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"Westward the course of empire takes its way; The first four acts already past, A fifth shall close the drama with the day: TIME'S NOBLEST OFFSPRING IS ITS LAST."
"Even of those great conflicts, in which hundreds of thousands have been engaged and tens of thousands have fallen, none has been more fruitful of results than this surrender of thirty-five hundred fighting-men at Saratoga. It not merely changed the relations of England and the feelings of Europe towards these insurgent colonies, but it has modified, for all times to come, the connexion between every colony and every parent state."--LORD MAHON.
Of the four great powers that now principally rule the political destinies of the world, France and England are the only two whose influence can be dated back beyond the last century and a half. The third great power, Russia, was a feeble mass of barbarism before the epoch of Peter the Great; and the very existence of the fourth great power, as an independent nation, commenced within the memory of living men. By the fourth great power of the world I mean the mighty commonwealth of the western continent, which now commands the admiration of mankind. That homage is sometimes reluctantly given, and accompanied with suspicion and ill-will. But none can refuse it. All the physical essentials for national strength are undeniably to be found in the geographical position and amplitude of territory which the United States possess: in their almost inexhaustible tracts of fertile, but hitherto untouched soil; in their stately forests, in their mountain-chains and their rivers, their beds of coal, and stores of metallic wealth; in their extensive seaboard along the waters of two oceans, and in their already numerous and rapidly increasing population. And, when we examine the character of this population, no one can look on the fearless energy, the sturdy determination, the aptitude for local self government, the versatile alacrity, and the unresting spirit of enterprise which characterise the Anglo-Americans, without feeling that he here beholds the true moral elements of progressive might.
Three quarters of a century have not yet passed away since the United States ceased to be mere dependencies of England. And even if we date their origin from the period when the first permanent European settlements, out of which they grew, were made on the western coast of the North Atlantic, the increase of their strength is unparalleled, either in rapidity or extent.
The ancient Roman boasted, with reason, of the growth of Rome from humble beginnings to the greatest magnitude which the world had then ever witnessed. But the citizen of the United States is still more justly entitled to claim this praise. In two centuries and a half his country has acquired ampler dominion than the Roman gained in ten. And even if we credit the legend of the band of shepherds and outlaws with which Romulus is said to have colonized the Seven Hills, we find not there so small a germ of future greatness, as we find in the group of a hundred and five ill-chosen and disunited emigrants who founded Jamestown in 1607, or in the scanty band of the Pilgrim-Fathers, who, a few years later, moored their bark on the wild and rock-bound coast of the wilderness that was to become New England. The power of the United States is emphatically the "Imperium quo neque ab exordio ullum fere minus, neque incrementis toto orbe amplius humans potest memoria recordari." [Eutropius, lib. i. (exordium).]
Nothing is more calculated to impress the mind with a sense of the rapidity with which the resources of the American republic advance, than the difficulty which the historical inquirer finds in ascertaining their precise amount. If he consults the most recent works, and those written by the ablest investigators of the subject, he finds in them admiring comments on the change which the last few years, before those books were written, had made; but when he turns to apply the estimates in those books to the present moment, he finds them wholly inadequate. Before a book on the subject of the United States has lost its novelty, those states have outgrown the description which it contains. The celebrated work of the French statesman, De Tocqueville, appeared about fifteen years ago. In the passage which I am about to quote, it will be seen that he predicts the constant increase of the Anglo-American power, but he looks on the Rocky Mountains as their extreme western limit for many years to come. He had evidently no expectation of himself seeing that power dominant along the Pacific as well as along the Atlantic coast. He says:--
"The distance from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico extends from the 47th to the 30th degree of latitude, a distance of more than 1,200 miles, as the bird flies. The frontier of the United States winds along the whole of this immense line; sometimes falling within its limits, but more frequently extending far beyond it into the waste. It has been calculated that the Whites, advance every year a mean distance of seventeen miles along the whole of this vast boundary. Obstacles, such as an unproductive district, a lake, or an Indian nation unexpectedly encountered, are sometimes met with. The advancing column then halts for a while; its two extremities fall back upon themselves, and as soon as they are re-united they proceed onwards. This gradual and continuous progress of the European race towards the Rocky Mountains has the solemnity of a Providential event: it is like a deluge of men rising unabatedly, and daily driven onwards by the hand of God.
"Within this first line of conquering settlers towns are built, and vast estates founded. In 1790 there were only a few thousand pioneers sprinkled along the valleys of the Mississippi: and at the present day these valleys contain as many inhabitants as were to be found in the whole Union in 1790. Their population amounts to nearly four millions. The city of Washington was founded in 1800, in the very centre of the Union; but such are the changes which have taken place, that it now stands at one of the extremities; and the delegates of the most remote Western States are already obliged to perform a journey as long so that from Vienna to Paris.
