Obrázky stránek






1861. This government, founded on the recognition of the civil and religious rights of man, may be regarded as an experiment now in process of trial. It is natural that under such a government the people should make progress in religion, in literature, in science, and in those mechanical arts and inventions that promote the comfort and advancement of mankind.

Let us take a rapid glance at the progress made by this youthful nation in the short life of seventy years. Since the first census, (1790,) the number of inhabitants 1789 has increased eightfold, now amounting to more than thirty-one millions. In the same period foreign commerce has increased in value from twenty to four hundred mill

1861. ions of dollars, while the internal trade has reached six hundred millions. In connection with this has been a steady increase in the facilities for communication and transport, first by means of steamboats, which now abound 1809. upon our rivers and great lakes ; by means of canals con- 1827. necting the lakes with the Atlantic and with the Ohio, and railroads extending to all parts of the land, and which have increased to an aggregate length of more than forty-eight 1861. thousand miles, in operation or in process of construction.

A steady progress has also been made in agriculture, in which a greater number is engaged than in any other employment, as farmers in the Northern, and planters in the Southern States. As an agricultural product, Indian corn stands first in value—three hundred and thirty millions of dollars; wheat, one hundred and twenty-five ; cotton, one 1860. hundred and twenty ; and hay, one hundred and fifteen millions, and so on through the list of crops.

The inventive genius of the people has been active in securing the powers of nature in adding to the comforts of human life. In implements for cultivating the soil there have been innumerable improvements, from the


CHAP. simple hoe to the steam-plough, and from the primitive

sickle to the reaping-machine. As striking have been the improvements in the steam engine, in ship building, in printing presses ; by means of one invented by Richard M. Hoe, many thousand impressions can be taken in an hour.

Prof. Samuel F. B. Morse, a native of Massachusetts,

then a resident of New York city, in whose university his 1844. experiments were first made, gave to the world the Elec

tric Telegraph. It is vain to conjecture the benefit that will accrue to the human family from this invention ; may it be a harbinger of peace—a link to unite the nations in one common union.

We have seen the character of the first settlers of this land ; their intelligence, their zeal in founding institutions

imbued with the spirit of civil and religious liberty. The 1819. time came to welcome another immigration. In 1819

Congress first directed the collectors of ports to take cognizance of the foreigners who arrived in the country, and

make returns of the same to the Secretary of State. That 1854. immigration, subject to great fluctuations, in one year

amounted to three hundred and seventy-two thousand. Of these the majority had no higher skill than to engage in the simplest forms of manual labor. They aided immensely in the development of the country. Without their toil our canals would never have been dug nor our railroads built, nor the improvements in our towns and cities. They have received the recompense of their daily labor, yet as a nation we acknowledge to them our obligations.

The cheap lands of the Great West offered inducements to the enterprising in the older States to emigrate, and while they levelled the forests and brought the wilderness under cultivation, the industry of the older States was stimulated, and by means of manufactures and com. merce they supplied their wants. Thus could be seen a




vast array of peaceful warriors, their front extending from CHAP. south to north, nearly a thousand miles, marching west, and subduing the fertile valleys by the axe and ploughshare ; advance parties have taken position on the shores · of the Pacific, while a line of posts keep up communication with the main force.

The youth of the land have not been forgotten. Pub- 1647. lic schools, having their origin in Massachusetts, have become the heritage of nearly all the States. At convenient points, Congress has set apart of the public lands, nearly fifty millions of acres, for the special support of the common schools in the new States and territories. The older States, in the mean time, have been making laudable exertions to increase their school funds. The number of pupils in academies, and in the common and private schools, is more than three millions and a half; and in colleges, theological seminaries, medical and law schools, the students number nearly twenty thousand.

In no respect has the mental energy of the nation manifested itself so much as in the encouragement given to the public press. The common schools taught the youth to read ; the innate desire of acquiring knowledge was fostered, and the fascinating newspaper, as it statedly enters the domestic circle, reflects the world and records the progress of the age. Here we meet with the speculations of wisdom and science, the effusions of sentiment, the sallies of wit." By this means the most retired can be brought into sympathy with the world, whether in in its wars and desolations, or in its glorious yearnings after excellence, peace, and happiness.

At the commencement of the Revolution there were but thirty-five newspapers, and they of a very limited circulation ; now there are over four thousand. The 1860. important questions of the time are discussed in their columns, and upon these questions the nation acts, and thence they pass into history. If the issues of the press

CHAP. are kept pure, the blessing in all its greatness far trans

cends mortal ken. Public opinion has been termed a tyrant; but it is a tyrant, that, if vicious, can be made virtuous; can be reformed, if not, dethroned. Let the virtue and the intelligence of the nation see to it that it is a righteous tyrant, and submission to its iron rule becomes a blessing

In intimate connection with this intellectual progress is the increase of public libraries. These are as diversified as the wants of the people. There is the village or Sunday school library, with its few hundred volumes ; the social or circulating libraries, containing much of the current literature of the day. An important feature was introduced at the formation of the public library in New York city, bearing the name of its founder, John Jacob Astor, and since increased by his son. It is designed to furnish standard works on the varied subjects of useful human knowledge—an armory for the practical student, through whom the influence is to reach those who cannot personally avail themselves of its treasures.

In art we have those who have exhibited evidence of genius that may yet give the nation a name honored among those eminent in painting and sculpture. Her sons have not been surrounded by models from great masters to awaken in early life the slumbering genius, nor have they been encouraged by a traditionary reverence among the people for such manifestations of talent. It has been in the face of these disadvantages that they have reached their present high position, not by passing through a training, laborious and preparatory, but almost at a bound.

A nation may glory in her great men, but it is the great body of the people we rejoice to see associating themselves for purposes of doing good or for self-improvement. Such an association is the Temperance movement, which has had an immense influence for good upon the




nation. The moral phase of the subject has taken deep CHAP. hold of the minds and conscience of the people, and in the end the cause must prevail

. There is also no more cheering signs of the times, than the people themselves becoming more and more acquainted with their civil rights and duties, and in their demanding virtue and political integrity in those who serve them in a public capacity, and when there is a dereliction of duty, their appealing promptly to the ballot bos.

Governments had hitherto interfered more or less with the liberty of conscience; they assumed that in some way they were responsible for the salvation of the souls of their subjects. Free inquiry and a knowledge of the truths of the Bible, and the separation of church and state, shifted that responsibility to the individual himself, and it also became his recognized duty to support schools of learning and sustain religious institutions. This change in the minds of the people commenced in the Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards. To this principle of individual responsibility may be traced the voluntary support, and the existence of the various benevolent operations of the day, in which all the religious denominations participate. These in their efforts are not limited to the destitute portions of our own country, but in foreign lands also may be found the devoted teacher of Christianity and its humanizing civilization, supported and encouraged by the enlightened benevolence of his own countrymen. The same principle produces fruits in founding asylums for the purpose of relieving human suffering and distress, or smoothing the pathway of the unfortunate. The men of wealth more fully appreciate their responsibility, and the mental energy exercised in its accumulation, has been consecrated to doing good. Millions have thus been bequeathed to aid or to found institutions of learning, that the youth may be secured to virtue and intelligence-a

« PředchozíPokračovat »