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HOW THE UNITED STATES HAS BECOME
A GREAT NATION
interesting to the people of our country as now. The results of the war with Spain made us wards of savages unknown to Americans, and law makers for Asiatic races whose customs and characteristics are totally unlike our own. To
generation it may appear that acquisition of territory by this republic is a new departure; by no means is this true. Whether the immortal instruments on which our government is founded give the right to annex territory as this last addition was annexed, let the reader judge as soon as he knows when and how other Presidents of the United States have enlarged our boundaries. Before giving this history of how America has grown in extent from the thirteen original colonies, let us consider that the judgment of the American people has been passed. By their votes last November they declared the acquisition of territory, as the victorious party in a just war, was legal and right and it might be farther stated that every American resident in the far East rejoices that this country has become a permanent occupant of Asiatic territory.
Expansion is by no means a new question in America. In fact, in one form and another it has been considered by the voters of every generation and generally favorably. But at present it takes a new form because the expansion is no longer to take in simply adjacent territory, but reaches across the seas into other lands. It also opens up the vital question of how these newlyacquired islands are to be governed; whether as territories, which are sometimes to be states, with equal representation with the present states; or, as colonies having a local self-government carried on under certain officers, such as Governors, representing and appointed by the central government at Washington.
No matter what is said by politicians, the people of this country mean well and intend to do right, whether of one party or another; and we may be certain that in any event no harm shall in the end come to this country, which we all love, although we are fond of pretending that only about half of us do while the other half is supposed to be actively devising means to destroy it.
The story of expansion is interesting and will prove instructive to those who have never given it any consideration. It will be remembered that at the time of the discovery and settlement of America, Spain was the first power in the world, and her navies ruled the seas. Besides being the greatest naval power, she had the greatest wealth and resources of any of the civilized nations, and her commerce spread out through the then known civilized world into the distant lands occupied by the barbarians.
It was through this leadership in commerce that her great fleets were sent into far-off seas in the way of trade, and
the opening of the American continent, Spanish trading posts, forts and cities appeared on every hand. Gradually that nation was followed by others in the race of conquest, and the division of America, under what are now called zones of influence in trade, were well defined in the North American continent. The whole of South America was given over to the Spanish dominion, which stretched across the isthmus up through the present country called Mexico, and reaching up from the mouth of the Mississippi for its full length, was traced nearly to Hudson Bay on the north. Besides the mouth of the Mississippi, she controlled the whole shore of the Gulf, comprising what is now the lower part of Alabama, and the whole of the state of Florida. Although the Spanish had touched the Pacific ocean, their progress had not been as rapid on that side; and from a point about where San Francisco now is a line stretched in a circular way up toward the northern point of their dominions on the eastern side. Every thing above this, comprising the Oregon territory as it was called, a large part of Canada and Alaska was then unexplored land.
By the peace of 1763, France had relinquished her claim to Canada, and the English held the whole of North America east of the Mississippi River with the exception of Florida as we have above written.
A few years after, the Revolutionary War broke out which was finally settled by the evacuation of the thirteen colonies by the British and the signing of the treaty of peace in Paris Sept. 3, 1783, which was negotiated on our part by Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Quincy Adams. The independent United States under this treaty extended from the Atlantic coast to the
Mississippi River; Florida, was given back by Great Britain to Spain, and Spain continued to hold the country west of the Mississippi, which naturally was but poorly defined, and went under the general name of the Louisiana Territory.
The early congresses and all the traditions of the united colonies which had become this independent country were against any idea of expanding the domains of the United States any further in any direction; but it must always be remembered in considering this great question that the circumstances were then so different and the country was so small and poor in population that the conditions under which the Constitution and earlier laws were enacted can hardly be duplicated at the present time. The remarkable progress in mechanical engineering, means of transportation, ways of communication, and modern conditions have so changed the whole aspect of affairs that we can scarcely place ourselves in mental touch with the condition of the people of that day and generation. Taking a letter as an ordinary example, and the transportation of the mail represents progress in all other lines of communication, at the time of the treaty of peace in 1783 it took a letter as long to go from Boston to Philadelphia, which was the seat of government, as it would now require across the Atlantic Ocean. A letter sent from Portland, Maine, at that time, to any of the settlements in Georgia, which was then the extreme South, would have taken as long to reach its destination as it would now take to circle the entire globe. It was fully as many days between Boston and New York by ordinary travel, as it is now hours by railroad. This does not take into consideration the electric telegraph and cables, which have brought the distant nations within hourly communication and closer connection than then existed between the most neighboring cities in this country.