"It must not, then, be imagined that the impulse of the British race in the New World can be arrested. The dismemberment of the Union, and the hostilities which might ensue, the abolition of republican institutions, and the tyrannical government which might succeed it, may retard this impulse, but they cannot prevent it from ultimately fulfilling the destinies to which that race is reserved. No power upon earth can close upon the emigrants that fertile wilderness, which offers resources to all industry, and a refuge from all want. Future events, of whatever nature they may be, will not deprive the Americans of their climate or of their inland seas, or of their great rivers, or of their exuberant soil. Nor will bad laws, revolutions, and anarchy be able to obliterate that love of prosperity and that spirit of enterprise which seem to be the distinctive characteristics of their race, or to extinguish that knowledge which guides them on their way.
"Thus, in the midst of the uncertain future, one event at least is sure. At a period which may be said to be near (for we are speaking of the life of a nation), the Anglo-Americans will alone cover the immense space contained between the Polar regions and the Tropics, extending from the coast of the Atlantic to the shores of the Pacific Ocean; the territory which will probably be occupied by the Anglo-Americans at some future time, may be computed to equal three-quarters of Europe in extent. The climate of the Union is upon the whole preferable to that of Europe, and its natural advantages are not less great; it is therefore evident that its population will at some future time be proportionate to our own. Europe, divided as it is between so many different nations, and torn as it has been by incessant wars and the barbarous manners of the Middle Ages, has notwithstanding attained a population of 410 inhabitants to the square league. What cause can prevent the United States from having as numerous a population in time?
"The time will therefore come when one hundred and fifty millions of men will be living in North America, equal in condition, the progeny of one race, owing their origin to the same cause, and preserving the same civilization, the same language, the same religion, the same habits, the same manners, and imbued with the same opinions, propagated under the same forms. The rest is uncertain, but this is certain; and it is a fact new to the world, a fact fraught with such portentous consequences as to baffle the efforts even of the imagination."
[The original French of these passages will be found in the chapter on "Quelles sont les chances de duree de l'Union Americaine--Quels dangers la menacent." in the third volume of the first part of De Tocqueville, and in the conclusion of the first part. They are (with others) collected and translated by Mr. Alison, in his "Essays," vol. iii. p. 374.]
Let us turn from the French statesman writing in 1835, to an English statesman, who is justly regarded as the highest authority on all statistical subjects, and who described the United States only seven years ago. Macgregor [Macgregor's Commercial Statistics.] tells us--
"The States which, on the ratification of independence, formed the American Republican Union, were thirteen, viz.:--
"Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. "The foregoing thirteen states (THE WHOLE INHABITED TERRITORY OF WHICH, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF A FEW SMALL SETTLEMENTS, WAS CONFINED TO THE REGION EXTENDING BETWEEN THE ALLEGHANY MOUNTAINS AND THE ATLANTIC) were those which existed at the period when they became an acknowledged separate and independent federal sovereign power. The thirteen stripes of the standard or flag of the United States, continue to represent the original number, The stars have multiplied to twenty-six, [Fresh stars have dawned since this was written.] according as the number of States have increased.
"The territory of the thirteen original States of the Union, including Maine and Vermont, comprehended a superficies of 371,124 English square miles; that of the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 120,354; that of France, including Corsica, 214,910; that of the Austrian Empire, including Hungary and all the Imperial States, 257,540 English square miles.
"The present superficies of the twenty-six constitutional States of the Anglo-American Union, and the district of Columbia, and territories of Florida, include 1,029,025 square miles; to which if we add the north-west, or Wisconsin territory, east of the Mississippi, and bounded by Lake Superior on the north, and Michigan on the east, and occupying at least 100,000 square miles, and then add the great western region, not yet well- defined territories, but at the most limited calculation comprehending 700,000 square miles, the whole unbroken in its vast length and breadth by foreign nations, comprehends a portion of the earth's surface equal to 1,729,025 English, or 1,296,770 geographical square miles."
We may add that the population of the States, when they declared their independence, was about two millions and a half; it is now twenty-three millions.
