The Mississippi River.
OF all the natural features of the earth none are more beautiful, more beneficent, more necessary, more important, than its navigable rivers. They are cheap, ready-made highways. They shorten the distance between nations, and between different portions of the same nation. They are convenient and commodious channels of intercommunication and carriage. They are naturally the home and conduits of commerce. Though often used to designate the boundaries between States, they are yet more serviceable in connecting and in binding them together. Difference in religion, in language, and mountain ranges, are natural barriers between nations; but where there is a similarity of origin, language, and religion, while inaccessible mountain ranges may, yet navigable rivers scarcely ever do constitute political boundaries. Rivers are therefore ligaments to bind together, rather than channels to divide a homogeneous people.
Nature has selected the New World as the theatre of her grandest displays in the creation of water-courses.
The Mississippi and the Amazon are peerless as respects utility and size. And for an object will be more obvious before we conclude, it is proper to make more than a passing allusion to the Amazon, styled by way of eminence "the King of Rivers," as our own noble stream is called "the Father of Waters." It is a coincidence worthy of notice, that during the same year — 1851 — when the dauntless Taylor was pushing his way up the Nile, into the far-off regions of Central Africa, Herndon and Gibbon, by the direction and at the expense of our Government, were following the course of the Amazon from its humble fountains, only 60 miles from the Pacific, in the remote eastern slopes of the Andes, to the place where it pours its deep-volumed currents into the Atlantic.
By its tributaries, the Maderia and Purus, it penetrates Bolivia, by the Ucayali and Huallaya it enters Peru, by the Napo, Ecuador, and by the Rio Negro, Venezuela — thus connecting nearly all the South American Republics with the ocean. The main river carries a volume of water, as it runs through Brazil, which makes even the majestic Mississippi seem small in comparison. It is navigable for 3360 miles by the Ucayali — by the Huallaya for 2815 miles. At the distance of 2000 miles from its mouth, repeated and careful soundings show it to have a depth of from 42 to 83 feet, at 1300 miles from its mouth a depth of 138 feet. The average flow of the current will not exceed three miles per hour. Lying in the regions of the Equator, its navigation is never impeded by ice. It is the concurrent opinion of residents, explorers, and travelers that the countries through which it flows are not only not sickly, but remarkably healthy. It was discovered almost half a century before the Mississippi. It was known to the Pizarros and the exploration attempted by them as early as 1560 — a period shortly after the downfall of the Inca dynasty, and the plunder of the Inca temples by those renowned robbers. It was descended in 1539 — two years before the discovery of the Mississippi — by Orellana from near Quito to its mouth. And yet to-day, after the lapse of 300 years, it holds its course through the solitudes and wilderness of primeval nature. "If," says Baron Humboldt, "the name of a primeval forest can be given to any forest on the face of the earth, none perhaps can so strictly claim it as those that fill the connected basin of the Orinoco and the Amazon." Its banks are still tenanted by monkeys, tigers, lazy, craven, and worthless Indians. The enterprising spirit of the age has scarcely penetrated its deep and tangled forests. How sparsely populated the Amazonian region is, will appear by reference to the size of the main towns upon the river; thus, Egas, 1450 miles from the mouth, and the most important town above Barra, contains only 800 people. Barra itself contains only 3614 free inhabitants. Santarem, 600 miles from its mouth, and the largest
512town above Para, contains, slaves and all, less than 7000, and Para, though healthy and founded in 1616, and situated at its mouth, precisely as New Orleans is at the mouth of the Mississippi, contains a population of only 10,000 free inhabitants. Excluding savages, the population of the Amazonian region is only one for every ten square miles. These are indeed dry details; and yet details, though dry, are often essential to accuracy of ideas.
We now turn our thoughts to our country and to its great river. The connection between the Amazon and the Mississippi, though not obvious, has yet been demonstrated by scientific investigations to be remarkably intimate. A boat launched on the Amazon, and left to the course of the winds and currents of the ocean, would float close by Cape Hatteras; thus demonstrating that the commerce of the vast countries drained by the Amazon naturally belongs to the United States.
