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The French in the Heart of America by John Finley

Part 6 out of 6

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see the illimitable fields opening even beyond the vision of those men of
the crucible and retort, who are but leading the new farmers on to visible
fields of increasing richness?

Hardly less cosmopolitan are the men of science and letters who are
actually in those regions, and only less so those tens of thousands, who,
like migrants of the earlier days, are going forward, many to the
farthest, lonesomest frontiers of knowledge, but all to something beyond
their immediate ancestral lot or field.

I am not thinking of the additions to the world's learning in all this,
great as it is but impossible of appraisement. Nor am I thinking chiefly
of the industrial and material advantages. I think it was some
bacteriological discovery, known as the Babcock test, resulting in a great
improvement in the making of butter, that gave the University of Wisconsin
its first wide sympathetic support. It was the discovery by a professor in
one of the western universities of the means of inoculating with some
fatal disease, and so exterminating, an insect that destroyed wheat and
oats, which gave that professor a chancellorship, I am told, and his
university more liberal appropriations. But those achievements and fames,
while not to be belittled, I have no wish to catalogue and recite here. I
am thinking of the social value of this great public educational system
that is thinking constantly of tomorrow--of the world markets of to-
morrow, to some extent, to which these curricula, as railroads' and ships'
courses, lead; of the world's letters of to-morrow, perhaps; but more
specifically and more especially of the higher happiness of those
particular regions and the success of its democracy. I am thinking of what
these institutions of the people's own devising are doing toward the
making of a homogeneous spirit, in which individual, disinterested, and
varied achievement will have a liberty to grow--as perhaps in no other
soil of earth.

Democritus said two thousand years and more ago: "Education and nature are
similar. For education transforms the man, and in transforming him creates
in him a new nature." The State in its three institutions--the common
school, the high school, the college and university--has many in its care
and under its tuitions for fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years, and in these
tuitions has she created in her children a new nature, whatever their
ancestry or place of birth. Memories of Europe's forges and trees, or
fields of roses and golden mountains, and even of Asia's wildernesses, are
in the names of many who enter those doors; the memories of other
languages are in the muscles of their tongues or the formation of their
organs of speech. Like the ancient Ephraimites at the fords of Jordan,
they cannot "frame to pronounce" certain words. And memories of
persecution or of vassalage are in the physical and mental attitudes of
some. But they are all reborn of a genealogy impersonal but loftier in its
gifts than any mere personal heritage--a genealogy which, like that of the
children of Deucalion, begins in the earth itself, the free soil.

I have often thought and spoken of how artificial differences disappear
when, let us say, Smith (English) and Schmidt (German) and Cohen (Hebrew),
Coletti (Italian) and D'Artagnan (French) and McGregor (Scotch) and Olsen
(Scandinavian) and McCarthy (Irish) and Winslow (of old America) travel
together through the parasangs of the "Anabasis," or together follow
Caesar into Gaul, or together compute a solar parallax, or build an arch,
or do any one of a thousand things that have no national boundaries or
racial characteristics. This is an extreme but not an unheard-of
assembling of elements which the State has the task of assimilating to its
own ideals.

I have not spoken, I cannot speak, of methods of that teaching, of its
shortcomings, of it crudities in many places, of its general want of
appreciation of form and color (of its particular need of France there),
of its utilitarian inclinations, and of its eager haste. The essential
thing that I have wanted to say is that this valley is not only more
democratic socially and politically than any other part of America, unless
it be that narrow strip farther west, but is also more consciously and
vitally and constantly concerned about the nation of to-morrow.

I spoke of the flaming ingot of steel swinging in the smoky ravine by the
site of Fort Duquesne as the symbol of the new human metal that is made of
the mingling of men of varied race, tradition, and ideals in the labor of
that continent. But above that in a clearer sky shines a more hopeful
symbol--the house of the school, the meeting-place of the invisible
spirits, the place of prophecy, pictured against a white field.

The historians have traced the origins of these institutions to New
England, to England, to Germany, to Greece. It is not remembered that
France went first and hallowed the fields. But it is my hope that out in
that valley, once a year, school and university may be led to look back to
the men who there ventured all for the "greater glory of God" and majesty
of France and found a field for the greater freedom and fraternity of

My own thought goes back to the place by the St. Charles River where
Cartier's boat, which he could not take back to St. Malo because so many
of his men had died, was left to be buried by the river, the place where
Montcalm gathered his shattered army after the defeat on the Plains of
Abraham. It was there that a structure once stood, made of planks hewn out
of the forest, plastered with mud and thatched with long grass from the
meadows. It was the residence of Notre Dame des Anges, the house from
which the first martyrs were to go forth toward the west. This was, says
Parkman, the cradle of the great mission of New France. And to this my
thought goes as the precursor of the university in the Valley of the New



If one travels along the lower St. Lawrence in summer, one sees the narrow
strips of the one-time great seigniories, clinging like ribbons of varied
colors, green, gold, and brown, to the ancient river, of Cartier and
Champlain. There is on each strip, a little way back from the river, a
picturesque cottage, usually thatched, not roofed by shingles, with its
outbuildings close about, such as Longfellow writes of in Acadia-memories
of homes "which the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the
Henries." There is usually on each a section of meadow for the cattle, a
section of tilled field for the wheat and corn and vegetables and a
section of woodland for the fire-wood--each strip, so divided, being a
complete miniature seigniory. Everything is neat. One feels that not a
wisp of hay is lost (for it was in haying time that I passed), that every
tree is as carefully watched as a child, that whatever is taken from the
fields they are not impoverished. The living owners, when they go to their
graves, leave their little patches of earth as rich as they found them.
There is no hurrying. The habitants go at the pace of their oxen. They are
thrifty, apparently contented, conservers of what they have; they spend
prudently for to-day; they save for to-morrow--not for the to-morrow of
the nation, but for the to-morrow of the family. They are avowedly
individualistic, nepotic conservationists and only in effect national.

This is one picture. I put beside it another. Out on the farther edge of
the Mississippi Valley one finds the other extreme. Within the past
twenty-two years certain tracts of vacant land have been purchased by the
government from the Indians (and let me here say that the government has
been trying to deal fairly with these people; mistakes have been made, but
I should say that the nation had in its recent treatment of them, despite
reports I have heard in Paris, pauperized rather than robbed them). These
tracts have been opened to settlement--all the rest of the great public
domain that was immediately desirable having been occupied, as we have
seen. When, in 1889, the first of these tracts, nearly two million acres,
was to be opened, twenty thousand people were waiting just outside its
borders--some on swift horses, some in wagons or buggies, and some in
railroad trains. When the signal was given there was a race across the
border and a scramble for farm sites; and on the part of the passengers on
the trains, for town lots, when the trains had reached the predetermined
sites of cities. At the close of the first day the future capital of what
has for many years been a State had a population of several thousand
inhabitants living in tents, and within a hundred days a population of
fifteen thousand people, mostly men, an electric system in operation, a
street-railway under contract, streets, alleys, parks, boulevards, stores,
and bridges, four thousand houses under construction, five banks, fifteen
hotels, fifty grocery stores, six printing-offices, and three daily
papers--about as striking and unpleasant a contrast to that peaceful life
on the St. Lawrence as one can well imagine. Practically all of the
available land (nearly two million acres) was taken during the course of a
few days.

At the later opening of another tract one hundred thousand persons took
part in the race for the "last of the people's land." And these scenes but
illustrate the rough races to the gold-fields and the iron mountains and
the oil-wells, in eagerness to seize whatever earth had to offer and turn
it to immediate wealth--rough, restless precursors, producers, poets eager
for to-day, yet coming by and by, as we have seen, to be ready to spend
for to-morrow, building schools and universities, enlarging the field of
public provision and service, and filling the land, once neighborly,
individualistic, with institutions of philanthropy.

But the habitant of that farther valley is considerate neither of himself
nor of generous nature. He is ready to spend his all, or her all, of to-
day for to-day and for to-morrow, and to some extent unselfishly, but not
to save it. He lives "angerously" and takes all the risks. His thought of
the future is not nepotic or thrifty; it is likely to be altruistic,
publicistic. I suppose that the constitution and laws of Oklahoma, whose
land was the last to be added to the public domain and its commonwealth
among the last to the roll of States, has been more generous-minded toward
its children than any other. It set apart not only sections sixteen and
thirty-six in every township for the public schools; it reserved two more
sections in every township for kindred uses. But in all this, as I pointed
out, it is spending for the future, not saving, hoarding.

