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retains its energy. New states are forming in the wilderness ; canals, intersecting our plains and crossing our highlands, open numerous channels to internal commerce ; manufactures prosper along our water-courses ; the use of steam on our rivers and railroads annihilates distance by the acceleration of speed. Our wealth and population, already giving us a place in the first rank of nations, are so rapidly cumulative, that the former is increased fourfold, and the latter is doubled in every period of twenty-two or twenty-three years. There is no national debt; the community is opulent; the government economical ; and the public treasury full. Religion, neither persecuted nor paid by the state, is sustained by the regard for public morals and the convictions of an enlightened faith. Intelligence is diffused with unparalleled universality ; a free press teems with the choicest productions of all nations and ages. There are more daily journals in the United States than in the world beside. A public document of general interest is, within a month, reproduced in at least a million of copies, and is brought within the reach of every freeman in the country. An immense concourse of emigrants of the most various lineage is perpetually crowding to our shores ; and the principles of liberty, uniting all interests by the operation of equal laws, blend the discordant elements into harmonious union. Other governments are convulsed by the innovations and reforms of neighbouring states; our constitution, fixed in the affections of the people, from whose choice it has sprung, neutralizes the influence of foreign principles, and fearlessly opens an asylum to the virtuous, the unfortunate, and the oppressed of every nation.
oldest of our states received its first permanent colony. Before that time the whole territory was an unproductive waste. Throughout its wide extent the arts had not erected a monument. Its only inhabitants were a few scattered tribes of feeble barbarians, destitute of commerce and of political connection. The axe and the ploughshare were uuknown. The soil, which had been gathering fertility from the repose of centuries, was lavishing its strength in magnificent but useless vegetation. In the view of civilization the immense domain was a solitude.
It is the object of the present work to explain how the change in the condition of our land has been accomplished ; and, as the fortunes of a nation are not under the control of blind destiny, to follow the steps by which a favouring Providence, calling our institutions into being, has conducted the country to its present happiness and glory.
EARLY VOYAGES.- FRENCH SETTLEMENTS. The enterprise of Columbus, the most memorable
maritime enterprise in the history of the world, 1944 formed between Europe and America the communication which will never cease. The national pride of an Icelandic historian has indeed claimed for his ancestors the glory of having discovered the western hemisphere. 1000 It is said that they passed from their own island to or Greenland, and were driven by adverse winds from 1003. Greenland to the shores of Labrador ; that the voyage was often repeated; that the coasts of America were extensively explored, and colonies established on the shores of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. It is even suggested that these early adventurers anchored near the harbour of Boston, or in the bays of New Jersey; and Danish antiquaries believe that Northmen entered the waters of Rhode Island, inscribed their adventures on the rocks of Taunton River, gave the name of Vinland to the south-east coasts of New England, and explored the inlets of our country as far as Carolina. But the story of the colonization of America by Northmen rests on narratives mythological in form and obscure in meaning; ancient, yet not contemporary. The chief document is an interpolation in the history of Sturleson, whose zealous curi. osity could hardly have neglected the discovery of a continent.(1) The geographical details are too vague to
(1) Antiquitates Americanæ, Hafniæ, 1837. The chief work. Schöning's ed. of Sturleson, i. 304–325. Thorfæus, Winlandia Antiqua. A. de Humboldt, Examen Critique, ii. 124, &c. Of American writers, Wheaton's Northmen, 22-28; Belknap's Amer. Biog. i. 47–58; Moulton's New York, i. 110-125; Irving's Columbus, ii. 292-300; E. Everett, in N. A. Review, xlvi. 161--203.
sustain a conjecture ; the accounts of the mild winter and fertile soil are, on any modern hypothesis, fictitious or exaggerated; the description of the natives applies only to the Esquimaux, inhabitants of hyperborean regions; the remark which should define the length of the shortest winters day has received interpretations adapted to every latitude from New York to Cape Farewell ; and Vinland has been sought in all directions, from Greenland and the St. Lawrence to Africa.(1) The nation of intrepid mariners, whose voyages extended beyond Iceland and beyond Sicily, could easily have sailed from Greenland to Labrador; no clear historic evidence establishes the natural probability that they accomplished the passage.
Imagination had conceived the idea, that vast inhabited regions lay unexplored in the west, and poets had declared that empires beyond the ocean would one day be revealed
to the daring navigator.(2) But Columbus deserves the 1992. undivided glory of having realised that belief. During his lifetime he met with no adequate recompense. The self-love of the Spanish monarch was offended at receiving from a foreigner in his employ benefits too vast for requital; and the contemporaries of the great navigator persecuted the merit which they could not adequately reward. Nor had posterity been mindful to gather into a finished picture the memorials of his career, till the genius of Irving, with candour, liberality, and original research, made a record of his eventful life, and in mild but enduring colours sketched his sombre inflexibility of purpose, his deep religious enthusiasm, and the disinterested magnanimity of his character.
