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a continent should be encouraged in that work, and could not and ought not to be expected to toil only for the profit or glory of others. When the first Continental Congress assembled, the British Government, like every other government of Europe at that time, simply did not know how to look upon the general question of the progress of the colonies save from the standpoint of the people who had stayed at home. The spread of the hardy, venturesome backwoodsmen was to most of the statesmen of London a matter of anxiety rather than of pride, and the famous Quebec Act of 1774 was in part designed with the purpose of keeping the English-speaking settlements permanently east of the Alleghanies, and preserving the mighty and beautiful valley of the Ohio as a hunting-ground for savages, a preserve for the great fur-trading companies; and as late as 1812 this project was partially revived.
More extraordinary still, even after independence was achieved, and a firm Union accomplished under that wonderful document, the Constitution adopted in 1789, we still see traces of the same feeling lingering here and there in our own country. There were plenty of men in the seaboard States who looked with what seems to us ludicrous apprehension at the steady westward growth of our people. Grave Senators and Representatives expressed dire foreboding as to the ruin which would result from admitting the communities growing up along the Ohio to a full equality with the older States; and when Louisiana was given Statehood, they insisted that that very fact dissolved the Union. When our people had begun to settle in the Mississippi Valley, Jefferson himself accepted with equanimity the view that probably it would not be possible to keep regions so infinitely remote as the Mississippi and the Atlantic Coast in the same Union. Later even such a stanch Union man and firm believer in Western growth as fearless old Tom Benton of Missouri thought that it would be folly to try to extend the national limits westward of the Rocky Mountains. In 1830 our then best-known man of letters and historian, Washington Irving, prophesied that for ages to come the country upon which we now stand would be inhabited simply by roving tribes of nomads.
The mental attitude of all these good people need not surprise anybody. There was nothing in the past by which to judge either the task before this country, or the way in which that task was to be done. As Lowell finely said, on this continent we have made new States as Old World men pitch tents. Even the most far-seeing statesmen, those most gifted with the imagination needed by really great statesmen, could not at first grasp what the process really meant. Slowly and with incredible labor the backwoodsmen of the old colonies hewed their way through the dense forests from the tide-water region to the crests of the Alleghanies. But by the time the Alleghanies were reached, about at the moment when our national life began, the movement had gained wonderful momentum. Thenceforward it advanced by leaps and bounds, and the frontier pushed westward across the continent with everincreasing rapidity until the day came when it vanished entirely. Our greatest statesmen have always been those who believed in the nation—who had faith in the power of our people to spread until they should become the mightiest among the peoples of the world.
Under any governmental system which was known to Europe, the problem offered by the westward thrust, across a continent, of so masterful and liberty-loving a race as ours would have been insoluble. The great civilized and colonizing races of antiquity, the Greeks and the Romans, had been utterly unable to devise a scheme under which when their race spread it might be possible to preserve both national unity and local and individual freedom. When a Hellenic or Latin city sent off a colony, one of two things happened. Either the colony was kept in political subjection to the city or state of which it was an offshoot, or else it became a wholly independent and alien, and often a hostile, nation. Both systems were fraught with disaster. With the Greeks race unity was sacrificed to local independence, and as a result the Greek world became the easy prey of foreign conquerors. The Romans kept national unity, but only by means of a crushing centralized despotism.
When the modern world entered upon the marvelous era of expansion which began with the discoveries of Columbus, the nations were able to devise no new plan. All the great colonizing powers, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and Russia, managed their colonies primarily in the interest of the home country. Some did better than others,—England probably best and Spain worst,but in no case were the colonists treated as citizens of equal rights in a common country. Our ancestors, who were at once the strongest and the most liberty-loving among all the peoples who had been thrust out into new continents, were the first to revolt against this system; and the lesson taught by their success has been thoroughly learned.
In applying the new principles to our conditions we have found the Federal Constitution a nearly perfect instrument. The system of a closely knit and indestructible union of free commonwealths has enabled us to do what neither Greek nor Roman in their greatest days could do. We have preserved the complete unity of an expanding race without impairing in the slightest degree the liberty of the individ
ual. When in a given locality the settlers became sufficiently numerous, they were admitted to Statehood, and thenceforward shared all the rights and all the duties of the citizens of the older States. As with Columbus and the egg, the expedient seems obvious enough nowadays, but then it was so novel that a couple of generations had to pass before we ourselves thoroughly grasped all its features. At last we grew to accept as axiomatic the two facts of national union and local and personal freedom. As whatever is axiomatic seems commonplace, we now tend to accept what has been accomplished as a mere matter-of-course incident, of no great moment. The very completeness with which the vitally important task has been done almost blinds us to the extraordinary nature of the achievement.
You, the men of Colorado, and, above all, the older among those whom I am now addressing, have been engaged in doing the great typical work of our people. Save only the preservation of the Union itself, no other task has been so important as the conquest and settlement of the West. This conquest and settlement has been the stupendous feat of our race for the century that has just closed. It stands supreme among all such feats. The same kind of thing has been in Australia and Canada, but upon a less important scale, while the Russian advance in Siberia has been incomparably slower. In all the