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The French in the Heart of America by John Finley

Part 4 out of 6

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the Ohio would not be merely what it is, a ward or township in a city that
bears the name of a British statesman.

"Or, if soldiers had been sent!" Parkman, approaching the great valley in
imagination with Céloron, from the north, exclaims, "the most momentous
and far-reaching question ever brought to issue on this continent was:
'Shall France remain here or shall she not?' If by diplomacy or war she
had preserved but the half or less than half of her American possessions,
then a barrier would have been set to the spread of the English-speaking
races, there would have been no Revolutionary War and, for a long time at
least, no independence." [Footnote: Parkman, "Montcalm and Wolfe," p. 5.]
(Which but emphasizes what I have said as to the part, the negative part
as well as the positive, France conspicuously and unconsciously played in
the making of a new nation.)

If "the French soldiers left dead on inglorious continental battle-fields
could," as Parkman says, "have saved Canada, and perhaps made good her
claim to the vast territories of the West," [Footnote: Parkman, "Montcalm
and Wolfe," p. 41.] could they after all have done more for the world than
those who, in effect, sacrificed their lives on glorious western battle-
fields for the United States?

A little way back I spoke of the first expedition looking toward that
valley from the Atlantic side of the Alleghanies--the expedition of the
"Knights of the Golden Horseshoe"--and of its vain threats. In 1748 a
company of still wider horizon was formed in Virginia, George Washington's
father being a member of it. It was known as the Ohio Land Company and
derived its transmontane rights through George II from John Cabot, an
Italian under English commission, who may have set foot nearly two
centuries before somewhere on the coast of North America below Labrador,
and from a very expansive interpretation of a treaty with the Indians at
Lancaster, Pa., in 1744, the trans-Alleghany Indians protesting, however,
not less firmly than the French, that the lands purchased by the English
under that treaty extended no farther toward the sunset than the laurel
hills on the western edge of the Alleghanies.

News of this Virginia corporate enterprise was willingly carried, it is
surmised, by jealous Pennsylvanians and hostile French, till it reached
Montreal, and so it was that Céloron was despatched with his little
company to bury "Monuments of the Renewal of Possession" by France.

It was a significant and rather solemn, but most picturesque, processional
that this chevalier of St. Louis led from Montreal through one thousand
two hundred leagues of journey by water and land to the mouth of the Miami
River and back. There are no hilarious songs in this prelude such as were
heard from the crests of the Blue Ridge when Spotswood's horsemen came up
from the other side. It has to me the atmosphere and movement of some
Greek tragedy, though one writer likens it to mediæval mummery. Perhaps it
is only a knowledge of its import and the end that makes it sombre and
grave despite the beautiful setting to this prelude which one may read to-
day in the French archives. So full of portent and color it is that I
wonder no one has woven its incidents, slight as they are, into French
literature or into that of America.

"I left Lachine on the 15th of June," begins Céloron's journal, [Footnote:
Margry, 6:666.] now in the Département de la Marine, in Paris, "with a
detachment formed of a captain, eight subaltern officers, six cadets, an
armorer, twenty men of the troops, one hundred and eighty Canadians, and
nearly thirty savages--equal number of Iroquois and Abenakes." They filled
twenty-three canoes in a procession that was halted by shipwreck, by heat,
by lack of rain and by too much rain, by difficult portages, and damage to
the canoes.

Over a part of their first portage from Lake Erie I walked one night years
ago through a drenching rain, such as they endured in the seven days in
which they were carrying their canoes and baggage up those steep hills
through the then dense forest of beech, oak, and elm, to the waters of
Lake Chautauqua, where now many thousands gather every summer, from
children to white-haired men and women, to study history, language,
sciences, cooking, sewing, etc., and to attend conferences daily.

But the expedition then was often stopped by savages who ran away to avoid
the excessive speechmaking and lecturing of these old-world orators,
conferenciers; and the ears and eyes of the auditors who did not run away
were opened by strings of wampum, though they were often too little moved
by the love of their father Onontio and his concern lest the English
should make themselves masters and the Indians their victims.

There is in a Paris library a map of this expedition made by the hand of
Père Bonnecamps, who signs himself "Jesuitte Mathematiciant." He kept a
diary, [Footnote: Translation in "Jesuit Relations," ed. Thwaites, vol.
69. "Account of the voyage on the Beautiful River made in 1749 under the
direction of Monsieur de Céloron."] also preserved in Paris, in which
there has crept some of the sombreness of that narrow, dark valley (now
filled with oil-derricks) surrounded by mountains sometimes so high as to
let them see the sun only from nine or ten o'clock in the morning till two
or three in the afternoon. And across the mountains one may hear even to-
day the despairful, yet appealing, voice of Céloron, speaking for the
great Onontio: "My children," he says, "since I have been at war with the
English I have learned that that nation has seduced you; and, not content
with corrupting your hearts, they have profited by my absence from the
country to invade the land which does not belong to them and which is
mine.... I will give you the aid you should expect from a good father....
I will furnish you traders in abundance if you wish them. I will send here
officers if that please you--to give you good spirit, so that you will
only work in good affairs.... Follow my advice. Then the sky will always
be beautiful and clear over your villages." [Footnote: Margry, 6: 677.]
"My father," said the spokesman for the savages at another council, "we
pray you have pity on us; we are young men who cannot reply as the old men
could; what you have said to us has opened our eyes [received gifts],
given us spirit, we see that you only work with good affairs.... [The
great Onontio in Paris is playing all the while in Paris with the louis
d'or.] Examine, my father, the situation in which we are. If thou makest
the English to retire, who give us necessaries, and especially the smith
who mends our guns and hatchets, we would be without help and exposed to
die of hunger and of misery in the Belle Rivière. Have pity on us, my
father, thou canst not at present give us our necessaries. Leave us at
least for this winter, or at least till we go hunting, the smith and some
one who can help us. We promise thee that in the spring the English will
retire." [Footnote: Margry, 6:683.]

And so the expedition passed on from river to river, from tribe to tribe,
planting plates and making appeals to the savages, down the Ohio to the
Miami, up the Miami, stopping at the village of a chief known as La
Demoiselle, thence by portage to the French settlement on the Maumee, and
so back to Lake Erie. Then came the fort builders in their wake, and so
the "Spartoi," the soldiers, almost literally sprang from the earth of the
sowing of the plates.

At one place (the place where the Loups prayed for a smith) they found a
young Englishman with a few dozen workmen building a stockade, but they
sent him back beyond the mountains over which he had come and built upon
its site Fort Duquesne--the defense of the mountain gate to the great
valley--here with a few hundred men on the edge of a hostile wilderness to
make beginning of that mighty struggle which was to end, as we know, on
the river by which Cartier and Champlain had made their way into the

It is a fact, remarkable to us now, that the first to bring a challenge
from behind the mountains to that brave and isolate garrison sitting in
Fort Duquesne at the junction of the water paths, was Washington ("Sir
Washington," as one chronicler has written it), not Washington the
American but Washington the English subject, major in the colonial
militia, envoy of an English governor of Virginia, Dinwiddie, who, having
acquired a controlling interest in the Ohio Company, became especially
active in planning to seat a hundred families on that transmontane estate
of a half-million acres and so to win title to it.

"So complicated [were] the political interests of [that] time that a shot
fired in America [was] the signal for setting all Europe together by the
ears," wrote Voltaire, [Footnote: Voltaire, "The French in America" in his
"Short Studies in English and American Subjects," p. 249.] and "it was not
a cannon-shot" that gave the signal but, as Parkman said, "a volley from
the hunting pieces of a few backwoodsmen, commanded by a Virginia youth,
George Washington." [Footnote: Parkman, "Montcalm and Wolfe," 1:3.]

We must stop for a moment to look at this lithe young English colonist,
twenty-one years of age, standing on the nearest edge of the French
explorations and claims and the farthest verge of English adventure, on
the watershed twenty miles from Lake Erie, and requesting, in the name of
Governor Dinwiddie and of the shade of John Cabot, the peaceable departure
of those French pioneers and soldiers, who, as the letter which the young
colonel bore stated, were "erecting fortresses and making settlements upon
the the river [Ohio] so notoriously known to be the property of the Crown
of Great Britain."

The edge of the Great Lakes' basin is only a little way, at the place
where he stood, from the watershed of the Mississippi River. A little
farther up the shore, where Celoron made portage, it is only six or eight
miles across, and here it is but a little more, and the "height of land"
is hardly noticeable. The French built a fort on a promontory in the lake
--a promontory almost an island--Presque Isle; and there, where the waters
begin to run the other way, that is, toward the gulf, they built still
another which they called Le Boeuf, an easier portage than the Chautauqua.
From the former fort the city of Erie, a grimy, busy manufacturing city,
has grown. The latter has produced only a village, on whose weed-grown
outskirts the ruins of a fort still look out upon the meadow where the
little stream called "French Creek" starts, first toward France, in its
two-thousand-mile journey to the gulf that lies in the other direction.

For twenty miles I followed the stream one day to where it became a part
of Céloron's river-in imagination calling the French back to its banks
again, but finding them slow to come, for that part of the valley seemed
not particularly attractive. It is a little farther down the lake that the
vineyards fill all the shore from the lake to the watershed. And in that
very country I have often wondered at the miracle which raised from one
bit of ground the corn and the pumpkin, and from another the vine and
filled its fruit with wine.

The one-eyed veteran, Legardeur de St. Pierre, the commander of Fort Le
Boeuf, asked Washington, in rich diplomatic sarcasm, to descend to the
particularization of facts, and the lithe figure disappeared behind the
snows of the mountains only to come again across the mountains in the
springtime with sterner questioning. There was then no talk of Cabot or La
Salle, of Indian purchase or crown property. Jumonville may have come out
from Duquesne for peaceable speech, but Washington misunderstood or would
not listen. A flash of flint fire, a fresh bit of lead planted in the hill
of laurel, a splash of blood on the rock, and the war for the west was

What actually happened out on the slope of that hill will never be
accurately known; but, though Washington was only twenty-two years old
then, "full of military ardor" and "vehement," he could not have been
guilty of wilful firing on men of peaceful intent.

It doubtless seemed but an insignificant skirmish when Washington attacked
Jumonville near Pittsburgh, and it is now remembered by only a line or two
in our histories and the little cairn of stones "far up among the mountain
fogs near the headwaters of the Youghiogheny River," which marks the grave
of Jumonville.

Washington, the major of colonial militia in the Alleghany Mountains, the
scout of a land company, has been entirely forgotten in Washington, the
father of a nation; but Jumonville, the French ensign with no land-scrip,
fighting certainly as unselfishly and with as high purpose, is not
forgotten in any later achievement. That skirmish ended all for him. But
let it be remembered even now that he was a representative of France
standing almost alone, at the confluence of all the waters for hundreds of
miles on the other slope of the Alleghanies, in defense of what other men
of France had won by their hardihood.

I heard a great audience at the Academy applaud the brave endurance of
French priests and soldiers in Asia. Some day I hope these unrenowned men
who sacrificed as much for France in America will be as notably
remembered. There is a short street in Pittsburgh that bears Jumonville's
name--a short street that runs from the river into a larger street with
the name of one of his seven brothers, De Villiers, Coulon de Villiers,
who hastened from Montreal, while another brother hastened from the
Illinois to avenge his death.

But the cairn on the hillside has grown to no high monument. Mr. Hulbert,
who has written with filial pen of the valley, says that occasionally a
traveller repairs a rough wooden cross made of boards or tree branches and
planted among the rocks of the cairn. [Footnote: A. B. Hulbert, "The Ohio
River," pp. 44, 45.] But on a recent visit to the grave out in that
lonesome ravine, I found that a permanent tablet had been placed there
instead of this fragile cross.

I must leave to your unrefreshed memories the exploits of Beaujeu and
Braddock, of Contrecoeur and Forbes, blow up Fort Duquesne of the past,
and come into the city of to-day, for I wish to put against this
background this mighty city where it is often difficult to see because of
the smoke.

