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The French in the Heart of America by John Finley

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has yet seen her Nouvelle France draw to it the children of all other
nations. As from Hagar exiled in the wilderness has a new race sprung--has
the wilderness been peopled.

In my boyhood the last division of that great exodus, largely made up of
migrants from the eastern half of the valley, was still passing westward.
One of the banners which some of the wagons covered with canvas ("prairie-
schooners," as they were called) used to fly was "Pike's Peak or Bust," an
Americanism indicating the intention of the pilgrims to reach the mountain
at the western terminus of the great valley or die in the attempt.
Occasionally one came back with the inglorious substitute legend upon his
wagon, "Busted"--a laconic intimation of failure. But this was the
exception. The west kept, till it had made them her own, most of those who
ventured their all for a home in the wilderness.

There were "two great commemorative monuments that arose to mark the depth
and permanence of the awe" which possessed all who shared the calamities
or witnessed the results of the Tartar migration. One was a "Romanang"--a
"national commemoration, with music rich and solemn," of all the souls who
departed to the rest of Paradise from the "afflictions of the desert"--and
the "other, more durable and more commensurate to the scale of the
calamity and to the grandeur of the national exodus," "mighty columns of
granite and brass," where the exodus had ended in the shadow of the
Chinese wall. The inscription on these columns reads:

By the Will of God,
Here, upon the Brink of these Deserts,
Which from this Point begin and stretch away
Pathless, treeless, waterless,
For thousands of miles, and along the margins of many
mighty Nations,
Rested from their labors and from great afflictions,
Under the shadow of the Chinese Wall,
And by the favor of Kien Long, God's Lieutenant upon
The ancient Children of the Wilderness--the Turgote
Flying before the wrath of the Grecian Czar,
Wandering Sheep who had strayed away from the Celestial
Empire in the year 1616,
But are now mercifully gathered again, after infinite sorrow,
Into the fold of their forgiving Shepherd.
Hallowed be the spot forever,
Hallowed be the day--September 8, 1771!

There have been many expositions of the fruits of the Mississippi Valley's
agriculture and manufacture and mining and thinking and teaching and
preaching and ministering, but there has been no general commemoration
with "music rich and solemn" of those who endured the "afflictions of the
wilderness," though the last of the pioneers will soon have departed to
his rest, for fourteen years ago it was officially declared that there was
no longer a frontier. But mighty columns not of man's rearing stand upon
the farther edge of that western valley, columns of rock rich with gold
and silver and every other precious metal, surmounted, some of them the
year through, with capitals of snow and lacking only the legend:

Here upon the Brink of the Plains
Which stretched away pathless, treeless, boundless,
Ended their century-long exodus
The New Children of the Wilderness,
Driven by the Hand of God
Westward and ever Westward
Till they have at last entered
Into the full Heritage of those
Who, first of Pioneers,
Traced the rivers and lakes of this Valley
Between the eternal mountains.



The domain of Louis XIV in the midst of America (between the Great Lakes
and the gulf, the Alleghanies and the Rockies) embraced over seven hundred
and fifty million acres. One-half of it, roughly, was covered with giant
forests inhabited by fur-bearing animals with opulence upon their backs.
One-half was covered with vegetation, varying from the luxuriant prairie
grass to the sage-brush of the shadeless plains, plains roamed by beasts
clothed with valuable robes. Two-thirds of this domain was arable, with
only the irrigation of the clouds, and all of it was destined some day to
be cultivated, the clouds having the assistance of man-made irrigation or
dry farming.

The portion east of the Mississippi (about three hundred million acres)
was at one time estimated to be worth not more, politically and
physically, than the island of Guadeloupe-an island represented by a pin-
head on an ordinary map-producing forty thousand tons of sugar and about
two million pounds each of coffee and cocoa.

Even the people of the Atlantic States were accused by westerners as late
as 1786 of threatening secession and of being as ignorant of the trans-
Alleghany country as Great Britain had been of America, and as
inconsiderate. The western half, urged by the minister of Louis XV upon
Spain after sixty or seventy millions of francs had been spent fruitlessly
upon it by France, recovered by Napoleon and sold to the United States for
one-fourth of the amount that was expended a century later for the
celebration of the purchase, was regarded at the time of the purchase,
even by many seacoast Americans, as useless, except as it secured control
of the mouth of the Mississippi. An important New York paper said

"... As to the unbounded region west of the Mississippi, it is, with the
exception of a very few settlements of Spaniards and Frenchmen bordering
on the banks of the river, a wilderness through which wander numerous
tribes of Indians. And when we consider the present extent of the United
States, and that not one-sixteenth part of its territory is yet under
occupation, the advantage of the acquisition, as it relates to actual
settlement, appears too distant and remote to strike the mind of a sober
politician with much force. This, therefore, can only rest in speculation
for many years, if not centuries to come, and consequently will not
perhaps be allowed very great weight in the account by the majority of
readers. But it may be added, that should our own citizens, more
enterprizing than wise, become desirous of settling this country, and
emigrate thither, it must not only be attended with all the injuries of a
too widely dispersed population, but, by adding to the great weight of the
western part of our territory, must hasten the dismemberment of a large
portion of our country, or a dissolution of the government. On the whole,
we think it may with candor be said, that whether the possession at this
time of any territory west of the river Mississippi will be advantageous,
is at best extremely problematical. For ourselves, we are very much
inclined to the opinion that, after all, it is the Island of N. Orleans by
which the command of a free navigation of the Mississippi is secured, that
gives to this interesting cession its greatest value, and will render it
in every view of immense benefit to our country. By this cession we
hereafter shall hold within our own grasp, what we have heretofore enjoyed
only by the uncertain tenure of a treaty, which might be broken at the
pleasure of another, and (governed as we now are) with perfect impunity.
Provided therefore we have not purchased it too dear, there is all the
reason for exultation which the friends of the administration display, and
which all Americans may be allowed to feel." [Footnote: York Herald, July
6, 1803.]

I quote this to show how far from appreciating France's generosity the
easterners, and especially the anti-Jeffersonian Federalists in America,
were at that time. Other and less conscientious newspapers put the
prodigality of Jefferson's commissioners more graphically:

"Fifteen millions of dollars! they would exclaim. The sale of a wilderness
has not usually commanded a price so high. Ferdinand Gorges received but
twelve hundred and fifty pounds sterling for the Province of Maine.
William Penn gave for the wilderness that now bears his name but a trifle
over five thousand pounds. Fifteen millions of dollars! A breath will
suffice to pronounce the words. A few strokes of the pen will express the
sum on paper. But not one man in a thousand has any conception of the
magnitude of the amount. Weigh it and there will be four hundred and
thirty-three tons of solid silver. Load it into wagons, and there will be
eight hundred and sixty-six of them. Place the wagons in a line, giving
two rods to each, and they will cover a distance of five and one-third
miles. Hire a laborer to shovel it into the carts, and, though he load
sixteen each day, he will not finish the work in two months. Stack it up
dollar on dollar, and supposing nine to make an inch, the pile will be
more than three miles high. It would load twenty-five sloops; it would pay
an army of twenty-five thousand men forty shillings a week each for
twenty-five years; it would, divided among the population of the country,
give three dollars for each man, woman, and child.... Invest the principal
as school fund, and the interest will support, forever, eighteen hundred
free schools, all owning fifty scholars, and five hundred dollars to each
school." [Footnote: McMaster, "History of the People of the United
States," 2:630.]

Napoleon had, indeed, made a good bargain for France, selling a
wilderness, which at best he could not well have kept long, for a price
which all the specie currency in the poor young republic would not be
adequate to meet.

It was of this domain (a part of the claim of La Salle for Louis XIV in
1682, divided between England and Spain in 1763, made one again in 1803 by
the will of Napoleon, under the control of the United States, added to by
the purchase of Florida from Spain and the acquisition of Texas, filling
all the Great Valley)--it was of this valley that, as late as the early
fifties, a member of Congress (afterward to become vice-president of the
United States, then President), Andrew Johnson, although an earnest
advocate of a liberal land policy, predicted that it would take "seven
hundred years to dispose of the public lands at the rate we have been
disposing of them." [Footnote: Speech on the Homestead bill, April 29,
1852.] Seven hundred years--as long as from the founding of Charlemagne's
new empire of the west to the discovery of the coasts of a still newer
empire of the west.

But in two hundred years from the day that La Salle so miserably perished
on the plains of Texas, in exactly one hundred years from the time when,
under the epoch-making "Ordinance of the Northwest" (as it has been
called), the parcelling of the land began, and in less than half a century
from the year when Andrew Johnson's seven-hundred-year prophecy began to
run, practically the entire domain had been surveyed and sold or given by
the nation to private or municipal or corporate possession. It was the
24th of July, 1687, that La Salle died; it was July 27, 1787, that the
first great sale of a fragment of the domain was made; and it was in 1887,
approximately, that all the humanly available domain was occupied by at
least two persons to a square mile; for in 1890 it was officially declared
by the government of the United States that it had no frontier. Not that
the land was all sold, but all that was immediately valuable.

As soon as the War of Independence was over, and even during the struggle,
the territories of several of the Atlantic States (or colonies) expanded
to the Mississippi. There was a quadrilateral, trans-Alleghany
Massachusetts, as indifferent to natural boundaries as a "state of mind"
(which Massachusetts has often been defined to be), respectful only of
imaginary lines of latitude and the Mississippi River, the Spanish border.
Little Connecticut multiplied its latitude by degrees of longitude till it
reached in a thin but rich slice from Pennsylvania also to the
Mississippi. Virginia disputed these mountain-to-river claims of her New
England sisters, but held unquestioned still larger territories to the
north and south--and so on from the sources of the river to Florida, South
Carolina even claiming a strip a few miles wide and four hundred long.
There was almost a duplication of the Atlantic front on the Mississippi
River. These statements will not interest those who can have no particular
acquaintance with the personalities of those several commonwealths, quite
as marked as are those of Normandy and Brittany; but even without this
knowledge it is possible to appreciate the magnanimity and the wisdom
which prompted those States, many with large and rich claims, to surrender
all to the central government, the Continental Congress, for the benefit
of all the States, landful and landless alike. [Footnote: LANDS CEDED BY

Ohio......................................................... 39,964
Illinois..................................................... 55,414
Wisconsin.................................................... 53,924
Minnesota, east of the Mississippi River......................26,000
or 169,959,680 acres.

Virginia claimed this entire region. New York claimed an indefinite
amount. Connecticut claimed about 25,600,000 acres and ceded all but
3,300,000. Massachusetts claimed about 34,560,000 acres.

SOUTH OF KENTUCKY South Carolina ceded about 3,136,000 acres. North
Carolina ceded (nominally) 29,184,000 acres. Georgia ceded 56,689,920
acres.--Payson J. Treat, "The National Land System, 1785-1820."]

So it was that even before the National Government was organized under a
federal constitution in 1789, the land beyond the western boundaries of
the several colonies, out as far as the Mississippi, was held for the good
of all. And later the same policy followed the expansion to the Rockies
and beyond. Can one imagine a greater or more fateful task than confronted
this young, inexperienced republic--to have the disposal of a billion
acres of timber lands, grazing lands, farm lands, ore lands, oil lands,
coal lands, arid lands, and swamp lands for the good not only of the first
comers and of those then living in the Atlantic States but also of the
millions that should inhabit all that country in future generations as
well--for the good of all of all time?

This one-time bed of the Paleozoic sea between Archaean shores, raised in
time above the ocean and enriched of the mountains that through millions
of years were gradually to be worn down by the natural forces of the
valley, and finally, as we have seen, opened by the French as a new-
created world to be peopled by the old world, then overflowing its brim,
became all of it in the space of a single lifetime the property of a few
million human beings, their heirs, and assigns forever. The "men of
always" [Footnote: The Iroquois, according to Châteaubriand, called
themselves Ongoueonoue, the "men of always," signifying that they were a
race eternal, immortal, not to fade away.--"Travels in America," 2:93.]
had actually come and were to divide and distribute among themselves the
stores of millions of years as if reserved for them from the foundation of
the world.