It is befitting our theme that a brief allusion be made to the history of the discovery of our great river. We will not dwell at great length upon those facts which are generally understood, or which may be found in our standard histories. It was first discovered in A. D. 1541, by the gallant and romantic De Soto. He had been a follower of Pizarro in his famous conquest of Peru. He had assisted in the capture of the last Inca, and shared in rich treasures with which that barbaric monarch vainly sought to effect his ransom. De Soto's ambition was fired. Like the conquerors of the Montezumas and the Incas, he wished for himself to carve out provinces with his own good sword, and to share in the treasures of overturned Indian dynasties. Attracted by his renown, large numbers nocked to the standard of De Soto, anxious to share the perils and the rewards of his enterprise. We will not follow the history of the ill-starred and ill-fated expedition. They wandered for several years in the vast regions, wholly unknown, extending between the everglades of Florida and the Red River. Of course they found no Mexico and no Peru. Harassed with disappointment, with hostile Indian tribes, with the mutiny and discontent of his followers, the brave old leader died on the banks, and was most fittingly buried beneath the waters of the noble river he was the first to discover. No attempt was made to explore the stream. It was used by Moscosa, the successor of De Soto, simply as an avenue to escape with the miserable remnant of De Soto's men. The discovery of De Soto was not immediately followed up. It yielded no fruit to Spain, of which he was a native, and under whose auspices his enterprise was undertaken.
The next discovery of the river was made from a different quarter, and was prompted by different motives. It derived no aid from, and was wholly independent of, De Soto's discovery; for it was not known until afterward that the rivers were one and the same. We allude to the explorations and discoveries of Marquette and Joliet. Marquette is entitled to the glory of discovering the Upper Mississippi. He was the first to explore the river from the mouth of the Wisconsin to the mouth of the Arkansas. As upon the results of this exploration the destiny of nations and states has been influenced, if not controlled, it is worthy of special notice. The present generation were not the pioneers of this beautiful region. On the contrary the oldest settlers now there simply came to live in the country, first unveiled to the gaze of the world by the dauntless heroism and disinterested religious zeal of James Marquette. He and his companion, Joliet, were undeniably the first white men who trod the soil of Iowa. Of Joliet, the associate of Marquette, we only know that he was a Canadian fur-trader. He is remembered only in connection with the great discovery which he assisted to make. He, and not Marquette, was the representative of the French Government of Canada, under whose auspices the voyage was undertaken. He is represented as a man of "prudence, tact, and courage." Marquette, though the originator and soul of the enterprise, accompanied Joliet in the humble and unpretending character of a missionary.
Marquette was born in France in 1637, and justice, no less than Christian charity, compels the acknowledgment that the history of the world has rarely, if ever, shown a zeal more disinterested, a heroism more lofty, a faith more lowly, yet more self-sacrificing and sublime suffering, and hardships more multiplied and great, than those which characterized the lives and labors of the early French Catholic Missionaries on this continent. Marquette's patron and exemplar was the renowned St. Francis Xavier. Like the great Apostle to the Indies, he therefore sought a foreign mission not to the court of some earthly king or monarch, but to savage, distant, and benighted tribes, in an almost unknown country, and amidst unexplored regions. He is ordered to the remote Lake Superior Missions. In the midst of his humble labors he hears, from parties of the Illinois Indians, of a large river, almost a league wide, running north and south, so far that the Illinois have never heard of its mouth, with great nations upon its banks.
His heart is fired with the magnificent accounts which he receives of the river, and he yearns to be the first to carry the Gospel to the wild people who live upon its shores. He repeatedly urged the discovery of the river upon the French Government of Canada. He fairly glowed with the belief that under God it was his mission to discover it.
It is now conceded that to Marquette belongs the honor of originating the purpose of discovering the great river. He spent nearly four years in collecting all possible information concerning its location and the character of the tribes who resided upon it. Imagine his joy and exultation, when for the first time he learned that he had been selected as the associate of Joliet to undertake its discovery! That joy was increased to rapture when lie observed the very
513day Joliet arrived was the feast of the Virgin Mary, "whom," says the pious Marquette, "I had always invoked to obtain of God the grace to be able to visit the nations on the River Mississippi." "I put the voyage," continues he, in his narrative, "under her protection, promising her, that if she did us the grace to discover the great river, I would give it the name of Conception." A promise which a fac-simile of his map, newly discovered (the original having been preserved at St. Mary's College at Montreal), shows that he faithfully kept.