The French, as we are well aware, came to their forts by water. Quebec,
Frontenac, Niagara, Presque Isle, the Rock St. Louis, St. Joseph,
Chartres, and many others stood by river or lake. But the going was often
slow. Céloron (whose name is often spelled Céleron but would seem not to
deserve that spelling) was fifty-three days in making his water journey
from Montreal to the site of Pittsburgh. But a Céloron of to-day may see
the light of the Bartholdi statue in New York harbor at ten o'clock by
night and yet pass Braddock's field in the morning (before the time that
Bonnecamp said the sun came up in the narrow valley of the Belle Rivière),
and have breakfast at the Duquesne Club in time for a city day's work. It
was about as far from Paris to Marseilles in 1750 as it is to-day from
Paris to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is the front door of the valley of La Salle, as we now know the
valley, and the most important door; for the tonnage that enters and
leaves it by rail and water (177,071,238 tons in 1912 for the Pittsburgh
district) exceeds the tonnage of the five other greatest cities of the
world [Footnote: R. B. Naylor, address before the Ohio Valley Historical
Association (quoted in Hulbert, "Ohio River," pp. 365-6).] and is twice
the combined tonnage of both coasts of the United States to and from
foreign ports--which is probably due to the fact that so much of its
traffic is not in silks and furs but in iron and coal. And the multitudes
of human beings that pass through it are comparable in number with the
migrant tonnage and inanimate cargoes; for Pittsburgh is "the antithesis
of a mediaeval town"; "it is all motion;" "it is a flow, not a tank." The
mountains, once impenetrable barriers that had to be gone about, have been
levelled, and in the levelling the watersheds, as we have seen, have been
shifted. One who sees that throng pass to-day back and forth, to and from
the valley and the ocean, must know that there are no Alleghanies in our
continental topography, as Washington saw and as Webster stated there
could not be in our politics. If one makes the journey from the ocean in
the night, one may hear, if one wakes, the puffing of two engines, as in
the Jura Mountains, but there will be nothing else to tell him that the
shaggy Alleghany Mountains have not been cast into the midst of the sea--
nothing except the groaning of the wheels.

The Indians near Pittsburgh, I have said, prayed the messenger of Onontio
that they might keep their English smith--and the prayer seems to have
been abundantly answered, for Pittsburgh appears at first to be one vast
smithy, so enveloped is it in the smoke of its own toil, so reddened are
its great sky walls by its flaming forges, so filled is the air with the
dust from the bellows, and so clangorous is the sound of its hammers. It
is a city of Vulcans--a city whose industry makes academic discussions
seem as the play of girls in a field of flowers. It is not primarily a
market-place, this point of land, one of the places where the French and
English traders used to barter guns, whiskey, and trinkets for furs. It is
a making place--a pit between the hills, where the fires of creation are
still burning.

Céloron and his sombre voyage had been in my mind all day, as I sat in a
beautiful library of that city among books of the past; but in the
evening, as Dante accompanied by Virgil, I descended circle by circle to
the floor of the valley--with this difference, that it was not to a place
of torment but to the halls of the swarth gods of creation, those great,
dim, shadowy sheds that stretch along the river's edge. Into these, men of
France, has your Fort Duquesne grown--mile on mile of flame-belching
buildings, with a garrison as great as the population of all New France in
the day of Duquesne.

The new-world epic will find some of its color and incident there--an epic
in which we have already heard the men of France nailing the sheets of
"white iron" against the trees of the valley of La Belle Rivière. And as I
saw the white-hot sheets of iron issuing from those crunching rollers,
driven by the power of seven thousand horses, I felt that the youth with
the stamping iron should have put a fleur-de-lis upon each with all his
other cabalistic markings, for who of us can know that any metal would
ever have flowed white from the furnaces in that valley if the white-metal
signs of Louis XV had not first been carried into it?

In each of these halls there pass in orderly succession cars with varied
cargoes; red ore from the faraway hills beyond Superior, limestone
fragments from some near-by hill, and scrap of earlier burning. These, one
by one, are seized by a great arm of iron, thrust out from a huge moving
structure that looks like a battering-ram and is operated by a young man
about whom the lightnings play as he moves; and, one by one, they are cast
into the furnaces that are heated to a temperature of a thousand degrees
or more. There the red earth is freed of its "devils," as the great
ironmaster has named the sulphur and phosphorus--freed of its devils as
the red child was freed of his sins by the touch of holy water from the
fingers of Allouez out in those very forests from which the red ore was
dug--and comes forth purified, to be cast into flaming ingots, to be again
heated and then crushed and moulded and sawed and pierced for the better
service of man.

In the course of a few minutes one sees a few iron carloads of ore that
was a month before lying in the earth beyond Superior transformed into a
girder for a bridge, a steel rail, a bit of armor-plate, a beam for a sky-
scraper--and all in utter human silence, with the calm pushing and pulling
of a few levers, the accurate shovelling by a few hands, the deliberate
testing by a few pairs of experienced eyes.

Here is the new Fort Duquesne that is holding the place of the confluence
of the rivers and trails just beyond the Alleghanies, and this is the
ammunition with which that begrimed but strong-faced garrison defends the
valley to-day, supports the city on the environing hills and the
convoluted plateau back of the point, spans streams the world around,
builds the skeletons of new cities and protects the coasts of their

There are many others in that garrison, but these makers of steel are the
core of that city, in which "the modern world," to use the words of one of
our first economists, "achieves its grandest triumph and faces its gravest
problem" [Footnote: John R. Commons, in _Survey_, March 6, 1909, 1:1051.]
--the "mighty storm mountain of capital and labor."

I quote from this same economist a comprehensive paragraph descriptive of
its riches: "Through hills which line these [confluent] rivers run
enormous veins of bituminous coal. Located near the surface, the coal is
easily mined, and elevated above the rivers, much of it comes down to
Pittsburgh by gravity. There are twenty-nine billion tons of it, good for
steam, gas or coke. Then there are vast stores of oil [seven million five
hundred thousand gallons annually] natural gas [of which two hundred and
fifty million feet are consumed daily], sand, shale, clay and stone, with
which to give Pittsburgh and the tributary country the lead of the world
in iron and steel, glass, electrical machinery, street-cars, tin plate,
air-brakes and firebrick." [Footnote: J. R. Commons, "Wage Earners of
Pittsburg," in _Survey_, March 6, 1909, 21:1051-64.]

And to all this natural bounty the national government has added that of
the tariff and of millions spent in river improvements, while Europe has
contributed raw labor already fed to the strength of oxen and often
already developed to highest skill. It was a young chemist trained in
Europe who conducted me through the mills, explaining all the processes in
a perfect idiomatic speech, though of broken accent.

The white-hot steel ingot swinging beneath a smoky sky is a sign of the
contribution of France through Pittsburgh to civilization, not merely the
material but the human contribution. The ingot, a great block of white-hot
steel, is the sign of her labor, which has assembled the scattered
elements of the valley and, in the fierce heat of natural and unfed fires,
has compounded them into a new metal that is something more than iron,
more valuable than gold. But it is only another sign, too, of forces that
have assembled from all parts of the earth, men represented in the varied
cargoes that are poured by a seemingly omnipotent hand into those
furnaces--red-blooded men, and with them slag that has gone through the
fires of older civilizations.

Here, let me say again, is being made a new metal; this no one can doubt.
It is not merely a melting and a restamping of old coin with a new
superscription, a new sovereignty--a composite face instead of a personal
likeness--it is the making, as I have said in other illustrations and
metaphors, of a new race.

If I had an instinct of human character, such as the intuitive sense of
the fibre and tension of steel possessed by the man who watches the
boiling in the furnaces and who, from time to time, puts aside his smoked
glasses and looks at the texture of a typical bit of his metal, or who
stands at the emptying of the furnace into the ladle and directs the
addition of carbon or magnesium to bring his output to the right
constituency, I could tell you what strains and stresses this new people
would stand. As it is, I can only make a surmise, perhaps not more
valuable than yours.

The makers of steel were concerned only to get the primacy in steel. Human
character was of concern only as it made better steel and more of it. They
took the red ore where they could get it richest in iron and cheapest, and
they took red-blooded labor where they could get it strongest--sinewed,
clearest-eyed, and cheapest. "There are no able-bodied men between the
ages of sixteen and fifty years left in my native town," said a Servian
workman in the mills. "They have all come to America. The agricultural
districts and villages of the mid-eastern valleys of Europe are sending
their strongest men and youths, nourished of good diet and in pure air,
stolid and care-free, into that dim canyon-Servians, Croatians,
Ruthenians, Lithuanians, Slovaks, with Italians, Poles, and Russian Jews."
[Footnote: P. Roberts, "The New Pittsburg," in _Charities and the
Commons_, January 2, 1909, 21:533. See also J. A. Fitch, "The Steel
Workers," New York, 1910.] It is from Slavs and mixed people of the old
European midland, says one, "where the successive waves of broad-headed
and fair-haired peoples gathered force and swept westward to become Celt
and Saxon, and Swiss and Scandinavian and Teuton," the old European
midland with its "racial and religious loves and hates seared deep, that
the new immigration is coming to Pittsburgh to work out civilization under
tense conditions"--not with that purpose, to be sure, but with that
certain result. The conscious purposes have been expressed in the tangible
ingots, the wages they have offered them in their hot hands, and the
profits. The civilization has been incidental.

There is developing, however, an effort in the midst of this "dynamic
individualism" to make both the new and the old immigration work out
"civilization." This individualism was prodigal, profligate, at first. But
it has learned thrift; it by and by came to burn its gas over and over; it
made the purifying substances go on in a continued round of service; it
became more mindful of human muscles and bones and eyes and ears; it took
the latest advice of experts, but for steel's sake, not civilization's.

Mr. Carnegie, when a manufacturer there, found 90 per cent of pure iron in
the refuse of his competitor, it is said. This he bought under long
contract and worked over in his own mills. His neighbor's waste became a
part of his fortune. And the result of that discernment and thrift is now
furnishing an analogue for the conscious utilization of other waste--waste
of native capacity of the steel-worker for happiness and usefulness.

Mr. Carnegie has indeed led the way in the establishment of libraries, art
galleries, museums, institutes of training and research out of what were
but waste if spent as some millionaires spend their profits. All these
things upon the hills are by-products of the steel-mills down in the
ravine. In every luminous ingot swung in the mills that were his, there is
something toward the pension of a university professor out in Oregon,
something for an artist in New York or Paris, something for an astronomer
on the top of Mount Wilson, something for the teacher in the school upon
the hill, something for every library established by his gift.

What is now making itself felt, however, is a desire to get the wage
element in the ingot as thriftily, as efficiently, as nobly converted and
used to the last ounce as is the profit element. There has been in the
past a masterful individualism at work. Now there is a masterful
aggressive humanism beginning to make itself felt, comparable in its
spirit with the masterful venturing of the French explorers or the
masterful faith of the French missionaries, that promises to constrain the
city "to the saving and enhancing of individual and collective human
power," even as the French missionaries tried to constrain the great fur-
trading prospects of France to the saving of human souls.

The attempt to realize an urban paradise is becoming a conscious purpose
as this extract made from a report made to a city-plan committee of a
Pittsburgh commission will indicate:

"A third undeveloped asset in the Pittsburgh waterfront is its value for
recreation and as an element of civic comeliness and self-respect. One of
the deplorable consequences of the short-sighted and wasteful
commercialism of the later nineteenth century lay in its disregard of what
might have been the æsthetic byproducts of economic improvement; in the
false impression spread abroad that economical and useful things were
normally ugly; and in the vicious idea which followed, that beauty and the
higher pleasures of civilized life were to be sought only in things
otherwise useless. Thus the pursuit of beauty was confounded with

"Among the most significant illustrations of the fallacy of such ideas are
the comeliness and the incidental recreation value which attach to many of
the commercial water fronts of European river ports, and it is along such
lines that Pittsburgh still has opportunity for redeeming the sordid
aspect of its business centre.

"Wherever in the world, as an incident of the highways and wharves along
its river banks, a city has provided opportunity for the people to walk
and sit under pleasant conditions, where they can watch the water and the
life upon it, where they can enjoy the breadth of outlook and the sight of
the open sky and the opposite bank and the reflections in the stream, the
result has added to the comeliness of the city itself, the health and
happiness of the people, and their loyalty and local pride. This has been
true in the case of a bare paved promenade, running along like an elevated
railroad over the sheds and tracks and derricks of a busy ocean port, as
at Antwerp, in the case of a tree-shaded sidewalk along a commercial
street with the river quays below it, as at Paris and Lyons and hundreds
of lesser cities; and in the case of a broad embankment garden won from
the mud banks by dredging and filling, as at London."