The nepotic conservationist of the St. Lawrence, fixed in his place, saves
because if he leaves but an exhausted field behind him he is robbing his
children and grandchildren of their rightful, personal heritage. The
"boomer" of Oklahoma exploits and spends lavishly because of a sublime
confidence in the illimitability of the resources of nature and in the
resourcefulness of the coming generations.

But the natural scientists--the foresters, the physiographers, the
geologists--have within a very few years been making themselves heard in
warning. They have said that "the mountains of France, of Spain, and China
have been denuded of their forests in large measure so that the supply of
wood is inadequate to meet the needs of the people," [Footnote: C. R. Van
Hise, "Conservation of Natural Resources in the United States," p. 3.]
that "in Spain and Italy, though warm countries, the people suffer more
from the cold than in America because of insufficient fuel," [Footnote:
Van Hise, p. 2.] that "one-half of the people of the world go to bed
hungry," [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 3.] or at any rate insufficiently
nourished for the next day's work. But few listened to them except in the
hills and in the valleys of abandoned farms. France, Italy, Spain, China
were remote. The optimism fostered of new teeming acres and newly
discovered mines was heedless of the warning. It tore down barns and built
bigger, and it gave even more generously to the need of the hour and the

But the scientists came even nearer home in their studies and statistics.
These are some of the ominous and disturbing facts that are getting to the
ears of the people out of their laboratories and experiment stations:

The coal-fields of the United States (which lie almost exclusively in and
upon the eastern and western edges of the Mississippi Valley) were, at the
rate at which coal was used a few decades ago, practically inexhaustible.
But the per-capita consumption has increased from about a ton in 1870 to
5.6 tons in 1907. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 23.] Up to 1908, 7,240,000,000
[Footnote: Van Hise, p. 25.] tons had been mined, but over ten million
tons were wasted in the mining of seven billions. You may recall the
prophecy which I quoted earlier, that if the mining and wasting go on at
the same rate of increase as in the past few decades the supposed
illimitable fields will be exhausted in one hundred and fifty years--that
is by the year 2050. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 25.] This is one of the
statistics of those watchmen on the walls who, instead of standing in high
places with telescopes, sit at microscopes or over tables of figures. That
seems a long period of time, one hundred and fifty years, but it was only
a little longer ago that a French explorer saw the first signs of coal in
that valley along the Illinois, and, as the scientist has intimated, there
is no reason why we should not expect a future of thousands of years for
the coal that has been thousands or millions of years in the making.

The petroleum and natural-gas fields are also nearly all in that valley or
on its edges. (I think it was in the narrow valley of La Belle Rivière,
which Père Bonnecamp found so dark on that Celoron expedition, that this
oil of the rocks was first found.) [Footnote: Natural gas and burning
springs were early known to the French pioneers and Jesuits who penetrated
the Iroquois country, as the following extracts show:

"It was during this interval that, in order to pass away the time, I went
with M. de LaSalle, under the escort of two Indians, about four leagues
south of the village where we were staying, to see a very extraordinary
spring. Issuing from a moderately high rock, it forms a small brook. The
water is very clear but has a bad odor, like that of the mineral marshes
of Paris, when the mud on the bottom is stirred with the foot. I applied a
torch and the water immediately took fire and burned like brandy, and was
not extinguished until it rained. This flame is among the Indians a sign
of abundance or sterility according as it exhibits the contrary qualities.
There is no appearance of sulphur, saltpetre or any other combustible
material. The water has not even any taste, and I can neither offer nor
imagine any better explanation, than that it acquires this combustible
property by passing over some aluminous land."--Galinee's journal, 1669,
in "Marshall Historical Writings," p. 209.

"... The spring in the direction of Sonnontouan is no less wonderful; for
its water--being of the same nature as the surrounding soil, which has
only to be washed in order to obtain perfectly pure sulphur--ignites when
shaken violently, and yields sulphur when boiled. As one approaches nearer
to the country of the Cats, one finds heavy and thick water, which ignites
like brandy, and boils up in bubbles of flame when fire is applied to it.
It is, moreover, so oily, that all our Savages use it to anoint and grease
their heads and their bodies."--"Jesuit Relations, 1657," 43:261.

Pierre Boucher (governor of Three Rivers in 1653-8 and 1662-7) thus
mentions the mineral products of Canada, in his "Histoire veritable et
naturelle de la Nouvelle France" (Paris, 1664), chap. 1: "Springs of salt
water have been discovered, from which excellent salt can be obtained; and
there are others, which yield minerals. There is one in the Iroquois
Country, which produces a thick liquid, resembling oil, and which is used
in place of oil for many purposes."--"Jesuit Relations," 8:289.] If we
assume that the fields have all been discovered and that the present rate
of exploitation is to continue, the supply of petroleum will be exhausted
by 1935 (twenty-one years), or, if the present production goes on without
increase, in ninety years (_i.e.,_ eighty-six years), [Footnote: Van Hise,
p. 48] and that of natural gas in twenty-five years (i. e., twenty-one
years from 1914). [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 56.]

Iron, the metal which the Indians worshipped as a spirit when they first
saw it in the hands of the French, a substance so precious that their name
for it meant "all kinds of good," has, too, been taken with feverish haste
from its ancient places. Joliet and Marquette saw deposits of this ore
near the mouth of the Ohio in 1673, but it was a century and a half before
the harvesting of this crop, down among the rocks for millions of years
before, began. And now, if no new fields are found and the increased use
goes on at the rate of the last three decades, all the available high-
grade ore will have become pig iron and steel billets, bridges, battle-
ships, sky-scrapers, and locomotives, and all kinds of goods, within the
next three decades. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 68.]

The forests of the United States--the forests primeval, with the voice of
whose murmuring pines and hemlocks Longfellow begins his sad story of the
Acadians--contained approximately one billion acres, [Footnote: Van Hise,
p. 210.] a region not conterminous with, but almost as large as, the
Mississippi Valley. Of that great, tempering, benign shadow over the
continent, tempering its heat, giving shelter from its cold, restraining
the waters, there is left about 65 per cent in acreage and not more than
one-half the merchantable timber--five hundred million acres gone in a
century and a half. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 210.]

And as to the land itself--the land first symbolized in the tuft of earth
that St. Lusson lifted toward the sky that day in 1671 at Sault Ste.
Marie, when he took possession of all the land between the seas of the
north and west and south--in the first place, the loss each year from
erosion is six hundred and ten million cubic yards. [Footnote: Van Hise,
p. 307, quoted from W. J. Spillman, "Report National Conservation
Commission," 3:257-262.] This is, of course, inconsiderable in a short
period but in a long period of years means a mighty loss of nourishing
soil. With this loss is that of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus,
things of which the farmer had not even heard the names a few years ago.
The yield of farms in the United States during the last forty years does
not show a decreased average, but it must be remembered that in this
period there have been brought under cultivation new and virgin acres,
which have in their bountiful yield kept up the general average. One
authority says that, taking the country by regions and by districts and
considering what has actually happened, he is led to the conclusion that
the fertility of the soil for 50 per cent of our country has been
lessened. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 299.]

The significance of these facts lies in the desire of the people to know
the truth and seek a remedy.

In a sense the public domain has been exhausted. The pick of the land has
been pre-empted, occupied. But if it is to grow with all its crops, and to
put forth with all its products such a public spirit as this, France will
have given to America a treasure infinitely more valuable than the land
itself which her explorers gave to Europe and the world.

The beaver, which the French regarded as the first opulence of the valley,
remains only as a synonym for industry, one of the States being called the
"Beaver State," perhaps in memory of the beaver days but now in
characterization of the beaverlike activity of its people. The hide of the
buffalo which La Salle showed in Paris is now almost as great a curiosity
in the valley as it was in Paris in 1680. Wild beasts now slink only in
the mountains' margins. Domestic animals, natives of distant lands, live
about the dwellings of men.

Even the streams of water that bore the French into the valley have
dwindled, many of them, or are in despair and tears, between shallows and
torrents, longing for the forests, it is said by the scientists--longing
for the days of the French, the poet would put it. So are the rivers
crying, "In the days of Père Marquette"--the days of the "River of the
Immaculate Conception." And so are the prophets of science crying as the
prophets of inspiration cried of old: O valley of a hundred thousand
streams, O valley of a million centuries of rock and iron and earth, O
valley of a century of man! The riches of the gathering of a million years
are spent in a day. Baldness has come upon the mountains, as upon Gaza of
old. The trees have gone down to the waters. The iron has flowed like
blood from the hills. The fire of the ground is being given to the air.
The sky is filled with smoke. The soil is being carried into the sea; it's
precious dust of nitrogen and phosphor blown to the ends of the earth. The
fresh lands are no more. There are no mines to be had for the asking. The
frontier has become as the centre, the new as the old.