Space forbids, interesting as the excursion would be, to follow step by step the progress of the voyage. The mere outline and meagre details which we give are taken wholly from Marquette's original narration — a most interesting book. He says: "We were not long in preparing our outfit, although we were embarking on a voyage the duration of which we could not foresee. Indian corn, with some dried meat, was our whole stock of provisions. With this we set out in two bark canoes. M. Joliet, myself, and five men firmly resolved to do all and suffer all for so glorious an enterprise." They started from Mackinaw on the 17th of May, 1673. "Our joy at being chosen for the expedition sweetened the labor of rowing from morning till night." They pass over part of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Green Bay. The friendly Indians then did their best to dissuade the undertaking, but in vain. "They told me," says Marquette, "that we would meet nations that never spare strangers, but tomahawk them without provocation; that they were at war with each other, which would increase our danger; that the great river itself was full of perils, of frightful monsters which swallowed up men and canoes; that it contained a demon that engulfed all who dare approach; and lastly, that the excessive heat would infallibly cause our death." Disheartened? No, not he! "I thanked them for their kind advice, but assured them that I could not follow it, as the salvation of souls was concerned, and that for them I should be but too happy to lay down my life."
Here again he imitated his great patron, St. Xavier, who upon one occasion was besought by his friends not to assume the peril of visiting a country where his life would almost surely be the forfeit of his temerity. "If those lands," indignantly exclaimed Xavier, in reply to their protestations and warnings, "had scented wood and mines of gold Christians would find courage to go there. Shall love for the souls of men be less hardy and less generous than avarice? They will destroy me, you say, by poison. It is an honor to which such a sinner as I may not aspire; but this I dare say, that whatever death or torture await me, I am ready to suffer it ten thousand times for the salvation of a single soul," From Green Bay our voyageurs sail down the Fox River of Wisconsin. They reach, on the 10th day of June, the narrow strip of land which divides it from the Wisconsin. On their backs the two light canoes are carried across the portage of twenty-seven hundred paces. After which the guides returned, "leaving us," says Marquette, "alone in an unknown country, in the hands of Providence. Invoking the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, and putting ourselves under her protection, we now leave," adds Marquette, "the waters which flow to Quebec to follow those which lead into strange lands." How natural the reflection! They enter the broad, sandy-bottomed, and shallow Wisconsin. They pass along its timbered banks and vine-clad islets. After a seven days journey they reached its mouth, and lo! there spreads out before them the long-sought river! With joy inexpressible the voyageurs entered the Mississippi, near the present city of Prairie Du Chien and opposite that of McGregor, in Iowa, on the 7th of June, 1673. They commenced at once to descend the Mississippi. Though they had journeyed on the great river for eight days and for more than two hundred miles they saw no human being or the signs of any. Yet they advanced cautiously. On each night they landed and made a low fire on the shore to prepare their meal; then for safety anchored their canoes in the middle of the stream, one of the party invariably standing as sentinel; and in the frail barks slept, till the coming of the morning light enabled them to resume the voyage. Thus they pursued their course until the 25th of June, when footprints of men were discovered by the water-side, and a path leading through a beautiful prairie. It was concluded to stop. The path was rightly conjectured to lead to an Indian village. Though fearless of life they did not necessarily ignore the precautions of worldly prudence. The five Frenchmen were left with orders to guard the boat and thereby keep open the means of retreat, if a retreat should be necessary. Besides, it was rightly reasoned that two men would not be so likely to excite the apprehensions and incur the hostility of Indians as a more numerous party.
Single and alone Marquette and Joliet resolved to pursue the path and to assume the peril of meeting a barbarous and unknown people.