I had great difficulty in finding a bookstore in Pittsburgh. Some day that
idealistic condition which makes the Seine so dear to thousands who know
its every mood, and so dear both to the wise and the ignorant, may obtain
on La Belle Rivière.

This is but one item of a planning for the future of this city which
thinks not merely of its beautifying and of the pleasure of its people in
their leisure, but of all conditions which affect the health, convenience,
education, and general welfare of the whole district--that region once
called the "black country," of which Pittsburgh was the "dingy capital"--
one of the regions where the French were pioneers.

I have spoken of this as the "taking thought" of a democratic community.
More accurately, a body of one hundred volunteer citizens, disposing
themselves in fourteen different committees (including those on rapid
transit, industrial accidents, city housing, and public hygiene), have
undertaken all this labor of constructive planning at their own expense
(based upon a series of investigations made by endowed researchers), but
with the hope of creating a public opinion favorable to their plans, which
look to the establishment by the democratic community of "such living and
working conditions as may set a standard for other American industrial
centres." [Footnote: Olmsted, F. L., "Pittsburgh, Main Thoroughfares and
the Down-Town District." Pittsburgh Civic Commission, 1910. _Survey_,
February 4, 1911, 25:740-4.]

No such thorough and systematic study of existing city conditions has been
made anywhere else in America. It is quite as scientific as the scholarly
studies of buried cities, only immensely more complex and difficult.
Knowing itself and possessed of an unconquerable spirit, it seems likely
now that Pittsburgh will win back the beautiful site which Céloron
remarked when he passed down La Belle Rivière--a site which even "Florence
might covet"--and will make it a city that will deserve to keep always the
other part of the name of the sower of the leaden plates--Bienville.

A pillar of cloud stands over the city by day and a pillar of fire by
night. They have together shown the way out of the wilderness. It now
remains to be seen whether the highest things of men's longing will have
realization, in giving that "dynamic individualism" a social ideal with
distinct, practicable working plans.

Pittsburgh stands on the edge of the valley of the new democracy. It has
put its plates along every path. There is hardly a village of any size
from the Alleghanies to the Rockies that it has not laid some claim to by
its strips of steel. There is hardly a stream of any size that it has not
claimed by a bridge. It has, indeed, the spirit of Céloron, in other body,
still planting monuments of France's renewal of possession, wherever the
steel rails and girders and plates from the Pittsburgh mills have been
carried. And Pittsburgh is but one of the renewed cities which encompass
the eastern half of the valley where once stretched the chain of French
forts futile in defense but powerful in prophecy.

When we see the American city, even through the eyes of Walt Whitman, that
poet of democracy, it seems a desperate hope that is left her: "Are there,
indeed, men here in the city," he asks, "worthy the name? Are there
athletes? Are there perfect women to match the generous material
luxuriance? Is there a pervading atmosphere of beautiful manners? Are
there crops of fine youths and majestic old persons? Are there arts worthy
freedom and a rich people? Is there a great moral and religious
civilization--the only justification of a great material one? Confess that
to severe eyes, using the moral microscope upon humanity, a sort of dry
and flat Sahara appears, these cities crowded with petty grotesques,
malformations, phantoms, playing meaningless antics. Confess that
everywhere, in shop, street, church, theatre, barroom, official chair, are
pervading flippancy and vulgarity, low cunning, infidelity--everywhere the
youth puny, impudent, foppish, prematurely ripe--everywhere an abnormal
libidinousness, unhealthy forms, male, female, painted, padded, dyed,
chignon'd, muddy complexions, bad blood, the capacity for good motherhood
decreasing or deceas'd, shallow notions of beauty, with a range of
manners, or rather lack of manners (considering the advantages enjoy'd)
probably the meanest to be seen in the world." [Footnote: "Democratic
Vistas," in his "Complete Works," pp. 205, 206.]

But it is no such desperate hope that the cities we have seen spring from
French fort and portage keep in their hearts. It is not even a confession
that one would have to make to-day in the American cities which Whitman
had in mind in his gloomy, foreboding vision. I have seen on the streets
of one of the Whitman cities [Footnote: New York City.] those same
grotesques, malformations, and meaningless antics, that flippancy and
vulgarity and cunning, that foppishness and premature ripeness, that
painted, bad-complexioned, bad-mannered, shallow-beautied humanity; but
touching, as I have had opportunity to touch, three of the great agencies
of its aspirations--its philanthropies, its literature, and its schools--I
know that no body of five million people, whether huddled in tenements or
scattered over plain and mountain and along rivers and seas, has with more
serious or sacrificing purpose aspired, though constantly disturbed in its
prayers, its operations, by people of every tongue, nearly a million
strong, who are emptied at her port every year from Europe and Asia,
besides the hundreds of thousands who come up from the country. There
are public schools, for example, in certain parts of that city where there
is not a child of American parentage. There is one, in particular, which I
visit frequently and which I call the "oasis" in the desert of humanity
(Walt Whitman's Sahara), where two or three thousand children are
gathered, literally from the plains of Russia, the valleys of Italy, and
other parts of Europe--for these were their ancestral homes, though they
come immediately from the swarming streets and dimly lighted, ill-smelling
tenements of New York--and there, aspiring under the hopeful teaching of
the city, I have heard them, boys and girls together, sing, with all the
joy and cleanliness of shepherd children, of a leading in green pastures
and by still waters.

But to come back to the cities in the valley of Nouvelle France, there is
no note of else than hope there. Mistakes, disappointments, crudities,
infidelities? Yes, but the mistakes, disappointments, crudities, failures
of youth--youth of strong passions and love of play but of a masterful
will that a generous nature has so much encouraged and aided as to obscure
its limitations.

A few rods from the Carnegie Library and Museum of Art and Concert Hall in
Pittsburgh is a baseball field, where a million people or more come in the
course of the season to see trained men play an out-of-door game (and if
it chanced that the President of the United States were visiting the city,
he might be seen there accompanied by his secretary of state or the
president of a great university). In Chicago I found the whole city, young
and old, united in its interest in the results of the "game" of the day
before or the prospects of the next. When games are played for the great
championship pennant the city virtually takes a holiday.

But that is the spirit of youth in those overgrown, awkward cities that
are only now beginning to be self-conscious and seriously purposeful in
doing more than the things conventionally and for the most part selfishly
done by cities generally. In the conjugation of their busy, noisy life
they do not often use the past tense, never the past-perfect, and they
have had for the most part little concern as to the future, except the
rise in real-estate values and the retaining of markets. When in
Pittsburgh I asked a prominent man, of French ancestry, why the people did
not keep from the destroying hand of private enterprise the site of old
Fort Duquesne (the fecund plot from which the great city had grown), and
he said it was all they could do to keep the little blockhouse that
remained of Fort Pitt, filling a space a few yards square. What claim has
the past as against the needs of industry in the present? That was the
attitude of that grimy individualism born in "barefoot square" or in "slab
alley," in the land of smoke and flame and "rusty rivers."

And the future? Well, the voice of the French priest and of those
ministers of his own and other faiths that have followed in his footsteps
is still heard there crying of the world to come.

Several years ago on my way into that valley, on one of those fast trains
that tie the east and west together, we came shrieking, thundering down
the mountain slopes in the dusk of the day, past Jumonville's grave, past
Braddock's field, past miles on miles of glowing coke-ovens, past acres
upon acres of factories with their thousands of lighted windows, past
flaming towers and chimneys into the midst of the modern babel, the tops
of whose buildings were hidden in smoke, when suddenly, above the noise
and clangor of whistles and wheels, I heard the rich, deep voice of a
cathedral bell telling that the priest was still at the side of the
explorer and trader and the iron coureur de bois.

It is not, however, of the celestial but of the terrestrial future that I
am permitted to speak.

For, as I intimated, these young cities of the west, only a half-century
old as cities--children by the side of Paris, London, Rome--are beginning
seriously to take thought of the morrow, not simply of multiplying their
numbers nor of sending their multitudes back to the country but of giving
them prospect and promise of a better, more comfortable, more wholesome
life, capable of a higher individual and collective development within the
city. For while cities have been preached against since the time when
Jonah cried against Nineveh, and while cities have perished and have been
buried, even as Nineveh, the generic city, the assembling of gregarious
men, continues and increases.

The census returns for 1910 for the American cities show, so far as I
noticed, scarcely a single loss of population in the last ten years
[Footnote: Cities with losses of population in the decade are Galveston,
Texas: 37,389 in 1900, 36,981 in 1910; Chelsea, Mass.: 34,072 in 1900,
32,452 in 1910; St. Joseph, Mo.: 102,979 in 1900, 77,403 in 1910.] and a
large gain for nearly every city of the middle west. It is prophesied that
before long one-half of the people of the United States will be living in
cities, and there is the more distant prospect that the urban population
will be two-thirds of the whole. [Footnote: In 1910 46.3 per cent resided
in communities classed by the census as urban, and 55.1 per cent in cities
and incorporated or unincorporated villages.]

It is hopeless to try to turn that tide away from the cities except to
suburban fields. So the great problem of that valley is to improve the
cities, since from them are to be the issues of the new life, since they
are, indeed, the hope of democracy.

I have thought it of significance that the envisioned place of ultimate
celestial felicity-seen though it was by a man in the solitude of a cave
in an island of the Mediterranean (the place which the civilized world has
dimly hanging over it, whenever it looks away from its tasks and into the
beyond)--is not a lotus-land, not an oasis of spring and palm, not a
stretch of forest and mountain, not even a quiet place by a sea of jasper,
but a place of many tenements--a city, a perfect city to be sure, let down
ultimately from the skies, with walls of precious stones--and no zone for
Kipling's "Tomlinsons" about it--with gates whose octroi officials keep
out whatever makes an abomination or a lie, but which are open to the east
and west, the north and south, that the kings of earth may bring their
glory and honor into it--a city whose streets are clean and smooth--a city
that has flowing through it a river of pure water, on whose banks grow
trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

The obvious thing to do, since, good or bad, the country is emptying its
population into the cities, since we cannot go back through the gates of
Eden into the garden paradise of Genesis, is to go toward the city of the
Apocalypses, not, to be sure, as the Oriental mind of John saw it, paved
and walled with precious stones and gold, but made as beautiful as the
Occidental taste and architectural skill will permit, as comfortable as
Occidental standards demand, and as sanitary as the mortal desire for
immortality can with finite wisdom make it.

I was speaking some time ago of a painting I once saw, in illustration of
the death of Eve, which represented her as on a journey in her haggard old
age, accompanied by Cain (whose son built the first city in a wilderness),
and as pausing in the journey on a height of ground, pointing toward a
little cluster of trees in the distance, and saying to her son: "There was
Paradise." But paradise is not to be realized by the masses of men in the
return of man to the forests. The healing trees and the river are to be
carried to the city.



The old French portage paths were also fruitful of cities on the edge of
the Mississippi Valley, though the growth of these short paths was not--
with one notable exception--as luxuriant as that from the earth enriched
of human blood and bones about the old French forts.

These portages, or carrying paths, which differ from the trails of the
wood runners in that they are but short interruptions of the water paths
and were not designed or laid out, as a rule, by the wild engineers of the
forests and prairies but by human feet, lie across the great highway along
which, before the days of canals, one might have walked dry-shod from the
Atlantic to the Pacific--between the basins of the St. Lawrence and the
Atlantic, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, the Pacific and the Arctic
--a highway which has, however, been trodden by no one probably through
its entire length, for in places it runs over inaccessible peaks of
mountains and winds around the narrowest of ledges. But the paths across
it--those connecting the streams that flow in opposite directions from the
continental watersheds--are like isthmian paths between great oceans--
great dry oceans with watercourses through them.

There were, to be sure, still other portage paths than those across
watersheds, and the most common were those that led around waterfalls or
impassable rapids, such as Champlain and the Jesuits followed on their
journeys up the Ottawa to the Nipissing. It was of such portages that
Father Brébeuf wrote--portage paths passing almost continually by
torrents, by precipices, and by places that were horrible in every way. In
less than five days they made more than thirty-five portages, some of
which were three leagues long. This means that on these occasions the
traveller had to carry on his shoulders his canoe and all his baggage,
with so little food that he was continually hungry and almost without
strength and vigor. [Footnote: "Jesuit Relations" (Thwaites), 8:75-77.]
Another priest tells of a portage occupying an entire day, during which he
climbed mountains and pierced forests and carried, the while, his chapel
and his little store of provisions.