When Deucalion and Pyrrha went forth to repeople the world after a flood,
they were told by the oracle to cast over their shoulders the bones of
their mother. These they rightly interpreted, according to the myth, to be
the stones of the earth, and so the valleys of the ancient world became
populous. Peopling _per se_ was not, however, the object or the first
object of the act under which the government, after the manner of
Deucalion, went across this new-world valley, casting in stoneless areas
clods of earth and tufts of virgin sod before it and behind it. It was not
people that the government wanted. Indeed, it was afraid of people. What
it desired, the "common good," was the immediate payment of the debt
incurred in the War of Independence, and the only resource was land. The
land that the French had discovered, whose nominal transfer to England
Choiseul had said he had made to destroy England's power in America, was
now to meet a portion at least of the expense of the brave struggle for
the winning of independence. France's practically untouched wilderness was
now to supplement the succor of French ships and arms and sympathy in the
firm founding of the new nation. The acres that France under other
fortunes might have divided among her own descendants, children of the
west, she gave to a happier destiny than La Salle could have desired in
his wildest dreams as he traversed the streams that watered those first-
parcelled fields.

So, incidentally, the French pioneers before the fact and the first
settlers of the west after the fact had their part, witting or unwitting,
willing or unwilling, written or unwritten, along with George Rogers Clark
and his men, who seized the British forts in that territory during the
Revolution (and thus gave standing to the claim for its transfer), and
along with the men of the Atlantic colonies who sacrificed their fortunes
and their lives--these all had their part in the inauguration of this
experiment in self-government. There was no higher, more far-reaching
"common good" than this to which acres prepared from Paleozoic days and
consecrated of unselfish adventure could be devoted.

I cannot find anywhere in our history an appreciation of this particular
contribution to the foundation of free institutions in America. But it is
one that should be recorded and remembered along with the more tangible
contributions. Every perilous journey of the French across that territory
for which France got not a franc, every purchase which Scotch-Irish or New
England or other settlers went out to conquer, was a march or a skirmish
in the War of Independence, for all was turned to the confirming of the
fruits of victory of the American Revolution.

Those who have written of the land policy which prescribed the conditions
of sale have divided its history roughly into two periods: the first, from
1783 to 1840, in which the fiscal considerations of the general government
were dominant; and the second, from 1840 to the present time, when the
social conditions, either within the territory itself or in the nation at
large, were given first consideration.

The statistical story of the first period, under that accurate
classification, would be about as interesting as a bulletin of real-estate
transactions in Chicago would be to a professor of paleontology in the
Sorbonne. It is only when those sales are considered teleologically (as
the philosophers would say) that they can seem absorbingly vital to others
than economists or to the fortunate heirs of some of the purchasers. I am
aware (let me say parenthetically) that customs duties might have a
somewhat like interpretation under a higher imaginative power; but this
possibility does not lessen to me the singularly spiritual character of
this series of transactions-of land sales, or transmutations of lands, on
the one hand, into the maintenance of the fabric of a government by the
people, and, on the other, into the ruggedest, hardiest species of men and
women the world has known in its new hemisphere.

Land-offices, as I have seen them described in the newspapers of the early
part of the nineteenth century, gave no outward suggestion of being places
of miracles--sacred places. They were noisy, dirty, ephemeral tabernacles
of canvas or of boards in the wilderness, carried westward till the day of
permanent temples should come. But like the Ark of the Covenant in the
history of Israel, they blessed those in whose fields they rested on the
way, even as the field and household of Obed-edom the Gittite were blessed
by the presence of the ark on its way up to Jerusalem in the days of

The initial policy of the government was to sell in as great tracts as
possible (the very reverse of the present conserving, anti-monopolistic
policy, as we shall see). The first sale (1787) was of nearly a million
acres, for which an average of two-thirds of a dollar per acre in
securities worth nine or ten cents was received. This sale, whatever may
be said for it as a part of a fiscal policy, was significant not only in
opening up a great tract (one thousand three hundred square miles) but in
the fact that the purchase and holding were conditioned by certain
provisions of a precious ordinance--the last of importance of the old
Continental Congress-only less important than the Constitution, which it
preceded by two years--the "basis of law and politics" in the northwest.

It, moreover, gave precedent for a policy of territorial control by the
central government that has been effective even to the present time.
Daniel Webster said of it: "I doubt whether any single law of any
lawgiver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct,
marked, and lasting character." [Footnote: First Speech on Foot's
Resolution in "Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster," national edition,
5:263.] It forbade slavery and had in this provision an important
influence on the history of the valley. But there was another far-reaching
and a positive provision which must be of special interest to the people
of France even to-day. Its preamble lies in this memorable passage:
"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and
the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever
be encouraged." As to the specific means of encouraging religion,
morality, and knowledge, and so, ultimately, of promoting good government
and the happiness of mankind, it was proposed by the representative of the
Ohio Company, which stood ready to purchase a million acres, that the
government should give support both to education and religion, as was done
in New England, and as follows: one lot in each township (that is, a
section one mile square in every tract six miles square) to be reserved
for the common schools, another for the support of the ministry, and four
whole townships, in the whole tract, for the maintenance of a university.
Congress thought this too liberal, but finally, under the stress of need
of revenue which the high-minded, reverend lobbyist, Reverend Menasseh
Cutler, was prepared through his company to furnish, acceded, with a
reduction only of the proposed appropriation to the university. The
provision specifically was: "Lot number sixteen to be given perpetually by
Congress to the maintenance of schools, and lot number twenty-nine to the
purpose of religion in the said townships; two townships near the center
and of good land to be also given by Congress for the support of a
literary institution, to be applied to the intended object by the
legislature of the State."

A second great tract was sold the same year under similar conditions. This
was the last occasion on which provision for the support of religion was
made by the national Congress, and what came of this particular grant I
have not followed beyond the statement below. [Footnote: In 1828 Ohio
petitioned for permission to sell the lands reserved for religious
purposes, and in 1833 this was granted. The proceeds of the sales were to
be invested and used for the support of religion, under the direction of
the legislature within the townships in which the reserves were located.--
Payson J. Treat, "The National Land System, 1785-1820."]

But the "section-sixteen" allotment for the aid of public schools
continued as a feature of all future grants within the Northwest
Territory, and also in all the new States of the southwestern and trans-
Mississippi territory erected prior to 1850, from which time forward two
sections in each township (sixteen and thirty-six) were granted for school
purposes, besides specific grants for higher education amounting to over a
million acres.

A recent student [Footnote: Joseph Shafer, "The Origin of the System of
Land Grants for Education." Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, No.
63. History Series, Vol. i, No. i, August, 1902.] of this subject has
traced this policy of public aid to education back through New England,
where colonies, in grants to companies or townships, made specific
stipulations and reservations for the support of schools and the ministry
and where townships voluntarily often made like disposition of surplus
wild lands; and through New England to England of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, where, the monasteries and other religious
foundations being destroyed and the schools depending upon them perishing,
schools were endowed by the kings, sometimes out of sequestered church
lands, or were established by towns and counties, in addition to those
chartered under private patronage, so strong was the new educational
movement of the time.

In the Mississippi Valley, then, or the greater part of it--whatever the
historical origin of the provisions may be-from one-thirty-sixth to one-
eighteenth of the public land has been set apart to the education of
generation after generation till the end of the republic--or as Americans
would be disposed to put it in synonymous phrase, "till the end of time."

Acres vary in size, one of our eminent horticulturists has reminded us,
measured in terms of productivity. And the gifts to the various townships
have been by no means of the same size, measured in terms of revenue for
school purposes. "Number sixteen" may sometimes have fallen in shallow
soil or on stony ground and "thirty-six" in swamp or alkali land. The
lottery of nature is as hard-hearted as the lotteries of human devising;
but the general provision has put an obligation upon the other thirty-five
or thirty-four sections in every township that I suppose is seldom evaded.
The child's acres are practically never, I suspect, less valuable than the
richest and largest of those in the township about it, for the reason that
the difference is made good by the local taxpayer. The child's acre is, as
a rule, then, as large as the largest, the most productive acre. And
roughly there are fifty thousand of those little plots in that domain--
fifty thousand sections a mile square, thirty-two million acres reserved
from the beginning of time, theoretically at least, to the end of time. As
a matter of fact, they are not to be distinguished objectively from other
acres now; they are to be distinguished only subjectively, that is, as one
thinks of what is grown year by year in the schools, to which their
proceeds, if not their products, are given.

I quoted above an estimate made in 1803 of what might have been done with
the fifteen million dollars, paid to the French for Louisiana. One
alternative suggested was the permanent endowment of eighteen hundred free
schools, allowing five hundred dollars a year per school and accommodating
ninety thousand pupils. The public-school allotment for that part of the
valley alone is fifteen million acres. Even at two dollars an acre (a very
low estimate), the endowment is twice the total amount paid for Louisiana
--and I am estimating this school acreage at but one thirty-sixth instead
of one-eighteenth of the total acreage. Therefore, France may, in a sense,
be said to have given these acres to the support of the "children of
always"--since these plots alone have probably yielded many times the
purchase price of the entire territory.

To be sure, these white plots, as I would have them marked on a map of the
valley, have in many States been sold and occupied as the other plots,
with only this distinction, that the proceeds are inviolably set apart to
this sacred use, as certain parts of animals were, under Mosaic law,
reserved for public sacrifice. In one trans-Mississippi State, Iowa, for
example, of a total grant of 1,013,614.21 acres [Footnote: Iowa,
1,013,614.21 acres from section 16 and 535,473.76 acres by congressional
grant in 1841.] (less what the boundary rivers, the Mississippi and the
Missouri, had carried away in their voracious encroachments, and plus what
other natural agents had added), only 200 acres remained unsold in 1911.

As we view the policy from the year 1903 and from the midst of a populous
valley, in which land values have risen from one dollar and twenty-five
cents per acre to a hundred or two hundred dollars in most fertile farm
tracts, and to thousands in urban centres, we can but regret that these
lands themselves had not been held inviolate, and can but wish that only
their rentals had been devoted to the high uses to which the nation and
State had consecrated these lands. This policy would have put in the heart
of every township a common field whose rental would have grown with the
development of the country. It would have furnished fruitful data for
comparison between two systems of land tenure. And it would have kept ever
visibly, tangibly before the people their heritage and their obligation.
As it is, one has to use the greatest imagination in translating the
figures in a State treasurer's or county supervisor's report, back into
the little plots that gathered into the soil of their acres the noblest
purposes that ever animated a nation--these spots where one generation
made its unselfish prayer and sacrifice for the next.

That the purpose still exists, despite the passing of the tangible symbol,
and that the prayer is still made in every township of that territory,
where even a few children live, is evidenced by the fact that every two
miles north and south, east and west of settled region there stands a
schoolhouse. I shall speak later of this wide-spread provision, not only
for universal elementary education but also for secondary and higher
education, ordained of the people and for the people, to be paid for by
the people out of their common treasury. But attention must here be
called, in passing, to the fact that the parcelling of the domain of Louis
XIV in the new world fixed irrevocably the public school in the national
consciousness and purpose and made it the foundation of a purely
democratic social system and the nourisher of a more highly efficient
democratic political system.

On the Atlantic side of the mountains there was bitter controversy between
those who held that education was necessary for the preservation of free
institutions and those who held that free education increased taxation
unduly; between those who desired and those who regretted the breaking
down of social barriers which both claimed would ensue as a result of such
education; between those who regarded education as a natural right and
those who considered taxation for such a purpose a violation of the rights
of the individual; between those who saw in it a panacea for poverty and
distress and those who urged that it would not benefit the masses; and,
finally, between those of one sect and race and those of another. But in
the trans-Alleghany country north of the Ohio, and in all the territory
west of the Mississippi (practically coterminous, let me again remind you,
with that region where the French were pioneers within the present bounds
of the United States) there was practically no dissension, though the
provision was meagre at the start. The public school had no more of the
atmosphere or character of a charity, a "pauper" school than the highway
provided for out of the same grant, where rich and poor met in absolute
equality of right and opportunity. It became the pride of a people, the
expression of the people's ideal, the corner-stone of the people's hope. I
suppose that three-fourths of the children of the territory whose ranges
have been surveyed by the magic chains forged of this first great
parcelling ordinance have had the tuition of the public schools--future
Presidents of the United States, justices, railroad and university
presidents, farmers, artisans, artists, and poets alike.