But it is not a hopeless prophecy--an unconstructive, pessimisstic,
lamentation. The way of reparation is made clear.

If I were to speak only of what has been done under the inspiration of
that prophecy, I should have little that is definitely measurable to
present, but in making a catalogue of the averting advice of that
prophecy, I am giving intimation of what will in all probability be done.
For the people of that valley are not wittingly going to give their once
fertile lands as stones, even to the sons of others who ask for bread, nor
their streams as serpents of pestilence to those who ask for fish.

These are some of the items of their constructive conservation programme:

_Coal._--The waste in the mining of coal must be reduced from 50 and 150
per cent of the amount taken out to 25, 15, or 10 per cent by the working
of upper beds first, the utilization of slack, etc. [Footnote: Van Hise,
pp. 26, 27.] The reckless waste of coal in the making of coke can be
prevented by the use of the right sort of oven. It is estimated that there
would be a saving of $50,000,000 per annum if such a substitution were
made. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 28. ] The tremendous loss of the power
value, [Footnote: Van Hise, pp. 29, 30.] from 20 to 33 per cent, and of
illuminating value [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 32.] (99 per cent) in coal
because of its imperfect consumption can be greatly reduced by the
employment of mechanical stokers and other devices. The use of the gas-
engine in the place of the steam-engine, [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 31.] the
use of power developed from water, and the diffused carbon dioxide in the
air tempering the climate are also intimations of forces that may lengthen
the life of the coal, 99 per cent of which still remains in the keeping of
the valley. It is not too late. [Footnote: See "The Coal Resources of the
World," International Geological Congress, 1913.]

_Petroleum._--Its probable life may be lengthened beyond ninety years by
its restriction to lubricating and illuminating uses only and by the
prevention of its exportation. [Footnote: Van Hise, pp. 50-55.]

_Natural Gas._--Its flame is ephemeral at best, but its light may be kept
burning a little longer if the prodigious waste is prevented. During 1907
four hundred billion feet were consumed and almost as great an amount
wasted through uncontrolled wells, leaky pipes, etc. [Footnote: Van Hise,
p. 58.]

_Iron (and, in less measure, gold, silver, and other metals)_, whose life
does not, as coal and oil and gas, perish with the using, but some of
whose value is lost in the transformation from one state of use to
another, needs only to be more economically mined and used. [Footnote: Van
Hise, p. 68.] Non-metallic, inexhaustible materials, as stone, clay,
cement, should be employed in their stead when possible. [Footnote: I
watched day by day for weeks the erection of a great building in Paris,
and I noticed how little iron or steel was used as compared with that in
such structures in New York. We shall undoubtedly come to that.] Every
scrap of iron should be conserved, cry our constructive prophets, even as
the Indians treasured it. We may not need it, but succeeding generations
will. It may be recast to their use. We are but its trustees. [Footnote:
See, "Iron Ore Resources of the World," International Geological Congress,

_Forests_[Footnote: Van Hise, pp. 223-262.]--A reduction of the waste in
cutting (this is 25 per cent of the total value of the timber cut); of the
waste in milling and manufacture, and in turpentining. This last waste is
appalling but preventable in full or large measure. The lessening the
demand for lumber by a preservative treatment of all merchantable timber.
A utilization of by-products. (Undoubtedly science will be most helpful
here.) Precautions against fires and their control. Reforestation.
Maintenance of forests on what are called essential areas, such as high
altitudes and slopes, as tending to prevent floods and erosion. (France
here gives most impressive example in planning to bring under conrol about
three thousand torrential streams in the Alps, Pyrenees, Ardennes, and
Cévennes by means, partly at least, of afforestation, $14,000,000 out of
$40,000,000 being provided for this purpose. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 247.]
Italy, because of the greatly increased destruction by the Po, has begun
the reforestation of the Apennines to the extent of a million acres.)
Battle with insect pests and finally the substitution of other materials
for wood, thus not only saving the trees but diminishing the losses by

_Land._ [Footnote: Van Hise, pp. 307-352.]--The control of water to
prevent erosion, deep tillage, and contour ploughing. The restoration of
nitrogen and phosphorus by rotation of crops, phosphates, fertilizers, and
electricity. The destruction of noxious insects, mammals, and weeds. The
reclamation of wet lands. The introduction of new varieties of crops.

_Water._--A fuller use in the place of other sources of power that are
exhausted in use. It is believed that of the twenty-six million horse-
power now developed by coal fifteen million could be more economically
developed by water, thus saving not only $180,000,000 by the substitution,
but 150,000,000 tons of coal for posterity. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 124.]
The leading of this power through longer distances, as from Niagara Falls;
its impounding for a more steady supply; [Footnote: Van Hise, pp. 125-
133.] the digging of channels of irrigation into arid places; [Footnote:
Van Hise, pp. 185-207.] the drainage of wet regions; the fuller
utilization of the carrying power of water to relieve the costlier use of
wheels. [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 164.] Making the escaping, unsatisfying
stream of Sisyphus turn the mills of the gods.

This is, indeed, as the writing of that ancient prophet of Israel who, in
his vision of the restoration of his city and his land and the healing of
its waters, saw a man with a radiant face, a line of flax in his hand and
a measuring reed. And wherever this man of radiant face measured he caused
the waters to run in dry places and deep rivers to course where the waters
were but ankle-deep; fish to swarm again in the rivers and the seas to be
free of pollution; salt to come in the miry places and trees to grow upon
the land with unwithering leaves and abundant meat.

So have these modern prophets with optimistic faces written of their
vision, only the fulfilment comes not simply of the constructive measuring
of statistics. It takes some trees a hundred years to grow; and dams and
reservoirs for the deepening of shallow streams are not made over night as
once they were by nature, or as they grew in the vision of Ezekiel.

None the less is the prophecy a long way toward fulfilment when the vision
is seen. And that it has been seen is intimated by this sentence, too
optimistic no doubt, from a book on the subject by one of the major
prophets of conservation, recently published in America. "Conservation,"
he says, "has captured the nation."

It is not the thrifty, nepotic, static conservation of the St. Lawrence
habitant, which depends upon the self and family interest of each
landholder to keep the fields enriched and to prevent the washing away of
the soil. It is a dynamic and paternalistic conservation--a conservation
that thinks of great dams for the restraint of waters and reservoirs for
their impounding to the extent of millions or billions of cubic feet,
forestation of great stretches of mountain slope, of restrictions and
compulsions of other than personal and family interests--a paternalism
that looks beyond the next generation or even two generations and to the
feeding of other children than one's own lineal descendants--a paternalism
that is not exploiting but fiduciary.

It is interesting to observe again how the beginnings of this conservation
have been made in the fields where stood the first hospitals for the sick
among the living, the first memorials to the dead, the first schools for
the children of to-day that are to be the nation of to-morrow. Here also
begin to rise the structures of the thought for the day after to-morrow.

The first notable assembling of men in the interest of conservation,
chiefly of men already in public service--the President of the United
States, the Vice-President, members of the cabinet, justices of the
Supreme Court, members of Congress, the governors of thirty-four States,
representatives of the other States, the governors of the Territories, and
other public officials, with a number of representatives of societies and
a few guests--met in 1908, to discuss questions relative to conservation.
Probably not in the history of the nation has there sat in its borders an
assembly of men so widely representative. This gathering resulted in the
appointment of a National Conservation Commission by the President, but
Congress made no appropriation for meeting the expense of its labors; and
so private enterprise and providence have undertaken the carrying out of
the movement.

A great body of men and women scientists, public-spirited citizens from
all parts of the nation, under the presidency of Doctor Charles W. Eliot,
former president of Harvard University, began a campaign of education to
the end that ultimately and soon--before the riches have gone--this
concern for the far future may become fixed in the law and conscious
provision of the people.

I spoke in the last chapter of Hennepin's seeing a savage making sacrifice
to the spirit of the Mississippi, supposed to live under the Falls of St.
Anthony. You will recall the description of the great public university
beside it that represents the sacrifice of the democracy of to-day for the
nation of to-morrow. Instead of the beaver-skin which the poor Indian hung
in the branches of a tree near the falls as his offering, the State has
hung its gift of forty million dollars for the highest training of its
sons and daughters. But there is still, if possible, a nobler aspiration
to put against that primitive background and beside the Indian's beaver-
skin, for the gift is as yet little more than an aspiration.