Of whatever variety, however, these portage paths were frequently burying-
grounds. Sometimes altars were erected beside them. They were often places
of encampments, of assemblies, and more often of ambuscades. So it came
about, too, that they were made the places of minor forts or gave occasion
for forts farther on the way. In those precivilized Panama days, the
neutrality of the isthmian paths could not be assured, and so they were

Céloron tells of the mending of boats at the end of his Chautauqua
portages, and that statement, with other like incidents, has led one
authority to picture the birches--those beautiful white and golden trees
of the sombre northern woods that gave their cloaks to the travellers who
asked and shivered till they grew others--stripped of their bark where
those paths came down to the streams. He has even imagined primitive
carpenter shops and ovens and huts on these paths where the voyageurs must
stop for repairs, food, and rest--the precursors of garage, road-house,
and hotel.

But on maps in the Bibliothèque Nationale names of portage paths have been
found which assure us that these difficult ways were not without charm to
those early travellers, as they have been to many a wanderer since; for
there was Portage des Roses, where the wild rose brightened the way; and
Portage de la Musique, where the water sang constantly its song in the
solitude. Then there were Portage de la Roche Fendue, Portage des Chênes,
Portage des Perches, Portage Talon, and Portage des Récollets, named in
memory of experiences of men whom the voyageurs wished to recall or to
honor, just as the French give to their streets such names as "Rue des
Fleurs," "Boulevard des Capucines." [Footnote: A. B. Hulbert, "Historic
Highways of America," 7:49.]

The portage paths that became in time most fruitful were generally short,
well-cleared, and deep-furrowed by feet. On three of the most important
and historic of these paths from the basin of the Great Lakes to that of
the Mississippi I have walked with the memories of these precursors; in
one place it was suggested that I should ride in a carriage, but I
refused, feeling that these men must be worshipped on foot. The first of
these portages is that path of which I have already spoken several times
(and which I never tire of letting my imagination travel again), the one
over which Nicolet must have passed from the Fox River into the Wisconsin
River, if he got so far on his way to Muscovy--the path to which Father
Dablon said the way was as through a paradise, but was as hard as the way
to heaven [Footnote: "If the country ... somewhat resembles an earthly
paradise in beauty, the way leading to it may be said to bear some
likeness to the one depicted by our Lord as leading to Heaven."--"Jesuit
Relations" (Thwaites), 55:191.]--the path which the coureurs de bois
Radisson and Groseilliers doubtless followed; the path which La Salle may
have found in those two years of mysterious absence in the valley; the
path Marquette and Joliet and hundreds after them certainly took on their
way from Montreal to the Mississippi or from the Mississippi back to
Montreal. You would not know this narrow strip--not a mile wide--to be a
watershed dividing the continent, the north from the south; you would not
know it for the threshold to the Mississippi Valley. The plain which the
path crosses seems to the eye as level as a table. Undoubtedly before the
tipping of the bed of the lakes the water flowed over this path. Indeed,
La Salle in one of his letters refers to the portaging here of canoes past
an "oak grove and across a flooded meadow." The tree of which he speaks,
with two canoes clumsily drawn upon it by the savages, to mark the
beginning of the portage at the Wisconsin, has gone, but a monument of red
granite now stands there with the names of Marquette and Joliet upon it.
At the other end of the now macadamized "path" there is a little red
bridge that leads across the Fox to where a portage fort grew later into
an important trading-post; but now there is no trace of those monuments of
war and trade. There is a farmhouse on their site whose tenants are in
fear only of drought and early frosts. A canal crosses this little isthmus
and once it interlocked the east and west, the arctic plains with the
subtropic cane fields; but it has given over its work to the railroads,
having served, however, I have no doubt, to water the roots of the
beautiful town that bears the generic name of all those places where
burdens were borne between waters. "Wauona," the Indians called it, more
euphoniously, but with the same significance as "Portage"--in the State
that has taken the name of the river that carried the burdens on to the
Mississippi--Wisconsin. This town has lately crept modestly into our
western literature as "Friendship Village." [Footnote: Zona Gale,
"Friendship Village." Macmillan, New York, 1908.] Except that it has a
more comely setting than most towns of the plains--even of those northern
plains with their restful undulations--and has a brighter, cleaner aspect
--since a light-colored brick is used instead of the red so much in favor
where wood is forbidden by the fire laws--it is a typical western town--
the next size larger than "Aramoni"; and so I must stop here for a moment
where Marquette, son of Rose de la Salle of Rheims, and Joliet, the wagon
maker of Quebec, came up out of the twisting little stream that is still
one of the fountains of the Atlantic.

For none the less is this village, standing beside this fountain (again
more euphoniously called the Kaka-ling or Kaukauna), itself touching the
Atlantic shores and even mingling with currents that reach the European
coasts. There was born in this village the historian [Footnote: Frederick
Jackson Turner.] who has written so well of the rise of that western
country that he has been called to the professorship of American history
at Harvard University, a literal son of the portage, who has rediscovered
the west to the world. And recently all the valley, and other valleys,
too, have been reading the stories of this place of portage (called, as I
have said, "Friendship Village"), written by a young woman whose windows
look out from her home upon the Wisconsin River not many paces from
Marquette's place of embarkation--a true daughter of the portage.

The French, who have given the new continent this portage path out of
Europe into the very heart of America, should read with some gratification
of the more intimate life that dwells there back of and in the midst of
the bustling, tireless, noisy industry of the valley.

"The long Caledonian hills" [the same which La Salle describes], "the four
rhythmic spans of the bridge" [a bridge of iron, not of vines and flowers
such as Chateaubriand describes], "the nearer river, the island where the
first birds build--these teach our windows the quiet and the opportunity
of the home town, its kindly brooding companionship, its doors to an
efficiency as intimate as that of fairy fingers." [Footnote: "Friendship
Village," p. vii, author's note.] And this is but one of thousands of
"home towns" in that great basin, towns with Daphne streets and Queen Anne
houses, and gloomy court-houses and austere churches and miniature
libraries, towns that taper off into suburban shanties, towns that have
in these new bottles, of varied and pretentious shapes, the best wine of
that western world.

The author of "Friendship Village" has vision of the more beautiful towns
into which these towns will some day grow, as yours have grown more
beautiful with age. "All the way," she writes, seeing the sunset from that
same river of the portage as Marquette saw it, "I had been watching
against the gold the jogging homeward of empty carts.... Such a procession
I want to see painted upon a sovereign sky. I want to have painted a giant
carpenter of the village as I once saw him, his great bare arms upholding
a huge white pillar, while blue figures hung above and set the acanthus
capital.... Some day we shall see these things in their own surprising
values and fresco our village libraries with them." [Footnote: Zona Gale,
"Friendship Village Love Stories," p. 47.] That appreciation and
expression of the beautiful is something that the French explorers in that
other world--the valley reached of the pioneers of the seeing eyes and the
understanding hearts--have carried and will continue to carry over those
same portages, to give that virile life of the west some of those higher
satisfactions of which this daughter of the portage is the prophetess.

Another portage path of importance is that which Marquette may also have
trodden, or may even have been carried over by his faithful attendants,
Pierre Porteret and Jacques, on his death journey from the land of the
Illinois to the mission of Michilimackinac, which he did not reach alive--
a journey, the latter part of which was like that of King Arthur borne in
a barge by his faithful knight, Sir Bedivere, to his last resting-place,
the Vale of Avalon. This portage, varying in length with the season from
three to five miles, was the St. Joseph-Kankakee Portage. La Salle, Tonty,
and Hennepin passed over it in 1679 on a less spiritual errand to the same
land whose inhabitants Marquette had tried to instruct in the mystery of
the faith. And it was well worn by adventurous and pious feet in the
century that followed.

What traffic in temporal and spiritual things was here carried over, is
intimated by relics of that century found in the fields not far away,
where for many years a French mission house stood with enough of a
military garrison to invite for it the name "Fort St. Joseph." In the room
of the Northern Indiana Historical Society at this portage there are to be
seen some of these relics, sifted from the dirt and sand: crucifixes,
knives, awls, beads--which I am told are clearly the loot of ancient Roman
cities, traded to the Indians for hides--iron rings, nails, and hinges-
these with flint arrow-heads and axes, relics of the first munitions of
the stone and iron ages out on the edges of civilization.

This portage path between the rivers is now obliterated by railroads,
paved streets, furrows, graves, factories, and dwellings; but down by the
St. Joseph River there stands a withered cedar, perhaps several hundred
years old, which bears scars that are believed to be the blaze marks of
the broad-bladed axes of the French explorers--made to indicate the place
where the portage out of the river began, the place which La Salle missed
when lost in the forest but afterward found, where Father Gabriel made
several crosses, as Hennepin records, on the trees--perhaps these very
marks-and where La Salle left letters for the guidance over the prairie of
those "who were to come in the vessel"--thinking of the captain of the
Griffin who was ordered to follow him to the Illinois on his return.

It is only a little more than a league from this landing at the bend of
the river (which has given the name "South Bend" to the town) across the
"large prairie" to the wet meadows in whose ooze the tortuous Kankakee
River became navigable, in La Salle's day, a hundred paces from its
source, and increased so rapidly in volume that, as he says in a letter,
"in a short time it becomes as broad and deep as the Marne"--the Marne
which he knew in his boyhood and for which any but his iron heart must
have longed.

Charlevoix walked across those unchanged fields of St. Joseph a half
century (1674-1720) after La Salle, and Parkman made the same journey
nearly a century after Charlevoix, finding there what he called "a dirty
little town." To-day a clean, industrious, eager city of over fifty-three
thousand, with a world horizon, as well as a provincial pride, throws its
shadow in the early morning across the path. Through its outskirts I tried
years ago to trace this portage path and there with my companion (who was
always the "Tonty" of my voyages on those western streams), put my boat in
the river and paddled and poled the seventy-five miles down the St. Joseph
River to the lake, where, as I wanted to believe, Marquette had made his
last journey. Hearing, some time after, of the blaze marks on the cedar-
tree, I went again to the portage, and from this old red cedar-tree again
traced the probable course of the French to the fields of corn, or maize,
yellow in the autumn sun that hid the fountains of the Kankakee. This
time, having but little leisure, I rode in an automobile from one end to
the other through and along the path, looking occasionally toward the sky
for air-ships that were due to alight there on their way from Chicago to
New York.

In La Salle's packs, carried over that portage, were blacksmith's tools--
forge, bellows, anvil, iron for nails--and carpenter's and joiner's tools.
One might easily believe that they were left there--such have been the
products of that portage strip, two or three miles wide.

First, there has grown there the largest wagon factory in the world. The
path of the pack and the burden has here produced as its peculiar
contribution to civilization that which is to carry burdens, instead of
the backs of men, the world round.

Second, here stands the world's largest plough factory--a place from which
ploughs are sent to every arable valley that civilization has conquered
and made to feel its hunger.

Third, here spreading its acres, or arpents, of buildings across the high
ground between the two rivers, is the largest factory in the world for the
making of certain parts of the sewing-machine; in every community of any
size in the world it has an agency.

And here, last of all, besides more than a hundred minor industries, is
what is, to my great surprise, said to be the largest toy factory in the

The gift of wagons for the bearing and easing of men's burdens; the gift
of the steel plough that has lifted man from the primitive subsistence of
the hoe; the gift of the shuttle which has released woman from the tyranny
of the needle; the gift of toys to the children of all races; has not this
portage prairie, this meadow of St. Joseph, had some element mixed with
its loam and clay from the spirit of those Gallic precursors of American
energy, something that has given this industry a wider venture, if not
peculiar expression? At any rate, its gifts to its time have been far
beyond common, of the tangible at least; and as to the intangible, the day
that I last spent on this portage an art league was being formed to foster
an interest in art and bring the best examples available to what were, but
a little time ago, dreary meadows half covered with snow and strewn with
skulls and bones of the buffalo. The most modern schools are being
developed and maintained by the public, and the University of Notre Dame
and the College of St. Mary look across the river to this portage field
and city.

