins. To-day, except among foreigners, a family of six is remarkable. This means a slower rate of increase. The Mississippi Valley has more than doubled its population in every twenty-five years during the last century. At that rate it would have 560,000,000 in the year 2000, but he would be a bold man who would predict a population of 200,000,000 in that year, for it would be almost as dense as Belgium or Holland.

If the present average scale of living continue, every doubling of the population will mean a doubling of available capital and wealth. But who can say whether the mechanical discoveries of the next century may not vastly increase the average wealth? and, on the other hand, who can say how far property may be concentrated in a few hands or combined in some kind of national socialism? The wealth of the Mississippi Valley in arable land already lies beneath the feet of the people, but the upper slopes on the Appalachian rim of the valley are still very little cultivated, though the Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia mountains are probably capable of supporting as abundant and as thriving a population as that of the Black Forest or the ranges of the

Carriers of the Great Lakes.

Jura Mountains. In the lowlands exhausted soils, formerly allowed to go to ruin, are now restored by the wide-spreading use of fertilizers; and as population grows and land becomes more valuable, a stop will be put to the annihilation of soil through cutting off the timber and the consequent waste of the steep slopes thus exposed to running water. Everywhere a more intensive cultivation must come in. The day is past when twenty-five good crops of wheat can be raised from the same land, except by rotation and skilful husbandry. The amazing heritage of wealth in the rich soil must be hoarded.

Timber, first a nuisance, then a source of profit, and now a declining industry, will again become a great wealth-producer when the hideous deforested areas on the upper waters of the Mississippi are intelligently restored to their tree-bearing function. As wood increases in value, houses of brick and stone will become usual as in other countries. The immense suburbs of wooden dwellings found everywhere throughout the Mississippi Valley will eventually be swept away by fires, but their place will be taken by more enduring structures; yet five centuries hence there will still be standing well- [293]

Smelting-works, Chattanooga.

preserved wooden houses of the present day.

As for the minerals, each succeeding generation shakes its head and predicts extinction. Twenty years ago the oil wells of the Alleghany River began to fail, yet now six times more oil is marketed every year than in those flush days. Heaps of slack mark the mouths of the old “coal banks” in Pennsylvania and central Ohio; but ever-widening coalfields are opened up in Illinois, in the Indian Territory, in the Dakotas, and in Montana. Inexhaustible these deposits certainly are not, but from decade to decade arrive new applications and simplifications of power and new ways of utilizing the full force imprisoned in the coal.

The abundance of God's gifts of fuel has brought about one of the weakest elements in Western character—the indifference to the filth and squalor of a smokeladen atmosphere. The first condition of health and decency is cleanliness, and nobody can keep clean in any Western city. As a question of mere money-making and money-saving, the people of the Mississippi Valley show themselves incompetent and barbarous, for the extra profits from the unrestricted use of soft coal are more than counterbalanced by the expense of necessary renewals of soap, clothing, wallpaper, furniture, and paint, to say nothing of breathing the sulphur fumes and rubbing the grime into the countenances of the people and their children. Not always will factory chimneys spread their pall upon the sky. Most of us will live to see the Western cities supplied with gas piped from the mining regions, and supplied as we now supply water to every user.

The development of other minerals is beyond the reach of prediction. What we do know is that gold, silver, lead, and copper are extracted upon constantly more and more favorable terms as science, energy, and skill combine to make the old deposits more available and to discover new. The great problem here is not to discover mines, but to save for the common benefit the riches which nature has stored up and which individuals are appropriating.