So while it was desire for revenue that prompted the early sales of the
public domain in the Mississippi Valley, the nation got in return not only
means to help pay its Revolution debt, but, incidentally, settlements of
highly individualistic, self-dependent, and interdependent pioneers,
gathered about one highly paternalistic or maternalistic institution--the
public school. The credit for this has gone to New England and New York,
but the "white acres" came of the territory and the riches of Nouvelle

You will not wish to follow in detail the ministrations of the priests of
the land-offices and the surveys of the men of the magic chains, for it is
a long and tedious story that would fill thousands of pages, and in the
end only obscure the real significance of the movement. Here is a summary
of allotments made up to 1904 of all the public domain, that of the
Mississippi Valley being somewhat more than half. [Footnote: See Report of
the Public Lands Commission, Washington, 1905.]

_Private land claims_, donations etc. (the
first of the latter being made to the early French
settlers).............................................(ACRES) 33,400,000

_Wagon-road, canal, and river_ improvement
grants (provision for the narrow strips of common
that intersect each other at every mile of the
settled parts of the valley).................................. 9,700,000

_Railroad grants_ for the subsidizing of
the private building of railways chiefly up
and down and across the valley.............................. 117,600,000

_Swamp-land grants_ (being tracts of wet
or overflowed lands given to the various States
for reclamation)............................................. 65,700,000

_School grants to States_ (those which we
have been considering)....................................... 69,000,000

_Other grants to States_ (largely for
educational purposes)........................................ 20,600,000

_Military and naval land warrants_........................... 61,000,000

_Scrip_ issued for various purposes (chiefly
in view of service to the government)......................... 9,300,000

_Allotment to individual Indians_............................ 15,100,000

_Mineral lands_ (under special entries)....................... 1,700,000

_Homestead entries_ (that is, by settlers
taking claims under homestead acts of which I
shall speak later)........................................... 96,500,000

_Timber-culture entries_ (final).............................. 9,700,000

_Timber and stone entries_.................................... 7,600,000

_Cash entries_, including entries under the
preemption and other acts................................... 276,600,000

_Reservoir rights of way_....................................... 300,000

_Forest reserves_ (tracts of forest land
permanently reserved from sale).............................. 57,900,000

For national reclaiming purposes............................. 39,911,000

Reserved for public purposes (public buildings,
forts, etc.).................................................. 6,700,000

_Indian reservations_........................................ 73,000,000

_Entries pending_............................................ 39,500,000

_Unappropriated public land_................................ 841,872,377

_Total (including Alaska)_................................ 1,852,683,377

By June 30, 1912, homestead entries had increased to 127,800,000 acres;
timber and stone entries to 13,060,000 acres; forest reserves to
187,400,000 acres, and there was left 682,984,762 acres, more than half of
which was in Alaska; that is, of the billion and a half of acres,
exclusive of Alaska, over a billion have been sold to private uses,
granted in aid of private enterprises, used for public improvements,
appropriated forever to public uses, or given to the support of education.

The controlling motive at the start, I repeat, was revenue. But gradually
the people, seeing great tracts of land held unimproved for speculation,
seeing the domain of free land narrowing while the pressure of want was
beginning to make itself felt east of the mountains, as in Europe, and
feeling concerned, as some men of vision did, at the passing of the
world's great opportunity for the practical realization of man's natural
right to the land without disturbing the system in force in older settled
communities, the people strove to effect the subordination of revenue to
the social good of the frontier and the country at large. By the middle of
the century this many-motived feeling had expression in a party platform;
that "the public lands-belong to the people and should not be sold to
individuals nor granted to corporations, but should be held as a sacred
trust for the benefit of the people and should be granted in limited
quantities, free of cost, to landless settlers." [Footnote: Free-Soil
Democratic Platform, 1892, p. 12.]

It was ten years before this doctrine became embodied in law over the
signature of Abraham Lincoln, but the agitation for its enactment had been
active for thirty years, beginning with the cry of a poor printer in New
York City, [Footnote: George Henry Evans.] taught of French doctrine, who
in season and out kept asserting the equal right of man to land. It was as
a voice in the wilderness proclaiming a plan of salvation to the already
congested areas on the seashore and, incidentally, a means of making the
wilderness blossom. He was not then a disciple of Fourier (as many of his
associates were and he himself had been originally), threatening vested
privileges of rights; he did not preach a communistic division of
property; he was an individualistic idealist and saw in the opening of
this wild, unoccupied land, not to speculators or to alien purchasers, but
to actual settlers permitted to pre-empt in quarter-sections (one hundred
and sixty acres) and forbidden to alienate it, a means of social
regeneration that would not disturb the titles to property already granted
to individuals by the State, and yet would bless all the property-less,
for there was enough free land for every landless man who wanted it, and
would be for decades if not for centuries beyond their lives, or so he
thought. [Footnote: See J. R. Commons, "Documentary History of American
Industrial Society," VII:287-349.]

A German economist has expressed the view that it was only this movement,
so inaugurated, that prevented America from going into socialism. One of
our foremost economists in America, in discussing this very subject,
begins with these observations:

"The French are a nation of philosophers. Starting with the theory of the
rights of man, they build up a logical system, then a revolution, and the
theory goes into practice. Next a coup d'état and an emperor.

"The English are a nation without too much philosophy or logic. They piece
out their constitution at the spot where it becomes tight.... They are
practical ... unlogical.

"The Americans are French in their logic and English in their use of
logic. They announce the universal rights of man and then enact into law
enough to augment the rights of property."

The homestead law owed its origin to the doctrine of natural rights, whose
transcendental glory faded often into the light of common day during the
discussions but still enhaloes a very practical and matter-of-fact
statute. Economic reasons, both of eastern and western motive, were
gathered under the banner of its idealism, till finally it came to be an
ensign not only of free soil for the landless but of free soil for the
slaves. The "homestead" movement put an end to slavery, even if within a
half century it has exhausted in its generosity the nation's domain of
arable land. The voice in the wilderness cried for a legalized natural
right that would not disturb vested rights, for an individualism based on
private property given without cost, for equality by a limitation of that
property to one hundred and sixty acres, and finally for the
inalienability from sale or mortgage of that little plot of earth. Thirty
years later the natural right to unoccupied land was recognized,
individualistic society was strengthened by the great increase in the
number of property holders, and inalienability was recognized by the
States; but the failure to reserve the free lands to such actual settlers
alone and to limit the amount of the holding left the way open for
railroad grants, which alone have in two generations exceeded the
homestead entries, and for the amassing of great stretches by a few.

The logic of France, speaking through the voice of that leader and other
men such as Horace Greeley, led the later exodus as certainly as her
pioneers opened the way for the first American settlers. And though the
logic was applied in English fashion, yet it had a notable part in making,
as I have just said, the free soil of the Mississippi Valley contribute to
the freeing of a whole people in slavery, inside and outside of the
valley. That logic learned in France would doubtless have accomplished a
conclusion needing less patching and opportunistic repair if the immediate
interests of those of the frontiers, those who wanted immediate settlement
and development, had not disturbed one of the premises. At any rate, a
great and perhaps the last opportunity to carry such doctrines to their
conclusions without overturning all social and industrial institutions has
gone by. A half-billion acres of inalienable farms, all of the same size,
trespassing upon no ancient rights, interspersed with the white blocks
held for the education of the children of that free soil, might have
furnished an example for all time to be followed or shunned-if, indeed,
all acres had been born of the primeval sea and glaciers not only free but
equal in size. As it was, some acres were born large and some small, some
fruitful and some barren, some with gold in their mouths and some with
only the taste of alkali; and only an infinite wisdom could have adjusted
them to the unequal capacities of that army of land lackers who declared
themselves free and equal, and who, with free-soil banners, advanced to
the territory where the squatters became sovereigns and homesteads became

President Andrew Johnson (who as a congressman, in 1852, made the seven-
hundred-year prophecy) estimated that a homestead (of one hundred and
sixty acres) would increase every homesteader's purchasing ability by one
hundred dollars a year; and if (he argued) the government enacted a 30-
per-cent duty it would be reimbursed in seven years in the amount of two
hundred and ten dollars, or ten dollars more than the cost of the
homestead. By such reckoning he reached the conclusion that the
homesteaders would defray the expenses of the government for a period of
four thousand three hundred and ninety-two years-each homesteader of the
nine millions contributing indirectly twenty-four thousand four hundred
dollars in seven hundred years and all of them two hundred and nineteen
billion six hundred million dollars--a scheme as ingenious, says one, as
Fourier's "scheme to pay off the national debt of France with a setting
hen." [Footnote: Speech on the bill to encourage agriculture, July 25,
1850. Speeches on the homestead bill, April 29, 1852, and May 20, 1858.]

There are approximately nine million homes (or homes, tenements, and
flats) in that domain to-day, and it is quite easily demonstrable that
they not only contribute to the support of government, directly and
indirectly, far more than the seemingly fantastic estimates of Andrew
Johnson suggested but also give to the world a surplus of product
undreamed of even in 1850. It is hardly likely that any system of
parcelling would have more rapidly developed this vast domain. There is a
question as to whether some more logical, conserving, long-viewed policy
might not have been devised for the "common good" of the generations that
are yet to occupy that valley with the generation that is there and the
three or four generations that have already gone. It is that "common good"
that is now engaging the thought of our foremost economists, natural
scientists, and public men. Of that I shall speak later.

Here we celebrate merely the fact that there are fifty or sixty million
geographical descendants of France living in the midst of the valley at
the mouth of whose river La Salle took immediate possession for Louis XIV,
but prophetic possession for all the peoples that might in any time find
dwelling there.



"It is a mistake," said one of the statesmen of the Mississippi Valley,
Senator Thomas H. Benton, "to suppose that none but men of science lay off
a road. There is a class of topographical engineers older than the schools
and more unerring than the mathematicians. They are the wild animals--
buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, bears-which traverse the forest not by
compass but by an instinct which leads them always the right way-to the
lowest passes in the mountains, the shallowest fords in the rivers, the
richest pastures in the forests, the best salt springs, and the shortest
practicable lines between remote points. They travel thousands of miles,
have their annual migrations backwards and forwards, and never miss the
best and shortest route. These are the first engineers to lay out a road
in a new country; the Indians follow them, and hence a buffalo road
becomes a warpath. The first white hunters follow the same trails in
pursuing their game; and after that the buffalo road becomes the wagon
road of the white man, and finally the macadamized road or railroad of the
scientific man." [Footnote: Speech on a bill for the construction of a
highway to the Pacific, December 16, 1850.]

A hunter of wild sheep in the Rocky Mountains following their trails
wonders if they were made a year, five, or ten years ago, and is told by
the scientist at his side that they may have been sixteen thousand years
old, so long have these first engineers been at work. In some places of
Europe, I am told, their fellow engineers, longer in the practice of their
profession, have actually worn paths in the rocks by their cushioned feet.

