Page images

realizing the wildest visions. Hundreds in every walk of life began to resort to America, and especially ardent young men, who were dissatisfied with the political condition of Europe. Among these was your late venerable president, Albert Gallatin, one of the most eminent men of the last generation, who came to this country before he attained his majority; and the late celebrated Sir Isambert Brunel, the architect of the Thames Tunnel. He informed me that he became a citizen of the State of New York before the adoption of the federal constitution, and that he made some surveys to ascertain the practicability of the great work which afterwards united the waters of Lake Erie with the waters of the Atlantic, and gave immortality to the name of your Clinton.

Before the Revolution, the great West was shut even to the subjects of England. A royal proclamation of 1763 forbade the extension of the settlements in North America beyond the Ohio. But without such a prohibition, the still unbroken power of the Indian tribes would have prevented any such extension. The successful result of the Revolution. ary war did not materially alter the state of things in this respect. The native tribes were still formidable, and the British posts in the North-western Territory were retained. So little confidence was placed in the value of a title to land, even within the limits of the State of New York, that the enterprising citizens of Massachusetts, Messrs. Gorham and Phelps, who bought six millions of acres of land on the Genesee River, shortly after the peace, for a few cents the acre, were obliged to abandon the greater part of the purchase from the difficulty of finding under-purchasers enough to enable them to meet the first instalments.

On one occasion, when Judge Gorham was musing in a state of mental depression on the failure of this magnificent speculation, he was visited by a friend and townsman, who had returned from a journey to Canandaigua, then just laid out. This friend tried to cheer the Judge with a bright vision of the future growth of Western New York. Kindling with his theme, he pointed to a son of Judge Gorham, who was

in the room, and added, “ You and I shall not live to see the day, but that lad, if he reaches threescore years and ten, will see a daily stage-coach running as far west as Canandaigua!" That lad is still living. What he has seen in the shape of travel and conveyance in the State of New York, it is not necessary before this audience to say.

It was the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, in 1789, which gave stability to the Union, and confidence to the people. This was the Promethean fire, which kindled the body politic into vital action. It created a national force. The Indians on the south-west were pacified. On the north-western frontier the troops of the general government were at first defeated; but after the victory of Wayne, and the peace of Greeneville, in 1795, the British posts were surrendered, and the tide of emigration began to pour in.' It was rather, however, from the older States than from foreign countries. The extensive region north-west of the Ohio had already received its political organization as a territory of the United States by the ever memorable Ordinance of 1787.

While Providence was thus opening on this continent the broadest region that ever was made accessible to human progress, want, or adventure, it happened that the kingdoms of Europe were shaken by the terrible convulsions incident to the French Revolution. France herself first, and afterwards the States overrun by her revolutionary armies, poured forth their children into foreign countries and the United States, by thousands. I believe there are no official returns of the number of immigrants to the United States at the time, but it was very large. Among them was M. de Talleyrand, the celebrated minister of every government in France, from that of the Directory, in 1797, to that of King Louis Philippe, in whose reign he died. I saw at Peale’s Museum, in Philadelphia, the original oath of allegiance, subscribed by him in

* The late Hon. Benjamin Gorham, of Boston, who died in the course of the last year, - 1855.

1794.* Louis Philippe himself immigrated to this country, where he passed three years, and is well remembered by many persons still living. He habitually spoke with gratitude of the kindness which he experienced in every part of the Union.

As yet, no acquisition of territory had been made by the United States beyond the limits of the British colonies; but in 1803 a most important step was taken in the purchase of Louisiana, by which our possessions were extended, though with an unsettled boundary both on the south and the north, to the Pacific Ocean. The war in 1812 reduced the Indian tribes in the North-western States; and the campaigns of General Jackson a few years later produced the same effect on the southern frontier. Florida was acquired by treaty from Spain in 1819; and the Indians in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, were removed to the west of the river Mississippi ten or twelve years later. Black Hawk's war in Wisconsin took place in 1833, and a series of Indian treaties, both before and after that event, extinguished the Indian title to all the land east of the Mississippi, and to considerable tracts west of that river. Texas was annexed to the Union in 1845, and in 1818 New Mexico and California came into our possession.