Following the path some five or six miles they discovered three Indian villages, somewhat separated, on the banks of a river the name of which Marquette does not give. On his map he indicates the course of this river, and gives the names of two of these villages, viz., Pewarea and Monguena. The site of these towns can not with certainty be ascertained. The name favors the conjecture that the river was the River Des Moines, and it probably was. Imploring the help of God, and relying upon it, Marquette and Joliet advanced undiscovered so far that they even heard the Indians talking. In order to show them that they intended no surprise or harm they halted, and by a loud cry announced their presence. Strange meeting that first meeting on Iowa soil between the amazed Indian and his unknown visitors! Wild and strange the ceremonies which characterize
514it, and illuminate it with a wild and strange splendor!
They are received in warm welcomes and in peace. Their course becomes a splendid ovation. The savages depute four of their old men — for age receives, even among them, its appropriate respect — to meet and receive them.
Two of the deputies bear aloft the gayly adorned calumet of peace; all four advanced silently and slowly, with stately, barbaric dignity — Indian like.
As an earnest of peace they present their visitors with the mysterious pipe. They invite them to their city, and tender with sincerity and warmth its rude hospitality. Arriving at the village, all the people turned out to gaze at them with the same wondering curiosity with which the pale faces a few years since thronged around a princely visitor from distant Britain. Marquette briefly spoke of the object of his mission (for they used a dialect of the Algonquin tongue, with which he was familiar), of the one God, of the great French captain who had subdued the Iroquois, their ancient enemies. Speech-making on such occasions would not seem to be a civilized ceremony. The sachem of the tribe rising to reply, spoke as follows — a speech, which though never noticed as such, is one of the finest specimens of Indian eloquence: "I thank the Black-gown," for so, alluding to his garb, he styled Marquette, "and the Frenchman," addressing Joliet, "for taking so much pains to come and visit us; never has the earth been so beautiful, nor the sun so bright as now; never has the river been so calm, nor so free from rocks which your canoes have removed as they passed; never has our tobacco had so fine a flavor, nor our corn appeared so beautiful as we behold it to-day. Ask the Great Spirit, whom thou knowest to give us life and health, and come thou and dwell with us."
Following this a great feast was set before the strangers. In his glowing style, disdaining particulars, Bancroft describes it as a "magnificent festival prepared of hominy, and fish, and the choicest viands from the prairies." Let us consult the faithful and unexaggerated account of Marquette, and see the style and "bill of fare" of this magnificent festival, the first meal ever sat down to by white men upon the western side of the Upper Mississippi.
"This feast," says Marquette, "consisted of four courses, which we had to take with all their ways. The first course was a great wooden dish full of sagamity, that is to say, of Indian meal boiled in water and seasoned with grease. The master of ceremonies, with a spoonful of sagamity, presented it three or four times to my mouth, as we would do with a little child; he did the same to M. Joliet. For the second course he brought in another dish containing three fish; and moved the bones and having blown upon it to cool it, put it into my mouth as we would food to a bird. For a third course they produced a large dog (an Indian can give no higher mark of his friendship than thus to sacrifice his faithful companion), which they had just killed, but learning that we did not eat it, it was withdrawn. Finally, the fourth course was a piece of wild buffalo, the fattest portions of which were put into our mouths." After remaining here several days the explorers announced their departure. Their new-found friends endeavored to persuade them not to continue the dangerous journey, and would not consent to allow them to leave until they had extracted a promise from Marquette to come to them personally the next year to stay with them and instruct them. An escort of 600 Indians accompanied the explorers to their boats; they embarked, and, following the current, soon passed the boundaries of what is now the State of Iowa.
We can not follow them in their course till they pass the mouth of the Missouri, that of the Ohio, and that of the Arkansas. Nor can we stop to notice at length their laborious return by the same river up to the mouth of the Illinois, ascending which, as far as practicable, and then, by a short portage, reaching Chicago, where the unambitious Marquette remained to preach the Gospel to the natives, while Joliet hastened to Quebec with the news of their discoveries and success. Nor can we notice in detail the subsequent labors of Marquette, nor the circumstances of his death, and trace the parallel between it and the death of St. Xavier.
It occurred within two years after, and was caused by the exposures which he underwent in his great voyage. On his way to the Mission at Mackinaw he expired on the bleak shores of Lake Michigan, within the limits of that State (of which he may be said to be one of the founders), and died, as St. Xavier had died, on the Saucian shore, in the presence of two canoe-men; and with the names of Jesus and Mary upon his lips he commenced his voyage to the Land of Souls.