One form of wealth, most obvious in other civilized countries, the Mississippi Valley as yet knows little of, for it has few good highways, though every variety may be found. The “Kentucky dirt road” wriggles down the side of a hill, [294] as though a waterspout had burst at the top and carried down soil and rock in a confused channel; the deep-worn Southern track cuts into the red soil; the ribbon road lies on the Dakota prairie; the viscous winter slough of northern Ohio clay pulls off the horses' shoes; the stone pikes of Tennessee jolt the wayfarer; and the splendid macadam parkways of favored cities show what good roads may be. As yet the people of the Mississippi Valley do not dream of the comfort and profit possible from a system of roads always in order—good, hard, serviceable all the year round, well surveyed, and so engineered that the steep hills disappear. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent upon making city streets and country roads, and millions are spent every year, and yet there is no one single Western State that has a system of highways which would be tolerated in the smallest German principality, or in the frontier and almost barbarian regions of Herzegovina and Bosnia. The obstacle seems to be the cost of labor, or rather the assumption that road-making requires skilled labor. Perhaps the great problem of

Oklahoma on the day of the opening.

convict labor is to be solved by an intelligent system of road-construction adequate to the needs of a civilized people.

In the future, as at the present, the great wealth of the Mississippi Valley is certain to be centred in the cities, rich in accumulations of buildings and of stocks of goods, and rich also in the evidences of ownership of manufacturing and transporting corporations. Indeed, the rapid growth of these Western cities is already among the world's wonders: a house standing alone on the prairie; the station on a new railroad; the junction crossing of two railroads; a little manufacturing place upon which new railroads converge; a big, bustling town, full of life; a city, with a beautiful residence quarter and a squalid, dust-ridden settlement down at the railroad stations; a great city, with a union depot and a chamber of commerce, asking architects all over the world to compete on its buildings; a splendid city, a beehive of busy men and women, luxurious and magnificent, with imposing public buildings and boulevards and miles of comfortable homes.

Up to this time it must be owned that the Mississippi Valley has run rather to great cities than to notable communities. New Orleans is the one ancient city in the whole region. St. Louis and Kansas City, Omaha, St. Paul, and Minneapolis, Memphis, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, and Denver, are most of them still in the rough, everywhere edges showing, vacant lots gaping, unsightly earth banks furnishing ugliness to the eye and dust to the nostrils. And through most parts of the West the villages and country towns are much inferior to those of New England, New York, or northern Ohio in trimness and tidiness. Fifty years hence these cities will be more closed up, more trim and turfedged, and some of them, notably Minneapolis, have already entered upon the construction of a wide-reaching system of parks, to be a beauty and a joy to later generations. When the population of the valley reaches 250,000,000, several of the present cities will have a population of from 2,000,000 to 10,000,000, and woe betide them if [295]

Oklahoma four weeks later.

they do not now make provision for the health and enjoyment of later times! It is with all these cities much as with the metropolis of the West; a keen observer who visited the buildings of the Chicago Fair while in construction came away overwhelmed and silent. At last he lifted up his voice, “No wonder these Chicago people don't believe in a God, when they can do such things as these for themselves.”

When the Federalists in 1803 protested against the annexation of Louisiana, they were wise in their day and generation, for they were right in expecting that eventually the supremacy of the Atlantic coast States would disappear. In the Presidential election of 1828, the States of the Mississippi Valley had the balance of power, and threw it without hesitation for Andrew Jackson for President; and in the West soon after sprang up the effective Free Soil party, which gradually developed into the Republican party of 1856. The States of the Mississippi Valley now cast 215 electoral votes out of 444; the census of 1900 will give them a majority of the electors, as they already have almost a majority of Senators. Of course this political influence has never been concentrated, because of divisions between North and South and between political parties; but in the councils of public men in Washington the voice of the Western members is always powerful and often paramount.

The term “West” is here used in the Atlantic coast sense, for Ohio and even Illinois are thought by the communities beyond the Mississippi to have an Eastern savor, and some people have even expected a division of the Union on the line of the Appalachian Mountains. Almost the only perfectly safe prediction about the Mississippi Valley is that it will never be politically disassociated from the [296] Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The French sought to build up an inland empire, and the force of political gravity drew their realm towards the Atlantic settlements. Burr dreamed a dream of a Mississippi kingdom, and he could not convince even the shallow Wilkinson that it was possible. Jefferson Davis offered the alliance of the Southern Confederacy to the Northwest States, and they clave to their Eastern brethren. The East and West are no more politically separated from each other than Rhode Island from Connecticut, or Illinois from Iowa. The Appalachian Mountains have long ceased to be a physical barrier between East and West, and the two sections are dependent upon each other—the West has the food-supply; the East, the manufactories and seaports.