It is a mistake, therefore, we are reminded, to suppose that the forests
and plains of the Mississippi Valley were trackless. They were coursed by
many paths. If you have by chance read Châteaubriand's "Atala," you will
have a rather different notion of the American forests, especially of the
Mississippi Valley. "On the western side of the Mississippi," he wrote,
"the waves of verdure on the limitless plains (savannas) appear as they
recede to rise gradually into the azure sky"; but on the eastern half of
the valley, "trees of every form, of every color, and of every perfume
throng and grow together, stretching up into the air to heights that weary
the eye to follow. Wild vines ... intertwine each other at the feet of
these trees, escalade their trunks and creep along to the extremity of
their branches, stretching from the maple to the tulip-tree, from the
tulip-tree to the hollyhock, and thus forming thousands of grottos, arches
and porticos. Often, in their wanderings from tree to tree, these creepers
cross the arm of a river, over which they throw a bridge of flowers.... A
multitude of animals spread about life and enchantment. From the
extremities of the avenues may be seen bears, intoxicated with the grape,
staggering upon the branches of the elm-trees; caribous bathe in the lake;
black squirrels play among the thick foliage; mocking-birds, and Virginian
pigeons not bigger than sparrows, fly down upon the turf, reddened with
strawberries; green parrots with yellow heads, purple woodpeckers,
cardinals red as fire, clamber up to the very tops of the cypress-trees;
humming-birds sparkle upon the jessamine of the Floridas; and bird-
catching serpents hiss while suspended to the domes of the woods, where
they swing about like creepers themselves.... All here ... is sound and
motion.... When a breeze happens to animate these solitudes, to swing
these floating bodies, to confound these masses of white, blue, green, and
pink, to mix all the colors and to combine all the murmurs, there issue
such sounds from the depths of the forests, and such things pass before
the eyes, that I should in vain endeavor to describe them to those who
have never visited these primitive fields of nature." And when René and
Atala were escaping through those forests they "advanced with difficulty
under a vault of smilax, amidst vines, indigo-plants, bean-trees, and
creeping-ivy that entangled our feet like nets.... Bell serpents were
hissing in every direction, and wolves, bears, carcajous and young tigers,
come to hide themselves in these retreats, made them resound with their
roarings." [Footnote: Châteaubriand, "Atala," trans. Harry, pp. 2, 3, 19.]

A trackless, howling wilderness, indeed, if we are to accept this as an
accurate description of scenes which, as I have intimated, it is now
suspected that Châteaubriand's imagination visited, unaccompanied of his
body. But a recent indigenous writer on the valley and its roads--having
in mind, to be sure, the forests a little farther north than those in
which Atala and René wandered--assures us that they were neither
"pathless" nor "howling." He writes that in 1775 (eighteen years before
the first white settlement in the State of Ohio) there were probably as
many paths within the bounds of that State on which a man could travel on
horseback at the rate of five miles an hour as there are railways in that
State to-day. And the buffalo paths were-some of them, at any rate--roads
so wide that several wagons might have been driven abreast on them--as
wide as the double-track railroads. So the Indian farther west had his
highways prepared for him by the instincts of these primitive engineers
that knew nothing of trigonometry or the sextant or the places of the
stars. [Footnote: Hulbert, "Historic Highways," vol. I, pt. II.]

Nor did these first makers of roads howl or bellow their way over them. On
this same authority (Hulbert) I am able to assure you that the forest
paths were noiseless "traces," as they were originally called, in the
midst of silences disturbed only by the wind and the falling waters.
Wolves did sometimes howl in the forests or out upon the plains, but it
was only in hunger and in accentuation of the usual silence. Neither they
nor the bears growled or howled, except when they came into collision with
each other, or starvation.

And there were not even birds to give cheer to the gloom of these black
forests, whose tree tops were knitted together by vines, but had no
undergrowth, since the sun could not reach the ground. "The birds of the
forest came only with the white man." There were parrots in Kentucky, and
there were in Ohio pigeons and birds of prey, eagles and buzzards, but the
birds we know to-day and the bees were later immigrants from lands that
remembered Aristophanes or the hills of Hymettus, or that knew Shelley's
skylark or Keats's nightingale or Rostand's tamer fowls or Maeterlinck's

Even if we allow to the forests Chateaubriand's color in summer and the
clamor in times of terror--color and clamor which only a keen eye and ear
would have seen and heard--we cannot longer think of them as pathless, if
inhabited by those ancient pathmakers, the buffalo, deer, sheep. And,
naturally, when the Indian came, dependent as he was upon wild game, he
followed these paths or traces made and frequented by the beasts--the ways
to food, to water, to salt, to other habitats with the changing seasons.
The buffalo roads and the deer trails became his vocational trails--the
streets of his livelihood. And as his enemy was likely to find him by
following these traces, they became not only the paths of peace but the
paths of war. When the red man trespassed upon the peaceful trails of his
enemy, he was, in an American idiom, "on the war-path."

Then in time the European trader went in friendly search of the Indian by
these same paths, and they became the avenues of petty commerce. As street
venders in Paris, so these forest traders or runners went up and down
these sheltered paths, as dark in summer as the narrowest streets, only
they went silently, though they were often heard as distinctly in the
breaking of twigs or in their muffled tread by the alert ears of the
Indians as the musical voices of these venders are heard in the city. And
the places where these traders put down their cheap trinkets before their
dusky patrons grew into trading-posts, prophetic of future cities and

Such were the paths by which the runners of the woods, the French coureurs
de bois, first emerged--after following the watercourses--upon the western
forest glades and the edges of the prairies and astonished the aboriginal
human owners of those wild highways that had known only the soft feet of
the wolf and fox and bear, the hoofs of the buffalo and deer, and the bare
feet or the moccasins of the Indians (the "silent shoes," as I have seen
such footgear advertised in Boulevard St. Germain).

It has been said by a chemist of some repute that man came, in his
evolution, out of the sea; that he has in his veins certain elements--
potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium--in the same ratio in which they
appeared in the water of the Pre-Cambrian ocean. Whether this be true or
not, one stage of human development carries marks of the forest, and from
that period "having nothing but forest knowledge, forest dreams, forest
fancies, forest faith," as an American writer has said, man emerges upon
the plains of history.

So, though the French civilization still smells and sounds of the sea, and
followed the streams that kept its first men in touch with it, it had
finally, in its pioneering, to take to the trails and the forests. And
these runners of the woods were the amphibious ambassadors from this
kingdom of the sea to the kingdom of the land. They were, as Étienne Brûlé
of Champlain's time, the pioneers of pioneers who, often in unrecorded
advance of priest and explorer, pushed their adventurous traffic in French
guns and hatchets, French beads and cloth, French tobacco and brandy, till
they knew and were known to the aboriginal habitants, "from where the
stunted Esquimaux burrowed in their snow caves to where the Comanches
scoured the plains of the south with their banditti cavalry."

They were a lawless lot whom this mission, not only between water and land
but also between civilization and barbarism, "spoiled for civilization."
But they must not be judged too harshly in their vibrations between the
two standards of life which they bridged, making periodical confession to
charitable priests in one, of the sins committed in the other, which,
unforgiven, might have driven them entirely away from the church and into

The names of most of these coureurs de bois are forgotten by history
(which is rather particular about the character of those whom it
remembers--other than those in kingly or other high places). But they who
have followed immediately in the trails of these men of the verges have
written these names, or some of them, in places where they are more widely
read than if cherished by history even. Étienne Brûlé--who, as
interpreter, led Le Caron out upon the first western mission--after
following trails and waters for hundreds of miles back of the English
settlements, where the timid colonists had not dared to venture, suffered
the martyrdom of fire, and is remembered in a tempestuous stream in the
west and perhaps in an Indian tribe. The name of Jean Nicolet of Cherbourg
(the ambassador to the Winnebagoes, from the record of whose picturesque
advent in the "Jesuit Relations" the annals of the west really began) has
been given to a path now grown into one of the most populous streets along
the whole course of the Mississippi River--in Minneapolis. And Du Lhut,
the cousin of Tonty, a native of Lyons--a man of "persistent hardihood,
not surpassed perhaps even by La Salle," says Parkman, "continually in the
forest, in the Indian towns, or in the remote wilderness outposts planted
by himself, exploring, trading, fighting, ruling lawless savages, and
whites scarcely less ungovernable," [Footnote: Parkman, "La Salle," p.
274] and crossing the ocean for interviews with the colonial minister,
"amid the splendid vanities of Versailles"--he is remembered for all time
in that city, built up against the far shores of Lake Superior, bearing
his name, Duluth, the city that has taken the place of London in the list
of the world's great harbors. Macaulay's vision of the New Zealander
standing amid the ruins of London and overlooking the mastless Thames
seems to have some realization in the succeeding of a city, founded in the
path of a wood runner, out on the borders of civilization, to one of
London's distinctions among the cities of the world.

"This class of men is not extinct," said Parkman twenty or thirty years
ago; "in the cheerless wilds beyond the northern lakes, or among the
solitudes of the distant west they may still be found, unchanged in life
and character since the day when Louis the Great claimed sovereignty over
the desert empire."

But their mission, if any survive till now, is past. The paths, surveyed
of the beasts and opened by these pioneers to the feet of priests,
explorers, and traders, have let in the influences that in time destroyed
all these forest lovers braved the solitude for. The trace has become the
railroad, and the smell of the gasolene motor is even on the once wild
Oregon trail; for, in general, it has been said of the forest part of the
valley, "where there is a railway to-day there was a path a century and a
quarter ago" (and that means longer ago); and it may be added that where
there was a French trading-post, or fort, or portage, there is a city to-
day, not because of the attraction of the populations of those places for
the prospecting railroad, but because of their natural highway advantage,
learned even by the buffaloes. Not all paths have evolved into railroads,
but the railroads have followed practically all of these natural paths--
paths of the coureurs de bois, instinctively searching for mountain
passes, the low portages from valley to valley, the shortest ways and the
easiest grades.

One of America's greatest railroad presidents has noted this significant
difference between the railroads of Europe and those of America, or at any
rate of the Mississippi Valley. In Europe they "took the place of the
pack-animal, the stage-coach, the goods-van that crowded all the highways
between populous centers," whereas in the Mississippi Valley and beyond
they succeeded the pioneer and pathfinder. The railroad outran the settler
and "beckoned him on," just as the coureur de bois outran the slower-going
migrant and beckoned him on to ever new frontiers. The buffalo, the
coureur de bois, the engineer in turn. The railroad, the more modern
coureur de bois and coureur de planche, has not served the new-world
society merely as a connecting-link between communities already developed.
It has been the "creator of cities." [Footnote: James J. Hill, "Highways
of Progress," pp. 235-236.]

Out on those prairies beyond the forests I have seen this general
statement of Mr. Hill's illustrated. Down from Lake Michigan the first
railroad crept toward the Mississippi along the Des Plaines and then the
Illinois, where La Salle had seen from his canoe great herds of buffalo
"trampling by in ponderous columns or filing in long lines morning, noon,
and night." That railroad was a path, not to any particular city but to
the water, a path from water to water, a long portage from the lake to the
Mississippi and back again.

One day, within my memory, a new path was marked by stakes that led away
from that river, off across the prairie, to an uninhabited place which the
first engineers had not known--a place of fire, the fields of coal, of
which the practical Joliet had found signs on his memorable journey. And
so one and another road crossed that prairie (on which I can even now
clearly see the first engine standing in the prairie-grass), making toward
the places of fire, of wood, of grain, of meat, of gold, of iron, of lead,
till the whole prairie was a network of these paths--and now the
"transportation machine" (as Mr. Hill calls it) has grown to two hundred
and fifty-four thousand seven hundred and thirty-two miles (in 1911), or
about 40 per cent of the world mileage, of which one hundred and forty
thousand miles are within the Mississippi Valley, carrying with them
wherever they go the telegraph and telephone wires, building villages,
towns, and cities-still bringing the fashions of Paris, as did Perrot, in
the paths of the buffalo.