One might have passed this portage so difficult to discern, as La Salle
did, and yet have found another way to the lower Mississippi, with a short
portage from this same stream to the Wabash River. A still shorter way
than any of these, and doubtless known to La Salle from his first years of
wanderings in the eastern end of the Mississippi Valley, led from the west
end of Lake Erie up the Maumee and then by portage to the Wabash and the
Ohio. This was the path that Celoron followed homeward on his memorable
plate-planting journey. But the portage was so long that he burned his
shattered canoes near the source of the Miami and was furnished with boats
at the French fort near the headwaters of the Maumee. The hostility of the
Iroquois, as we have seen, made perilous to the French in the earlier days
this path, so important among Indian highways as often to be called the
"Indian Appian Way."

Excepting the portage paths farther up the valley, notably that of St.
Esprit, and important chiefly as fur-trading paths, there remains but one
other historic portage path across the ridge of stone and swamp and
prairie from which are pendent, on the one side, all the silver streams of
the Mississippi Valley and, on the other side, all the Great Lakes and all
the rivers that flow into them.

This remaining path is the tenuous trail through the fields of wild onions
that led from the river or creek called Chicago (the Garlic River--Rivière
de l'Ail) into a stream that still bears a French name but of a
pronunciation which a Parisian would not accept--the Des Plaines. This
path, too, traversed a marsh and flat prairie so level that in freshet the
water ran both ways and was once in the bed of a river that ran from the
lake to the gulf. But it has been hallowed beyond all others of these
trails, for it was beside this portage that Marquette suffered through a
winter, detained there by a serious sickness when on his way to minister
to the Illinois Indians a hundred miles below. His hut was the first
European habitation upon its site--the site of the future city of Chicago.

In a book-shop not a league from where that hut stood I found a volume
valued at its weight in gold [Footnote: Thevenot, "Recueil de Voyages,"
with 2 folding maps and 14 plates, complete. Crown 8vo, white pigskin.
Paris 1682. Contains Marquette's and Joliet's Discoveries in North
America, etc. For an account of the various editions, see "Jesuit
Relations," 59:294-9.] giving the account of the journey in which
Marquette had passed up this portage on the way to Green Bay after the
discovery of the upper Mississippi with Joliet. It tells in its closing
paragraphs of the rich prairies just beyond this portage, but it recites
with greater satisfaction the baptizing of a dying child brought to the
side of his canoe as he was setting out for the mission house. "Had all
this voyage," he said, "caused but the salvation of a single soul I should
deem all my fatigue well repaid, and this I have reason to think. For,
when I was returning, I passed by the Indians of Peoria, where I was three
days announcing the faith, in all their cabins, after which, as we were
embarking, they brought me on the water's edge a dying child which I
baptized a little before it expired, by an admirable providence, for the
salvation of an innocent soul." [Footnote: Shea, "Discovery and
Exploration of the Mississippi Valley," 2d ed., p. 55.]

That was in 1673. It was more than a year before he again entered the
Chicago River, wishing to keep his promise to minister to the Illinois
savages and eager "to do and suffer everything for so glorious an
undertaking." In the "Jesuit Relations" [Footnote: 59:165-183.] the story
of those winter days at the Chicago portage has been kept for all time.
All through January his illness obliged him to stay in the portage cabin,
but early in February he "commenced Novena (Neufuaine) with a mass, at
which Pierre and Jacques [his companions], who do everything they can to
relieve me, received communion--to ask God to restore my health." His
ailment left him, but weakness and the cold and the ice in the rivers kept
him still at the portage until April. On the eve of his leaving for the
Illinois the journal ends with this thoughtful word of the French: "If the
French procure robes in this country, they do not disrobe the savages, so
great are the hardships that must be endured to obtain them." [Footnote:
"Jesuit Relations" (Thwaites), 59:183.]

In the dusk of an autumn day I went out to find the place where the Novena
had worked the miracle of his healing. As I have already intimated, few of
all the hundreds of thousands there in that great city have had any
consciousness of the background of French heroism and suffering and
prevision in front of which they were passing daily, but I found that the
policemen and the watchmen on the railroad near the river knew at least of
the great black cross which stands by that drab and sluggish water, placed
there in memory of Marquette and Joliet. The bit of high ground where the
hut stood is now surrounded by great looming sheds and factories, which
were entirely tenantless when I found my way through a long unlighted and
unpaved street in the direction of the river. The cross stood, in a little
patch of white, black as the father's cowl, against the night with its
crescent moon. I could not make out the inscription on the river side of
the monument and, seeing a signal-lantern tied to a scow moored to the
bank near by, I untied it and by its light was able to read the tribute of
the city to the memory of the priest and the explorer "who first of known
white men had passed that way," having travelled, as it recites, "two
thousand five hundred miles in canoes in one hundred and twenty days." The
bronze plate bears a special tribute to the foresight of Joliet, but it
commemorates first of all the dwelling of the frail body and valorous soul
of Father Marquette, the first European within the bounds of the city of
Chicago. I wish there might be written on Mississippi maps, in that space
that is shown between the Chicago and the Des Plaines, or the "Divine
River," as it was sometimes called, the words: "Portage St. Jacques." That
were a fitter canonization than to put his name among the names of cities,
steamboats on the lake, or tobaccos, as is our custom in America. The
crescent moon dropped behind the shadows that now line the portage "like a
sombre forest," but it is only a few steps through the darkness back into
the light and noise of the city of more than two million people.

Out of the black loam of this dark portage path fringed by marshes, in the
field of wild onions, the newest of the world's great cities has sprung
and spread with a promise that exceeds any other on the face of the
planet, though within the life of men still living it was but a stretch of
lake shore, a marshy plain with a path from its miniature river or creek
toward the crescent moon.

A metropolis was doubtless predestined on or near the very site of Chicago
by natural conditions and the peopling of the lands to the northwest; but
Louis Joliet was its first prophet. The inscription on the tablet at the
foot of the black cross recites that in crossing this site Joliet
recommended it for its natural advantages and as a place of first
settlement. And he first suggested the lakes-to-the-gulf waterway--a
prospect of which La Salle speaks with disfavor but which over two hundred
years later was in some measure realized.

The "Jesuit Relation" of August 1, 1674, reporting the conversation of
Joliet, who had lost all his precious papers in the Lachine Rapids, makes
this interesting prophecy: [Footnote: Thwaite's edition, 58:105.] "It
would only be necessary to make a canal by cutting through half a league
of prairie, to pass from the foot of the Lake of the Illinois [Michigan]
to the River St. Louis [Mississippi].... A bark [built on Lake Erie] would
easily sail to the Gulf of Mexico. "The monument to him stands by the
canal that has been cut through not merely a league but many leagues
(thirty-eight miles) and lets the waters of Michigan flow southward to the
Illinois. Of this site Joliet is quoted as saying, "The place at which we
entered the lake is a harbor, very convenient for receiving vessels and
sheltering them from the wind;" [Footnote: "Jesuit Relations" (Thwaites),
58:107.] and of the prairies back of the harbor: "At first when we were
told of these treeless lands I imagined that it was a country ravaged by
fire, where the soil was so poor that it could produce nothing. But we
certainly observed the contrary, and no better soil can be found, either
for corn, for vines, or for any fruit whatever.... A settler would not
there spend ten years in cutting down and burning the trees; on the very
day of his arrival he could put his plough into the ground, and if he had
no oxen from France, he could use those of this country, or even the
animals possessed by the western savages, on which they ride, as we do on
horses. After sowing grain of all kinds, he might devote himself
especially to planting the vine, and grafting fruit-trees, to dressing ox-
hides, wherewith to make shoes; and with the wool of these oxen he could
make cloth, much finer than most of that which we bring from France. Thus
he could easily find in the country his food and clothing, and nothing
would be wanting except salt; but, as he could make provision for it, it
would not be difficult to remedy that inconvenience." [Footnote: "Jesuit
Relations" (Thwaites), 58:107-9.] If Marquette was the first martyr of the
Illinois, Joliet was the first prophet of that great city of the Illinois.

What he could not foresee was that Lake Michigan would make the Chicago of
to-day not so much by giving it a waterway to the markets of the east and
Europe as by standing as an obstacle in the way of a straight path to the
sea from the northwest fields and so compelling those fertile lands to
send all their riches around the southern end of Lake Michigan. He
overestimated the economic importance, to be sure, of the buffalo. But if
domesticated cattle be substituted for the wild species, he again showed
remarkable prevision of the future of a city which has enjoyed a world
fame by reason of its cattle-market--its stock-yards. [Footnote: Of the
importance of the lakes-to-the-gulf waterway we have already spoken.]

Chicago is a city without a past, save for that glow of adventure which is
almost as hazy as the myths or legends that lie back of Europe. It is just
eighty-one years since it came into existence as a town, [Footnote: August
12, 1833.] and but twenty-eight voters voted for the first board of
trustees of the town; its population was variously estimated at from above
two hundred to three hundred and fifty. As a city, it is seventy-seven
years old, [Footnote: Chartered March 4, 1837.] beginning its legal life
as such with fewer than five thousand people. It was of its first mayor,
William B. Ogden--though some years later than his administration--that
Guizot, looking upon the portrait of his benevolent face, said: "That is
the representative American, who is the benefactor of his country,
especially the mighty West; he built Chicago." But the Chicago which he
administered was but a small town in size. Its officials from treasurer to
scavenger were appointed by the common council and obliged to serve or pay
certain fines. Every male resident over twenty-one was obliged to work
three days each year on the streets and alleys or pay one dollar for each
day. Fire wardens had no compensation except release from jury or military
service. There was at first meagre school provision, [Footnote: The money
derived from the sale of school lands in 1833 was distributed among the
existing private schools which thus became free common schools. Less than
$40,000 was received for lands now worth much more than $100, 000,000.] no
public sanitary provision, no considerable public service of any sort. It
was a neighborly but unsocialized place, where the individual had little
restraint save of his own limitations and his personal love of his
neighbors. What social functions the city performed were self-protective
and not self-improving in motive. For example, fire might not be carried
in the street except in a fire-proof vessel. [Footnote: S. E. Sparling,
"Municipal History and Present Organization of the City of Chicago,"
University of Wisconsin Bulletin, No. 23, 1898.] The aboriginal frog
croaked on the very site of the place where grand opera is now sung.

The city's development was largely left to the haphazard, unrestrained,
but whole-souled, big-hearted, self-confident individualism, such as has
been potent in Pittsburgh. The restrictions were mainly those of the
prohibitory Mosaic commandments. And so this city, increasing its
population by a half-million in each of the last three decades, has come
to stand next to Paris in population and first of all great American
cities in the constructive activity of its civic consciousness and urban
imagination. The city is still smoke-enwrapped (when the wind does not
blow from the lake); its streets run out into prairie dust and mud; its
harbor, of which Joliet spoke in praise, merits rather the disparagement
of La Salle; there are offending smells and sights everywhere. But in the
midst of it all and over it all is moving now, as a healing efficacy in
troubled waters, a spirit of democratic aspiration. What Louis XIV or
Napoleon I or Napoleon III, king and emperors, planned and did, compelling
the co-operation of a people in making the city of Paris more beautiful,
more habitable, that a people of millions out upon the prairies of
Illinois are beginning to do out of their own desire and common treasury.

It is of interest that the sovereign of France who gave her empire of
those great stretches of plain, gave to Paris "those vast reaches of
avenue and boulevard which to-day are the crowning features of the most
beautiful of cities." But it must quicken France's interest further to
know that this first systematic planning for a city, as an organic whole,
by Louis XIV and Colbert, Le Notre and Blondel is now being followed out
on that plain by a self-governing people, who have been making cities for
barely half a century, to bring order and form and beauty, and better
condition of living out of that grimy collection of homes and shops and
beginnings of civic enterprise and great private philanthropies. A great
deal has been already accomplished, such as the widening of the leading
avenue, the addition of acres upon acres to the park space on the lake
shore, the establishment of an efficient small park system; but it is only
the beginning of a scheme that thinks of Chicago as a city that will some
day hold ten millions of people. The prophecy of one statistician (now of
New York) predicts for Chicago a population of thirteen million two
hundred and fifty thousand souls in 1952; [Footnote: Bion J. Arnold,
"Report of the Engineering and Operating Features of the Chicago
Transportation Problem," pp. 95, 96.] and the great railroad builder,
James J. Hill, has estimated that "when the Pacific coast shall have a
population of twenty millions, Chicago will be the largest city in the

The specific plans for its improvement have been developed by a small body
of public-spirited citizens, but they are simply that great urban
democracy thinking and speaking, trying to express itself. It has
developed with less interference or compulsion on the part of the State
than any other great city of America, and now it is moving voluntarily to
the noblest as well as the most practical of improvements.