Do the departed look down upon us? We love to imagine that, as the voyageurs passed along the shores of the Great River, in the majestic solitude of nature, they listened, and listening, heard the busy tramp of the coming millions, and had visions of the commonwealths that have so marvelously arisen along the banks of the great river they were the first to explore! They founded no cities; they left no permanent physical monuments behind them! Yet a generous posterity will not willingly let their names perish. So long as the river flows it will water their memories and preserve them fresh and green!
It was by virtue of the discovery of Marquette that France acquired the ownership of the Mississippi Valley, and the territory was subsequently called after the King of France by the name of Louisiana. Soon after Marquette's voyage, and in consequence of it, Hennepin, an unveracious but enterprising man, explored the river from the mouth of the Illinois to the falls of the St. Anthony, first by white men and named by him; and in connection with the fearless, gifted, and noble La Salle, was the first (with
515the exception of De Soto's successor) to explore the river from the limits reached by Marquette to its entrance into the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana remained a French province till 1762, when it was ceded to Spain. It remained a Spanish province till the year 1800, when it was secretly retroceded to France.
Before the purchase of Louisiana by the United States the river, from its mouth northward several hundred miles, ran through the dominions of a foreign power; above this the river constituted the western boundary of the United States, as defined by the treaty of Independence with Great Britain. Although the West was at that time comparatively a wilderness, the navigation of the river came near involving us in two wars with Spain. The West was in a blaze at being denied their natural outlet. Steps were taken to raise an armed force, and war was imminent. Spain, as owner of the land on both sides of the river at its mouth, claimed under the law of nations the sole right to regulate or to forbid its navigation.
By the treaty made with Spain in 1795, to compose and settle our disputes, she conceded to us the right of the free navigation of the river; she also agreed "to permit citizens of the United States, for the space of three years, to deposit their merchandise and effects at the port of New Orleans, paying only fair storage," which permission the King of Spain agreed to continue longer if he saw fit; if he did not, then he was to "assign to the United States, another part of the banks of the Mississippi, an equivalent establishment."
Soon after the lapse of the three years, viz., about the year 1800, Spain violated the provisions of the treaty by refusing the right of deposit at New Orleans, without at the same time assigning, as by terms and a fair construction of the treaty she was bound to do, another place of deposit. She went further and prohibited our boats and vessels even to land, and interdicted all intercourse between our citizens and the inhabitants of the province. As our boats could not land, and as boats which were suitable for the transportation of produce down the river were unsuitable for navigation at sea, the mere right to pass up and down the river with boats was found to be an almost worthless and barren one. The right of deposit, preparatory to transhipment on sea-going vessels, proved to be as indispensable and necessary as the right of passage. The whole country was again in a blaze of excitement. The Senate authorized President Jefferson to call out and arm 80,000 militia. In the course of the debates which followed truths were uttered which are as pertinent now as they were then. Thus, Senator Wright, of Delaware, said:
"We can never have permanent peace on our Western waters till we possess ourselves of New Orleans, and such other positions as may be necessary to give us the complete and absolute command of the navigation of the Mississippi."
It will be seen that our situation at that time was precisely the same as it would be at this time if the South had succeeded in establishing a separate Confederacy. He further declared that "you had as well pretend to dam up the mouth of the Mississippi and say to its restless waves, ye shall cease here and never mingle with the ocean, as to expect that the people of the West will be prevented from descending it. Without the free use of this river and the necessary advantages of a deposit below our boundary their fertile country is not worth possessing, their produce must be wasted in their fields or rot in their granaries." It is true that when these words were spoken the Mississippi was the only outlet for the products of the country; and that since then the New York and Canadian canals, and five parallel lines of railway, connect the East and the West, thereby affording to the West an artificial eastern outlet. But both outlets are needed; needed to do the business of the great West, needed to prevent the crushing exactions of railroad and canal monopolies. Water communication with the Atlantic is the great want of the West.