I have, as you perceive, run rapidly over these dates, compressing into one paragraph the starting-points in the history of future commonwealths, simply in their bearing on the sub

* Since this lecture was delivered, I have been favored with a copy of this paper by Edward D. Ingraham, Esq., of Philadelphia. It is in the following words:

“I, Charles Maurice Talleyrand Perigord, formerly Administrator of the Department of Paris, son of Joseph Daniel de Talleyrand Perigord, a General of the armies of France, born at Paris and arrived at Philadelphia from London, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to the United States of America, and that I will not at any time wilfully and knowingly do any matter or thing prejudicial to the freedom and independence thereof.

“ Co. MAU. DE TALLEYRAND PERIGORD. “Sworn the 19th May, 1794, Before Matth. CLARKSON, Mayor.

ject of immigration. These acquisitions, not inferior in extent to all that there was solid in the Roman conquests, have resulted in our possession of a zone of territory of the width of twenty degrees of latitude, stretching from ocean to ocean, and nearly equal in extent to the whole of Europe." It is all subject to the power of the United States; a portion of it has attained the civilization of the Old World, while other portions shade off through all degrees of culture, to the log-house of the frontier settler, the cabin of the trapper, and the wigwam of the savage. Within this vast domain there are millions of acres of fertile land, to be purchased at moderate prices, according to its position and its state of improvement, and there are hundreds of millions of acres in a state of nature, and gradually selling at the government price of a dollar and a quarter per acre.

It is this which most strikes the European imagination. The Old World is nearly all appropriated by individuals. There are public domains in most foreign countries, but of comparatively small amount, and mostly forests. With this exception, every acre of land in Europe is private property, and in such countries as England, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Italy, what little changes hands is sold only at a high price. I presume the number of landholders in England is far less than in the State of New York. In the course of the French Revolution the land has been greatly divided and subdivided in France and in Germany, and is now held in small farms; but owing to the limited quantity of purchasable land, these farms, when sold, are sold only at high prices. Generally speaking, the mass of the inhabitants of Europe regard the ability to hold and occupy a considerable landed property as the summit of human fortune. The suggestion that there is a country beyond the ocean, where fertile land is to be purchased, in any quantity, at a dollar and a quarter per acre, and that dollar and a quarter to be earned in many parts of the country by the labor of a single day, strikes them

* Square miles in the United States, 3,260,073 ; in Europe, 3,700,971. American Almanac for 1853, pp. 315 and 316,

as the tales of Aladdin's lamp or Ali Baba's cave would strike us, if we thought they were true. They forget the costs and sacrifices of leaving home, the ocean to be traversed, the weary pilgrimage in the land of strangers after their arrival. They see nothing with the mind's eye but the land of promise;" they reflect upon nothing but the fact, that there is a region on the earth's surface where a few days' unskilled labor will purchase the fee-simple of an ample farm.

Such an attraction would be irresistible under any circumstances to the population of an old country, where, as I have just said, the land is all appropriated, and to be purchased, in any considerable quantity, only at prices which put its acquisition beyond the thought of the masses. But this is but half the tale. It must not be forgotten that in this ancient and venerable Europe, whose civilization is the growth of two thousand years, where some of the luxurious refinements of life are carried to a perfection of which we have scarcely an idea in this country, a considerable part of the population, even in the most prosperous regions, pass their lives in a state but one remove from starvation, — poorly fed, poorly clothed, poorly housed, without education, without political privileges, without moral culture. The average wages of the agricultural laborer in England were estimated a year ago at. 9s. 6d. sterling - about $2.37} — per week. The condition of the working population on the continent of Europe is in no degree better, if as good. They eat but little animal food either in England or on the continent. We form romantic notions at a distance of countries that abound in wine and oil; but in the best governed States of Italy, in Tuscany, for instance, - the peasantry, though they pass their lives in the vineyard and the olive-orchard, consume the fruit of neither. I have seen the Tuscan peasants, unable to bear the cost of the most ordinary wine from the vineyards in which their cottages are embowered, and which can be bought at retail for a cent a flask, pouring water over the grape-skins as they come from the press, and making that their beverage.

Even for persons in comparatively easy circumstances in

« PreviousContinue »