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THE AMERICAN CONFLICT.
THE United States of America, ed two or three hundred miles westwhose independence, won on the ward, to the bases and more fertile battle-fields of the Revolution, was valleys of the eastern slope of the tardily and reluctantly conceded by Alleghanies, and there were three Great Britain on the 30th of Novem- or four settlements quite beyond that ber, 1782, contained at that time a formidable but not impassable barrier, population of a little less than Three mainly in that portion of Virginia Millions, of whom half a million which is now the State of Kentucky. were slaves. This population was But, in the absence of steam, of camainly settled upon and around the nals, and even of tolerable highways, bays, harbors, and inlets, which ir- and with the mouth of the Missisregularly indent the western shore of sippi held and sealed by a jealous the Atlantic Ocean, for a distance and not very friendly foreign power, of about a thousand miles, from the the fertile valleys of the Illinois, the
Altamaha. The extent of the settle- were scarcely habitable for civilized ments inland from the coast may have communities. No staple that their averaged a hundred miles, although pioneer population would be likely, there were many points at which the for many years, to produce, could be primitive forest still looked off upon sold on the sea-board for the cost the broad expanse of the ocean. of its transportation, even from the Nominally, and as distinguished site whereon Cincinnati has since from those of other civilized nations, been founded and built, much less the territories of the Confederation from that of Indianapolis or Chicago. stretched westward to the Mississippi, The delicate, costly fabrics of Europe, and northward, as now, to the Great and even of Asia, could be transLakes, giving a total area of a little ferred to the newest and most inland more than eight hundred thousand settlement for a small fraction of the square miles. At several inviting price at which they would there be localities, the “ clearings" were push- eagerly bought; but when the few
coins which the settlers had taken 1 ed, desolating Revolutionary strugwith them in their journey of emi- gle, rich, indeed, in hope, but poor in gration had been exhausted, there worldly goods. Their country had, was nothing left wherewith to pay for seven years, been traversed and for these costly luxuries; and debt, wasted by contending armies, almost embarrassment, bankruptcy, were the from end to end. Cities and villages inevitable results. A people clothed had been laid in ashes. Habitations in skins, living on the products of the had been deserted and left to decay. chase and the spontaneous abund- Farms, stripped of their fences, and ance of nature, might maintain ex- deserted by their owners, had for istence and a rude social organization years produced only weeds. Camp amid the forests and on the prairies fevers, with the hardships and priof the Great Valley; any other must vations of war, had destroyed many have experienced striking alterna- more than the sword; and all alike tions of factitious prosperity and uni- had been subtracted from the most versal distress ; seeing its villages and effective and valuable part of a popcommercial depots rise, flourish, and ulation, always, as yet, quite inadedecay, after the manner of Jonah's quate. Cripples and invalids, melangourd, and its rural population con choly mementoes of the yet recent stantly hunted by debt and disaster struggle, abounded in every village to new and still newer locations. and township. Habits of industry The Great West of to-day owes its had been unsettled and destroyed by unequaled growth and progress, the anxieties and uncertainties of its population, productiveness, and war. The gold and silver of antewealth, primarily, to the framers of revolutionary days had crossed the the Federal Constitution, by which ocean in exchange for arms and its development was rendered possi- munitions. The Continental paper, ble; but more immediately and pal- which for a time more than supplied pably to the sagacity and statesman- | (in volume) its place, had become ship of Jefferson, the purchaser of utterly worthless. In the absence of Louisiana; to the genius of Fitch and a tariff, which the Confederate ConFulton, the projector and achiever, gress lacked power to impose, our respectively, of steam-navigation; to ports, immediately after peace, were De Witt Clinton, the early, unswerv glutted with foreign luxuries-gewing, and successful champion of artifi- gaws which our people were eager cial inland navigation; and to Henry enough to buy, but for which they Clay, the eminent, eloquent, and effec- soon found themselves utterly unable tive champion of the diversification to pay. They were almost exclusively of our National Industry through the an agricultural people, and their Protection of Home Manufactures. products, save only Tobacco and In
The difficulties which surrounded digo, were not wanted by the Old the infancy and impeded the growth World, and found but a very restrictof the thirteen original or Atlantic ed and inconsiderable market even States, were less formidable, but kin- in the West Indies, whose trade was dred, and not less real. Our fathers closely monopolized by the nations emerged from their arduous, protract- | to which they respectively belonged. OUR COUNTRY AFTER THE REVOLUTION.
