Our Notable Decade -- By: Delavan L. Leonard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:182 (Apr 1889)
Article: Our Notable Decade
Author: Delavan L. Leonard


Our Notable Decade

Rev. Delavan L. Leonard

The three decades 1820–50, with the central one of the three most prominent, mark a notable era in the development of American civilization. The nation had now just stepped forth from the dependent and humiliating estate of nonage, had fairly entered upon its majority, having also, as was meet, attained at length almost to the fulness of stature and strength. Beginning with a limited area stretching along the Atlantic, by the successive acquisitions of Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Oregon, and Northern Mexico, the boundaries had rapidly advanced to the Gulf, to the Mississippi, to the Rockies, and finally to the remote Pacific; and hence, since the opening of the century, the national domain had increased nearly tenfold. And the growth of population had kept full pace, having reached 12,880,000 in 1830, and 17,069,000 ten years later. In 1800 but 51,000 settlers were found west of the Alleghenies and north of Kentucky; in 1840 they had increased to 3,351,000. In 1820 Ohio contained a little more than half a million, but 1,519,000 two decades later; and in the same period Michigan grew from 8,894 to 212,-

267. Such migrations of the millions the world had never seen as were now in progress through the forests, over the mountains, up the lakes, and down the rivers of the West. Well might it seem to De Tocqueville (1831–33) that “this gradual and continual progress towards the Rocky Mountains has the solemnity of a providential event; it is like a deluge of men rising unabatedly, and daily driven onward by the hand of God.” As a result new States were continually knocking for admission to the Union. Missouri, the first lying west of the Mississippi, was received in 1821; the noble sisterhood numbered twenty-four in 1830, and thirty-one in .1850, the youngest being California, the antipodes of Maine admitted just twenty years before.

But astounding enlargement and unfolding of another sort may be chronicled, in part cause and in part consequence of the changes just noted. The question of travel, of the transportation of merchandise and the produce of the soil, became a more serious one in proportion as the pioneers pushed from the seaboard further and further into the interior, and at length dire necessity compelled the search for improved facilities. Recourse was first had to turnpikes pointing westward, constructed by the States, or even by act of Congress. Among others the Cumberland, or National road, at a cost of more than four million dollars, was built from the Potomac to the Ohio at Wheeling; by 1835 was completed to Columbus, and planned to St. Louis and beyond. But all such attempts presently proved altogether inadequate, and next canals were resorted to, ...

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