When the surveyors crossed that prairie, treeless except for the woods
along the Aramoni River (just back of the Rock St. Louis) and along the
Illinois River at the other edge, the wild animals and the Indians had
disappeared westward, the prairie ground was broken and planted in
patches; fences had begun to appear on the silent stretches; houses stood
four to a section, with a one-room schoolhouse every two miles and
churches at long intervals. After the construction train ploughed its slow
way across that same prairie, in the trail staked by the surveyors, a
place was marked for a village; the farmers upon whose land it promised to
trespass wanted each to give it the name of his wife, his queen, as La
Salle of his king; but one day a workman, representing the unsentimental
corporation, without ceremony nailed a strip of board to a post, with the
name "Aramoni," let us say, painted upon it. Wooden buildings, stores,
elevators, blacksmith, harness, and shoemaker shops, and the dwellings of
those who did the work of the little town, gathered about; in time some of
the pioneer settlers leaving their farms to the care of children or
tenants moved into the town; the primitive stores were rebuilt in brick;
houses of pretentious architecture crowded out of the best sites the first
dwellings; and in twenty or thirty years it had become a village of
several hundred people: retired farmers or their widows, men of the
younger generation living on the income of their farms without more than
nominal occupation, and those who buy the produce and minister to the
wants of this little community. Most of the villagers and most of the
farmers in all the country about have the telephone in their houses and
can talk as much as they please with their neighbors at a very small
yearly charge. They also keep track of the grain and stock markets by
telephone, have their daily metropolitan paper, a county paper, monthly
magazines (of which they are the best readers), perhaps a piano or an
organ, more likely, now, a phonograph, which reproduces, if they choose,
what is heard in Paris or in concerts or the grand opera; reproductions of
pieces of statuary or paintings in the Louvre; and either a fast driving
horse or an automobile. They are often within easy reach of a city by
train, and the wives or daughters know the fashions of Paris and begin to
follow the modes as quickly as local talent can make the adaptations and

Aramoni is not an imaginary much less a Utopian village. There are
thousands of "Aramonis" where the railroads have gone, drawing all the
physical conveniences and social conventions after them, where once
coureurs de bois followed the buffaloes.

Mr. Hill, whom I have just quoted above, has said: "Next after the
Christian religion and the public school the railroad has been the largest
single contributing factor to the welfare and happiness of the people of
that valley." [Footnote: James J. Hill, "Highways of Progress," pp. 236,

The first great service of the railroads to the republic, as such, was to
make it possible that the people of a territory three thousand miles wide,
crossed by two mountain ranges, should be bound into one republic. The
waters to the east of the Alleghanies ran toward the Atlantic, the waters
west of the Rockies ran toward the Pacific, and the waters between the
mountains ran to the Gulf of Mexico. If the great east-and-west railroads
had not been built and some of the waters of the Lakes had not been made
to run down the Mohawk Valley into the Hudson it is more than probable
that there would have been a secession of the men who called themselves
the "men of the western waters," a secession of the west from the east,
rather than of the south from the north. If the men of this valley had
continued men of the "western waters" there would probably have been at
least three republics in North America and perhaps as many as in South

When Josiah Quincy, a famous son of Massachusetts, said for the men of the
east in the halls of Congress, "You have no authority to throw the rights
and liberties and property of this people into hotchpot with the wild men
on the Missouri, nor with the mixed though more respectable race of Anglo-
Hispano-Gallo-Americans, who bask on the sands in the mouth of the
Mississippi," he was visualizing the men whose interests followed the
rivers to another tide-water than that of Boston and New York harbors. The
railroads made a real prophecy of his fear that these men of the western
rivers would some day be "managing the concerns of a seaboard fifteen
hundred miles from their residences, and having a preponderance in the
councils," into which, as he contended, "they should never have been
admitted." [Footnote: Speech on the bill to admit Orleans Territory into
the Union. Annals of Congress, 11th Cong., 3d Sess., 1810-11, pp. 524-

He was thinking and speaking rather of the southwest than of the
northwest, but it was the east-and-west lines of railroad that prevented
the vital interest of that northern valley from flowing with the water
along parallels of longitude to where the gulf currents would catch its
commerce, instead of over the mountains along the sterner parallels of
latitude and in straighter course to Europe.

The force of gravity, the temptation of the tropics, the indifference of
the east, the freedom from eastern and puritanical restraints, were all on
the side of a "republic of the western waters" and against that larger,
continent-wide nationalism which now has its most ardent support in that
valley through which the iron shuttles fly from sea to sea, weaving the
waters as strands of color into a unified pattern of sublimer import.

It looks now as if the north-and-south lines were to be strengthened the
world over, as the occupied and exploited north temperate zone reaches
north toward the frigid zone, now grown warmer by the very opening of the
lands to the sun and the long burning of coal, and south toward the
tropics, now made more habitable by the new knowledge of tropical
medicine, and even across the tropics to the sister temperate zone of the
southern hemisphere. [Footnote: I have been told by one who has been
studying conditions in the great northwest fields of Canada that it is now
possible to grow crops there that could not have been grown before the
country was opened and cultivated to the south of them, so much longer
have the frosts been delayed in the autumn.] In the Mississippi Valley,
the gulf ports, fed of river and railroad, are increasingly busy, partly,
to be sure, because they look toward the east-and-west path through
Panama, but partly, too, because they lie between the two temperate zones,
which must inevitably be brought nearer to each other. We cannot imagine
two permanently dissociated or distantly associated temperate
civilizations on this globe, which is becoming smaller every day.

It was inevitable, perhaps, and happily inevitable, that the east-and-west
lines should be well established before the temperate zone should venture
into tropic lotus-lands again, and perhaps it was inevitable that the west
should eventually, even without the help of steam and steel, attach itself
to the east--even by streams of water.

Washington had hardly put off his uniform, after the peace of 1783, when
he was planning for a western trip, and his diary on the third day of that
trip of six hundred and eighty miles shows that his one object was to
obtain information of the nearest and best communication between the
eastern and the western waters. One of the kings of France said, when his
grandson was made king of Spain, "There are no longer any Pyrenees," and
Washington, when he saw the new republic forming, said, in effect, "There
must be no Alleghanies." He expected a canal to erase the mountains, but
the railroad accomplished this gigantic task with but slight aid of water.

And as the railroad tied the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, so
in time, aided of a government that had every reason to be grateful, it
reached across the uninhabited plains, over the Rocky Mountains, which
even the western statesmen said were the divinely appointed barriers, and
across the desert beyond to the Pacific slope and tied it to a capital
which is now nearer to San Francisco than once it was to Boston. A man
from Missouri is speaker of the house in which Josiah Quincy spoke his
provincial fears. A man from the mouth of the Mississippi, the highest
authority in America on the French code, was but a little time ago
appointed as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
by a President who was born on the banks of the Ohio; that is, the highest
office in each of the three independent branches of government (the
executive, the legislative, and the judicial) have at one time been filled
by men of the western waters. I am anticipating a fact that belongs to a
later theme, but there is no single fact that can better illustrate the
political service of the paths over which we are to-day travelling.

On the economic consequences we need not now dwell. They have had too
frequent and sufficiently conspicuous illustration in every foreign mind
that knows anything whatever of that valley to make it necessary to insist
in this cursory view upon their great contribution to physical comfort. It
is, however, begun to be felt that in the rapid development and
exploitation of the resources of that valley (made possible only by the
railroads) the future has not been enough in our minds. It was said a few
years ago that there was not money enough in the world to lay track to
take the traffic that the Mississippi Basin offered. The valley wanted to
get everything to market in one generation, indifferent to the fate of
those who should come after-the passes through the mountains being choked
by cars carrying to the coasts crops from increasing acreage of declining
productivity or the products of swiftly disappearing forests or the output
of mines that must soon be exhausted.

Perhaps the railroads are not to be blamed for this decrease in
productivity--a passing phase of our agricultural life, as recent crop
reports show. They are very loudly blamed that they do not carry these
products fast enough or cheaply enough, though, according to a recent
authority, their rates are less on the average than the cost of the French
water traffic.

Nevertheless, their wheels alone have made possible that phenomenal
draining of the riches of the land to the coasts and other shores,
assisting the waters that carry a half-billion tons of soil into the gulf
every year. Perhaps this hurried, panting development has been for the
good of all time, but until recently there has been little or no thought
of that "all time" (as we observed in the policies of land parcelling).

Practically the whole western country has tied itself to a wheel, and so
whatever its happiness and welfare may be, come of or with the wheel. This
territory is capable of self-support; it has still its independent spirit,
bred of the pioneer who lived before the day of wheels; it is responsive
to appeals that stop its restless movement--as the wheel of Ixion when
Orpheus played; but none the less is it an eager, restless, unquiet life,
driven as a wheel, driven by the same hand that urged it into the valley.

No one asks--or few ask--if the wheel brings good or ill. The only concern
is that it shall run as quickly and safely as is humanly and mechanically
possible and shall not discriminate between one shipper and another, one
community and another, one consumer and another. That is the railroad
problem. The wheel has removed watersheds at pleasure, created cities and
fortunes by its presence or its taking thought. But under the new policy
of the government it is not likely that there will ever again be such
ruthless disturbance of nature, or such wild, profuse creation. Democracy,
beginning in that valley, is seeking now a perfect impersonal
transportation machine.

But such a machine will drain quite as effectively the country districts.
The census returns for 1910 show, for example, that in one prosperous
agricultural State, Missouri, just west of the Mississippi, while the
State as a whole showed an increase of 187,000 in ten years, there was a
net decrease of 84,000 in the rural districts. A partial explanation of
the latter statistic is the moving on of farmers to still newer lands;
another, the decline in the size of families; but it is attributable
chiefly to the first statistic, the drift to the city--and to this the
wheels contribute more than any other influence, carrying, as they do, the
glamour or the opportunity of the city life daily before the eyes of the
country boy.

To be sure, these same wheels are lessening, to some extent, the
congestion of the great centres of population, and lightening their
shadows by extending them--spreading them--but none the less are the
shadows spreading faster from the coming of the country to the city than
of the suburbanizing of the city.

This movement is not peculiar to the Mississippi Valley, but it is more
rapid there, perhaps, than in any other great area.

Let me give you an illustration of that demigrating influence. Two years
ago I invited several leaders of great transportation and educational
interests in New York to meet one of their number who, beginning life as a
telegraph operator out beyond the Mississippi, was at the head of one of
the two greatest railroads in the east. Of the guests, one, the president
of another important railroad, was once a farm boy, then a freight
brakeman in that same western State; another, the president of one of the
longest railroads, was the son of a stone-mason out in that valley;
another, the head of the Interborough system of New York, also a prairie-
born boy; another, president of the greatest southern railroad, was born
at the mouth of the Mississippi; and still another, one of the wealthiest
men in the world, was at one time a messenger boy and telegraph operator
just over the mountains on the site of Fort Duquesne. Only one man of the
company of nearly twenty men, assembled without thought of origin, had
been born in New York. All had come from the country or from across the
water, and most of them from the great Mississippi Valley. I speak of this
while discussing the railroad, because it is their paths through the
valley of the French that have made this phenomenon possible.

I have spoken of what the wheel has done in making the permanence of one
republic of such an area a possibility. Nothing save a loose,
heterogeneous confederation could have been practicable without its
unifying service. It is only fair to those who made such gloomy prophecies
in the early days to say that they had no intimation of what steam was
destined to do. When Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat, early
in the nineteenth century, on a journey back from the west in a stage-
coach, said that some day steam would drive wagons faster than they were
going in the coach, his fellow passengers thought him a dreamer--a
visionary. But it was only a man of such dreams or visions who in those
days could have seen the possibility which has to-day been realized
through the railroad.

I have spoken of the part which the steam wheel has had in the rapid
development and the exploitation of that great valley which, except for
its pioneering in wild places, might have been seven hundred years, as
Andrew Johnson predicted, in filling up, or at least two or three

I have intimated its influence in promoting migration cityward--a movement
as wide as European civilization--but intensified there, where the
inhabitants have not been tied through generations of inheritance or
historic associations to particular fields, where primogeniture has no
observance, and where the traditions are of the wilderness and the visions
are ever of a promised land beyond. The city is on every boy's horizon.
Its glow is in every prairie sky at twilight.

When a boy on those silent plains I had my Horace and my Euripides in the
field. The unattainable eternal cities lent their charm and glory to the
valley whose childhood horizon I had not crossed. But now no country boy
thinks of the ancient or the mediaeval. It is the nearer city and
civilization that impress the imagination. The valedictorian of a class,
graduating as I entered college, told me a few months ago that he was
building a trolley-line in Rome, and that, after all, Falernian wine, of
which we who had never tasted wine out in that vineless region thought as
some drink of the gods, was very bitter.