If the two sections were at this moment separate countries, the object of the statesmen in the East would be to open up unrestricted trade with the West, and the

Towing coal down the Mississippi.

Mississippi Valley would strain every nerve to get a sea-front. The experiment of trying to establish a difference of political interest between East and West was fully tried in 1861, when the Southern Confederacy tried to attach the Western States by offering them the unrestricted use of the Mississippi River. The force of self-interest then and there compelled the West to stand by its seaport relations, and at the same time to insist upon its right to the Mississippi. The most enduring lesson of the Civil War is that no State, or group of States, will ever be allowed to withdraw from its sisters without war.

Indeed, many parts of the West are simply transplantations from the East; thus the Western Reserve of Ohio was for years a little Connecticut; Michigan has the New England town-meeting; Massachusetts men abound in Minnesota, and New Yorkers in Illinois and Nebraska. Rivalry between the two sections there will always be; divergence and disunion will never come. From the days when the Kentucky “broad-horn” boats were seized by the Spanish at New Orleans, down to the present era of barge transportation on a large scale from St. Louis to the Gulf, the Mississippi has been the common artery of the interior of the United States; but it has never superseded the old highways through the Mohawk and across the mountains of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. [297]

Nevertheless, the existence of a distinct and self-conscious section having seaports only on the Gulf does deeply affect the direction of national policy, especially in foreign relations. Our forefathers valiantly fought a valiant foe in their Indian wars, and our fathers measured their strength against each other in the Civil War; but the Mississippi Valley is, and must henceforth be, a region of internal peace. A miners' riot, a little shooting of negroes at an election, a railroad strike, are the only opportunities for the use of force within the boundaries of the valley. A few years ago the legislature of West Virginia presented a sword to one of its sons who was an officer in the United States navy, and bade him be ever ready to draw that sword for the defence of his native State. Not till the enemies' gunboats find their way up the Mississippi, Ohio, and the Great Kanawha to West Virginia will the Mississippi Valley have to defend itself. Yet no one who has watched the trend of public opinion during the last few years can doubt that it is the fixed desire of the majority of people in the interior to extend the power and influence of the United States by annexation of territory and by a share in the world's diplomacy. It is not simply its sheltered position which leads to this feeling, for the West is ready to pour forth its sons for national defence, or even for national aggression; it is a desire that a great nation should have a great part in the world at large. In case of real war, the coast cities may have to pay the bill, but, for good or evil, the foreign policy of the United States appears to be in the hands of the people of the Mississippi Valley.

One of the most frequent criticisms of the West is that the people are more impressed by a big thing than by a good thing. Immensity, broad space, towering mountains, the vastness of the Mississippi, impress the imagination of the people; the greatest river in North America, the longest air-line in the world, the heaviest ten-wheel consolidation locomotive drawing the longest train of most heavily laden cars bursting with the biggest crop of wheat sold for the most money in the history of mankind—these are the staples of the journalist, the subject of conversation. The vice of megalomania is, however, not confined to Gulf-directed waters. Great, roaring New York, broad-spread Philadelphia, Boston of the Public Library, have also their own standards of what is grandest in the world; one might say of the West what was once remarked about a new university which made no secret of its advantages, “The trumpet is a pretty toy for children” ; and the West might reply, with Dr. Sampson, “Yes, I am a vain man; but then I have good rizzon to be vain.”

