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The increased activity of the country, in connection with steamboats and railroads, gave rise to a new enterprise. A young man named Harnden conceived the plan of making a business of carrying parcels between Boston and New York, and shortly after (1839) began it. At first a small hand-bag was sufficient to hold all the articles sent. In that humble way he laid the foundation of the American express system, which now extends to every town of the United States, and employs millions of money and an army of men to do its work.
271. Indian Wars; Growth of the West; Chicago. — The increased growth of the country alarmed Black Hawk, a famous
Indian chief at the West, and he, at the head of a large body of Indians, attempted to prevent emigrants from taking possession of public lands in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. He was defeated
1 William Frederick Harnden was born in Reading, Massachusetts, in 1813; died 1845. On his monument, erected at Mount Auburn cemetery, near Boston, by the “Express Companies of the United States," he is called the “ Founder of the Express Business in America."
2 In 1835 a second Seminole war (see Paragraph 238) broke out. The Seminole Indians of Florida were led by Osceola, a celebrated chief, who had been badly treated by the whites. The war continued for nearly seven years. The Indians were finally conquered by General Zachary Taylor, and were later removed to a region west of the Mississippi.
AMERICAN ART, BOOKS, AND NEWSPAPERS.
and driven beyond the Mississippi. The removal of the Indians beyond that river greatly encouraged emigration to the Western states.
On the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan stood Fort Dearborn. It was garrisoned by a small number of soldiers, and around the fort a dozen white settlers, with their families, had built as many rude wooden houses. Two years later (1833), the little settlement took the name of Chicago. It had then grown to be a town of between five and six hundred inhabitants, and some of its people were bold enough to think that it might grow to be still larger. To-day the city has more than a million of inhabitants, and stands the great metropolis of the Northwest.
272. American Art, Books, and Newspapers. — America had already produced four eminent painters — West, Copley, Stuart, and Trumbull. We also had three noted writers. They were Cooper, the novelist, who wrote exciting tales of life on the sea and in the wilderness ; Bryant, our first great poet; and Washington Irving, the author of “Rip Van Winkle” and of scores more of delightful stories.
But when Jackson was first elected, a book had just been published (1828) in this country which was in one respect more remarkable than any that had yet appeared, for it contained the whole English language. This was Webster's Dictionary, by Noah Webster of Connecticut. It had cost the author and compiler nearly twenty years of almost continuous labor, and it was destined to make his name and work known in every school-house of the United States.
i Chicago : an Indian name originally given to the Chicago River. It is supposed to be the name of the god of thunder; but on this point authorities differ.
2 See Stuart's portrait of Washington (frontispiece).
8 Thomas Cole was another noted artist of a somewhat later period, but he was not an American by birth.
4 The best English dictionary before Webster's was Johnson's, first published in London in 1755. It had not really been revised for seventy years, and was very unsatisfactory to Americans, since it did not contain many familiar American words, such as congress" (in the sense of a national legislature), "savingsbank," " prairie," and hundreds of others. Webster thought that America had as good a right to coin new words as England had. He accordingly included these words in his dictionary; in his definitions he was generally far superior to Johnson.
Following Webster, came the great writers we know so well today: the poets, Whittier, Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, and Poe; Emerson, with his wonderful essays on nature and other subjects; Hawthorne, with his stories of New England ; Bancroft, with his history of the United States, followed by the historians Prescott. Motley, and Parkman. It was the beginning of American literature.
About the same time (1833) the first cheap newspaper ever published, which sold for one cent, appeared in New York. From that time forward the poorest man could afford to carry home in his pocket at night a daily history of the world's doings.
273. Summary. — Four important events marked the administration of Andrew Jackson. They were : 1. The beginning of the system of removals from government office for political reasons; 2. The publication of the Liberator and the commencement of the anti-slavery movement by William Lloyd Garrison ; 3. Resistance to the national government, or nullification by South Carolina ; 4. The rise of American literature and of cheap newspapers.
MARTIN VAN BUREN.3
274. Van Buren's Administration (Eighth President, One Term, 1837-1841); Business Failures ; Financial Panic. -
1 For interesting examples of poems connected with American history, see Whittier's " Laus Deo” and “Our State," Longfellow's “Paul Revere's Ride," Holmes's “Grandmother's Story of Bunker Hill,” Lowell's “Present Crisis,” Emerson's “ Concord Hymn,” and Bryant's “Song of Marion's Men."