I have quoted Macgregor, not only on account of the clear and full view which he gives of the progress of America to the date when he wrote, but because his description may be contrasted with what the United States have become even since his book appeared. Only three years after the time when Macgregor thus wrote, the American President truly stated:--
"Within less than four years the annexation of Texas to the Union has been consummated; all conflicting title to the Oregon territory, south of the 49th degree of north latitude, adjusted; and New Mexico and Upper California have been acquired by treaty. The area of these several territories contains 1,193,061 square miles, or 763,559,040 acres; while the area of the remaining twenty-nine States, and the territory not yet organized into States east of the Rocky Mountains, contains 2,059,513 square miles, or 1,318,126,058 acres. These estimates show that the territories recently acquired, and over which our exclusive jurisdiction and dominion have been extended, constitute a country more than half as large as all that which was held by the United States before their acquisition. If Oregon be excluded from the estimate, there will still remain within the limits of Texas, New Mexico, and California, 851,598 square miles, or 545,012,720 acres; being an addition equal to more than one-third of all the territory owned by the United States before their acquisition; and, including Oregon, nearly as great an extent of territory as the whole of Europe, Russia only excepted. THE MISSISSIPPI, SO LATELY THE FRONTIER OF OUR COUNTRY, IS NOW ONLY ITS CENTRE. With the addition of the late acquisitions, the United States are now estimated to be nearly as large as the whole of Europe. The extent of the sea-coast of Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, is upwards of 400 miles; of the coast of Upper California, on the Pacific, of 970 miles; and of Oregon, including the Straits of Fuca, of 650 miles; MAKING THE WHOLE EXTENT OF SEA-COAST ON THE PACIFIC 1,620 MILES; and the whole extent on both the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, 2,020 miles. The length of the coast on the Atlantic, from the northern limits of the United States, round the Capes of Florida to the Sabine on the eastern boundary of Texas, is estimated to be 3,100 miles, so that the addition of sea-coast, including Oregon, is very nearly two-thirds as great as all we possessed before; and, excluding Oregon, is an addition of 1,370 miles; being nearly equal to one- half of the extent of coast which we possessed before these acquisitions. We have now three great maritime fronts--on the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific; making, in the whole, an extent of sea-coast exceeding 5,000 miles. This is the extent of the sea-coast of the United States, not including bays, sounds, and small irregularities of the main shore, and of the sea islands. If these be included, the length of the shore line of coast, as estimated by the superintendent of the Coast Survey, in his report, would be 33,063 miles."
The importance of the power of the United States being then firmly planted along the Pacific applies not only to the New World, but to the Old. Opposite to San Francisco, on the coast of that ocean, lie the wealthy but decrepit empires of China and Japan. Numerous groups of islets stud the larger part of the intervening sea, and form convenient stepping-stones for the progress of commerce or ambition. The intercourse of traffic between these ancient Asiatic monarchies, and the young Anglo- American Republic, must be rapid and extensive. Any attempt of the Chinese or Japanese rulers to check it, will only accelerate an armed collision. The American will either buy or force his way. Between such populations as that of China and Japan on the one side, and that of the United States on the other--the former haughty, formal, and insolent, the latter bold, intrusive, and unscrupulous--causes of quarrel must, sooner or later, arise, The results of such a quarrel cannot be doubted. America will scarcely imitate the forbearance shown by England at the end of our late war with the Celestial Empire; and the conquests of China and Japan by the fleets and armies of the United States, are events which many now living are likely to witness. Compared with the magnitude of such changes in the dominion of the Old World, the certain ascendancy of the Anglo-Americans over Central and Southern America, seems a matter of secondary importance. Well may we repeat De Tocqueville's words, that the growing power of this commonwealth is, "Un fait entierement nouveau dans le monde, et dont l'imagination ellememe ne saurait saisir la portee." [These remarks were written in May 1851, and now, in May 1852, a powerful squadron of American war-steamers has been sent to Japan, for the ostensible purpose of securing protection for the crews of American vessels shipwrecked on the Japanese coasts, but also evidently for important ulterior purposes.]
An Englishman may look, and ought to look, on the growing grandeur of the Americans with no small degree of generous sympathy and satisfaction. They, like ourselves, are members of the great Anglo-Saxon nation "whose race and language are now overrunning the world from one end of it to the other." [Arnold.] and whatever differences of form of government may exist between us and them; whatever reminiscences of the days when, though brethren, we strove together, may rankle in the minds of us, the defeated party; we should cherish the bonds of common nationality that still exist between us. We should remember, as the Athenians remembered of the Spartans at a season of jealousy and temptation, that our race is one, being of the same blood, speaking the same language, having an essential resemblance in our institutions and usages, and worshipping in the temples of the same God. [HERODOTUS, viii. 144.] All this may and should be borne in mind. And yet an Englishman can hardly watch the progress of America, without the regretful thought that America once was English, and that, but for the folly of our rulers, she might be English still. It is true that the commerce between the two countries has largely and beneficially increased; but this is no proof that the increase would not have been still greater, had the States remained integral portions of the same great empire. By giving a fair and just participation in political rights, these, "the fairest possessions" of the British crown, might have been preserved to it. "This ancient and most noble monarchy" [Lord Chatham.] would not have been dismembered; nor should we see that which ought to be the right arm of our strength, now menacing us in every political crisis, as the most formidable rival of our commercial and maritime ascendancy.