I have hinted at what the wheel has done, in what it carries, to make all
look alike and think alike and act alike, but there is one supreme service
that must have mention. In that country when travel was slow we had a
representative government. But while we still have the same form, the
wheel has made possible, and so necessary, a more democratic government.
When a representative was weeks in reaching the capital he acted on his
own responsibility in larger measure than now, when his constituency can
reach him every morning. The valley is reached every day, just as the
people in a pure democracy were reached by the ancient stentor. The people
are reserving to themselves more and more of the function of their one-
time representatives, in such measures as the referendum and initiative
intimate, and are trying to secure more accurate representation in such
systems as the direct primary and proportional representation suggest; but
these all are possible only through the aid of the wheel and of what it
has brought. If the improvement of democracy is to come through more
democracy, as some think, then the railroad is an essential agent of
political progress as well as of economic exploitation and social
homogeneity. I am not discussing this thesis but simply showing how
dependent upon this physical agent is the machinery of democracy.

Moreover, mobility is almost an essential quality of the spirit of
democracy, the free way to the farthest horizons, the open road to the
highest position and service. When the atom becomes practically fixed by
its environment, reposeful and stable, stratification sets in. We may or
we may not have then something better.

It may seem to you a far cry from those rough, lawless coureurs de bois to
the mobile but orderly people of that valley to-day. But after an
experience of a few summers ago the distance does not seem so great.

Here is a journal of three days:

In the morning of an August day I was gathering some last data from the
library of one of the greatest, though one of the newest, universities in
the world--a two-hours' journey from where the coureur de bois Jean
Nicolet, in robe of damask, first looked over the edge of the basin, (Not
many years ago I sat there in an assembly of learned men gathered from the
ends of the earth and arrayed in academic robes.) In the afternoon I
walked over that first and most famous of the French portages, but not
content with that, I walked on into the night along the Wisconsin, that I
might see the river as the explorers saw it. However, at midnight I took a
palace car, with such conveniences as even Louis the Great did not have at
Versailles, and woke well up the Mississippi. I spent the day at another
great State university and at dusk set off by the actual trails of the
French coureurs de bois (only by wheels instead of on foot), first through
the woods and along rivers, above Green Bay to the "Soo," then above Lake
Huron and the Nipissing and down the Ottawa River, where I saw the second
day break, and then on past La Salle's seigniory of St. Sulpice, around
Carder's mountain into Montreal, and thence to the Rock of Quebec.

It is a common, unimaginative metaphor in the United States to call the
engine which leads the mighty trains across the country the iron horse;
but it is deserving of a nobler figure. It is the iron coureur de bois,
still leading Europe into America, and America into a newer America.



In the lower St. Lawrence Valley, among the French Canadians, where France
is best remembered and where the shut-in life is not disturbed by current
events or changing conventions or evanescent fashions, I am told there are
traces in their language of the sea life of their ancestors on the coasts
of Brittany and Normandy. When, for example, a neighbor approaches a
farmhouse on horseback he is asked not to "alight" or to "dismount" but to
"disembark," and he is invited not to "tie" his horse but to "moor" it. It
is as if they were still crying ever in their unconscious memories,
"Thalassa, Thalassa"; as if the very shells of speech still carried the
roar of the ocean which they who hold them to their ears have never seen.

If the language of the upper valley of the St. Lawrence and of the valley
of the Mississippi remembered as distinctly its origin we should
everywhere hear the plash of the oar in all the hospitality of their
settlements. But all such traces have disappeared, or all but disappeared,
in the Mississippi Valley. The only one that comes to me now, as possibly
of the old French days, is one which is preserved in an adage not at all
French but quite characteristic of the independent life that has occupied
the banks of all the rivers: "Paddle your own canoe." Yet even in the
space of one or two generations of agricultural life that, too, is
disappearing, supplanted by a synonymous phrase, borrowed of fields that
have entirely forgotten the primitive days, when men travelled only by
water and lived near the streams: "Hoe your own row."

The first sound of the overmountain migration of which I spoke above was
of the stealthy step of the hunter, yet back of that for a century was the
scarcely audible plash of the paddle and the answering swirl of the water.
But as in overmountain migration the noisy wheel soon followed the foot,
so in the other the noiseless sail followed the swishing paddle.

The city of Paris bears a sailing ship upon her shield, though she sits a
hundred miles or more from the sea. Whatever the significance of that
symbol has been to the people of France, it has a peculiar appropriateness
(probably never realized before) in the fact that the iron, cordage, and
anchors for the first vessel which sailed upon the inland waters of the
new world were carried out from France to the first shipyard, beyond the
mountains, in the midst of the forest, above the mighty Falls of Niagara.

Jason of Thessaly, sailing for the Golden Fleece in Colchis, and braving
the fiery breath of the dragon, did not undertake a more perilous or more
difficult labor than he who bore from the banks of the Seine the equipment
of a vessel in which to bring back to France, as he hoped, the fleece of
the forest and the plain.

We are accustomed to call those who crossed the plains and the Rocky
Mountains for the gold-fields of California nearly two centuries later (in
1849) the Argonautae; but the first American Argonauts went from France,
and they built their _Argo_ on what is now Lake Erie, on the edge of the
Field of the Bulls, near a place, grown into a beautiful city, which now
bears the very name of the wild bull, the "buffalo," and within sound of
the roaring of the dragon that had frightened all earlier explorers. So
accurately do the details of the story of Jason's adventure become
realities to-day! Champlain and others had heard only at a distance the
thunder of the great cataract that was some day to become not only as
docile as the dragon under Jason's taming but as useful as a million
harnessed bulls.

La Salle gathered his ship-carpenters and his ship furniture between his
journeys to Rouen (the place of his birth) and elsewhere for the means of
purchase. But before the winter had come in Normandy his messengers were
out amid the snows and naked forests of Canadian winters in continuance of
that voyage toward the western Colchis.

In the autumn of 1678 a Franciscan friar, Hennepin, set out with two
canoemen, the first solitary figures of the expedition--a gray priest from
the gray Rock of Quebec, in a birch canoe, carrying with him the
"furniture of a portable altar"--a priest who professed a zeal for souls,
but who admitted a passion for travel and a burning desire to visit
strange lands. He relates of himself that, being sent from a convent in
Artois to Calais at the season of herring fishing, he made friends of the
sailors and never tired of their stories. "Often," he says, "I hid myself
behind tavern doors while the sailors were telling of their voyages. The
tobacco smoke made me very sick at the stomach, but nevertheless I
listened attentively.... I could have passed whole days and nights in this
way without eating." [Footnote: Parkman, "La Salle," p. 133. Hennepin, "A
New Discovery of a Large Country in America," ed. Thwaites, 1:30.]

Along the way up the St. Lawrence he stopped to minister to the habitants
--too few and too poor to support a priest--saying mass, exhorting, and
baptizing. Early in November he arrived at the mission of Fort Frontenac,
which he had two or three years before helped to establish in the wilds.
Soon La Salle's lieutenants, La Motte and Tonty, appeared with most of the
men, and while some were despatched in canoes to Lake Michigan to gather
the buffalo-hides and beaver-skins against the coming of the ship, whose
keel had not yet been laid, the rest (La Motte, Hennepin, and sixteen men)
embarked for the Niagara River, by which the upper lakes empty into Lake
Ontario and the St. Lawrence. After a tempestuous voyage up and across the
lake they reached this river, whose torrent fury, gathered of "four inland
oceans," stopped even the canoes. Then, led of the priest, they toiled up
the cliffs called the "Three Mountains," because, I suppose, of the three
terraces. (Having climbed up the face of the cliffs in winter, with a
heavy camera for my portable altar, and having broken the great icicles
formed by the trickling stream over one of the terraces, in order to make
my way across a narrow ledge to the top of the precipice, I am able to
know what the journey must have meant to those first European travellers.)
Once upon the upper plateau, they marched through the wintry forest and at
length, in "solitude unprofaned as yet by the pettiness of man," they
beheld the "imperial cataract"--the "thunder of water," as the Indians
called it--or, as Hennepin described it, that "vast and prodigious cadence
of water which falls down after a surprising and most astonishing manner,
insomuch that the universe does not afford its parallel, those of Italy
and Switzerland being but sorry patterns." To this priest, Hennepin, we
owe the first description and picture of Niagara, [Footnote: "Four leagues
from Lake Frontenac there is an incredible Cataract or Waterfall, which
has no equal. The Niagara river near this place is only the eighth of a
league wide, but it is very deep in places, and so rapid above the great
fall that it hurries down all the animals which try to cross it, without a
single one being able to withstand its current. They plunge down a height
of more than five hundred feet, and its fall is composed of two sheets of
water and a cascade, with an island sloping down. In the middle these
waters foam and boil in a fearful manner. They thunder continually, and
when the wind blows in a southerly direction the noise which they make is
heard for more than fifteen leagues. Four leagues from this cataract, or
fall, the Niagara river rushes with extraordinary rapidity especially for
two leagues into Lake Frontenac."--Hennepin, "Description of Louisiana,"
pp. 71-73.] probably now more familiar to the world than any other natural
feature of this continent. He has somewhat magnified the height of these
falls, making it five hundred feet in the edition of 1683, and raising it
to six hundred in 1697; but they are impressive enough to acquit him of
intentional falsification and powerful enough to run virtually all the
manufacturing plants in the United States, if they could be gathered
within its easy reach.

As it is, less than 9 per cent of the water that overflows from the four
upper Great Lakes into the lower lake, once known as Lake Frontenac and
now as Ontario, is diverted for utilitarian purposes; it supplies the
Americans and the Canadians almost equally between the two shores five
hundred thousand horse-power. [Footnote: "Under a treaty between the
United States and the British Government only about 25 per cent of the
theoretical horsepower of Niagara Falls can be developed. The estimate of
the minimum amount of power that can be developed on the Niagara River
above and including the Falls is 5,800,000 h.p., and the assumed maximum
is 6,500,000 h.p. The treaty, therefore, limits present possible minimum
development on both sides of the Falls to 1,450,000 h.p. Under the treaty
only five-fourteenths of the power made available thereby belongs to the
United States, its share being reduced by the diversion of water from Lake
Michigan into the Drainage Canal at Chicago. There is thus left at Niagara
Falls only about 518,000 h.p. that can at present be developed on the
American side." About one-half of this total is now developed.--United
States Commissioner of Corporations. Report on water-power development in
the United States. 1912.]

What the conversion of the strength of this Titan (for ages entirely
wasted and for a century after Hennepin only a scenic wonder) means, or
may mean, to industry in the future is intimated in some statistics,
furnished by a recent writer on the Great Lakes, showing the relative cost
per month of a certain unit of power in a number of representative
American cities. [Footnote: "Assuming the maximum power used to be one
hundred horse-power, the number of working hours a day to be ten, and the
'load factor,' or average power actually used, to be seventy-five per cent
of the total one hundred, the cost per month in the cities named is as
[above]."--Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 135.]

Boston $937.50
Philadelphia 839.25
New York 699.37
Chicago 629.43
Cleveland 559.50
Pittsburgh 419.62
Buffalo 184.91
Niagara Falls 144.17

These figures are more significant as one contemplates the diminishing
supply of coal in coming centuries, if not decades. According to the
estimate of a reliable authority the available and accessible coal supply
of the United States will be exhausted at the present rate of exploitation
by the year 2027, and the entire supply by the year 2050.

Such statistics intimate the advantage possessed, perhaps beyond any other
site in America, by the strip of shore on which La Salle's men, from the
banks of the Seine, and Hennepin, the priest from Calais, that December
night in 1678 encamped, building their bivouac fires amid the snows, three
miles above the falls--and so opening to the view of the world a natural
source of power and wealth more valuable than extensive coal-fields or
rich mines of gold or silver.

It was but a great waterfall to La Salle and Tonty and Hennepin--an
impeding, noisy, hostile object. And to the half-mutinous, quarrelsome
workmen (French, Flemings, Italians) it was a demon, no doubt, whose very
breath froze their beards into icicles. It was, in reality, potentially
the most beneficent single, incarnate force bounded by any one horizon of
sky, in that new world, developed by the tipping of the continent a little
to the eastward after the upper lakes had been formed and the consequent
emptying of their waters into the St. Lawrence instead of the Gulf of

In January, 1679, a file of burdened men, some thirty in number, toiling
slowly on their way over the snowy plains and "through the gloomy forests
of spruce and naked oak trees," the priest accompanying with his altar
lashed to his back, reached a favorable spot beside calm water several
miles above the cataract: the site is identified as situate a little way
above the mouth of Cayuga Creek, just outside the village of La Salle, in
the State of New York. There is a stone erected by the local historical
society to mark the spot. When I saw the bronze tablet the inscription was
almost illegible, covered, as it was, with ice and the snow that was at
that very hour falling upon it.