The next twenty years saw great revolutions in the world, and especially among the European governments where war and conquest and revolution followed each other with startling rapidity. This brought about a period of depression in Spain, and taking advantage of the same her harassed colonies in various parts of South America set themselves up, one after another, as independent republics. While this period of depression was coming on, Napoleon was in the height of his power. Almost involved in war with him, Spain began to look about for a customer for her colony in North America. Bv a treaty with Napoleon in 1801, this vast tract was given to France, as Bonaparte then had the intention of placing a great colony there to prevent the growth of the United States to the westward, and control the Mississippi river, whose magnificent possibilities were evident to
him. But two years later, seeing that he was about to have a war with Great Britain, and knowing that the supremacy of the British fleet could easily isolate any force which he might have in his possession and keep away all relief, he was brought to open negotiations with President Jefferson with a view to selling this tract of land to America.
Nothing can be more ironical than the fact that the present democratic party is pledged against expansion, and deprecates anything of the kind, while at the same time claiming Thomas Jefferson as the father of that party. Jefferson was one of the first great American statesmen, and a most remarkable man. He was an accomplished scholar, reading several languages with ease, and deeply versed in science and philosophy. He was, like all Virginians, a great enthusiast in out-of-door sports, and was very punctual in all his habits, with an honest dislike for ceremony or parade. He was a foremost leader in social and legislative reforms, devised our decimal currency, wrote the Declaration of Independence, and founded many of the doctrines which today are the foundations of the republic, and which are acknowledged by both parties as the corner stones of the edifice.
No person, with the possible exception of Washington, in all the political history of America was in his day so great a subject of vituperation and abuse as Jefferson. He was thoroughly misunderstood by a large portion of the citizens, and was represented as a rank atheist and political adventurer.
Mr. Blaine, in his marvelous work, says: "It seems scarcely credible that the acquisition of Louisiana by Jefferson was denounced with a bitterness surpassing the partisan rancor with which later generations have been familiar. No abuse was too malignant, no epithet too coarse, no imprecation too savage to be implied by the assailants of the great philosophic statesman who laid so broad and deep the foundations of his country's growth and culture.”
Fortunately for the United States, the patriotic and far-seeing Jefferson was energetic in acquiring the title to this valuable domain, and equally energetic about sustaining our rights after its purchase in 1803, for the small sum of $15,000,000, a cost so small that the total sum expended for the entire territory does not equal the revenue which has been obtained from its soil in a single month. The country thus acquired forms today the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota west of the Mississippi, Colorado north of the Arkansas, Indian Territory, Dakota. Wyoming and Montana.
Under this treaty Texas was included in the transfer, but the Oregon country was not.
The next expansion of the United States occurred in 1819, when after constant trouble in regard to the boundaries of Louisiana and the great dissatisfaction caused in Spain by Bonaparte ceding Louisiana to the United States, trouble broke out which caused General Jackson, afterwards the president of this country, to march across the line and capture Pensacola. This invasion caused so much trouble that a treaty was negotiated in 1819 by which the whole of Florida was ceded to Spain, Texas was receded to Spain also, while other portions of the treaty definitely stated the exact boundaries of the northern portion of the Spanish colonies.
The country did not again expand until in 1845. After the war of revolution in Texas against Mexico, and having gained her independence, the whole state was annexed by Act of Congress to the United States which, with other differences, brought on hostilities and finally war was declared with Mexico which led to our invasion of that country during the administration of President Polk, with many American victories and the subjugation of that country. By the Mexican war was added to the United States an enormous territory equal in area to Germany, France and Spain added together, that which includes the whole of California and the adjacent states.
In the meantime, all the country over which the American dominion had been extended was gradually, and at times rapidly, growing in population and wealth. Treaties between the United States and Great Britain, definitely fixing the northeastern and northern boundaries of the United States, gave to America in 1846 what was then known as the Oregon country, and which now comprises the states of Oregon and Washington.
In 1853, a strip of territory was ceded by Mexico for a monetary equivalent, and is known as the Gadsden Purchase. This was to definitely locate the northern boundary of Mexico and to terminate the disputed possession of a strip of neutral ground lying between Mexico and the cession of 1848.
The expansion of our territory led to many acrimonious debates in Congress relative to slavery within the new possessions, which finally culminated in the War of the Rebellion in 1861. In 1867, when U. S. Grant was President, Wm. H. Seward, then Secretary of State, completed the purchase of Alaska from the empire of Russia, and in October of that year the vast territory, valuable for furs, fisheries, timber and metals, was bought for the sum of $7,000,000 against the protests of all those who were opposed to Gen. Grant. Without speaking further of the value of Alaska, it is only right to call attention to the fact that the present amount of gold that is brought out from this territory is