Under like leading it built the "White City," the ephemeral city of the
World's Fair, in the celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the
discovery of America, and that splendid achievement of the black, unkempt
city back of it gave first hint, in the co-operation that made this
possible, of what a community could do and at the same time gathered to it
the teaching of the older cities of the earth from their long striving for
the city beautiful.

The city provides its own water-supply, it lights its streets, it has
recently acquired control of its street-car lines, and every passenger is
notified as a shareholder that 55 per cent of the profits comes into the
city treasury. And now under this inspiration and yet of its own will it
has begun a transformation of itself into the likeness of what it dreamed
in those evanescent buildings and courts and columns and statues and
frescoes out by the opalescent waters of its sea. It saw the reflection of
that "White City" in the lake and then the image of its own workaday face
--and it has not forgotten what manner of city it was.

Remember again that what is and what is promised have come in a lifetime.
Walking in the streets of that city early one morning a few years ago, as
the trains were emptying the throngs who sleep outside along the lake and
out on the prairie, into the canyons made by its tall buildings, I found
myself immediately behind a robust old man, a civil engineer, who was born
before Chicago had a hundred inhabitants. He was much older than the city
whose buildings now reach out miles from the lake (one of its streets
thirty-two miles long) and thirty and forty stories into the air. One
hundred years ago it was the French wilderness untouched. Eighty years ago
most of its citizens bore French names. The portage path has literally
yielded a harvest of streets.

Chicago, the city of the French portage, Chicago, which despite all that
casual visitors see and say of it, was, I contend, best defined by Harriet
Martineau as a "great, embryo poet," moody, wild, but bringing about
results, exulting that he--for he is a masculine poet--has caught the true
spirit of things of the past and has had sight of the depths of futurity.
But it is only now that the brooding poet is coming to express himself in
verses that are recognized for their beauty.

Chicago, the field of the wild onions, threaded by La Rivière de l'Ail,
the place of the shambles, the capital of the golden calf. That is her

Only recently I read in a book which I found in Paris, written by an
English traveller, that Chicago stands apart from all other cities in that
"her people are really on earth to make money"; that, magnificent as she
is in many ways, chiefly in distances, she is "too busy money-making to
attend to civic improvements" or to have a "keen affection for worthier

I have gone a hundred times in and out of that dirty, unkempt city, swept
only by the winds, one would think, and I know its worst, its physical,
moral, political worst. But if the people there have worshipped the golden
calf in their wilderness, they have now drunk of the dust of their first
image, and I should be disposed to say that nowhere among American cities
is there a keener affection for worthier things showing itself.

Again I shall have to admit that this "affection" is not the spontaneous
expression of the entire democratic community. As in Pittsburgh, a
comparatively few men have voluntarily, and at their own expense,
undertaken to study not only the conditions that make for better and
cheaper travel, more profitable commercial intercourse and greater
productiveness, but for a more wholesome and a higher spiritual existence.
And again it is so with the hope that the great self-governing community
will out of its desire and treasury bring about these conditions.

These few men and women, possessed both by a love of that still uncouth
city and an ideal objectively learned in the days when the "White City"
stood between it and the lakes, have already spent a half-million francs
in study and in making plans--in addition to all the months and years of
volunteer, unpaid service.

The principal items of this great scheme are:

1. The improvement of the lake front.

2. The creation of a system of highways outside the city.

3. The improvement of railway terminals and the development of a complete
traction system for both freight and passengers.

4. The acquisition of an outer park system and of parkway circuits.

5. The systematic arrangement of the streets and avenues within the city,
in order to facilitate the movement to and from the business districts.

6. The development of centres of intellectual life and of civic
administration, so related as to give coherence and unity to the city.

Is there not hope for democracy if in the places of its greatest strain
and stress, in the midst of its fiercest passions, there is a deliberate,
affectionate, intelligent striving toward cities that have been revealed
not in apocalyptic vision but in the long-studied plans of terrestrial
architects and engineers and altruistic souls, such as that of Jane
Addams, cities that to such amphionic music shall out of the shards of the
past build themselves silently, impregnably--if not in a diviner clime, at
any rate in a diviner spirit--on shores and slopes and plains of that
broad valley of the new democracy, conterminous in its mountain boundaries
with New France in America?

A little while ago some workmen who were digging trenches for the
foundations of a new factory or warehouse along that portage path thrust
their spades into a piece of wood buried sixteen feet below the surface.
It was found to be a fragment of a French bateau, lying on one of whose
thwarts was a sword--probably of one who had met his death on the edge of
the portage--a sword with an inscription showing that it probably belonged
to an early French voyageur.

And so again in these relics but newly brought to light I find new words
to remind ourselves that the roots of that mighty, virile, healthiest,
most aspiring of America's great cities are entwined about the symbols of
French adventure and empire in the west--the sword and the boat, and
doubtless there was a crucifix not far away.



I once heard a public lecturer in America telling a New York audience of
an experience in the Mississippi Valley, where he asked an audience of
children what body of water lay in the middle of the earth--wishing them
to name to him, of course, the Mediterranean Ocean--and unexpectedly got
the serious answer from a lad of deep conviction but narrow horizon, "the
Sangamon River." I told the amused lecturer, who had never heard of this
river, at any rate as locally pronounced, that the lad spoke more truly
than the lecturer knew. For to those of even wider horizons, whose
greatest and most beloved hero in history lived and was buried near the
banks of the Sangamon, it is the middle water of the earth.

It is but a little river, and it is but one of the rivers of the valley of
a hundred thousand streams, truly the Medimarenean Land, since all the
oceans are now being gathered about it. The Sangamon flows into the
Illinois, the Illinois into the Mississippi, and the Mississippi is now to
flow into all the seas, even as the life of Lincoln is to flow into all

How little competent I am to speak dispassionately of this great
incarnation of the spirit of those western waters the distorted geography
of the untravelled lad whom the alien lecturer found on the prairies will
suggest, for the river of the home and the fame of Lincoln empties into
the river of my birth.

It was along this latter river--the Illinois--as we know, that La Salle
and his men, in midwinter of 1682, dragged on the ice their canoes,
baggage, and disabled companions from the Chicago River, all the way to
the site of Fort Crèvecoeur, where they found open water, and thence in
their canoes made their way past the mouth of the Sangamon (which first
appears on the maps of the new world in 1683, just after La Salle's
journey, as the River Emicouen) and on into the Mississippi. We recall
their "adventurous progress" and the unveiling to their eyes more and more
of the vast new world, where the warm and drowsy air and hazy sunlight
succeeded the frosty breath of the north. We see them floating down the
winding water path. We see the red children of the sun--the Indian sun-
worshippers--clothed in white cloaks, receiving the white heralds of
Europe; we hear the weather-beaten voyageurs chant on the shores of the
gulf solemn, exulting songs learned in church and cloister of France; we
hear the faint voice of their leader crying his claim to all the great
valley from the mouth of the river to its source beyond the country of the
Nadouesioux--the voice not of a human throat alone but of a vision in the
wilderness. We discern after long years the sounds of its realization. We
see the iridescence of the John Law bubble shining over the turbid waters
of that river for a moment. We see the raising and lowering of flags of
various colors. We hear Napoleon's representative saying: "May the
inhabitants of this valley and a Frenchman never meet upon any spot of the
globe without feeling brothers!" We see the general who is later to embody
the west's crude democratic ideals, Andrew Jackson, victorious in the last
struggle of independence from Europe. We see the red worshippers of the
sun in their white cloaks crossing the river, vanishing toward its
setting; and we see the black shadows of men, the negro slaves, creeping
out of Africa after the white heralds of Europe in America. Seeing and
hearing all this, we have seen and heard the intimations of the glory of
France in the new world, the birth of a world-power, the United States,
the infancy of a new democracy, the disappearance of the aboriginal
Indian, the menace of the black shadow that had made a nation half slave
and half free, and the prophecy of the triumphant coming of the new-age
producers and poets, the men of the Land of the Western Waters.

It is out of this light and shade gathered by the Father of Waters--the
Mississippi--along its banks, that there comes silently one day in 1831,
the lank, bony, awkward figure of Abraham Lincoln, then a young man of
twenty-two, guiding a flatboat laden with prairie products down this same
tortuous waterway, from the Sangamon to the sea. He was six feet four
inches tall, homely, sad-faced, handy, and as little promising outwardly
as any other pilot or boatman of those days. It is still remembered in
prairie legends, however, that at the beginning of the voyage, his boat
being stuck midway across a dam, he had ingeniously managed to release it
and save all from shipwreck. It seems now an incident fraught with
prophecy. And it is said that many years later he made designs of a
contrivance that would lift flatboats over shoals and even let them
navigate on ice--an intimation of the resourcefulness of men left to fight
alone with the forces of nature.

He was not a "Yankee," as one writing me in Paris characterized the men of
that valley. This awkward landsman on water was born in a cabin in the
Kentucky wilderness, a house replaced by one of unhewn timber, without
door or floor or window, probably not better than the meanest of the gypsy
houses just outside the fortifications of Paris. He accompanied his
restless, migratory father from one squatter home to another until he
settled in Illinois, where the timber-land and prairie meet, near the
Sangamon, and there built another cabin, made rails to fence ten acres of
land--which gave him the sobriquet the "rail-splitter"--"broke" the
ground, and raised a crop of corn on it the first year. You may remember
that Joliet made report of such a possibility there.

Lincoln's origin you will recognize as typical of that frontier, except
that the character which asserted itself in the son, if there is
transmission of acquired character, seems to have come from the mother and
the nurturing of his stepmother rather than from the shiftless, paternal
pioneer who gave the wilderness environment and soil to the nurturing of
this stock and was as little paternalistic as the government. Perhaps this
ne'er-do-well father is to be classed as one of those rough coureurs de
bois who, in his ambassadorship from his ancestors to their frontier
posterity, forgot the conventions and manners of the ancestral life in the
temptations of the open country to a man without a slave. When he started
down the Ohio into Indiana with his family, his carpenter's tools, his
household goods, and a considerable quantity of whiskey, he was going to
treat, not as the coureurs de bois, with the Indians, the savage men of
the forests; he was going to treat with the savage forces of nature
themselves. And one must, as I have said of Nicolet and Perrot and Du
Lhut, judge charitably these men who made the reconciliations of the edges
of things. They made the paths to western cities; he, to a western
character; that only need be remembered.

Certain trees depend for the spread of their kind on seeds equipped with
spiral wings that when they fall they may reach the ground outside the
shadow of the parent tree and so have a chance to grow into wide-spreading
trees. Thomas Lincoln, the father of Abraham, was as the spirals that
carried the precious seed where it could have free air and an unshadowed
soil to grow in.

And there the tuition of the experiences that made all men kin and so made
a natural democracy possible began. He had little teaching of the formal
sort. Six months or a year in a log schoolhouse probably measured its
duration. He had the sterner discipline of the fields, the waters, and the
trees, for their very temptations became disciplines to those who
resisted, as his father did not. He learned his parables of the fields and
of the natural instincts of his neighbors. He knew both physical and human
nature about him, and this he illustrated, expressed, in such manner as to
make him a faithful and favorite exponent of its coarseness, its
kindliness, its gallantry, its sympathies, and its heroisms.

These neighborly fellowships, not affected but genuine, equipped him not
only with a vital and never-failing sense of brotherhood but with a faith
in those whom he called the "plain people," the common man. His creed was,
if not innate, innurtured. That fellowship and that faith were at the
bottom of his democracy--not merely patient love of his neighbors but
faith in their ultimate judgments--democracy that made him a nationalist
and a world humanist.