Columbus was a native of Genoa. The commerce of the middle ages, conducted chiefly upon the Mediterranean Sea, had enriched the Italian republics, and had been chiefly engrossed by their citizens. The path for enterprise now lay across the ocean. The states which bordered upon the Atlantic, Spain, Portugal, and England, became competitors for the possession of the New World, and the control of the traffic which its discovery was to call into being; but the nation which, by long and successful experience, had become deservedly celebrated for its skill in navigation, continued for a season to furnish the most able maritime commanders. Italians had the glory of making
(1) Antiq. Americanæ, 289, 291, 296. (2) Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella, ii. 117. Pulci, c. xxv, st. 229-232.
the discoveries, from which Italy derived no accessions of wealth or power. In the new career of western adventure, the American
continent was first discovered under the auspices of 1497. the English, and the coast of the United States by a native (1) of England. In the history of maritime enterprise in the New World, the achievements of John and Sebastian Cabot are, in boldness, success, and results, second only to those of Columbus. The wars of the houses of York and Lancaster had ceased ; tranquillity and thrifty industry had been restored by the prudent severity of Henry VII. ; the spirit of commercial activity
began to be successfully fostered; and the marts of 1490. England were thronged with Lombard adventurers. The fisheries of the north had long tempted the merchants of Bristol to an intercourse with Iceland ; (2) and the nautical skill necessary to buffet the storms of the Atlantic, had been acquired in this branch of northern commerce. Nor is it impossible that some uncertain traditions respecting the remote discoveries which Icelanders had made in Greenland towards the north-west, “where the lands (3) did nearest meet,” should have excited “firm and pregnant conjectures.” The magnificent achievement of Columbus, revealing the wonderful truth, of which the germs may have existed in the imagination of every thoughtful mariner, won the admiration which was due to an enterprise that seemed more divine than human, and kindled in the breasts of the emulous a vehement desire to gain as signal (4) renown in the same career of daring; while the politic king of England desired to share in the large returns which were promised by maritime adventure. It was, therefore, not difficult for John Cabot, a Venetian merchant residing at Bristol, to engage Henry VII. in plans for discovery. He obtained from that monarch a patent,(5) empowering himself and his three sons, or either of them, their heirs, or their deputies, to sail into
(1) History of the Travayles in the East and West Indies, by R. Eden and R. Willes, 1577, fol. 267, “Sebastian Cabot tolde me, that he was borne in Brystow," &c.
(2) Selden, Mare Clausum, b. ii. c. 32. (3) Bacon's Hist. of Henry VII.
(4) Conversation respecting Seb. Cabot, reported in Ramusio, Discorso sopra li Viaggi delle Spetierie, i. fol. 402, ed. 1554. Hak. iii. 28. Hakluyt's reference to Ramusio is wrong. The passage from Ramusio is also in Eden's Travayles, ed. 1577, fol. 267.-De Thou, Hist. 1. xliv.
(5) See the patent in Hakluyt, iii. 25, 26; Chalmers's Polit. Annals, 7, 8; Hazard's Hist. Coll. i. 9.
the eastern, western, or northern sea, with a fleet of five ships, at their own proper expense and charges, to search for islands, countries, provinces, or regions, hitherto unseen by Christian people ; to affix the banners of England on any city, island, or continent, that they might find ; and, as vassals of the English crown, to possess and occupy the territories that might be discovered. It was further stipulated in this “most ancient American state paper of England,” (1) that the patentees should be strictly bound in their voyages to land at the port of Bristol, and to pay to the king one-fifth part of the emoluments of the navigation ; while the exclusive right of frequenting all the countries that might be found was reserved, unconditionally and without limit of time, to the family of the Cabots and their assigns. Under this patent, containing the worst features of colonial monopoly and commercial restriction, John Cabot (2) and his celebrated son Sebastian embarked for the west. Of what tempests they encountered, what mutinies they calmed, no record has been preserved. The discovery of the American continent,(3) probably in the
latitude of 56 degrees, far, therefore, to the north 1497. of the Straits of Belle Isle, among the Polar bears, the rude savages, and the dismal cliffs of Labrador, was the fruit of the voyage.
It has been attempted to deprive the father of the glory of having led the expedition. The surest documentary evidence confirms his claims. He and his son Sebastian first approached the continent, which no European had dared to visit, or had known to exist. The navigators hastened homewards to announce their success. Thus the discovery of our continent was an exploit of private mercantile adventure ; and the possession of the new-found “ land and isles” was a right vested by an exclusive patent in the family of a Bristol merchant. Yet the Cabots derived little benefit from the expedition, which their genius had suggested, and of which they alone had defrayed the expense. Posterity hardly remembered, that they had reached the American continent nearly fourteen
(1) Chalmers, 7.
(2) Second patent to John Cabot, of Feb. 3, 1498, first printed in R. Biddle's Memoir of Sebastian Cabot, 75. The extract from the map of Sebastian Cabot is equally explicit. Hakluyt, iii. 27.
(3) Extract from Cabot's map, in Hakluyt, i. 27. Ramusio sopra li viaggi, &c. i. fol. 402. The map of Ortelius, in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, gives the island St. John in latitude 56 degrees. The work of Ortelius, in the editions of 1584 and of 1592, is at Cambridge.