The war which rent away the North American colonies of England is, of all subjects in history, the most painful for an Englishman to dwell on. It was commenced and carried on by the British ministry in iniquity and folly, and it was concluded in disaster and shame. But the contemplation of it cannot be evaded by the historian, however much it may be abhorred. Nor can any military event be said to have exercised more important influence on the future fortunes of mankind, than the complete defeat of Burgoyne's expedition in 1777; a defeat which rescued the revolted colonists from certain subjection; and which, by inducing the courts of France and Spain to attack England in their behalf, ensured the independence of the United States, and the formation of that trans-Atlantic power which, not only America, but both Europe and Asia, now see and feel.
Still, in proceeding to describe this "decisive battle of the world," a very brief recapitulation of the earlier events of the war may be sufficient; nor shall I linger unnecessarily on a painful theme.
The five northern colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont, usually classed together as the New England colonies, were the strongholds of the insurrection against the mother-country. The feeling of resistance was less vehement and general in the central settlement of New York; and still less so in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the other colonies of the south, although everywhere it was formidably active. Virginia should, perhaps, be particularised for the zeal which its leading men displayed in the American cause; but it was among the descendants of the stern Puritans that the spirit of Cromwell and Vane breathed in all its fervour; it was from the New Englanders that the first armed opposition to the British crown had been offered; and it was by them that the most stubborn determination to fight to the last, rather than waive a single right or privilege, had been displayed. In 1775, they had succeeded in forcing the British troops to evacuate Boston; and the events of 1776 had made New York (which the royalists captured in that year) the principal basis of operations for the armies of the mother-country.
A glance at the map will show that the Hudson river, which falls into the Atlantic at New York, runs down from the north at the back of the New England States, forming an angle of about forty- five degrees with the line of the coast of the Atlantic, along which the New England states are situate. Northward of the Hudson, we see a small chain of lakes communicating with the Canadian frontier. It is necessary to attend closely to these geographical points, in order to understand the plan of the operations which the English attempted in 1777, and which the battle of Saratoga defeated.
The English had a considerable force in Canada; and in 1776 had completely repulsed an attack which the Americans had made upon that province. The British ministry resolved to avail themselves, in the next year, of the advantage which the occupation of Canada gave them, not merely for the purpose of defence, but for the purpose of striking a vigorous and crushing blow against the revolted colonies. With this view, the army in Canada was largely reinforced. Seven thousand veteran troops were sent out from England, with a corps of artillery abundantly supplied, and led by select and experienced officers. Large quantities of military stores were also furnished for the equipment of the Canadian volunteers, who were expected to join the expedition. It was intended that the force thus collected should march southward by the line of the lakes, and thence along the banks of the Hudson river. The British army in New York (or a large detachment of it) was to make a simultaneous movement northward, up the line of the Hudson, and the two expeditions were to unite at Albany, a town on that river. By these operations all communication between the northern colonies and those of the centre and south would be cut off. An irresistible force would be concentrated, so as to crush all further opposition in New England; and when this was done, it was believed that the other colonies would speedily submit. The Americans had no troops in the field that seemed able to baffle these movements. Their principal army, under Washington, was occupied in watching over Pennsylvania and the south. At any rate it was believed that, in order to oppose the plan intended for the new campaign, the insurgents must risk a pitched battle, in which the superiority of the royalists, in numbers, in discipline, and in equipment, seemed to promise to the latter a crowning victory. Without question the plan was ably formed; and had the success of the execution been equal to the ingenuity of the design, the re-conquest or submission of the thirteen United States must, in all human probability, have followed; and the independence which they proclaimed in 1776 would have been extinguished before it existed a second year. No European power had as yet come forward to aid America. It is true that England was generally regarded with jealousy and ill-will, and was thought to have acquired, at the treaty of Paris, a preponderance of dominion which was perilous to the balance of power; but though many were willing to wound, none had yet ventured to strike; and America, if defeated in 1777, would have been suffered to fall unaided.
[In Lord Albemarle's "Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham." is contained the following remarkable state paper, drawn up by King George III himself respecting the plan of Burgoyne's expedition. The original is in the king's own hand.
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