But in the making of Lincoln there were more than the usual disciplines.
He had also the tuition of the "solemn solitude," as Bancroft says. He
sought the fellowships of the past--of that "invisible multitude of the
spirits of yesterday." He read every book that he could get within fifty
miles, it is said. But what is more certain is that he read thoroughly and
"inwardly digested" a few books. He knew the Bible, Shakespeare, and
Burns, Aesop's "Fables," Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," and "Robinson
Crusoe." He read a history of the United States and a life of Washington,
and he learned by heart the statutes of the State of Indiana. Moreover, he
studied without guidance algebra and geometry. It is said that later in
life, when his political career was beginning, he continued his studies
even more seriously and attempted to master a foreign language.

So he had companionship of the patriarchs and prophets and poets of
Israel. And it was the experience of many another prairie boy that he knew
intimately these Asiatic heroes of history before he consciously heard of
modern or contemporary heroes. I knew of Joshua before I was aware of
Napoleon, and I remember carving upon a primitive arch of triumph--which
was only the stoop at the roadside, but the most, conspicuous public place
accessible to my knife--the name of one of the cities taken in the
conquest of Canaan, an instinct of hero-worship--so splendidly illustrated
in French art and monuments.

Lincoln the youth had not only those ancient companionships but the
intimate counsel of the greatest of teachers of democracy. He knew, too,
the homely wisdom of Greece as well as he knew the treasured sayings of
his own people handed on from generation to generation. He was as familiar
with the larger-horizoned gossip and philosophies of Shakespeare's plays
as with those which gathered around the post-office of Clary's Grove,
where later this youth as postmaster carried the letters in his hat and
read the newspapers before they were delivered. He loved Burns for his
philosophy that "a man's a man for a' that." So with these and others he
found his high fellowships, even while he "swapped" stories (enriched of
his reading) with his neighbors at the store or his fellow lawyers at the
primitive taverns.

But there were less personal associations. He made the fundamental laws of
a wilderness State an acquisition of his instincts. There is preserved in
a law library in New York the much-worn copy of the statutes of Indiana
enacted in the first years of the existence of that State. It is stated
that he learned these statutes by copying extracts from them--and from the
Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and
the Ordinance of the Northwest, included in the same volume--on a shingle
when paper was scarce, using ink made of the juice of brier-root and a pen
made from the quill of a turkey-buzzard, and shaving the shingle clean for
another extract when one was learned, till his primitive palimpsest was
worn out. But whatever the medium of their transmigration from matter to
mind, they became the law of his democracy, sacred as if they had been
brought to him on tables of stone by a prophet with shining face. It was
in that school, I believe, that he learned his nationalism, his devotion
to the Constitution--to which in maturer years he gave this famed
expression: "I would save the Union, I would save it in the shortest way
under the Constitution.... My paramount object in this struggle is to save
the Union. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do
it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and
if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also
do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I
believe it helps to save the Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because
I do not believe it would help to save the Union." [Footnote: Letter to
Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862.]

And when he had freed the negro by a proclamation that violated the letter
of the Constitution, it was still that boy of the woods speaking in the
man--the boy who had learned his lesson beyond all possibility of
forgetting or misunderstanding--"I felt that measures otherwise
unconstitutional might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the
preservation of the Constitution through the preservation of the nation."

It was from those shingles that he learned, too, the place of the State in
this nationalism. Its paternalism has grown tremendously since 1824, when
democracy was a negative, a repressive and not a positive, aggressive
political and social spirit, but, as it was, it gave him the foundation of
the political structure within whose lines he had to build later.

And with all this was a self-discipline in the two great knowledges by
which men have climbed from savages to gods--language and mathematics. He
was told one day that there was an English grammar in a house six miles
from his home, and he at once walked off to borrow it. And he studied
geometry and algebra alone. This may seem to you an inconsequential thing,
but having myself on those same prairies not far away from the Sangamon
acquired my algebra with little teaching and my solid geometry with only
the tuition of a book and of the sun or a lamp, I am able to appreciate
what the hardship of that self-schooling was. It was more agreeable to
watch the clouds while the horses rested at the end of the furrow, to
address, as did Burns, lines to a field-mouse, or to listen to the song of
the meadow-lark, than to learn the habits of the three dimensions then
known, of points in motion, of lines in intersection, of surfaces in
revolution, or to represent the unknown by algebraic instead of poetic

But his private personal culture, as one [Footnote: Herbert Croly, Lincoln
as more than an American in his "Promise of American Life," pp. 89-99.]
has observed, had no "embarrassing effects," because he shared so
completely and genuinely the amusements and occupations of his
neighborhood. No "taint of bookishness" disturbed the local fellowships
which gave him opportunity to express in "familiar and dramatic form" of
story and illustration his more substantial philosophy and so find for it
the perfect speech. His neighbors called him by homely, affectionate
names, thinking he was entirely one of them--a little more clever, a
little less ambitious in the usual channels of business and enterprise. He
had no "moral strenuousness of the reformer" and no "exclusiveness" of
learning. He "accepted the fabric of traditional American political
thought." He seemed "but the average product," and yet, as this same
writer has said, "at bottom Abraham Lincoln differed as essentially from
the ordinary western American of the middle period as St. Francis of
Assisi differed from the ordinary Benedictine monk of the thirteenth
century." [Footnote: Croly, "Promise of American Life," p. 90.] He was
not, like Jackson, simply a large, forceful version of the plain American
trans-Alleghany citizen; he made no clamorous, boastful show of strength,
powerful as he was physically and intellectually. He shared genuinely,
with no consciousness of his own distinction, the "good-fellowship of his
neighbors, their strength of will, their excellent faith, and above all
their innocence." But he made himself, by discipline of his own,
"intellectually candid, concentrated, and disinterested and morally
humane, magnanimous and humble." This is not the picture of a
conventional, generic democrat; and this is not, we are assured by the
earlier writers, the picture of the westerner of that period. Indeed, Mr.
Croly insists that while these Lincolnian qualities are precisely the
qualities which Americans, in order to become better democrats, should add
to their strength, homogeneity, and innocence, they are just the qualities
(high intelligence, humanity, magnanimity, and humility) which Americans
are "prevented by their individualistic practice and tradition from
attaining or properly valuing." "Their deepest convictions," he contends,
"make the average unintelligent man the representative democrat, and the
aggressive, successful individual the admired national type." To them
Lincoln is simply "a man of the people" and an example of strong will.

But the man who said this did not know that land of Lincoln--which was the
valley of La Salle, and even before that the valley of the tribe of men--
for I believe its inhabitants knew that he was the embodiment of what they
coveted for themselves; that he was not their ordinary average but their
best selves.

Their individualism has been, I must say again, under practical
compulsions and has had fruits that deceive the eye. It is so insistent
upon national productivity, but none the less is it joined to a high
idealism that worships just the qualities that were so miraculously united
in Abraham Lincoln. To be sure, some remember for their own excuse his
coarse stories; some recall for their own justification his acceptance of
the political standards that he found; but the great body of the people
keep him in reverence and affection as the incarnation of patience,
honesty, fairness, magnanimity, humility; not for his strength of will
primarily, but for his strength of charity and honesty, and in so doing
they reveal the ideal that is in and under their own individual struggle.

Montalembert said that "a social constitution which produced a Lincoln and
others like him is a good tree whose sure fruit leaves nothing to envy in
the product of any monarchy or aristocracy." Lincoln was not, we want to
believe, a freak, a sport of nature, but the "sure fruit" that should not
only leave nothing to envy in others, but leave nothing to question in the
soundness of a democracy that gives evidence of its spirit in remembering
Abraham Lincoln more tenderly, more affectionately, more reverentially
than any one else in its history. It is less to his praise but more
accurate, I think, that, as his biographer put it: "His day and generation
uttered itself through him." He expressed their ugliest forms and their
most beautiful developments.

None the less is it remarkable that not only should the virility and
nobility of the frontier have been exhibited in him, but that the
consummate skill and character known to the world's centres of culture
should have had, in his speech and intellectual attitude and grasp, a new

When he wrote his letter in acceptance of the nomination to the
presidency, he showed it to the superintendent of public instruction in
Illinois, whom he called "Mr. Schoolmaster" (and who was years after my
own beloved schoolmaster) saying: "I am not very strong on grammar and I
wish you would see if it is all right." The schoolmaster had only to
repair what we call a "split infinitive." But the great utterances of his
life had no tuition or revision of schoolmasters. They were his own in
conception and expression. He sent his Cooper Union speech in advance to
several for advice, and they, I am told, changed not a word.

Of his debates with Douglas (1858), his speech in Cooper Union, New York,
1860, his oration at the dedication of the Soldiers' Cemetery at
Gettysburg, and of his second inaugural address, it has been said that no
one of them has been surpassed in its separate field. Goldwin Smith said
of the Gettysburg speech: "Saving one very flat expression, the address
has no superior in literature." [Footnote: Goldwin Smith, "Early Years of
A. Lincoln." In R. D. Sheppard, "Abraham Lincoln," p. 132.] These
appraisements I would hesitate to repeat in France, where all letters come
finally to be adjudged, if I did not know that this last document (the
Gettysburg speech), at least, had been admitted to the seat of the
immortal classics. It is said to have been written on scraps of paper, as
the great care-worn man rode in the car from Washington to Gettysburg, and
I have been told by one who was present at the ceremonies that the quiet
had hardly come over the vast audience, stirred by the eloquence of Edward
Everett's oration which had lasted two hours, before this briefest and
noblest of American orations, spoken in a high and unmusical voice by the
great lank figure, consulting his manuscript, was over. It is heard now in
the memory of millions of school-children from the Atlantic to the

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent
a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that
all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or
any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a
great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that
field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that
that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should
do this.

"But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate--we
cannot hallow--this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled
here have consecrated it far beyond our poor power to add or detract. The
world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can
never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be
dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have
thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to
the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take
increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure
of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have
died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of
freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth."

Bronze tablets bearing this oration for their inscription have been put on
the walls of schoolhouses and public buildings all the way across the
continent--plates in renewal of possession, that are another fruitage of
the valley where the French planted their plates of possession and
repossession a century before.

But I would also have read--especially in France, where letters are still
being written that have the quality of literature--a letter of this
frontiersman. The professor of history in the College of the City of New
York, showing me his museum, would have me read again this letter in the
hand of Abraham Lincoln; and I would have those beyond America, as well as
in that valley, hear what a man of the western waters could write before
the coming of the typewriter:

"DEAR MADAM: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a
statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother
of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how
weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to
beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain
from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of
the Republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may
assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished
memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to
have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

"Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

"ABRAHAM LINCOLN." [Footnote: "Lincoln, Complete Works" (Nicolay and Hay
edition), 2:600. To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass., November 1, 1864.]

These two examples illustrate not only the form of his speech and writing,
but the sympathy and the temper of the soul of the man. They need only the
supplement of a comment on the strength of his thought in expression. It
is said of his Cooper Union speech (his first speech before a large
eastern urban audience, I think): "From the first line to the last, from
his premises to his conclusion, he travels with a swift, unerring
directness which no logician ever excelled, an argument complete and full,
without the affectation of learning.... A single, easy, simple sentence
... contains a chapter of history that, in some instances, has taken days
of labor to verify and which must have cost the author months of
investigation to acquire.... Commencing with this address as a political
pamphlet, the reader will leave it as an historical work, brief, complete,
profound, truthful--which will survive the time and occasion that called
it forth and be esteemed hereafter, no less for its intrinsic worth than
its unpretending modesty." [Footnote: Pamphlet edition with notes and
prefaces by C. C. Nott and Cephas Brainerd, September, 1860. Quoted in
Nicolay and Hay, "Abraham Lincoln," 2:225.]

His first wide fame grew from a speech which he delivered on October 16,
1854, in Peoria, the city that had grown on the Illinois River by the side
of La Salle's Fort Crèvecoeur. "When the white man governs himself," he
said there, "that is self-government; but when the white man governs
himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government--
that is despotism." [Footnote: "Lincoln, Complete Works," ed. by Nicolay
and Hay, 2:227.] Two years later he made near there an address so
irresistible in its eloquence that the reporters forgot why they were
there and failed to take notes. So there are but fragments preserved of
what is known as "the lost speech."

The minor anecdotes of his life that are treasured and the stories which
he is said to have told would fill a volume--perhaps volumes. They all
tell of a genius who through adversity became resourceful, who through the
neighborly exchanges of a village learned a sympathy as wide as humanity,
and who with an infinite patience and kindliness and good sense dealt with
a divided people.

