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THE COLONIAL ERA

PARI' I.

FROM TIE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA TO THE ENG

LISII REVOLUTION OF 1688

CHAPTER I.

PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

The Pacific Coast - The Atlantic Coast – The Appalachian Ranges —

The Forests

The Western continent differs from the Eastern in having a length from north to south far greater than its width. The isthmus that forms the connecting link of its two grand divisions reaches down almost to the equator. North America, stretching as it does from the Polar Sea to the region of perpetual summer, includes all varieties of climate. It was on the eastern shore, and within the temperate latitudes, that the colonies were planted which were destined to develop into the thirteen original States of the Federal Union. In America, in contrast with Europe and Asia, the direction of the mountain ranges is from north to south. The complex mountain system on the Pacific side of North America—the system named the Cordilleras, the continuation of the

coast.

Andes-extends so near to the coast as to leave room only for a narrow seaboard. Down the western slopes, so abThe Paciüc . rupt is their decline, the rivers flow in a swift

and tumultuous current into the ocean. Moreover, the Pacific coast is so little indented south of Puget Sound that it furnishes very few harbors. There is one at San Diego and another at San Francisco. Besides these two havens there are left, within the bounds of the United States, only Puget Sound and the broad estuary of the Columbia River—an estuary which it is impossible to enter without the aid of expert pilots. The signal advantage afforded to San Francisco by its commodious harbor would avail of itself to explain the growth of that flourishing city. Even if the Pacific shore had looked toward Europe instead of Asia, its lack of bays and other inlets, taken in connection with the nearness and height of the adjacent mountains, wouid have presented great obstacles to colonization. On the

Atlantic side the natural features were quite

different, and in a high degree favorable. There the distance of the coast from Europe is only half that which parts California from Asia. The Appalachian ranges that stretch in broken masses from Maine to Georgia and Alabama are comparatively low. Their slopes are, moreover, much farther from the ocean, thus affording space for a seaboard generally from one hundred to two hundred miles in width. From these mountain ranges, and from the numerous plateaus which are formed by them, the rivers find their way to the Atlantic, or, on the south and southwest, to the Gulf of Mexico. North of the thirty-fifth parallel the coast is broken by numerous indentations. Among the inlets are several large bays, as Massachusetts Bay, which is partly encircled by an arm of Cape Cod, Delaware Bay, into which pours the river of the same name, and the Chesapeake,

The Atlantic

coast.

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which receives the waters of the Susquehanna and the Potomac. Along the coast, above the thirty-fifth parallel, there are many harbors where vessels can safely cast anchor or load and discharge their cargoes. Below that line the number of convenient havens is small. “Scarcely any continent,” says Professor Shaler, "offers such easy ingress as does this continent to those who come to it from the Atlantic side. The valleys of the St. Lawrence, the Hudson, the Mississippi, in a fashion, also, of the Susquehanna and the James, break through or pass around the low-coast mountains, and afford free ways into the whole of the interior that is attractive to European peoples.” The break made by the Hudson led up through the valley of Champlain to the St. Lawrence, and formed a natural line of communication between New York and Canada. One might pass from the Hudson to the northwest, up the valley of the Mohawk and thence into the region of the Mississippi and its tributaries. In the south there was another pathway to the same region through the Cumberland Gap. It was long before pioneers of English descent explored beyond the natural barriers of the mountain ranges. In that vast field of the interior the French were their forerunners.

of the two parallel ranges that form the Appalachian system the eastern may be traced from Eastern Canada to Alabama. The western, or Alleghany range, The Appalabegins near Albany and has the same terminus chian ranges. in the south. Between these two ranges, from New Jersey to Georgia, is a “broad, elevated, somewhat mountainous” valley, of exceeding fertility. The Hudson cuts through the ranges, and below the Hudson the intervening valley is reached from the east by crossing the South Mountain of Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge in Virginia, and the Black Mountain of North Carolina.

When the English settlers planted themselves on the

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