The biggest stock-yard in the world is important, and becomes more important as dinner-time approaches; but a little thoroughbred may be more valuable than a car-load of Indian ponies. In a country town of New Hampshire is a little open-air theatre constructed on the modest estate of the artist who designed it, by the friendly aid of neighbors; it is as much a work of art as the Washington Monument on the Potomac flats. The West appreciates the monument, but would think the theatre a plaything, and cannot quite understand that dimensions have nothing to do with beauty or comfort, or with success. The truth is that the West is just now in the condition of a great building solidly founded, well constructed, but still surrounded by stagings, the people as yet more interested in the height of the walls than in the beauty of a cornice or the humor of a gargoyle. What the West needs—and what the East needs, for that matter—is a proper scale of proportion, such as makes one Lincoln look larger than 10,000 aldermen.

The people of the West need no one to tell them that they are many, rich, powerful, prosperous, and advancing. What they do need, most of all, is that respect for trained expert opinion which is so difficult to secure in a democratic republic like ours; and a broader standard of distinction.

Pork, corn, wheat, cotton, sugar, steel rails, reapers, wagons, shelf hardware, and shingles, will take care of themselves in the West. But will the Mississippi Valley take its place among the great intellectual communities of the world? Scoffers and Philistines accuse the West of having got no farther than the Pacific coast poet, who had plainly much advanced in culture [298]

Unloading a Mississippi steamboat.

since he had begun by rhyming the name of the great German poet and dramatist with “teeth,” and had reached the point where he made it rhyme with “boat.” But if popular education, intelligence, and natural keenness make up civilization, the West is a highly civilized community: and there are many reasons for supposing that it has the conditions for a broader intellectual growth. First of all, it is freer than any other great area of the earth's surface from the trammels of an official religion; several of the coast colonies had established churches, but not one community in the Mississippi Valley except Louisiana. To be sure, as in other parts of the United States, there is an almost comical multiplication of sects. Doubtless it is wasteful to keep up several struggling churches in a little town, but the right to think out one's own theology, or to select amid various theologies, has in it elements of intellectual discipline; and from the earliest days the Western churches have been the principal centres of the intellectual life of the community.

Schools are not necessarily civilizers. The real standard of education in any community is the conduct of the average people, and in many parts of the West and South schools are still inchoate. There is a district in Kentucky where a teacher is known to have been employed who could neither read nor write; his function was to draw his district's share of the State school-fund. There have been schools on the frontier in which the only pupils were the children of the one man who lived in the district, and the teacher was their mother, while the non-resident owners of real-estate paid the school-taxes. Although country schools are already weakening by the draining of the more likely people into the towns, the district schools in the West are probably as good as those in the remote parts of New England: and the great city systems are, upon the whole, superior to those of the East. The best organization of school government in the country is that of Cleveland, and the best system of buildings is probably that of Minneapolis. Chicago public schools are more efficient than those of Philadelphia or New York, and probably than those of Boston.

In secondary education the West has [299] as good public high-schools as those of other parts of the country, though it has never developed a system of endowed academies in country towns, which still seem to furnish a special and much-desired training in New England.

When it comes to universities, the average provision in the West is excellent, and most of the newer States have a general system of complete government education, for the State universities have direct relations with the public schools, and are superior in equipment and prestige to the denominational colleges. Two of the greatest and most famous Western universities, Chicago and Michigan, chance to lie just outside the rim of the Mississippi Valley, but the renowned universities of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska, and the steadily enlarging universities of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, show a willingness to provide at the expense of the commonwealth an education of a thoroughness and advancement which cannot be had in any Eastern State except by the payment of considerable fees to endowed universities. Almost every branch of human learning is now taught thoroughly and practically somewhere between the Appalachians and the Rockies.

Two important tests of intellectuality, though not the only ones, are art and literature. The Rookwood pottery is one of the few indigenous Western arts known at home and abroad; and though there are several art-schools, there is no school of Western art, and no such school is likely; for painters are cosmopolitan; they must be educated where there are the best collections of notable pictures. The only claim which the West has well established to artistic distinction is in architecture. Fortunately Cleveland is not within the Mississippi basin, and therefore the valley has not to weep for the confused heap of stone-cutting which has been set up there as a soldiers' monument; but most of the State of Ohio is in the Ohio Valley, and the legislature forced that abomination upon the people of Cleveland against their will. On the other hand, the city of Pittsburg has the most beautiful and suitable county buildings in the country; while the city of Boston has one of the most dreadful county buildings. Certainly no such group of magnificent structures has ever been seen in America, outside of fabled Norumbega, as the Court of Honor at the Chicago Fair.