A few miles back from these same falls there was held in 1910 a convention
of many thousands from all parts of the Union, the President of the United
States and his predecessor among them, assembled under the auspices of the
National Conservation Congress to consider, as they avowed, not alone
their own affairs, not even the good of their children with theirs, but
primarily the welfare of unborn millions as well. It cannot be assumed
that all were looking so far ahead, but the declaration of principles
which had called this great assemblage had in it this import--something
loftier than any declaration of personal rights. It was a declaration of
duty--of duty not to the past, not even to the present, but to the long,
long distant future.

"Recognizing the natural resources of the country as the prime basis of
property and opportunity, we hold the rights of the people in these
resources to be natural and inherent and justly inalienable and
indefeasible; and we insist that the resources should and shall be
developed, used, and conserved in ways consistent with current welfare and
with the perpetuity of our people."

When this or a like sentiment is framed out of the consciousness of a free
people into a controlling declaration of public policy, we shall have not
merely a nobler offering to put beside the beaver-skin and the university,
but a document worthy to be put above our Declaration of Independence
even, and an interpretation of the words "the people of the United States"
in our Constitution that will give them an import beyond the highest
conception of its authors.

The movement which embodies this sentiment is as yet chiefly a private
effort, as I have said, but its influence is beginning to run through the
sentiment of the individualism which has so rapidly exploited the riches
of the valley and spent with such generous hand for the immediate future.
And the boundaries of public service are already enlarged in making room
for the previsions of the "Children of Always," as the mankind now in the
thought of conservationists may well be called.

Already millions of acres of coal lands have been withdrawn from private
entry, and plans are being made for the leasing of such lands; that is,
the people are to keep them for their own.

Like provision has also been made with respect to oil, natural gas, and
phosphate fields. Forest lands to the extent of nearly two hundred million
acres have been reserved as a perpetual national domain, and, in addition
to this, several States have forest reservations amounting to nearly ten
million acres. [Footnote: Van Hise, pp. 216, 217.] The volume of forest
legislation in the States is unprecedented, providing for forest service,
forest study, and the prevention of forest-fires, with a prospect of laws
providing for a more rigid public control of private forests.

An increasing public control of waters is another noticeable trend in
legislation, and their increased utilization has already been noticed.
Joliet's canal has been built. Champlain's is at last completed. A
President of the United States has recommended the deepening of La Salle's
river. The valley is coming back to the French paths. These and many
others are conservation projects only indirectly, but they intimate a
thought of the future as do the heavy appropriations for the reclamation
of arid and subarid regions, the government having spent seventy million
dollars [Footnote: To June 1, 1912.] in such undertakings, making "one
hand wash the other," as our saying is; that is, making the well-watered
regions meet the expense of watering the arid.

And, finally, the States are beginning to take most serious and even
radical measures to encourage farmers so to till their fields as to be
able to bequeath them un-impoverished to those who come after. I think it
not unlikely that eventually the demos, thinking of the future, will be as
paternalistic as was Louis XIV, who told the habitant of the St. Lawrence
how many horses he should keep.

This review of the resources of the valley of France in the midst of
America, and of the forces that are now assembling to preserve for
posterity its vast capital of earth, air, and water, is but an intimation
of what might easily be expanded into a volume of itself. Indeed, much of
my statistical material I have from a book by Doctor Charles R. Van Hise,
president of the University of Wisconsin; but, meagre as this review is,
it must give you, as it has given me, a stirring sense of the mighty reach
of the paths of those few pioneers of France in those regions where the
spirit of conservation is strongest.

While it is true that every human life, as Carlyle has said, stands at the
conflux of two eternities--the one behind him, the other before--in a
sense have the material preparations, extending during a length of time
that to our measurement seems an eternity, converged upon and in those
pioneers of Europe in that valley; and from them has diverged a
civilization that now begins to look forward in the eyes of her prophets
through years that seem as another eternity. Probably, says this eminent
scientist of that valley, speaking of the past, "some of the deposits at
present being mined are the result of agents ... a hundred million years
ago"; [Footnote: Van Hise, p. 18.] and of the future: "We hope for a
future ... not to be reckoned by thousands of years but by tens of
thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. And,
therefore, so far as our responsibility is concerned, it is immaterial
whether the coal will be exhausted in one hundred and fifty years or
fifteen hundred years, or fifteen thousand years. Our responsibility to
succeeding generations demands that we reduce its use to our absolute
necessities, and therefore prolong its life to the utmost." [Footnote: Van
Rise, p. 25.] Conservation has in such depth of years given a new
perspective to the picture we have been painting of the life in that
valley. The French were pioneers not merely of an exploiting individualism
of a day, or of a hundred or two hundred years, not merely of a democracy
thinking of an equality of the men of one generation, but also of the
conserving dynamic civilization of hundreds of centuries of a people--to
come back again to that best of definitions--who are the invisible
multitude of spirits, the nation of yesterday and to-morrow.

The French priest, kneeling over the dying Indian child in the forest hut
and stealthily touching its brow with water, had vision of another
immortality than that, as we know; the empire which the French explorers
and adventurers hoped to build with its capital on the Rock of Quebec, or
on the Rock St. Louis of the Illinois, or at the mouth of the Mississippi
did not grow in the fashion of their dream, as we of course realize. But
we see, on the other hand, what promise of ages has been given to the
faith and adventure which found incarnation in a frontier democracy whose
energy and spirit made possible the great, lusty republic of to-day, that
now begins to talk of a thousand centuries.

Out in that far west, in a recent autumn, the men of the standing army
were set to fighting forest-fires. This has seemed to me a happy omen of
what the new conservatism of the world may ask of its soldiery--the
conserving not of borders but of the resources of human life and of human
life itself. And so have I added another class to the inhabitants of the
valley, to the precursors, the producers, the poets, and the teachers of
to-morrow-the conservers of the day after to-morrow.

Our great philosopher William James gave expression in one of his last
utterances to a hope that every man, rich or poor, may come to serve the
State (as now every man in France does his military service) in some
direct duty that asks the same obedience, the same sacrifice, the same
forgetting of self that is asked of the soldier--that every man by the
payment of the blood tax may be able to get and keep the spirit of
neighborliness, to know how to sympathize more deeply with his fellow men,
and to learn the joy of disinterested doing for the nation. [Footnote:
"Memories and Studies: The Moral Equivalent of War," pp. 267-296.]

But in this demand and appeal of the new theory of our common
responsibility, of a dynamic conservationism, is the germ of a larger
patriotism than any that history has as yet defined--a patriotism that
asks the lifetime service of an individualism with an all-time horizon.



In the little town of St. Die in the east of France there was printed in
the year 1507 a "Cosmographias Introductio"--an introduction to a
forthcoming edition of Ptolemy--in which was included an account of the
journeys of one Amerigo Vespucci, who is credited with the discovery of a
new part of the world--a fourth continent. For this reason, the author
recites, "quarta orbis pars, quam quis Americus invenit, Amerigen quasi
Americi terram, sivi Americam nuncupare licit." And so the name America
(for it was thought proper to give it the feminine form, "cum et Europa et
Asia a mulieribus sua sortitae sint nomina") was probably first pronounced
in the mountain-circled town of St. Die, where the scholars of the Vosges,
shut away from the sea and its greedy rumors of India, conceived more
accurately in their isolation the significance of the western discoveries
and made the new-found shores the edge not of Asia but of another

Perhaps this new land should have been given some other name; but that it
is futile now to discuss. America it has been these four hundred years and
America it is doubtless always to be. And it is particularly gratifying to
one who has come to care so much for France to find that the name of his
own land--a name most euphonious and delectable to his ears--came of the
christening at the font of the River Meurthe, the beautiful French dame of
St. Die standing by as godmother, and that that name was first whispered
to the world by the trees of the forests of the Vosges, whose wood may
even have furnished the blocks to fashion first its letters. So may we go
back and write this interesting if not important fact of French pioneering
in America.

But let us rehearse to ourselves once more before we separate the epic
sequence of adventure and suffering which tells how much more than a name
France gave to that continent just rising from the seas when the savants
of St. Die touched her face with the baptismal water of their recluse

Again the "boundless vision grows upon us; an untamed continent; vast
wastes of forest verdure; mountains silent in primeval sleep; river, lake,
and glimmering pool; wilderness oceans mingling with the sky"--the America
not of the imaging of the mountain men of St. Die but of the seeing and
enduring of the seamen of Dieppe and St. Malo and Rochelle and Rouen.