The world outside the valley at first thought him a buffoon because it
heard only the echo of the hoarse laughter after his stories. They found
when he spoke in Cooper Union that he had a mind that would have sat
unembarrassed and luminous in the company of the men of the age of
Pericles. But he had a sense of humor that, had he been there, would have
saved Socrates from the hyssop. Mr. Bryce says, that all the world knows
the Americans to be a humorous people. [Footnote: Bryce, "American
Commonwealth," 2:286.] "They are," he has said, "as conspicuously the
purveyors of humor to the nineteenth century as the French were the
purveyors of wit to the eighteenth.... [This sense] is diffused among the
whole people; it colors their ordinary life and gives to their talk that
distinctively new flavor which a European palate enjoys." And he adds:
"Much of President Lincoln's popularity, and much also of the gift he
showed for restoring confidence to the North at the darkest moments of the
war, was due to the humorous way he used to turn things, conveying the
impression of not being himself uneasy, even when he was most so." Yet it
was no mask, it was instinctive.

On one of those days when the anxiety was keenest and the sky darkest a
delegation of prohibitionists came to him and insisted that the reason the
north did not win was because the soldiers drank so much whiskey and thus
brought the curse of the Lord down upon them. There was, we are told, a
mischievous twinkle in his eye when he replied that he considered it very
unfair on the part of the Lord, because the southerners drank a good deal
worse whiskey and more of it than the soldiers of the north.

Most of these stories and parables had a flavor of the west and of the
fields where they were collected in the days when, as a lawyer, he
followed the court from one town to another, and spent the nights in talk
around the tavern stove.

When asked one day how he disposed of a caller who had come to him in a
towering rage, he told of the farmer in Illinois who announced one Sunday
to his neighbors that he had gotten rid of a great log in the middle of
his field. They were anxious to know how, since it was too big to haul
out, too knotty to split, too wet and soggy to burn. And the farmer
announced: "I ploughed around it." "And so," he said, "I got rid of
General----. I ploughed around him, but it took me three hours to do it."

This, then, was the lank boatman who came down the river (that was once
the River Colbert) and who, seeing the horrors of the slave markets in New
Orleans, went back to the Sangamon with a memory of them that was a
"continual torment," as he said, and with a vow to hit that institution
hard if ever he had a chance. It was this boatman who was twenty years
later to have, of all men, the chance.

One cannot tell here, even in outline, the story of that irrepressible
conflict in which this western ploughman and lawyer became commander-in-
chief of an army of a million men and carried on a war involving the
expenditure of three billion dollars. One need not tell it. It need only
to be recalled that it was this man of the western waters who first saw
clearly, or first made it clearly seen, that the nation could not endure
permanently half slave and half free. "I do not expect the Union to be
dissolved," he said, "but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will
become all one thing or the other." And it was he who more than any one
single force brought the fulfilment of his prophecy--of a nation reunited
and all free.

He hated slavery. "If slavery is not wrong," he said, "nothing is wrong."
But he wanted to get rid of it without injustice to those to whom it was
an inherited, if cherished, institution. If he saw a venomous snake in the
road he would take the nearest stick and kill it, but if he found it in
bed with his children, "I might hurt the children," he said, "more than
the snake and it might bite them." He was as tender and considerate of the
south as ever he was of an erring neighbor in Illinois, where it is
remembered that he carried home with his giant strength one whom his
comrades would have left to freeze, and nursed him through the night. So
he sat almost sleepless, sad-hearted, through the four dark years, but
resolute, cheering his own heart and those about him with a broad humor
that came as "Aesop's Fables" out of the fields and their elemental

One summer's day, when ploughing in the fields of that land of Lincoln, I
heard a sound of buzzing in the air and, looking up, I saw a faint cloud
against the clear sky. I recognized it as a swarm of bees making their way
from a hive, they knew not where, and with an instinct born of the plains
at once I began to follow them and to throw up clods of earth to stop
their flight, bringing them down finally on the edge of the field upon a
branch of a tree, where they were at evening gathered into a new hive and
persuaded back to profitable industry instead of wasting their substance
in the forest. So this great ploughman used the clods of earth, the things
at his hand, illustrations from the fields, to bring the thoughts of his
countrymen down to contentful co-operation again.

"You may," said Alcibiades, speaking of Socrates, "imagine Brasidas and
others to have been like Achilles, or you may imagine Nestor and Antenor
to have been like Pericles; and the same may be said of other famous men.
But of this strange being you will never be able to find any likeness,
however remote, either among men that now are or who ever have been--other
than ... Silenus and the Satyrs, and they represent in a figure not only
himself but his words. For his words are like the images of Silenus which
open. They are ridiculous when you first hear them.... His talk is of
pack-beasts and smiths and cobblers and curriers.... But he who opens the
bust and sees what is within will find they are the only words which have
a meaning in them and also the most divine, abounding in fair images of
virtue, and of the widest comprehension, or rather extending to the whole
duty of a good and honorable man." [Footnote: Plato, "Symposium," Jowett's
trans., 1:592.]

The twenty-three centuries since Socrates do not furnish me with a fitter
characterization of Lincoln. His image was as homely as that of Silenus
was bestial. His talk was of ploughs and boats, polecats and whiskey. But
those who opened this homely image found in him a likeness as of no other
man, and in his words a meaning that was of widest and most ennobling
comprehension. And, as Crito said for all ages, after the sun that was on
the hilltops when Socrates took the poison had set and darkness had come:
"Of all the men of his time, he was the wisest and justest and best." So
has the poet of that western democracy given to all time this phrase, sung
in the evening of the day of Lincoln's martyrdom, at the time when the
lilac bloomed and the great star early dropped in the western sky and the
thrush sang solitary: "The sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and
lands." [Footnote: Walt Whitman, "When Lilacs Last."]

We ask ourselves if he was the gift of democracy. And we find ourselves
answering: his peculiar excellence could have come of no other order of
society. We ask ourselves anxiously if democracy has the unerring instinct
to find such men to embody its wishes, or did it take him only for a
talented rail-splitter--an average man? But we have no certain answer to
this anxious questioning. What gives most hope in new confusions and
problems, unknown to his day, however, is that the more clearly his
disinterestedness and forbearance and magnanimity and humility are
revealed, the wider and deeper is the feeling of admiration and love for
his character, which perhaps assures us, after all, better than anything
else, of the soundness and nobility of the ideals of democracy.

They carried this man at death over into the valley of his birth, into the
land of the men of the western waters that was Nouvelle France, and there
buried him among his neighbors, of whom he learned his spirit of
democracy, in the midst of scenes where he had mastered its language, in
the very ground that had taught him his parables, by the side of the
stream that gave him sight of his supreme mission. It is the greatest
visible monument to his achievement that the "Father of Waters ... goes
unvexed to the sea" [Footnote: Letter to John C. Conkling, August 25,
1863.] through one country instead of the territory of two or more nations
and that the slavery he witnessed is no more. But it is a greater monument
to him, as it is a nobler monument to those who have erected it in their
own hearts, that he is revered the length of the course of the river first
traced by La Salle, and through all the reach of the rivers of his claim
from its source, even as far as its mouth at the limitless sea.



France evoked from the unknown the valley that may, in more than one
sense, be called the heart of America. Her coureurs de bois opened its
paths made by the buffalo and the red men to the shod feet of Europe. Her
explorers planted the watershed with slender, silent portage traces that
have multiplied into thousands of noisy streets and tied indissolubly the
lakes of the north to the rivers of the south from which they were long
ago severed by nature. Her one white sail above Niagara marked the way of
a mighty commerce. Her soldiers sowed the molten seeds of tumultuous
cities on the sites of their forts, and her priests and friars consecrated
with their faith and prayers forest trail, portage path, ship's sail, and
leaden plate.

But that is not all--a valley of new cities like the old, of new paths for
greater commerce, of more altars to the same God! The chief significance
and import of the addition of this valley to the maps of the world, all
indeed that makes it significant, is that here was given (though not of
deliberate intent) a rich, wide, untouched field, distant, accessible only
to the hardiest, without a shadowing tradition or a restraining fence, in
which men of all races were to make attempt to live together under rules
of their own devising and enforcing. And as here the government of the
people by the people was to have even more literal interpretation than in
that Atlantic strip which had traditions of property suffrage and church
privilege and class distinctions, I have called it the "Valley of the New

When the French explorers entered it, it was a valley of aboriginal,
anarchic individualism, with little movable spots of barbaric communistic
timocracy, as Plato would doubtless have classified those migratory,
predatory kingdoms of the hundreds of red kings, contemporary with King
Donnacona, whom Cartier found on the St. Lawrence--communities governed by
the warlike, restless spirit.

The French communities that grew in the midst of those naked timocrats,
whose savagery they soothed by beads and crucifixes and weapons, were the
plantings of absolutism paternalistic to the last degree. One cannot
easily imagine a socialism that would go further in its prescriptions than
did this affectionate, capricious, generous, if unwise, as it now seems,
government of a village along the St. Lawrence or the Mississippi, from a
palace by the Seine where a hard-working monarch issued edicts "in the
fulness of our power and of our certain knowledge."

The ordinances preserved in the colonial records furnish abundant proof of
that parental concern and restraint. They relate to the regulation of inns
and markets, poaching, preservation of game, sale of brandy, rent of pews,
stray hogs, mad dogs, matrimonial quarrels, fast driving, wards and
guardians, weights and measures, nuisances, observance of Sunday,
preservation of timber, and many other matters.

Parkman cites these interesting ordinances, which illustrate to what
absurd lengths this jealous, paternalistic care extended:

"Chimney-sweeping having been neglected at Quebec, the intendant commands
all householders promptly to do their duty in this respect, and at the
same time fixes the pay of the sweep at six sous a chimney. Another order
forbids quarrelling in church. Another assigns pews in due order of
precedence." [Footnote: Parkman, "Old Regime in Canada," p. 341.]

One intendant issued a "mandate to the effect that, whereas the people of
Montreal raise too many horses, which prevents them from raising cattle
and sheep, 'being therein ignorant of their true interest, ... now,
therefore, we command that each inhabitant of the cotes of this government
shall hereafter own no more than two horses or mares and one foal--the
same to take effect after the sowing season of the ensuing year (1710),
giving them time to rid themselves of their horses in excess of said
number, after which they will be required to kill any of such excess that
may remain in their possession." [Footnote: Parkman, "Old Regime in
Canada," p. 341.]

And, apropos of the trend toward cities, there is the ordinance of Bigot,
issued with a view, we are told, of "promoting agriculture and protecting
the morals of farmers" by saving them from the temptations of the cities:
"We prohibit and forbid you to remove to this town (Quebec) under any
pretext whatever, without our permission in writing, on pain of being
expelled and sent back to your farms, your furniture and goods
confiscated, and a fine of fifty livres laid on you for the benefit of the
hospitals." [Footnote: Parkman, "Old Regime in Canada," p. 342.] There is
even a royal edict designed to prevent the undue subdivision of farms
which "forbade the country people, except such as were authorized to live
in villages, to build a house or barn on any piece of land less than one
and a half arpents wide and thirty arpents long." [Footnote: Parkman, "Old
Regime in Canada," p. 342.]

And this word should be added in intimation of the generosity of the

"One of the faults of his [Louis XIV's] rule is the excess of his
benevolence, for not only did he give money to support parish priests,
build churches, and aid the seminary, the Ursulines, the missions, and the
hospitals, but he established a fund destined, among other objects, to
relieve indigent persons, subsidized nearly every branch of trade and
industry, and in other instances did for the colonists what they would far
better have learned to do for themselves." [Footnote: Parkman, "Old Regime
in Canada," p. 347.]

Like Aeneas, therefore, these filial emigrants, seeking new homes, not
only carried their _lares et penates_ in their arms but bore upon their
shoulders their father Anchises.

Succeeding savage individualism, this benevolent despotism gave the valley
into the keeping of an individualism even purer and less restrained than
that which it succeeded, for the sparse pioneer transmontane settlements
were practically governed at first by only the consciences or whims of the
inhabitants, instructed of parental commandments learned the other side of
the mountains, and by their love of forest and of their prairie neighbors.

And when formal government came a pure democracy, social and political--it
came of individual interest and neighborly love and of no abstract
philosophical theory or of protest against oligarchy; it came from the
application, voluntary for the most part, of "older institutions and ideas

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