There, began the felling and hewing of trees that were to touch the
farther shores of Michigan. The supplies brought out from Paris had been
lost by the wreck of La Salle's smaller vessel on the way up Ontario, but
enough was saved, or brought by La Salle on his return from Fort
Frontenac, to give this sixty-ton vessel full equipment, for in the spring
she was launched. The "friar pronounced his blessing on her; the assembled
company sang _Te Deum_; cannon were fired; and French and Indians ...
shouted and yelped in chorus as she glided into Niagara." She carried five
cannon and on her prow was carved such a "portentous monster" as doubtless
is to be found among the grotesques of Notre Dame--a griffin (that is, a
beast with the body of a lion and the head, beak, and pinions of a bird),
in honor of the armorial bearings of Count Frontenac.

Through spring and half the summer the vessel lay moored beyond reach of
the Indians but near enough so that Hennepin "could preach on Sundays from
the deck to the men encamped along the bank." When La Salle, who had been
obliged by disasters to go back to Fort Frontenac during the building of
the ship, again appeared above the falls in midsummer, the _Griffin_ was
warped up into the placid lake, and on the 7th of August anchor was lifted
and the fateful voyage was begun.

There was (as when the _Argo_, the "first bold vessel, dared the seas") no
Orpheus standing "high on the stern" and "raising his entrancing strain."
Nor did a throng of proud Thessalians or of "transported demi-gods" stand
round to cheer them off. The naked Indians, their hands over their mouths
in wonderment or shouting, "Gannorom! Gannorom!" alone saw the great boat
move out over the waters without oar or paddle or towing rope. For music
there was only the _Te Deum_ again, sung by raw, unpractised voices, such
as one might hear among the boatmen of the Seine. It was not such music,
at any rate, as that of Orpheus, to make plain men grow "heroes at the
sound." Doubtless no one felt himself a hero. The only intimation of any
consciousness of a high mission comes from Hennepin, who, when the
_Griffin_, some days later, was ploughing peacefully through the straits
that led to the Mer Douce--"verdant prairies, dotted with groves and
bordered with lofty forests" on either side, "herds of deer and flocks of
swans and wild turkeys" within sight, and the "bulwarks plentifully hung
with game"--wrote: "Those who will one day have the happiness to possess
this fertile and pleasant strait, will be very much obliged to those who
have shown them the way."

"Very much obliged"? No, Hennepin! Of the hundreds of thousands who now
pass through or across those straits every year, or of those thousands who
possess its shores, not a hundred, I venture to say, remember "those who
showed the way"! They have even forgotten "that the first European voice
that Niagara ever heard was French"! Ste. Claire!--the name you gave to
the beautiful strait beyond the "Symplegades" of your voyage, in gratitude
and in honor of the day on which your company reached it--has become
masculine in tribute to an American general. If your later praying to that
patron of seamen, St. Anthony of Padua, had not availed to save you from
the peril of the storm and you had gone to death in unsalted water, you
could hardly have been more completely forgotten. One has spoken now and
then lightly of the vow made by your commander, La Salle, to build a
grateful chapel to St. Anthony if your lives were saved during that storm,
forgetting that so long as the Mississippi runs to the sea there will be a
chapel to St. Anthony (St. Anthony's Falls) in which gratitude will be
continually chanted through ages for the preservation of the ship and its
crew to find haven in quiet waters behind Point St. Ignace.

It was there, at St. Ignace that we have seen La Salle, in scarlet,
kneeling before the altar, where Marquette's bones were doubtless by that
time gathered by his devoted savage followers, and it was thence that they
passed on to an island in Green Bay, the goal of their journey.

From that far port the first cargo carried of sails was sent out, bound
for the shore on which the _Griffin's_ timbers had been hewn. That it
never reached harbor of that calm shelter, or any other, we know; but that
loss, once the path was traced in the waters, is hardly of consequence
save as it helped further to illustrate the indomitable spirit of La Salle
and his companions.

What good came to Thessaly or Greece of the yellow peltry that Jason
brought back is not even kept in myth or fable. The mere adventure was the
all. They did not even think of its worth. The goatskin was valueless
except as a proof or token, and the boat _Argo_, though the greatest ship
known to the early myths of Greece, and though dedicated, we are told, to
Neptune at the end of the voyage, became the pioneer of no such mighty
fleet as did the _Griffin_. The list of the Greek ships and commanders in
the Iliad offers but a pygmy analogy. And if you were to go to Buffalo to-
day, near the site of that first shipyard (a little farther away from the
falls), you would know that the successors of La Salle in new _Griffins_
had actually brought back the golden fleece--the priceless fleece, the
fleece of the plains if not of the forests. Day after day its gold is hung
against the sky as the grain is lifted from the ships into elevators which
can store at one time twenty-three million bushels of wheat.

The coasts of the lakes up which the _Griffin_ led the oarless way are
three thousand three hundred and eighty-five miles in length, or,
including those of the lower lake, Frontenac, which was also first touched
of French keels, over four thousand miles. The statistics of the traffic
which has grown in the furrow of that wind-drawn plough would be fatiguing
if they did not carry you to heights of a wider and more exhilarating

We have occupied and apportioned the billion acres of French domain among
sixty million people. Here is an added domain in which no landmarks can be
set--which belongs to all men.

These are a few graphic facts gathered from recent reports and books about
the Great Lakes: [Footnote: Edward Charming and M. F. Lansing, "The Story
of the Great Lakes." Macmillan, New York, 1909. James O. Curwood, "The
Great Lakes." Putnam, New York, 1909. James C. Mills, "Our Inland Seas."
McClurg, Chicago, 1910.]

Nearly as many people live in States that have ports upon those shores as
in France to-day--between thirty-five and forty millions.

The lakes have a tonnage equal to one-third of the total tonnage of North
America. [Footnote: Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 4. "In 1913 the total
tonnage of the Great Lakes was 2,940,000 tons, of the United States
7,887,000 tons."--Report United States Commission of Navigation.]

They have made possible a saving in cost of transportation (and so of
production) of several hundred million dollars in a single year.
[Footnote: Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 4.]

Only ninety million dollars have been spent by the government for their
improvement in the whole history of their occupation, above Niagara Falls,
[Footnote: Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 9.] while France in that time
has spent for harbors and waterways alone seven hundred and fifty million
dollars.[Footnote: "Four hundred and fifty million dollars of this total
has been for the improvement and maintenance of the waterways."--Report of
National Waterways Commission, p. 507.] They have been privately

Six times as much freight passes over these lakes as through the Suez
Canal in a year. [Footnote: Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 6.]

Three thousand five hundred vessels, and more than twenty-five thousand
men are required to move the hundred million tons of freight which every
year would fill a train encircling the globe. [Footnote: Curwood, "The
Great Lakes," pp. 25, 26, and Report of United States Commission of
Navigation, 1913.]

If one were to stand on the shore of that "charming strait," between Erie
and Huron, the Detroit River (which Hennepin so covetously describes,
wishing to make settlement there, until La Salle reminded him of his
"professed passion for exploring a new country"), one would now see a
vessel passing one way or the other every twelve minutes, on the average,
day and night during the eight months of open navigation.

Nor are they small sailing vessels of a few tons' burden, but great
sailless, steam-propelled hulks, carrying from five to ten thousand tons.

So it is no fleet of graceful galleons--half bird, half lion, as the
_Griffin_ was--that have followed in her wake up what Hennepin called "the
vast and unknown seas of which even the savages knew not the end." They
have, in the evolution of nautical zoology, lost beak, wings, and
feathers, and now like a shoal of wet lions, tawny and black, their
powerful heads and long steel backs just visible above the blue water,
they course the western Mediterranean from spring to winter. [Footnote: It
is an intruding and probably whimsical, but fascinating, thought that the
wings of the griffin have become evolved into the air-ships which first
began successfully to fly, in America, near the shores of the lake on
which the Griffin itself was hatched. The Wright brothers were born near
one of those lakes. It is not a far-fetched or labored thought which
pictures that simple, rough-made galleon--very like the model of the ship
on the shield of Paris--as leading two broods across the valley above the
Falls, one of lions that cannot fly and one of sea-birds, hydroplanes,
whose paths are the air, but whose resting-places are the calm water; the
brood of the sea and the brood of the sky, hatched from one nest at the
water's edge.]

The ships of the lion brood are, some of them, five or six hundred feet in
length, and carry eleven thousand tons of cargo. I have seen the skeleton
of one of these iron-boned beasts, and I have been told that eight hundred
thousand rivets go into its creation. And upon hearing this I could not
but hear the deafening clamor caused by La Salle's driving the first nail
or bolt, Father Hennepin declining the honor because of the "modesty of
[his] religious profession."

As to the cargoes that these ships bring back, the story is even more
marvellous. First in quantity is iron ore, forty-seven million four
hundred and thirty-five thousand seven hundred and seventy-one tons in
1912 [Footnote: "Mineral Industry," 21:455.] from the shores of Superior,
where Joliet had made search for copper mines, where Father Allouez--in
the midst of reports of baptisms and masses--tells of nuggets and rocks of
the precious metal, and where has grown up in a few years the "second
greatest freight-shipping port on earth"--a port that bears the name of
that famous French coureur de bois, Du Lhut. Forty-seven millions of tons,
and there are still a billion and a half in sight on those shores, which
have already given to the ships hundreds of millions of their dark

After the ore, lumber, one billion one hundred and sixty-five million feet
[Footnote: Monthly Summary of Internal Commerce of the United States,
December, 1911.] in one year (1911); a waning amount from the vanishing
forests that once completely encircled these lakes. Alexander Pope, whose
"Ode on St. Cecilia's Day" I have quoted (and would there were a Homer,
Pope, or Kipling to sing this true legend), speaks of _Argo_ seeing "her
kindred trees descend from Pelion to the Main"--from the mountain to the
sea, where Jason's boat was launched. So, with the departure of the
_Griffin_ from her Green Bay Island, might a prophetic poet have seen her
masts beckoning all the kindred trees to the water, in which one hundred
and sixty billion feet of pine have descended from the forests of Michigan
alone, [Footnote: Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 57.] and that is but one
of the circling States. And there is this singular fact to be added, that
nearly a third of the annual cargo goes to the "Tonawandas," [Footnote:
Curwood, "The Great Lakes," p. 54.] the "greatest lumber towns" in the
world that have grown up practically on the very site of the shipyard at
the mouth of Cayuga Creek, a little way above the falls.

And after the ore and lumber, grain--the fleece of the fields, immensely
more valuable than that of the forests; one hundred and fifty million
bushels in one year and eleven million barrels of flour--a fortnight's
bread supply for the entire world. [Footnote: Curwood, "The Great Lakes,"
p. 49.]

And after ore and lumber and grain, fuel and other bulky necessities of

The casual relation between the pioneer building and journey of the
_Griffin_ and these statistics cannot, of course, be established, but what
no inspired human prophecy could have divined, or even the wildest
dreaming of La Salle have imagined, is as sequential as the history that
has been made to trace all new-world development in the wake of the
caravels of Columbus. The storms of nature and the jealousies in human
breasts thwarted La Salle's immediate ambitions, but what has come into
that northern valley has followed closely in the path of his purposes, the
path traced by his ship built of the trees of Niagara and furnished by the
chandleries of Paris.

The mystery of the vanishing of this pioneer vessel only enhances the
glory of its venture and service--as its loss but gave new foil to the
hardihood of La Salle and Tonty. We can imagine the golden-brown skins
scattered over the blue waters as the bits of the body of the son of the
king of Colchis strewn by Medea to detain the pursuers of the Argonauts.
It was the first sacrifice to the valley for the fleece. In the depths of
these Lakes or on their shores were buried the bones of these French
mariners who, first of Europeans, trusted themselves to sails and west
winds on those uncharted seas.