Again Jacques Cartier stands alone within this "shaggy continent," a
thousand miles beyond the banks of the Baccalaos and the Isles of the
Demons. Again for a moment Acadia echoes of the Sorbonne and of Arcadian
poesy. Again the unblenching "preux chevalier" Champlain stands with his
back against the gray cliff of Quebec fighting red and white foe alike,
famine and disease, to keep a foothold in the wilderness, with the sublime
faith of a crusader and the patient endurance of a Prometheus. Again the
zealous but narrow rigor of Richelieu, flowering in his native land in the
learning of the Sorbonne and preparing for him in the new world, as Le
Jeune wrote, a "dazzling crown in heaven," builds by the St. Charles and
the wreckage of Cartier's _Petite Hermine_, the house of Notre Dame des
Anges, the "cradle of the great mission of New France." Again the
fireflies light the meadow altar of Maisonneuve at Montreal on its birth-
night. Again the gray gowns and the black, Le Caron, Brébeuf, Jogues, and
Gamier, enter upon their glorious toils, their bare and sandalled feet,
accustomed to the smooth walks of the convents of Brouage and Rheims and
Paris, begin to climb the rough paths to the west, _ad majorem Dei
gloriam._ Again the swift coureurs de bois, half-savage in their
ambassadorship of the woods, follow the traces of the most ancient road-
makers, the buffalo and deer, and the voyageurs carry their boats across
the portage places. Again the _Griffin_--the winged lion of the lakes--
flies from Niagara to the island in Green Bay, France's precursor of the
million-tonned commerce of the northern seas, but sinks with her cargo of
golden fleece in their blue waters. Again Marquette, the son of Laon,
beholds with joy unspeakable the mysterious "great water," and yet again,
La Salle stands by the lonely sea and cries his proclamation toward the
limitless land.

And, seeing and hearing all this again, we have seen a land as large as
all Europe emerge from the unknown at the evocation of pioneers of France
who stood all or nearly all sooner or later in Paris within three or four
kilometres of the very place in which I sit writing these words. Carder
gave to the world the St. Lawrence River as far as the Falls of Lachine;
Champlain, his Récollet friars and Jesuit priests and heralds of the woods
added the upper lakes; and Marquette, Joliet, La Salle, Tonty, Hennepin,
Radisson, Groseilliers, Iberville, Bienville, Le Sueur, La Harpe, the
Vérendrye--father and sons--and scores of other Frenchmen, many of
forgotten names, added the valley of the river of a hundred thousand
streams, from where at the east the French creek begins, a few miles from
Lake Erie, to flow toward the Ohio even to the sources of the Missouri in
the snows of the Rockies--"the most magnificent dwelling-place"--again to
recall De Tocqueville, "prepared by God for man's abode; the valley
destined to give the world a field for a new experiment in democracy and
to become the heart of America."

I have not been able to write at any length of that part of all this vast
region of France's pioneering and evoking where France is best remembered
--remembered in speech that imitates that which is dearest to France's
ears; remembered in voices that even in the harsh winds of the north keep
something of the mellowness and softness of the south; remembered in the
surnames that recall beautiful trees and fields of perfume and hills of
vines and things of the sea which surrounded their ancestors; remembered
in the appellations of the saints that protect their firesides and their
fortunes; remembered in the names that still cling tenaciously to rivers
and towns of that land which calls Champlain its father--Canada.

A traveller in the lower St. Lawrence Valley might well think himself east
of the Atlantic as he hears the guard on the railway train from Montreal
to Quebec call: St. Rochs, Les Éboulements, Portneuf, Pont Rouge,
Capucins, Mont Louis, Pointe au Chêne; or hears the speech as he walks at
the foot of the gray Rock of Quebec, or even reads the street signs in
Montreal. There are memories there on every side, in their very houses and
habits--yet memories which I fear are beginning to fade with the
allurements of the land of hope to the far west and the northwest of
Canada--the "land of hope," the new frontier of America, now of such
interest to the people of that other valley, the Mississippi, which was
once separated from Canada by no boundaries save watersheds, and these so
low that there was reciprocity of their waters.

But even if I could keep you longer I am thinking that I should have asked
you to spend it where there are fewer memories than in Canada, in the
valley where the old French names, if kept at all, are often obscured in a
new orthography or a different pronunciation. Up in the boundary of waters
between the two lands there is a lighthouse on an island called
"Skilligallee." I was a long time in discovering that this meaningless
euphonic name was but the memory of the Isle aux Galets--the island of the
pebbles. So have the memories been lost in tongues that could not easily
frame to pronounce the words they found when they entered that farther
valley where France's pioneering is almost forgotten, but where France
should be best remembered.

A catalogue (and this book has been little else) of the reasons for such
remembrance has doubtless brought little comfort; indeed, it may have
brought some pain, because the recital of the reasons has but emphasized
the forgetting and accentuated the loss.

But is France not to find, in a fuller consciousness of what has developed
in that valley into which she led Europe, a higher satisfaction than could
have come through the formal relationship of mother and colony, or any
other that could be reasonably conjectured?

For Turgot's prophecy would have some day been realized, and there would
perhaps have been a bitterness where now there is gratitude. I can think
of no series of relations that could have been of more profound and
momentous import in the history of that continent, or that should give
higher satisfaction to France in her thought of America than that which
this summation permits us to recall once more.

France not only christened America; she not only stood first far inside
that continent at the north and furnished Europe proof of its mighty
dimensions; she also gave to this continent, child of her christening, the
richest great valley of the world.

This valley she held in the title of her own claim for more than a century
from the time that her explorers first looked over its brim, held it by
valors and sufferings which would have been gloriously recorded if their
issue had been to keep by those waters the tongue in which they could be
written and sung.

When France did yield it, because of forces outside the valley, not inside
(there was hardly a sound of battle there), she gave it in effect to a new
nation. She shared it with the aboriginal American, she gave it to the
ultimate American. She got her title from the first Americans who, as
Chateaubriand said, called themselves the "Children of Always." She gave
it to those who are beginning to think of it as belonging not to them but
to the new "Children of Always."

By her very valorous holding she taught the fringe of colonies along the
Atlantic the first lessons in union, and she gave them a leader out of the
disciplines of her borders, George Washington, whom in the course of time
she directly assisted with her sympathy and means to make certain the
independence of those same colonies.

He, in turn, in the paths of the Old French War across the Alleghanies,
found by a most singular fate not only the indissoluble bond between the
eastern and the western waters but in those very paths the practical way
to the more "perfect union" of the young nation that was to succeed to
this joint heritage of England and of France.

To its estate of hundreds of millions of acres east of the Mississippi
Napoleon added a half-billion more out of the one-time domain of Louis XIV
and made it possible that the United States should some day develop into a

The half-valley, enlarged to its mountain bounds through the influence of
its free soil on those whose feet touched it as pioneers, nourished a
natural democracy founded in the equalities, the freedoms, and the
fraternities of the frontier so vital, so powerful that it became the
dominant nationalistic force in a continent-wide republic. Aided by the
means of communication which a rampant individualism had prepared for it,
it held that republic together, expressing itself most conspicuously in
the democratic soul of Lincoln--who, following La Salle down the
Mississippi, found his high mission to the world--and in the masterful,
resourceful generalship of Grant.

The old French forts have grown into new-world cities, the portage paths
have been multiplied into streets, the trails of the coureurs de bois have
become railroads, and all are the noisy, flaming, smoky places and means
of such an industry and exploitation as doubtless are not to be found so
extensive and so intensive in any other valley of the earth.

A quantitative analysis has led me to present statistics of its production
and manufacture which would seem inexcusably braggart if it were not to
remind the French and my own countrymen that it was the geographical
descendants of France who, out of the wealth of their heritage of France's
bequeathing, untouched from the glaciers and the Indians, were confuting
with their wheat the prophecies of Malthus and making the whole world a
more comfortable and a somewhat brighter place with their iron, their oil,
their reapers, their wagons, and their sewing-machines. It were nothing to
be ashamed of unless that were all.

But a careful qualitative analysis discovers in the life of that valley,
which has been so widely advertised by its purely quantitative output, a
certain idealism that is usually obscured by the smoke of its

We have seen it in the grimy ravine by old Fort Duquesne, where, like the
titanium which, in what way no chemist knows, increases the tensile
strength of its steel, this practical idealism gives promise of a
democracy that will stand a greater stress and strain.

We have seen it in the plans for the future of the city that has risen
from the onion field along the Chicago River, where Marquette's spirit
lived in a sick body through a bitter winter.

We have seen it in the setting apart of the white acres in every township
for the training of the child of to-morrow, in the higher school that
stands in thousands of towns and cities throughout the valley, and in the
university supported of every State in that valley, such as that which we
saw beside the falls where Hennepin tells of the Indian sacrificing his
beaver-skin to the river spirit.

And, finally, we have seen the men of to-day, rising to that highest
definition of a people--the invisible multitude of spirits, the nation of
yesterday and of to-morrow--forgetting their interests of the moment,
listening to the men of the universities speaking out of the past, and
planning for the conservation of what they have left to them of the
resources of the land for the "interests of mankind"--the true "Children
of Always."

