« PreviousContinue »
The United States of America constitute an essential portion of a great political system, embracing all the civilized nations of the earth. At a period when the force of moral opinion is rapidly increasing, they have the precedence in the practice and the defence of the equal rights of man. The sovereignty of the people is here a conceded axiom, and the laws, established upon that basis, are cherished with faithful patriotism. While the nations of Europe aspire after change, our constitution engages the fond admiration of the people, by which it has been established. Prosperity follows the execution of even justice; invention is quickened by the freedom of competition ; and labor rewarded with sure and unexampled returns. Domestic
Domestic peace is maintained without the aid of a military establishment; public sentiment permits the existence of but few standing troops, and those only along the seaboard and
on the frontiers. A gallant navy protects our commerce, which spreads its banners on every sea, and extends its enterprise to every clime. Our diplomatic relations connect us on terms of equality and honest friendship with the chief powers of the world ; while we avoid entangling participation in their intrigues, their passions, and their wars. Our national resources are developed by an earnest culture of the arts of peace. Every man may enjoy the fruits of his industry; every mind is free to publish its convictions. Our government, by its organization, is necessarily identified with the interests of the people, and relies exclusively on their attachment for its durability and support. Even the enemies of the state, if there are any among us, have liberty to express their opinions undisturbed ; and are safely tolerated, where reason is left free to combat their errors. Nor is the constitution a dead letter, unalterably fixed; it has the capacity for improvement; adopting whatever changes time and the public will may require, and safe from decay, so long as that will retains its energy. New states are forming in the wilderness; canals, intersecting our plains and crossing our highlands, open numerous channels to internal commerce; manufactures prosper along our watercourses; the use of steam on our rivers and rail-roads annihilates distance by the acceleration of speed. Our wealth and population, already giving us a place in the first rank of nations, are so rapidly cumulative, that the former is increased fourfold, and the latter is
doubled, in every period of twenty-two or twenty-three years. There is no national debt; the community is opulent; the government economical ; and the public treasury full. Religion, neither persecuted nor paid by the state, is sustained by the regard for public morals and the convictions of an enlightened faith. Intelligence is diffused with unparalleled universality; a free press teems with the choicest productions of all nations and ages. There are more daily journals in the United States than in the world beside. A public document of general interest is, within a month, reproduced in at least a million of copies, and is brought within the reach of every freeman in the country.
An immense concourse of emigrants of the most various lineage is perpetually crowding to our shores; and the principles of liberty, uniting all interests by the operation of equal laws, blend the discordant elements into harmonious union. Other governments are convulsed by the innovations and reforms of neighboring states; our constitution, fixed in the affections of the people, from whose choice it has sprung, neutralizes the influence of foreign principles, and fearlessly opens an asylum to the virtuous, the unfortunate, and the oppressed of every
nation. And yet it is but little more than two centuries, since the oldest of our states received its first permanent colony. Before that time the whole territory was an unproductive waste. Throughout its wide extent the arts had not erected a monument.
inhabitants were a few scattered tribes of feeble bar barians, destitute of commerce and of political connection. The axe and the ploughshare were unknown. The soil, which had been gathering fertility from the repose of centuries, was lavishing its strength in magnificent but useless vegetation. In the view of civilization the immense domain was a solitude.
It is the object of the present work to explain how the change in the condition of our land has been accomplished; and, as the fortunes of a nation are not under the control of blind destiny, to follow the steps by which a favoring Providence, calling our institutions into being, has conducted the country to its present happiness and glory.
The enterprise of Columbus, the most memorable CHAP maritiine enterprise in the history of the world, formed between Europe and America the communication which 1492 will never cease. The national pride of an Icelandic historian has indeed claimed for his ancestors the glory of having discovered the western hemisphere. It is 1000, said, that they passed from their own island to Green-1003 land, and were driven by adverse winds from Greenland to the shores of Labrador ; that the voyage was often repeated; that the coasts of America were extensively explored, and colonies established on the shores of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. It is even suggested, that these early adventurers anchored near the harbor of Boston, or in the bays of New Jersey; and Danish antiquaries believe that Northmen entered the waters of Rhode Island, inscribed their adventures on the rocks of Taunton River, gave the name of Vinland to the south-east coasts of New England, and explored the inlets of our country as far as Carolina. But the story of the colonization of America by Northmen, rests on narratives, mythological in form, and obscure in meaning; ancient, yet not contemporary. The