It was then (1802) believed, but not certainly known, though such was the fact, that the Louisiana Territory had been ceded to France. Napoleon was at this time on the rising tide of his high fortunes, and exercised almost despotic power under the modest title of the French Consul. The Senator last named urged the absolute national necessity which existed that the United States should own and control the mouth of the river, the key to the vast valley of the Mississippi; a region larger in extent than all Europe. In the course of his argument he alluded to the situation of this country, with the mouth of the river in the possession of a foreign power. We quote them, because if the Southern Confederacy be substituted in the place of Bonaparte, his remarks are much more weighty and applicable now than they were sixty years ago. He says: "What is more than all to be dreaded, in such hands, is that it may be made the means of access and corruption to your national councils, and a key to your treasury.
"The Western people will see in Bonaparte, at their very doors, a powerful friend or a dangerous enemy, and should he, after completely controlling the river, approach them, not in the attitude of an enemy, but under the specious garb of a protector and a friend; should he, instead of embarrassing their commerce by any fiscal arrangement, invite them to the navigation of the river, and give them privileges in trade not heretofore enjoyed; should he, instead of coercing them to his measures; court and intrigue with them, who can tell the consequences?
"Foreign influence will gain admittance into our national councils; a foreign faction will exist which will increase with the rapidly increasing population of the Western world. Whenever this period shall arrive it will be the crisis of American glory, and must result either in the political subjugation of the Atlantic States or their separation from the Western country."
What weighty suggestions are these! Nothing can be added to their force. In the events of the past few years their truth and significance have been remarkably exemplified. At that early day the statesmen of our country saw, and the people of our country felt, the indispensable importance of the entire national ownership and control of the river to the people of all the States bordering on it and its tributaries.
Senator Jackson, of Georgia, declared that "God and nature have destined New Orleans and the Floridas to belong to this great and rising empire."
Mr. Madison, then Secretary of State, in his letter of November 27, 1802, to Mr. Charles Pinckney, our Minister at Madrid, instructing him to demand redress from Spain for the infraction of the treaty of 1795, says: "You are aware of the sensibility of our Western people on this subject. This sensibility is justified by the interest they have at stake. The Mississippi is to them every thing. It is the Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and all the navigable rivers of the Atlantic States formed into one stream."
In view of its importance negotiations were authorized by our Government for the purchase of New Orleans, so as to make the river the boundary between the United States and Louisiana. The idea of the purchase of the entire Territory of Louisiana was at that time not even thought of. Our ideas did not rise so high. We were poor then and prudent. We wanted the river and a place of deposit that we could call our own; this was the primary idea, and not the augmentation of territory. The comprehensive mind of the First Consul knew the value of this trans-Atlantic possession. Mr. Livingston, at that time our Minister at Paris, writing May 12, 1803, to Mr. Madison, giving an account of the purchase, says: "Among the most favorite projects of the First Consul was the colonization of Louisiana. He saw in it a new Egypt; he saw in it a colony that was to counterbalance the Eastern establishment of Great Britain; he saw in it a provision for his Generals; and what was more important in the then state of things, he saw in it a pretense for the ostracism of suspected enemies. When I arrived here I found Louisiana a very favorite object. Some books were published representing it a paradise."
France, at that time, was at peace. Mr. Livingston urged the payment of the American debts, and hinted to one of the French Ministers, probably the celebrated Talleyrand, of a sale of the Territory as a means. His reply was: "None but spendthrifts satisfy their debts by selling their lands."
The First Consul organized a fleet and an army to send to New Orleans. They were blockaded in the Dutch forts at first by ice, and the flames of war having again been lighted, then by the English. Mr. Livingston opportunely pressed the purchase of New Orleans, calling, with much shrewdness, the attention of France to a proposition in the London papers for raising 50,000 men to take New Orleans. Napoleon saw the crisis; took in the situation at a glance. He knew that England, by virtue of its navy, would attempt the capture of the province. He much preferred that we should own it to England. To our proposition to purchase part Talleyrand, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, replied: "That if they gave us New Orleans the rest would be of little value, and wished to know what we would give for the whole?"