This, then, is what France has prepared the way for, in one of the vast
regions where she was pioneer in America. Through the venture and the
faith of her sons she won the valley with a past of a million of ages;
through unrecorded valors she held it as her very own for a century, and,
though she lost nominal title to it as a territory, she has a ground-rent
interest in it, real title to a share in its human fruitage, which time
can neither take away nor cloud but only augment.

The social and industrial life which has developed there by mere
coincidence, or of direct cause, is distinctive and peculiar to that part
of the United States which has a French background, though it now has made
itself felt throughout the nation. And, however little in its feature and
language the foreground may seem to take color of it, I shall always
believe that the consecration of the rivers and paths, by explorations and
ministries that were for the most part as unselfish as France's
scholarship is to-day, must in some subtle way have had such a potency as
the catalytic substances which work miracles in matter and yet are beyond
the discerning of the scientist.

An English essayist [Footnote: G. K. Chesterton, "The Fallacy of the Young
Nation," in his "Heretics," pp. 247-266.] has estimated that we of the
United States are no longer young and finds in the fact that we have
produced great artists the intimations of age. The art of Whistler and the
letters of Henry James are to him the "sweet and startling" but
"unmistakable cry of a dying man." But this essayist could not have known
the men of the valley which is the heart of the nation as it is the heart
of the country, the place of its dominant spirits. That valley, so rapidly
exploited of its resources that it has grown ages poorer, is yet virile,
youthful in its faults and its achievements. It has no "fine futility" as
yet, and the cry is not "sweet" though it may be "startling." It is the
shout of a young god, of a Jason driving the bulls in the fields of
Colchis. The attenuations of distance may easily deceive one's ears who
listens from across the ocean and the mountains.

I think it was this same essayist who said that to understand a people one
must study them with the "loyalty of a child" and the patience not of a
scientist but of a poet. I thank him for that, while I excuse his
confounding of sounds that he hears in England from America, and agree
that what we need in that valley to tell its story, to interpret it, is
not a specialist in statistics nor an annalist, not a critic who looks at
the smoke of the chimneys and visits the slaughter-houses only, but a poet
who will have the patience to consult both the statistician and the
annalist, a patient poet with the "loyalty of a child" toward his theme.



I make the epilogue of this story my tribute to Francis Parkman, who has
in a sense made this all possible for me: first, by reason of the love he
gave me long ago for his New France with its primeval forests, its virgin
prairies, its glistening rivers, its untamed Indians, its explorers, its
gray and black cowls, its coureurs de bois, its stars whose light had
never before looked on a white face; and second, by reason of the mass of
incident and color which he has supplied for the background of the life I
have known in that valley.

On entering a college out in the midst of that region--the middle of the
Mississippi Valley--nearly thirty years ago I was assigned, as my first
important task in English, the reading and criticism of one of Parkman's
books. I think that "The Oregon Trail" was suggested. I read several
volumes, however, but found my interest greatest in "The Pioneers of
France in the New World" and "The Jesuits in North America." What I wrote
I do not now remember (nor do I wish to refresh my memory), but so
persistent was the grip of those graphic relations upon my imagination
that years later, when leaving the presidency of that same college, I
asked to be permitted to take from the library three books (replacing them
with fresher copies): the chapel Bible--from which I had been read to by
my president and professors and from which I in turn had read to
succeeding students--a copy of Spenser's "Faerie Queene"--which my
college's only poet, Eugene Field, had read through--and a volume of
Parkman's on the pioneers of France.

So I take the opportunity to pay my tribute to him who long ago put these
figures on the frontier of my imagination, and who has prevented my ever
speaking in dispassion or without favorable prejudice of them.

When Parkman was leaving America for Paris in 1868, "for medical advice
and research," uncertain as to whether he would ever return to take up his
unfinished story of the American forest, he left in the hands of a friend
a parcel, "not to be opened during his life." It is that parcel, not
opened until twenty-five years later--for Parkman lived to return to
America and to return again to Paris more than once, and then to go back
and finish, after a full half-century of struggle with physical maladies
and infirmities, the last book of the plan virtually sketched fifty years
before, and with a singular felicity of coincidence named "The Half-
Century of Conflict"--it is that parcel which has kept for later
generations his remarkable autobiography.

While on his visits in Paris he was known in a wide circle. As he himself
said in writing to his sisters, "if able to accept invitations," he "would
have had the run of Faubourg St. Germain." I doubt, however, if his
personality is remembered by many, much less that strangely tortured life
which probably gave little mark of its suffering even to those who knew
him best in France.

I therefore recall some of the detail of the years preceding those days
when he appeared in the streets of Paris seeking health, but seeing often
Margry, the "intractable yet kindly keeper" of an important department of
French archives, who had in his secretive keeping documents most precious
to the uses of Parkman.

It is not altogether an agreeable chronicle, this autobiography.
[Footnote: Printed in "Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society, 1892-
4," series 2, 8:349-360.] It is rather like a "pathological record," and
as totally unlike the pages of his books as can be well imagined. But it
is an essential document.

The first pages of this biography were withheld by him and so removed from
the parcel; the record begins with a general characterization of his
childhood. There is no detail. But there are to be found elsewhere the
memories of others which tell of his boyish enjoyment of the little
wilderness of joyous colors near the school to which he was sent-microcosm
of the greater wilderness in which his body and then his imagination were
to wander through all his mature days till his death. His own chronicle
has forgotten or ignored those elysian days and has not in all its length
a joyful note or a bright color.

This is the summary: His childhood was neither healthful nor buoyant....
Chemical experiment was his favorite hobby, involving a lonely, confined,
unwholesome sort of life, baneful to body and mind.... The age of fifteen
or sixteen produced a revolution; retorts and crucibles were forever
discarded.... He became enamoured of the woods, a fancy which soon gained
full control over the course of his literary pursuits.... He resolved to
confine his homage to the muse of history.... At the age of eighteen (born
in 1823) the plan (to whose execution he gave his long life) was, in its
most essential features, formed. His idea was clear before him, yet
attended with unpleasant doubts as to his ability to realize it to his own
satisfaction.... The task, as he then reckoned it, would require about
twenty years. The time allowed was ample; but here he fell into a fatal
error, entering upon this long pilgrimage with all the vehemence of one
starting on a mile heat. His reliance, however, was less on books than on
such personal experience as should intimately identify him with his theme.