Western literature is made up partly of books written by Western people, and partly by books about the West. Of late years there has sprung up a generation of poets and novelists who find enduring themes in the breeziness of the frontier, the monotony of the farm, and the crudity of the workman's life. A very encouraging sign is the growth of a school of historical writers who have learned the romance of the Indian hunter and the French trapper, and who insist upon arousing the public to a sense of the importance in our national history of the development of the West.

The difficulty about intellectual life in the Mississippi Valley is not so much a lack of interest in the things of the mind as a lack of local traditions. Hence in some Southern cities of feeble intellectual opportunities we find a delightful and refined society of old-fashioned people who read Shakespeare and Milton and Addison because that has for a hundred years been the right thing for respectable people to do. How can there be traditions in a city like Minneapolis, where not one adult in twenty was born in the place or perhaps in the State? The North and Northwest are now undergoing a tremendous social change through the renting of great farms to new-comers, while the owners live in villages or towns. This means that the children will not know “the old place,” and the grandchildren will have not so much as a myth of the old oaken bucket. Even in old cities like Albany and Baltimore it is hard to build up a civic sentiment—a sense of gratitude to ancestors and responsibility to posterity. Perhaps as population becomes more stable this feeling will grow up in the West, but it is hard to realize the effect upon a community of such rapid changes of life that not one child in twenty will live in the house of his grandfather.

When critics say that no intellectual inventiveness can be expected in a flat and monotonous country they forget that Russia, in spite of the restraint of the censor, is one of the most active and creative of European countries. Art has [300] really no local habitation. Artists are trained where there are the collections of great works, and there is no more reason for a Western school of painters than for a distinct Austrian or Australian school. The application of the principle of beauty to human life grows steadily throughout the West, and attractive houses, clean streets, beautiful parks, and tasteful furniture more and more abound. Browning societies do not make culture nor nourish new poets; but none can fail to observe throughout the valley the intelligent interest in the things which make for civilization in education, in literature, in art, and in human life.

Of the continued material wealth of the Mississippi Valley there is no reason to doubt, and a political structure designed for small agricultural communities has somehow proved at least moderately successful for large States containing great cities. But for ages to come the principal output and wealth of the Mississippi Valley must be agricultural; and the greatest danger is a separation of interest between the tiller of the soil (allied, perhaps, with the workman at the forge) on the one side, and the capitalist and the professional and business man on the other side. At present the social forces are well balanced, and immigration has not brought the great dangers usually ascribed to it; but if the farms are to fall into the hands of a rent-paying peasantry, and the owners are not to live in the midst of that peasantry and to share their interests, as do the landowners in European countries, then the Mississippi Valley may yet see social contests which will make the French Revolution seem mild. The two bases of the present happiness and prosperity of that great region are—first, the intelligence, honesty, and orderliness of the average man, and secondly, the belief that the farmer and the wage-earner get a fair share of the output.

The founders of the great Western community used the plain and common rules of the life with which they were familiar; but they put into their organization a strength and vitality which have enabled it to stand under the most unexpected conditions. They founded a commonwealth for Americans which has proved adequate for people of all races; they founded country communities with constitutions which work—with some creaking—for populous States, including great cities. The greatest danger for the Mississippi Valley is the discontent of men and women upon the farms and in little villages, who feel that society takes from them to give to the manufacturer and to the city. The greatest security of the West is its widely advanced intelligence and the honesty and intelligence of the average man. The foundations of society are sound, the framework is trusty, and, so far as we can look into the future, the Mississippi Valley is destined to be the home of a great community. The Mississippi Valley is an empire because it keeps fast hold of East and West; because it is the heart and core of a great republic.

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