It was wise in France to sell, but it was wiser in us to buy. On the 30th of April, 1803, the treaty of cession was made. All the vast and undefined territory known as Louisiana, stretching from New Orleans to Oregon, was, in consideration of $15,000,000, sold to the United States. The necessities of France obliged her to sell. Napoleon knew that $15,000,000 was no compensation, and it is a remarkable fact that the treaty alludes to no pecuniary consideration for the sale. The language of the treaty, in this is respect, is as follows:
"The First Consul of the French Republic, desiring to give the United States a strong proof of friendship, does hereby cede to it, forever, and in full sovereignty, the colony or province of Louisiana."
Thus did the United States become invested with the title to the whole valley of the Mississippi.
The great river, and its countless tributaries, were ours. Every bubbling fountain on the remote slopes of the Alleghanies; every spring and waterfall on the distant sides of the Rocky Mountains; all the intermediate rivulets, brooks, streamlets, streams, and rivers, were, by an undisputed title, ours. It is fortunate, not only for the United States, but for the race, that this magnificent domain passed into our hands. Only two generations have passed away, and see the results! Great and flourishing commonwealths line its banks from its source to its mouth. Civil and religious liberty; science, literature, religion, art, education and educational institutions, all that can adorn and bless a nation, have here found a home. Every 16th square mile has been set apart for common school purposes. The genius of our free institutions has been extended over it. What is there in all the diversified history of the Rhine — what is there in all the entombed mysteries of the Nile — what is there any where, in all the records of the race, so remarkable as to be compared to the marvelous growth and development of the Mississippi Valley? And yet the phenomenon is not a mystery. Its cause is not hid in occult hieroglyphics. The aid of no Layard is needed to reveal or decipher it. It is known to the world. The down-trodden Irishman knows it. The countrymen of Kossuth and Kosciusko knew it. The liberty-loving German knows it. The oppressed of all nations and of every clime know it. That cause is the vivifying influence of our Free Institutions; and it is nothing else.
Does the reader doubt it? Appeal for a moment to history. Look at Mexico! Cortez, the Spanish robber, overthrew the Montezumas one hundred years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, and the despotism, political and intellectual, of the Spanish rule was established. Why has Mexico in the race of nations thus lagged behind? Pizarro overturned the Inca power, and established permanent Spanish settlements in Peru, three-quarters of a century before Virginia was colonizad.
Why are Mexico and the nations of South America blanks on the map of the political world? Why does the Amazon to-day roll its vast course in sullen silence through an almost uninhabited wilderness? It is scarcely twelve years since the apathetic inhabitants and amazed Indians were startled by the shrill whistle of the first steamboat that ever plied its waters. It was found that steam navigation would not pay. Brazil, as the owner of the mouth, claiming the right to do so under the law of nations (how justly is not in our way to discuss), in A.D. 1852, made with one De Souza a contract, giving him the exclusive navigation of the river for thirty years, through all the Brazilian territories; and in consideration that he would run six steamboats, agreed to pay him a bonus of $100,000 per year.
Think of it for a moment! One man having the exclusive right to navigate the Amazon! If this contract be carried out not a steam vessel from the outside world can enter the river. Nay more, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia are cut off from all direct river connection with the Atlantic. They must stop at the boundaries of Brazil, deposit their merchandise, and allow De Souza's steamboats, and no other, to carry it. They must import in the same way. Contrast this state of things with the vast, free, and profitable commerce and navigation of the Mississippi, and then again inquire into the cause of this difference. The question admits of but one answer: the Amazon has been cursed with despotism, while the Mississippi has been vivified by free institutions, and its free and unobstructed navigation, under the ownership of one nation, has lined its banks with great and growing free commonwealths.
The sublime duty, the sublimest ever confided by Heaven to mortal man, that of preserving these free institutions from menaced destruction, was confided to the loyal people of the nation. Nobly, grandly, faithfully did they discharge this high trust. If the Confederates had been permitted to destroy the unity of this nation, what would have become of us of the Northwest, situate as we are, remote from the sea-board and markets of the world, in the centre and heart of a vast continent? If the Southern States may secede, so may the Pacific States, the Upper Mississippi States, and New York and New England. If the South could levy tribute on our southern outlet, why may not New York secede and levy tribute on our eastern outlet? Successful secession would have been national death.