Let me here say that I have found traces of his steps at nearly every site
that I have visited. He had been at Fort St. Louis, at the most important
portages, and at the places where the French forts once stood. His natural
inclinations urged him in the same direction, his thoughts were constantly
in the forest, whose features, not unmixed with softer images, possessed
his waking and sleeping dreams; he was as fond of hardships as he was vain
of enduring them, cherishing a sovereign scorn for every physical weakness
or defect. Moreover, deceived by a rapid development of frame and sinews
which flattered him with the belief that discipline sufficiently unsparing
would harden him into an athlete, he slighted precautions of a more
reasonable woodcraft, tired old foresters with long marches, stopped
neither for heat nor rain, and slept on the earth without a blanket.... He
spent his summer vacations in the woods or in Canada, at the same time
reading such books as he thought suited to help him toward his object....
While in the law school he entered in earnest on two other courses, one of
general history, the other of Indian history and ethnology, studying
diligently at the same time the models of English style.... There
developed in him a state of mental tension, habitual for several years,
and abundantly mischievous in its effects. With a mind overstrained and a
body overtaxed, he was burning his candle at both ends.... A highly
irritable organism spurred the writer to excess.... Labor became a
passion, and rest intolerable yet with a keen appetite for social
enjoyments.... His condition became that of a rider whose horse runs
headlong with the bit between his teeth, or of a locomotive, built of
indifferent material, under a head of steam too great for its strength,
hissing at a score of crevices, yet rushing on with accelerating speed to
the inevitable smash.... Soon appeared, as a sign of mischief, weakness of
sight. Accordingly he went to the Rocky Mountains to rest his failing
vision and to get an inside view of Indian life.... Reeling in the saddle,
he set forth, attended by a Canadian hunter.... Joining the Ogallala
Indians, he followed their wanderings for several weeks. To have worn the
air of an invalid would have been an indiscretion, as he says, since "a
horse, a rifle, a pair of pistols, and a red shirt might have offered
temptations too strong for aboriginal virtue." So he hunted when he could
scarcely sit upright.... To the maladies of the prairies other disorders
succeeded on his return.... Flat stagnation followed, reaching its depth
in eighteen months.... The desire to return to the prairie was intense,
but exposure to the sunlight would have destroyed his sight.... When his
condition was at its worst, he resolved to attempt the composition of the
"History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac," for which he had been collecting
material since his days in college. Suffering from extreme weakness of
sight, a condition of the brain prohibiting fixed attention, and a nervous
derangement, he yet set out upon this labor, using a wooden frame strung
with parallel wires to guide his crayon. Books and documents were read to
him, but never, without injury, for more than a half-hour at a time, and
frequently not at all for days. For the first half-year he averaged six
lines of composition a day. And he wrote, I suppose, at least ten hundred
thousand lines. His health improving, he dictated, pacing a dark garret.
He then entered upon "France in the New World." The difficulties were
incalculable.... Wholly unable to use his eyes, he had before him the task
of tracing out, collecting, indexing, arranging, and digesting a great
mass of incongruous material, scattered on both sides of the Atlantic. He
was unable to employ trained assistants and had to rely mainly on his own
research, though, in some cases, receiving valuable aid of scholars and
others. He used to employ as reader of French a public-school girl wholly
ignorant of French (who, I suppose, gave English pronunciation to all the
words), but with such help and that of members of his own family the work
went on. Then came another disaster--an effusion of water on the knee
which involved a close confinement for two years; and this in turn
resulted in serious nervous disturbance centring in the head. These
extreme conditions of disorder continued for many years.... His work was
wholly interrupted for one year, four years, and numerous short
intervals.... Later the condition of sight so far improved as to permit
reading, not exceeding, on an average, five minutes at one time. By
judicious use this modicum of power was extended. By reading for one
minute and then resting for an equal time the alternate process could be
continued for about half an hour, then, after a sufficient interval,
repeated three or four times a day. Working under such conditions he makes
this report, 1868, of progress: "Most of the material is collected or
within reach; another volume, on the Jesuits of North America, is one-
third written; another, on the French explorers of the Great West, is half
written; while a third, devoted to the checkered career of Comte de
Frontenac, is partially arranged for composition." During this period he
had made many journeys in the United States and Canada for material, and
had been four times in Europe.... He wonders as to the advantage of this
tortoise pace, but says in conclusion that, "irksome as may be the
requirements of conditions so anomalous, they are far less oppressive than
the necessity they involve of being busied with the Past when the Present
has claims so urgent, and of holding the pen with the hand that should
have grasped the sword" (for he was greatly disappointed that he could not
enter the army at the time of the Civil War).

I have made this rather extensive summary of the singular autobiography--
and largely in the author's own words--not to prepare your minds for
lenient judgments of his work, but to inform them of the tenacious purpose
of the man whose infirmities of the knees kept him most of his life from
the wild forest trails and streams and compelled him to a wheel-chair in
gardens of tame roses; whose weakness of the eyes allowed him but
inadequate vision of the splendor of the woods and even robbed him of the
intimacy of books; whose malady of mind kept him ever in terror of devils
more fierce than the inhuman tortures of Jogues and Brébeuf--a tenacious
purpose that wrought its youth-selected, self-appointed work, and so well,
so splendidly, so thoroughly that it needs never to be done again.

One of his friends, in a memoir of Parkman, recalls an observation of
Sainte-Beuve, in his paper on Taine's "English Literature," that has found
its best illustration in what Parkman accomplished in spite of lameness,
blindness, and mental distress: "All things considered, every allowance
being made for general or particular elements and for circumstances, there
still remain place and space enough around men of talent, wherein they can
move and turn themselves with entire freedom. And, moreover, were the
circle drawn round each a very contracted one, every man of talent, every
genius, in so far as he is in some degree a magician and an enchanter,
possesses a secret entirely his own, whereby to perform prodigies within
this circle and work wonders there." [Footnote: "Nouveaux Lundis," vol.
VIII, English translation in "English Portraits," p. 243.]

This autobiography has shown how short was the radius of the circle. The
twelve volumes of his work attest, under Sainte-Beuve's definition, the
degree of his powers of magic and enchantment. Men of strong knees, of
good eyes, and of brains that do not keep them from sleep by night or from
work by day, have travelled over this same field, but of most that they
gathered it may be said: "To no such aureate earth 'tis turned as, buried
once, men want dug up again."

I have sat for days in the Harvard University Library among the books
bequeathed to it by Parkman (being the greater part of the library which
surrounded him in his work--books of history, of travel, and of biography;
books about Indians, flints, and folk-lore; maps and guides-among them
several guides to Paris--only twenty-five hundred volumes in all); but
they are not the material of his magic. His work was not legerdemain,
skilful manipulation, but recreation, and he found the aureate earth in
the forests, on the prairies, and in documents contemporary to his theme.

In a cabinet (bearing in its carving suggestions of the fleur-de-lis) in
the rooms of the Massachusetts Historical Society, I found some of this
precious material, also bequeathed by the historian. Its nature is
suggested in the preface to his "Montcalm and Wolfe." "A very large
amount," he says, "of unpublished material has been used in its
preparation, consisting for the most part of documents copied from the
archives and libraries of France and England. The papers copied for the
present work ["Montcalm and Wolfe"] in France alone, exceed six thousand
folio pages of manuscript, additional and supplementary to the 'Paris
Documents' procured for the State of New York.... The copies made in
England form ten volumes, besides many English documents consulted in the
original manuscript. Great numbers of autograph letters, diaries, and
other writings of persons engaged in the war have also been examined on
this [_i.e._, American] side of the Atlantic."

But even these were as the dry bones in the valley which Ezekiel saw, till
he touched these scattered fragments with his genius.

The process employed by the blind workman is described by Frothingham, one
of his friends: "The manuscripts were read over to him, slowly, one by
one. First the chief points were considered, then the details of the story
were gone over carefully and minutely. As the reading went on, he made
notes, first of essential and then of non-essential. After this he welded
everything together, made the narrative completely his own, infused into
it his own fire, quickened it by his own imagination, and made it as it
were a living experience, so that his books read like personal
reminiscences." [Footnote: "Memoirs of Francis Parkman," in "Proceedings
Massachusetts Historical Society, 1892-4," series 2, 8:555.]

In a book of Parkman memorabilia of various kinds which I found in the
Harvard Library, I happened one day upon a few scraps of paper which
furnish illustration of the first steps of the process--paper on which
were notes made in Parkman's own hand:

"Deserts covered with bones of buffalo and elk"; "No sign of man from Fort
Union to Fort Mackenzie"; "White clay, cactus dried up, grasshoppers";
"Poplars,--wild roses,--gooseberries"; "prairie dogs,--heat,--aridity";
"extraordinary castellated mountains, stone walls,--etc. above Fort
Union"; "in 1832 Blackfeet are said to have killed 58 whites, three years
before, 80"; "Blackfeet do not eat dogs--Blackfeet Societies--beaver traps
lent to Blackfeet"; "wood near Fort Clark chiefly poplar"; "fossils--
terres mauvaises"; "maize cultivated by Mandans"; "catching the war
eagle"; "Mandans etc. agricultural tribes"; "wolf-pits described";
"Exceptional cold Ft. Clark"; "Wolf attacked three women;--wooden carts no
iron"; "Barren Mts. little dells with water,--gooseberries, strawberries,
currants, very few trees, mad river."

But these and many other notes on scraps of blue paper in his hand have
significance only in their translation, transfusion into the color or
detail of some of his wonderful pictures. Somewhere in his books I felt
certain, when reading these notes, I should find those poplars growing on
the plains with wild roses and gooseberry bushes not far away; some day I
should come to the barren mountains and the dells with water, or should
hear the roaring of the mad river and witness the catching of the war-
eagle. Indeed, some of these very notes had entered, as I found, into the
description of that lonely journey of the brothers Vérendrye as they
passed through the bad lands (terres mauvaises of the notes), where the
clay is sometimes white as chalk and the barren, castellated bluffs,
"carved into fantastic shapes by the storms," stand about.

"For twenty days the travellers saw no human being [see note above], so
scanty was the population of these plains. Game, however, was abundant.
Deer sprang from the tall reed grass of the river bottoms; buffalo tramped
by in ponderous columns, or dotted the swells of the distant prairie with
their grazing thousands; antelope approached, with the curiosity of their
species, to gaze at the passing horsemen, then fled like the wind; and as
they neared the broken uplands towards the Yellowstone, they saw troops of
elk (later their bones) and flocks of mountain-sheep. Sometimes, for miles
together, the dry plain was studded thick with the earthen mounds that
marked the burrows of the curious marmots, called prairie dogs from their
squeaking bark. Wolves, white and gray, howled about the camp at night,
and their cousin, the coyote, seated in the dusk of evening upright on the
grass, with nose turned to the sky, saluted them with a complication of
yelpings, as if a score of petulant voices were pouring together from the
throat of one small beast." [Footnote: Parkman, "Half-Century of
Conflict," 2 23, 24.]