2 The New York Daily Sun, 1833.
8 Martin Van Buren was born in New York in 1782; died in 1862. He was United States Senator from 1821-1828; governor of New York later, and Secretary of State under Jackson, 1827-1831. In 1836 he was elected President (R. M. Johnson of Kentucky, Vice-President) by the Democratic party, over General W. H. Harrison, the Whig candidate,
STOPPAGE OF TRADE.
In his farewell address, President Jackson had said, “I leave this great people prosperous and happy.” But Mr. Van Buren had scarcely entered upon the duties of his office, in 1837, when a large business house in New Orleans failed. It was the beginning of a panic in trade and money matters which swept over the country like the waters of a destroying flood.
In ten days, one hundred merchants in New York City had lost everything; and within two months, the total business failures in that city reached the enormous sum of one hundred millions of dollars. Next, the banks began to fail; and the difficulty of getting gold or silver became so great that even the United States government had to pay the army and navy in paper money, which, if it chanced to be good to-day, might be worthless to-morrow. John Quincy Adams declared that, “without a dollar of national debt, we are in the midst of national bankruptcy.”
275. Stoppage of Trade ; Distress among Workmen; Failures of States; Causes of the Panic. Soon factories and mills stopped running, and nearly all trade came to a standstill. Thousands of workmen were suddenly thrown out of employment, and saw no way of earning bread for themselves and their families.
Many states had borrowed large sums of money in Europe for the purpose of building roads, canals, and railways. In 1830, the total debt of this kind was only thirteen millions ; in seven years it had risen to nearly two hundred millions. It was exceedingly difficult, if not impossible for a number of these states? to raise
1 Panic: sudden fright or alarm — particularly alarm without any real cause. Such periods occur in business from time to time, especially after several years of great activity and speculation ending in reckless investments and loss. The chief cause of a panic appears to be want of confidence. When men cease to put trust in each other, then the trouble begins. There may be as much money in the country as before; but it has shifted into the hands of a few, and they are afraid to use it themselves, or to let others use it. The consequence is that prices fall, business stops in great measure, and much distress is produced.
2 Seven states - Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan,
money to meet the interest; and one positively refused to pay anything whatever, whether interest or principal.
There were three chief causes for this desperate state of things.. 1. After the United States Bank had ceased to exist,' a great number of worthless banks sprang into existence; 2. the ease with which people could borrow money led to wild speculation in land ;? 3. the government suddenly called in the gold and silver which it had deposited in certain state banks, - nicknamed “pet banks," — and at the same time it refused to sell any more public land except for hard cash. This suddenly checked the fever of speculation, and made every one anxious to get coin at a time when coin was not to be had. The result was, property of all kinds fell in price, men could neither collect debts nor pay them, the banks could not redeem 3 their bills, and the crash came.4 After a time confidence began to be restored, business sprang up, and a new period of prosperity commenced.
276. The Government establishes an Independent Treasury. This panic in business had at least one good result. Up to this time, the national government had never taken entire charge of its own money, but had let one or more banks have the care of it. The disastrous failure of these “pet banks” taught
Pennsylvania, and Florida, then a territory, - suspended payment of interest. Mississippi repudiated her entire debt on the ground that it had been incurred in violation of the state constitution. Sydney Smith's “ Letters on American Debts," Dickens's “ American Notes” and “ Martin Chuzzlewit" snow how sore the English creditors felt about these failures.
1 See Para graph 265.
2 Men eagerly bought land which they never saw, and never expected to see; they purchased town lots at enormous prices, in the backwoods of Maine; and speculated in property in so-called Western “ cities " that had no existence except on paper, or that were six feet under water.
3 A bank is said to redeem its bills when, on demand, it pays gold or silver for them. If it cannot do this, its bills are worthless.
4 During this period a rebellion broke out in Canada, and many Americans living on the border were eager to take part in it, with the hope of annexing Canada to the United States. The President's proclamation of neutrality compelled them to keep quiet.