Indian Corn and Potatoes, the two | fashionable, even in high quarters ; principal edibles for which the poor and the letters of Washington' and of the Old World are largely indebt- his compatriots bear testimony to the ed to America, were consumed to a wide-spread prevalence of venality very limited extent, and not at all and corruption, even while the great imported, by the people of the eastern issue of independence or subjugation hemisphere. The wheat-producing was still undecided. capacity of our soil, at first unsur- The return of peace, though it passed, was soon exhausted by the arrested the calamities, the miseries, unskillful and thriftless cultivation of and the desolations of war, was far
one-third of the labor of the country of universal prosperity and happiness was probably devoted to the cutting which had been fondly and sanguineof timber, the axe-helve was but a ly anticipated. Thousands were sudpudding-stick; while the plow was denly deprived by it of their aca rude structure of wood, clumsily customed employment and means of pointed and shielded with iron. A subsistence, and were unable at once thousand bushels of corn (maize) are to replace them. Those accepted now grown on our western prairies at though precarious avenues to fame a cost of fewer days' labor than were and fortune, in which they had found , required for the production of a hun- at least competence, were instantly dred in New York or New England closed, and no new ones seemed to eighty years ago. And, though the open before them. In the absence settlements of that day were nearly of aught that could, with justice, be all within a hundred miles of tide- termed a currency, Trade and Busiwater, the cost of transporting bulky ness were even more depressed than staples, for even that distance, over Industry. Commerce and Navigation, the execrable roads that then existed, unfettered by legislative restriction, was about equal to the present charge ought to have been, or ought soon to for transportation from Illinois to have become, most flourishing, if the New York. Industry was paralyzed dicta of the world's accepted political by the absence or uncertainty of mar- economists had been sound; but the kets. Idleness tempted to dissipation, facts were deplorablyat variance with of which the tumult and excitement their inculcations. Trade, emanciof civil war had long been the school. pated from the vexatious trammels Unquestionably, the moral condition of the custom-house marker and of our people had sadly deteriorated gauger, fell tangled and prostrate through the course of the Revolution. in the toils of the usurer and the Intemperance had extended its rav- sheriff. The common people, writhages; profanity and licentiousness ing under the intolerable pressure of had overspread the land ; a coarse debt, for which no means of payment and scoffing infidelity had become existed, were continually prompting
1“ That spirit of freedom, which, at the commencement of this contest, would have gladly sacrificed every thing to the attainment of its object, has long since subsided, and every selfish passion has taken its place. It is not the
public, but private interest, which influences the generality of mankind, nor can the Americans any longer boast of an exception."- Washington's Letter to Henry Laurens, July 10 (1782).
“Shoddy,” it seems, dates away back of 1861.
their legislators to authorize and di- | this hasty and casual glance at our rect those baseless issues of irredeem- country, under the old federation, able paper money, by which a tem without noting some features which porary relief is achieved, at the cost tend to relieve the darkness of the of more pervading and less curable picture. The abundance and exceldisorders. In the year 1786, the lence of the timber, which still coverlegislature of New Hampshire, then ed at least two-thirds of the area of sitting at Exeter, was surrounded, evi- the then States, enabled the common dently by preconcert, by a gathering people to supply themselves with of angry and desperate men, intent habitations, which, however rude and on overawing it into an authorization uncomely, were more substantial and of such an issue. In 1786, the famous comfortable than those possessed by Shays's Insurrection occurred in west- the masses of any other country on ern Massachusetts, wherein fifteen earth. The luxuriant and omnipreshundred men, stung to madness by ent forests were likewise the sources the snow-shower of writs to which of cheap and ample supplies of fuel, they could not respond, and execu- whereby the severity of our northern tions which they had no means of winters was mitigated, and the warm, satisfying, undertook to relieve them- bright fireside of even the humblest selves from intolerable infestation, family, in the long winter evenings and save their families from being of our latitude, rendered a center of turned into the highways, by dis- cheer and enjoyment. Social interpersing the courts and arresting the course was more general, less formal, enforcement of legal process alto- | more hearty, more valued, than at gether. That the sea-board cities, present. Friendships were warmer depending entirely on foreign com- and deeper. Relationship, by blood merce, neither manufacturing them or by marriage, was more profoundly selves, nor having any other than regarded. Men were not ashamed foreign fabrics to dispose of, should to own that they loved their cousins participate in the general suffering, better than their other neighbors, and earnestly scan the political and and their neighbors better than social horizon in quest of sources and the rest of mankind. To spend a conditions of comprehensive and en- month, in the dead of winter, in a during relief, was inevitable. And visit to the dear old homestead, and thus industrial paralysis, commercial in interchanges of affectionate greetembarrassment, and political disorder, ings with brothers and sisters, marcombined to overbear inveterate pre ried and settled at distances of judice, sectional jealousy, and the twenty to fifty miles apart, was not ambition of local magnates, in cre- deemed an absolute waste of time, ating that more perfect UNION, where- nor even an experiment on fraternal of the foundations were laid and the civility and hospitality. And, though pillars erected by Washington, Ham- cultivation was far less effective than ilton, Franklin, Madison, and their now, it must not be inferred that food compeers, in the Convention which was scanty or hunger predominant. framed the Federal Constitution. The woods were alive with game,
Yet it would not be just to close and nearly every boy and man beOUR COUNTRY AFTER THE REVOLUTION.