It is impossible to know how much of this came from his own actual seeing
(for in his journey over the Oregon trail he had passed near the trail of
the Vérendrye brothers) and how much came from those scraps of color and
incident picked up in his blindness from varied sources; nor is it of
consequence, except as it connotes something of the quality and character
of his genius, for it is all accurate and the brave brothers Vérendrye
move as living men across it. He was able to revivify a dusty document as
well as a personal experience. "To him," as Mr. Barrett Wendell said out
of an intimate acquaintance with him and his work, "a document of whatever
kind,--a state paper, a Jesuit 'relation,' the diary of a provincial
soldier, the record of a Yankee church,--was merely the symbol of a fact
which had once been as real as his own hardships among the western
Indians, or as the lifetime of physical suffering, which never bent his
will." [Footnote: "Proceedings American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
1893-4," 29:439.] I have never read "The Oregon Trail" with the same keen
enthusiasm as his other books, largely, I think, because it is a mere
report of personal adventure and not a composition fused of his
imagination. It is an excellent photograph by the side of a master's

But all this accuracy of detail, this revivifying of dead Indians,
knights, voyageurs and soldiers, this painting of prairie, forest, and
mountain, was not in itself to put him among the world's great historians.
And, indeed, there are those who, appreciating the artist's skill, have
expressed regret that he gave this skill to no great theme. It is as if he
were (they would doubtless say) writing of the labors of sacrificing
missionaries in Africa, or of colonial administration in Indo-China, or of
forest adventure along the Amazon. In the Boston Public Library I found
that every work of his had duplicate copies in the boys' department. (And
how great the reading is to this day is intimated by my inability one
evening to get a copy of "Pontiac's War," though there were several copies
in the possession of the library. A reserve had finally to be called in.)
But I should say that this double classification intimated rather the
genuine human interest of his story, appealing alike to men and to boys
(as the greatest of human writings do)--a work "for all mankind and for
all time."

But I should go beyond this. His books are not merely of elemental
entertainment. He has seized the most fundamental, far-reaching, and
consequential of themes. He found going on in his forest, of which he set
out to write, not merely flame-lighted scalpings and official rapacities
and picturesque maraudings and quixotic pageants and the like. His theme
was even greater than the mere gathering of all these raids and rapacities
and maraudings and pageants into an informed racial, national struggle for
the possession of a continent. It was nothing less than the grappling, out
on the frontier of the world, between two principles of organized human
life. The forests are so demanding, the incidents so stirring in
themselves, that many have doubtless missed the high theme that expressed
itself there. But that theme possessed its author, and it possesses every
sensitive reader as some fateful, recurring, tragic melody in an opera
full of diverting incident and picturesque figures.

Parkman is more likely to keep his generalizations within the overture,
but frequently one gives summary to an act or scene, so that even he who
comes for entertainment can hardly miss the significance of it all;
though, as Mr. Wendell has said, to borrow again from his, the best, brief
tribute: "Parkman was very sparing of generalization, of philosophic
comment," whether from overconsciousness or from the intrusion of his
malady which forbade long-continued thought. He made the course of events
carry its own philosophy.

Several noble and notable generalizations have, however, already thrust
themselves into these chapters to illustrate his appreciation of the
loftiness of his theme, his candor, and his genuine sympathy with those to
whose ill-fated heroism he gave such "precious testimony."

One has only to associate with the persistent, clearly outlined purpose of
a half-century a realization of the completeness of its achievement to be
stirred, as by the victory not of a fortuitously reckless assault but of a
long, carefully planned campaign.

Among his papers (in the fleur-de-lis cabinet of which I have spoken)
there are the first prophecies: two maps of the Lake George (Champlain)
region drawn by him on the inside of a red portfolio cover, marked 1842,
when he was nineteen years old; and next an odd-covered blank book in
which he began his note-making on the "Old French War," with such notes as
these: "Rights of the two nations"; "When did Marquette make his
discoveries?" "When did La Salle settle?" "Had not the French a right both
of prior discovery and prior settlement?" "The English never settled";
"The letters patent to Louisiana are preposterous, perhaps, but not more
so than the English claim from coasts back of the Mississippi"; "The first
blood was spilt by Washington. Jumonville would seem to have been sent
with peaceful intentions. His orders charged him to attack the French."

The title is written in a strong hand, but before he has half filled the
little book he makes entry that the "French War" is laid aside, for the
time, for the history of "Pontiac's War," and thus the latter part of this
thin note-book grew into "The Conspiracy of Pontiac," and that in turn
became sequel to the whole series of which it also was the promise, a
series of books so closely related that John Fiske speaks of them as "one

The scope, to be sure, is a restricted one. He has two great wildernesses
to cover, but it is a century and a half after the epic narrative begins
before enough people enter to prevent one from keeping track of all of
them. It is as if he were writing the history of man, from the last day of
creation forward, starting with a few transmigrant souls still under the
control of their oversea existence. He begins at the beginning, with not
even a twilight zone of tradition and with a stage "far more primitive
than that which is depicted in the Odyssey or even Genesis." Cartier's
route is as well known as that of the steamship that sailed yesterday
through the "Square Gulf," if the ice permitted, and the incidents of his
first days beyond the gates of the first wilderness have been as
accurately recorded, to say the least, as are yesterday's events yonder in
the morning's papers here. And when his story ends, there are not as many
people in the two great valleys along the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi
as in a good-sized city to-day. But none the less, as I have said, are the
forces (fighting in and through these few representatives of civilization)
age-old and world-important. Never has historian had such fascinating
theme--such "epic theme," says Fiske--"save when Herodotus told the story
of Greece and Persia, or when Gibbon's pages resounded with the marshalled
hosts through a thousand years of change." And Parkman met one of what
Lowell calls "the convincing tests of genius" in the choice of this

When John Fiske said at the Harvard exercises in memory of Parkman that he
was one of the world's greatest historians, I subtracted something because
of the occasion and the nearness of view. But a year later he is saying of
Parkman's work, in a critical review: "Strong in its individuality and
like to nothing besides, it clearly belongs, I think, among the world's
few masterpieces of the highest rank, along with the works of Herodotus,
Thucydides, and Gibbon." [Footnote: _Atlantic Monthly_, 73:674; "A Century
of Science and Other Essays," p. 264.]

There will never be such a story to write again, for the frontier of
forest and prairie has disappeared. It is now in the midst of cities where
civilizations grapple in their smoke and turmoil. So shall we hold even
more precious his gift and thank Heaven for "sending us such a scholar,
such an artist, such a genius before it was too late to catch the fleeting
light and fix it upon immortal canvas."

Among the writings of Francis Parkman there are a few pages--known not
even to a score of his readers, I suppose--which might very well be
printed in summary of his great work--though they find no place in any
volume--for the symbol they carry of his achievement. These few pages make
a leaflet--a reprint of a paper contributed to the _Botanical Bulletin_ in
1878 by "Francis Parkman, late Professor of Horticulture at the Bussey
Institution," and entitled "The Hybridization of Lilies." In this brief
paper is related the story of Parkman's own attempts, extending through
seven years, to combine certain well-established varieties of lilies, and
especially two superb lilies--the "Speciosum" (_Lancifolium_) and the
"Auratum,"--the pollen of the latter being carried to the deanthered
flowers of the former. The patient, anxious, exquisite care with which he
carried on these experiments suggests the infinite pains with which he
gathered and classified and sifted and weighed his historical material
(his material of "France Speciosum" and of "France Auratum"). The result
of his floral experiment, the wonderfully beautiful flower which he
produced, described in a London horticultural magazine as the "grandest
flowering plant yet introduced into our gardens," and known as the "Lilium
Parkmanni," is suggestive of his achievement in so depicting and defining
that civilization which is symbolized by the lily, the fleur-de-lis, in
its strange, wild, highly colored flowering on the prairies and by the
rivers of Nouvelle France, as to make it for all time identified with his
memory and name. He lived among roses of his own growing, through his
later invalid years, in the outskirts of Boston. He even wrote a book
about roses. But his peculiar triumph (the one flower that lingers in
gardens carrying a memory of him) is a "magnificent" lily. And though he
lived amid the heritages of the English, in the new continent, with fair
mind and most acute and industrious, he has preserved the hybrid heritages
of the French spirit in the American regions--heritages that, save for his
research lighted by imagination, might never have blossomed in the pages
of history.

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