But this is not the all of the tragic story. The _Griffin_ carried in her
the prophecies of other than lake vessels. She had in her hold on that
fateful trip the cordage and iron for the pioneer of the river ships. So
when she went down she spoke to the waters that engulfed her the two
dreams of her builder and commander: one dream the navigation of the lakes
and the other the coursing of the western rivers.

The Spanish council which decreed long ago that "if it had pleased God
that ... rivers should have been navigable, He would not have wanted human
assistance to make them such" would be horrified by the sacrilege that has
been committed and is being contemplated by the followers of the men of
the _Griffin_.

They have made a canal around the Falls (which Hennepin first saw
breathing a cloud of mist over the great abyss)--a canal that,
supplemented by other canals along the St. Lawrence River, allows vessels
of fourteen-foot draught to go from Lake Erie to Montreal and so on to the
sea. If this achievement were put into the poetry of legend it would show
the outwitting of the dragon.

They have deepened the straits where the _Griffin_ had to wait for
favorable breezes and soundings to pass from Erie to Huron--the
Symplegades (clashing rocks) of the new-world voyage.

They have made canals on either side of the Sault Ste. Marie--the rapids
of the St. Mary's River, by the side of which St. Lusson took formal
possession of all that northern empire and Father Allouez made his
extraordinary address--canals through which sixty-two million tons passed
in 1910 toward the east and south.

They have made and deepened harbors all the way around the shores till
ships two hundred times the size of the _Griffin_ can ride in them.

Yet this is not all. The symbols of La Salle's vision revived in the lakes
memories of the days when their waters ran through the Mississippi Valley
to the gulf--the very course which La Salle's unborn _Griffin_ was to

When the continent tilted a little to the east and in the tilting poured
the water of the upper lakes over the Niagara edge into the St. Lawrence,
that same tilting stopped the overflow down into the Mississippi and the
Gulf of Mexico at the other end of the lakes. But so slight was the
tilting that the water still sweeps over, in places, when the lakes are
high, and sometimes even carries light boats across.

Of late engineers have, in effect, been undoing with levels and scoops and
dredges what nature did in a mighty upheaval. They are practically tipping
the bowls back the other way and so making currents to run down the old
channel toward the gulf through the valleys of the Des Plaines and the
Illinois to the Mississippi.

And so that dream which the dying _Griffin_ spoke to the lake, and the
lake to the rivers in the time of flood--when intercommunication was
possible--is to be realized, except that steam or electricity will take
the place of winds, and screws of sails. [Footnote: Herbert Quick,
"American Inland Waterways," New York, 1909.]

Meanwhile a great battle of the lakes is waging--a battle of levels, it
might better be called, between those, on the one side, who wish to
maintain the grandeur of Niagara much as it was when Hennepin first
pictured it, and with them those who for utilitarian reasons do not wish
its thunderous volume diminished, except, perhaps, for their local uses,
and those also who fear disaster to their harbors and canals all around
the lakes, deepened at great expense, if water is led away toward the
Mississippi; and, on the other side, the public health of millions at the
western end of the lakes and the commercial hopes of other millions in the
Mississippi Valley waiting for the _Griffins_ of the lakes to come with
more generous prices for their produce and bring to their doors what the
rest of the world has now to send to them by the more expensive railroad.

Some day, perhaps, the great upper lake, Superior, will be made a
reservoir where enough water will be impounded in wet seasons for a steady
and more generous supply during the dry seasons; in which event there will
be water enough to keep Niagara in perennial beauty and power, to fill all
the present and prospective harbors and canals to their desired depths and
float even larger fleets of _Griffins_, and, at the same time, have enough
left to make the Mississippi, as the Frenchman who first saw it visualized
it, and as President Roosevelt, two centuries later, expressed it, "a loop
of the sea." [Footnote: Herbert Quick, "American Inland Waterways," New
York, 1909.]

But another amicable battle is on--a battle of the eastern levels--between
the men of the old French valley to the north (_i.e._, the St. Lawrence)
and the men of the old Iroquois valleys to the south, of the Mohawk and
the Hudson. In 1830 a canal was built by the latter from above the Falls
to the navigable Hudson, and with high ceremony a cask of the water of
Lake Erie was emptied into New York harbor as symbol of the wedding of
lake and ocean. Then Canada built her Welland Canal around Niagara and
made canals along the St. Lawrence and channels in the St. Lawrence past
the Lachine Rapids to Montreal, and even made the way from there to the
sea deeper that the growing ocean vessels might come to old Hochelaga. Now
New York has begun deepening the old and almost useless Erie Canal from
seven and nine feet to twelve feet, and to take barges one hundred and
fifty feet long and twenty-five feet beam, with a draught of ten feet, and
Canada is contemplating still deeper channels that will let the ocean
steamers into every port of the Great Lakes. She is even thinking of a
canal that will follow the path of Champlain, up the Ottawa and across the
old portage to Lake Nipissing and thence by the French River into Lake
Huron; and of an alternative course by another of Champlain's paths, from
Ontario across to Huron by way of Lake Simcoe and the Trent River, in
either route avoiding Niagara altogether, paths that would shorten the
water distance by hundreds of miles and bring Europe almost as near to the
shores where Le Caron ministered to the Hurons as to New York City.

It is a rivalry between the old Champlain paths and the La Salle paths,
with just an intimation from those who look far into the future that a new
water path still farther north--of which Radisson gave some premonition--
may carry the wheat of the far northwest from Winnipeg beyond Superior and
beyond the courses of the Mississippi up to Hudson Bay and across the
ocean to European ports, brought a thousand miles nearer.

This is but the merest intimation of the prophetic service of the water
pioneers. And when the prophecy of these pioneers, as interpreted in terms
of steam and locks and dams unknown to them, is fulfilled, it is not
beyond thinking that a captain of a seagoing vessel of ten or twenty
thousand tons from Havre or Cherbourg may some day be calling in deep
voice (as last summer in a room on the twenty-ninth floor of a Chicago
"sky-scraper" I heard a local descendant of the _Griffin_ screeching) for
the lifting of the bridges that will open the way to the Mississippi, the
heart of America.



It is a strange and varied crop that has grown from the leaden plates with
French inscriptions, planted by St. Lusson, La Salle, and Céloron by lakes
and rivers in that western country. The mythical story of the sowing of
Cadmus in the Boeotian field is again rather tame by comparison with a
true relation of what has actually occurred within the memory of a few
generations in a valley as wild when Céloron traversed the course of La
Belle Rivière (the name given by the French to the Ohio, which was known
to the Indians as the "River of the Whitecaps") with his little fleet only
a century and a half ago as was Boeotia when Cadmus set out from Phoenicia
in search of his sister, Europa (that is, Europe), back beyond the memory
of history.

It was a bourgeoning, most miraculous, in those spots of the west, a new
Europa, where soldiers sprang up immediately upon the sowing, like the
sproutings of Cadmus' dragon's teeth, to fight one another and to build
strongholds that should some day be cities, even as Cadmea, the fortress
of the "Spartoi," became the city of Thebes.

So, in this sowing, did France become the mother of western cities, of
Pittsburgh and Buffalo, of Erie, of St. Louis, of Detroit and New Orleans,
of Peoria and St. Joseph, and still other cities whose names have never
been heard by the people--of France--even as Phoenicia, in the wanderings
of her adventurous son, Cadmus, became the mother of Thebes and the
godmother of Greek culture and of European literature. Palamedes and
Simonides added some letters to the alphabet brought, according to
tradition, by Cadmus to Greece, and Cadmus suffered the doom of those who
sow dragon's teeth, as France has suffered, but still is his name kept in
the memory of every school child; and so should be remembered those who
planted the lead plates and sowed the teeth that sprang into the "Spartoi"
of a new civilization.

Of the sowing of St. Lusson at the "Soo" and La Salle at New Orleans we
have spoken. Long later (1749), the first of whom we have record after La
Salle, another French sower went forth to sow along the rivers close to
the foot of the Alleghany Mountains--Céloron de Bienville, Chevalier de
St. Louis. It is of his sowing that the main cities have sprung, for he
planted a plate of "repossession" at the entrance of every important
branch of the Ohio and fastened upon trees sheets of "white iron" bearing
the arms of France. Chief among them is Pittsburgh, which stands on the
carboniferous site of Fort Duquesne like the prow of a vessel headed
westward, a place which Céloron is believed to have had in mind when he
wrote in his journal, "the finest place on La Belle Rivière"--what was
then a wedge of wild black land lodged between two converging streams that
drained all the slope of the northern Alleghanies being now the foundation
of the world's capital of a sterner metal than lead--scarred with fires
and smothered with smoke from many furnaces, two of which alone, it has
been estimated by some one, have poured forth enough molten iron in the
last thirty years to cover with steel plates an inch thick a road fifty
feet wide stretching from the Alleghany edge of the valley not merely to
the mouth of the Ohio but on to the other mountain border, where all
dreams of a way to the western sea were ended.

And this highway of plates across the empire of New France gives but
suggestion of the meagerest fraction of the fruitage of the planting of
the leaden plates or the grafting of the arms of France upon the trees
along the Ohio--forty pounds of iron, it has been estimated by one graphic
statistician, for every man, woman, and child on the globe to-day,
[Footnote: H. N. Casson. United States produces thirty million tons
annually, Pennsylvania eleven and a quarter million. "Mineral Resources,"
1912.] and I do not know how much tin. And, in a sense, all from a small
box or crate of plates made of lead--six, eight, or more in number, eleven
inches long, seven inches wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, and
engraved with an inscription--one of which was found not long ago, by some
lads, protruding from the bank of one of the tributary rivers! The
inscription ran (in translation):

"Year 1749, in the reign of Louis XV., King of France, We, Céloron,
commanding the detachment sent by the Marquis De la Galissonière,
Commander General of New France, to restore tranquillity in certain
villages of these cantons, have buried this plate at [here is inserted the
name of the tributary at its confluence with the Ohio] this [date] as a
token of renewal of possession heretofore taken of the aforesaid river,
Ohio, of all streams that fall into it, and all lands on both sides to the
sources of the aforesaid streams, as the preceding Kings of France enjoyed
it, or ought to have enjoyed it, and which they have upheld by force of
arms and by treaties, notably by those of Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix la

And with these plates (to be buried at the confluences of the important
rivers along the way) were carried sheets of tin--of white iron--on which
the arms of France had been stamped, to be nailed to trees above the
places of the plates.

"As the Kings of France enjoyed it, or ought to have enjoyed it"--what a
blight of regret was in the very seed that in its flower of to-day makes
one wish for some delicate beauty or subtle fragrance that is not there,
because the Kings of France did not let France enjoy it.

One can but pause here again, as I have paused many, many times in the
preparation of these chapters, to ask what would have been the result if
France had but chosen as Portia's successful suitor in Shakespeare's
"Merchant of Venice" when he was confronted with the caskets of gold,
silver, and lead--had but chosen "to owe and hazard all for lead," instead
of deciding as did the Prince of Morocco, the other suitor, that "a golden
mind stoops not to shows of dross"--if France had hazarded all for the
holding and settling of those regions whose worth was symbolized in those
unpromising pieces of lead planted in the fertile soil of Louisiana,
Michigan, and Ohio along the watercourses, rather than in the caskets of
gold and silver sought among the mountains--if Louis XV, throwing dice at
Versailles in the valley of the Seine, as Parkman describes him, with his
piles of louis d'or before him, and the princes and princesses, dukes and
duchesses and courtiers about him, had but followed the advice of Marquis
de la Galissonnière, the humpbacked governor-general of Canada, who
furnished Céloron with his leaden seeds and appointed the place of the
sowing--if Louis XV had but answered his Canadian governor's prayer and
sent French peasants where the plates were buried, or had even let those
who wanted to flee to that valley, as they would have fled by tens of
thousands, preferring the hardships and privations of the pioneer to the
galleys, the dungeons, or the gallows--then "Versailles" in that valley of

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