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nished by the West. It was the region of action, and in the crisis it took the reins.
The triumph of the nation was followed by a new era of Western development. The national forces projected themselves across the prairies and plains. Railroads, fostered by government loans and land grants, opened the way for settlement and poured a flood of European immigrants and restless pioneers from all sections of the Union into the government lands. The army of the United States pushed back the Indian, rectangular Territories were carved into checkerboard States, creations of the federal government, without a history, without physiographical unity, without particularistic ideas. The later frontiersman leaned on the strong arm of national power.
At the same time the South underwent a revolution. The plantation, based on slavery, gave place to the farm, the gentry to the democratic elements. As in the West, new industries, of mining and of manufacture, sprang up as by magic. The New South, like the New West, was an area of construction, a debtor area, an area of unrest; and it, too, had learned the uses to which federal legislation might be put.
In the meantime the Old Northwest 3 passed through an economic and social transformation. The whole West furnished an area over which successive waves of economic development have passed. The State of Wisconsin, now much like parts of the State of New York, was at an earlier period like the State of Nebraska of to-day; the Granger movement and Greenback party had for a time the ascendancy; and in the northern counties of the State, where there is a sparser population, and the country is being settled, its sympathies are still with the debtor class. Thus the Old Northwest is a region where the older frontier conditions survive in parts, and where
The present States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wis. consin.
the inherited ways of looking at things are largely to be traced to its frontier days. At the same time it is a region in many ways assimilated to the East. It understands both sections. It is not entirely content with the existing structure of economic society in the sections where wealth has accumulated and corporate organizations are powerful; but neither has it seemed to feel that its interests lie in supporting the program of the prairies and the South. In the Fifty-third Congress it voted for the income tax, but it rejected free coinage. It is still affected by the ideal of the self-made man, rather than by the ideal of industrial nationalism. It is more American, but less cosmopolitan than the seaboard.
We are now in a position to see clearly some of the factors involved in the Western problem. For nearly three centuries the dominant fact in American life has been expansion. With the settlement of the Pacific coast and the occupation of the free lands, this movement has come to a check. That these energies of expansion will no longer operate would be a rash prediction; and the demands for a vigorous foreign policy, for an interoceanic canal, for a revival of our power upon the seas, and for the extension of American influence to outlying islands and adjoining countries, are indications that the movement will continue. The stronghold of these demands lies west of the Alleghanies.
In the remoter West, the restless, rushing wave of settlement has broken with a shock against the arid plains. The free lands are gone, the continent is crossed, and all this push and energy is turning into channels of agitation. Failures in one area can no longer be made good by taking up land on a new frontier; the conditions of a settled society are being reached with suddenness and with confusion. The West has been built up with borrowed capital, and the question of the stability of gold, as a standard of deferred payments, is eagerly agitated
by the debtor West, profoundly dissatisfied with the industrial conditions that confront it, and actuated by frontier directness and rigor in its remedies. For the most part, the men who built up the West beyond the Mississippi, and who are now leading the agitation,* came as pioneers from the old Northwest, in the days when it was just passing from the stage of a frontier section. For example, Senator Allen of Nebraska, president of the recent national Populist Convention, and a type of the political leaders of his section, was born in Ohio in the middle of the century, went in his youth to Iowa, and not long after the Civil War made his home in Nebraska. As a boy, he saw the buffalo driven out by the settlers; he saw the Indian retreat as the pioneer advanced. His training is that of the old West, in its frontier days. And now the frontier opportunities are gone. Discontent is demanding an extension of governmental activity in its behalf. In these demands, it finds itself in touch with the depressed agricultural classes and the workingmen of the South and East. The Western problem is no longer a sectional problem: it is a social problem on a national scale. The greater West, extending from the Alleghanies to the Pacific, cannot be regarded as a unit; it requires analysis into regions and classes. But its area, its population, and its material resources would give force to its assertion that if there is a sectionalism in the country, the sectionalism is Eastern. The old West, united to the new South, would produce, not a new sectionalism, but a new Americanism. It would not mean sectional disunion, as some have speculated, but it might mean a drastic assertion of national government and imperial expansion under a popular hero.
This, then, is the real situation: a people composed of heterogeneous materials, with diverse and conflicting ideals
4 [Written in the year of Mr. Bryan's first presidential campaign.)
and social interests, having passed from the task of filling up the vacant spaces of the continent, is now thrown back upon itself, and is seeking an equilibrium. The diverse elements are being fused into national unity. The forces of reorganization are turbulent and the nation seems like a witches' kettle.
But the West has its own centers of industrial life and culture not unlike those of the East. It has State universities, rivaling in conservative and scientific economic instruction those of any other part of the Union, and its citizens more often visit the East, than do Eastern men the West. As time goes on, its industrial development will bring it more into harmony with the East.
Moreover, the Old Northwest holds the balance of power, and is the battlefield on which these issues of American development are to be settled. It has more in common with all X parts of the nation than has any other region. It understands the East, as the East does not understand the West. The White City which recently rose on the shores of Lake Michigan fitly typified its growing culture as well as its capacity for great achievement. Its complex and representative industrial organization and business ties, its determination to hold fast to what is original and good in its Western experience, and its readiness to learn and receive the results of the experience of other sections and nations, make it an open-minded and safe arbiter of the American destiny.
In the long run the “Center of the Republic” may be Х trusted to strike a wise balance between the contending ideals. But she does not deceive herself; she knows that the problem X of the West means nothing less than the problem of working out original social ideals and social adjustments for the American nation.
The Old Northwest is a name which tells of the vestiges which the march of settlement across the American continent has left behind it. The New Northwest fronts the watery labyrinth of Puget Sound and awaits its destiny upon the Pacific. The Old Northwest, the historic Northwest Territory, is now the new Middle Region of the United States. A century ago it was a wilderness, broken only by a few French settlements and the straggling American hamlets along the Ohio and its tributaries, while, on the shore of Lake Erie, Moses Cleaveland had just led a handful of men to the Connecticut Reserve.) To-day it is the keystone of the American Commonwealth. Since 1860 the center of population of the United States has rested within its limits, and the center of manufacturing in the nation lies eight miles from President McKinley's Ohio home. Of the seven men who have been elected to the presidency of the United States since 1860, six have come from the Old Northwest, and the seventh came from the kindred region of western New York. The congressional Representatives from these five States of the Old Northwest already outnumber those from the old Middle States, and are three times as numerous as those from New England.
The elements that have contributed to the civilization of this region are therefore well worth consideration. To know the States that make up the Old Northwest - Ohio, Indiana,
1 Atlantic Monthly, April, 1897. Published by permission.