tween fifteen and sixty years of age, merchant's for his groceries and was a hunter. The larger and smaller wares. A few bushels of corn, a few rivers, as yet unobstructed by the sheep, a fattened steer, with, perhaps, dams and wheels of the cotton-spin- a few saw-logs, or loads of hoop-poles, ner and power-loom weaver, abound- made up the annual surplus of the ed in excellent fish, and at seasons husbandman's products, helping to fairly swarmed with them. The square accounts with the blacksmith, potato, usually planted in the vege- the wheelwright, the minister, and table mold left by recently extermi the lawyer, if the farmer were so unnated forests, yielded its edible tubers fortunate as to have any dealings with a bounteous profusion unknown with the latter personage. His life, to the husbandry of our day. Hills during peace, was passed in a narthe most granitic and apparently rower round than ours, and may well sterile, from which the wood was seem to us tame, limited, monotburned one season, would, the next onous; but the sun which warmed year, produce any grain in ample him was identical with ours; the measure, and at a moderate cost of | breezes which refreshed him were labor and care. Almost every farm- like those we gladly welcome; and, er's house was a hive, wherein the while his road to mill and to meeting 'great wheel' and the little wheel was longer and rougher than those --the former kept in motion by the we daily traverse, he doubtless passed hands and feet of all the daughters them unvexed by apprehensions of a ten years old and upward, the latter snorting locomotive, at least as conplied by their not less industrious tented as we, and with small suspimother--hummed and whirled from cion of his ill-fortune in having been morning till night. In the back born in the Eighteenth instead of the room, or some convenient appendage, Nineteenth Century. the loom responded day by day to The illusion that the times that the movements of the busy shuttle, were are better than those that are, whereby the fleeces of the farmer's has probably pervaded all ages. Yet flock and the flax of his field were a passionately earnest assertion, which slowly but steadily converted into many of us have heard from the lips substantial though homely cloth, of the old men of thirty to fifty years sufficient for the annual wear of the ago, that the days of their youth family, and often with something were sweeter and happier than those over to exchange at the neighboring we have known, will doubtless justify
2" Vagabonds, without visible property or are so comfortable and so certain, that they vocation, are placed in workhouses, where they never think of relinquishing them to become are well clothed, fed, lodged, and made to labor. strolling beggars. Their situation, too, when Nearly the same method of providing for the sick, in the family of a good farmer, where every poor prevails through all the States; and, from member is anxious to do them kind offices, where Savannah to Portsmouth, you will seldom meet they are visited by all the neighbors, who bring a beggar. In the larger towns, indeed, they | them little rarities which their sickly appetites sometimes present themselves. These are may crave, and who take by rotation the nightly usually foreigners who have never obtained a watch over them, when their condition requires settlement in any parish. I never saw a native it, is, without comparison, better than in a general Imerican begging in the streets or highways. | hospital, where the sick, the dying, and the dead, A subsistence is easily gained here: and if, by | are crammed together in the same rooms, and misfortunes, they are thrown on the charities of often in the same beds.”-Jefferson's Notes on the world, those provided by their own country | Virginia, p. 196.