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thought was the growth of monarchical institutions ; whilst those that were flourishing around them were not consecrated to their imagination, nor interpreted to their understanding.
This false state of things is newly in a way to be corrected. America is beginning to assert itself to the senses and to the imagination of her children, and Europe is receding in the same degree. This their re-action on education, gives a new importance to the internal improvements and to the politics of the country.
There is no American citizen who has not been stimulated to reflection by the facilities, now in progress of construction, for travel and the transportation of goods in the United States. The alleged effect to augment disproportionately the size of cities, is in a rapid course of fulfilment in this metropolis of New England.
The growth of Boston, never slow, has been so accelerated since the railroads have been opened which join it to Providence, to Albany, and to Portland, that the extreme depression of general trade has not concealed it from the most careless eye. The narrow peninsula, which a few years ago easily held its thirty or forty thousand people, with many pastures and waste lands, not to mention the large private gardens in the midst of the town, has been found too strait when forty are swelled to a hundred thousand. The waste lands have been fenced in and builded over; the private gardens, one after the other, have become streets. Boston proper consisted of seven hundred and twenty acres of land, Acre after acre has been since won from the sea, and in a short time the antiquary will find it difficult to trace the peninsular topography. Within the last year, the newspapers tell us, from twelve to fifteen hundred buildings of all sorts, have been erected, many of them of a rich and durable character. And because each of the new avenues of iron road ramifies like the bough of a tree, the growth of the city proceeds at a geometrical rate. Already, a new road is shooting northwest towards Connecticut and Montreal; and every great line of road that is completed, makes cross sections from road to road more practicable, so that the land will presently be mapped in a network of iron.
This rage for road building is beneficent for America, where vast distance is so main a consideration in our domestic politics and trade, inasmuch as the great political promise of the invention is to hold the Union staunch, whose days seemed already numbered by the mere inconvenience of transporting representatives, judges, and officers, across such tedious distances of land and water. Not only is distance annihilated, but when, as now, the locomotive and the steam boat, like enormous shuttles, shoot every day across the thousand various threads of national descent and employment, and bind them fast in one web, an hourly assimilation goes forward, and there is no danger that local peculiarities and hostilities should be preserved.
The new power is hardly less noticeable in its relation to the immigrant population, chiefly to the people of Ireland, as having given employment to hundreds of thousands of the natives of that country, who are continually arriving in every vessel from Great Britain.
In an uneven country, the railroad is a fine object in the making. It has introduced a multitude of picturesque traits into our pastoral scenery. The tunneling of mountains, the bridging of streams, the bold mole carried out into a broad silent meadow, silent and unvisited by any but its own neighbours since the planting of the region; the encounter, at short distances along the track, of gangs of labourers; the energy with which they strain at their tasks; the cries of the overseer or boss; the character of the work itself, which so violates and revolutionizes the primal and immemorial forms of nature; the village of shanties, at the edge of beautiful lakes, until now the undisturbed haunt of the wild duck, and in the most sequestered nooks of the forest, around which the wives and children of the Irish are seen; the number of foreigners, men and women, whom now the woodsman encounters singly in the forest paths; the blowing of rocks, explosions all day, with the occasional alarm of frightful accident, and the indefinite promise of what the new channel of trade may do and undo for the rural towns, keep the senses and imagination active; and the varied aspects of the enterprise make it the topic of all companies, in cars and boats, and by firesides.
This picture is a little saddened, when too nearly seen, by the wrongs that are done in the contracts that are made with the labourers. Our hospitality to the poor Irishman has not much merit in it. We pay the poor fellow very ill. To work from dark to dark for sixty, or even fifty cents a day, is but pitiful wages for a married man. It is a pittance when paid in cash; but when, as generally happens, through the extreme wants of the one party, met by the shrewdness of the other, he draws his pay in clothes and food, and in other articles of necessity, his case is still worse : he buys everything at disadvantage, and has no adviser or protector. Besides, the labour done is excessive, and the sight of it reminds one of negro-driving. Good farmers, and sturdy labourers, say that they have never seen so much work got out of a man in a day. Poor fellows! Hear their stories of their exodus from the old country, and their landing in the new, and their fortunes appear as little under their own control as the leaves of the forest around them. As soon as the ship that brought them is anchored, one is whirled off to Albany, one to Ohio, one digs at the levee at New Orleans, and one beside the waterwheels at Lowell; some fetch and carry on the wharves of New York and Boston, some in the woods of Maine. They have too little money, and too little knowledge, to allow them the exercise of much more election of whither to go, or what to do, than the leaf that is blown into this dike or that brook to perish.
And yet their plight is not so grievous as it seems. The escape from the squalid despair of their condition at home, into the unlimited opportunities of their
existence here, must be reckoned again. The Irish father and mother are very ill paid, and are victims of fraud and private oppression; but their children are instantly received into the schools of the country; they grow up in perfect communication and equality with the native children; and owe to their parents a vigour of constitution which promises them, at least, an even chance in the competitions of the new generation. Whether it is this confidence that puts a drop of sweetness in their cup, or whether the buoyant spirits natural to the race, it is certain that they seem to have almost a monopoly of the vivacity and good nature in our towns, and contrast broadly, in that particular, with the native people. In the village where I reside, through which a railroad is being built, the charitable ladies, who, moved by the report of the wrongs and distresses of the newly arrived labourers, explored the shanties, with offers of relief, were surprised to find the most civil reception, and the most bounding sportfulness from the oldest to the youngest. Perhaps they may thank these dull shovels as safe vents for peccant humours; and this grim day's work of fifteen or sixteen hours, though deplored by all the humanity of the neighbourhood, is a better police than the sheriff and his deputies.
1. But I have abstained too long from speaking of that which led me to this topic, its importance in creating an American sentiment. An unlooked-for consequence of the railroad, is the increased acquaintance it has given the American people with the boundless resources of their own soil. If this invention has reduced England to a third of its size, by bringing people so much nearer, in this country it has given a new celerity to time, or anticipated by fifty years the planting of tracts of land, the choice of water-privileges, the working of mines, and other natural advantages. Railroad iron is a magician's rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.
The railroad is but one arrow in our quiver, though it has great value as a sort of yard-stick, and surveyor's
line. The bountiful continent is ours, state on state, and territory on territory, to the waves of the Pacific sea :
“Our garden is the immeasurable earth,
The heaven's blue pillars are Medea's house,”
and new duties, new motives, await and cheer us. The task of planting, of surveying, of building upon this immense tract, requires an education and a sentiment commensurate thereto. A consciousness of this fact is beginning to take the place of the purely trading spirit and education which sprang up whilst all the population lived on the fringe of sea-coast. And even on the coast, prudent men have begun to see that every American should be educated with a view to the values of land. The arts of engineering and of architecture are studied ; scientific agriculture is an object of growing attention; the mineral riches are explored ; limestone, coal, slate, and iron; and the value of timberlands is enhanced.
Columbus alleged as a reason for seeking a continent in the West, that the harinony of nature required a great tract of land in the western hemisphere, to balance the known extent of land in the eastern; and it now appears that we must estimate the native values of this immense region to redress the balance of our own judgment, and appreciate the advantages opened to the human race in this country, which is our fortunate home. The land is the appointed remedy for whatever is false and fantastic in our culture. The great continent we inhabit is to be physic and food for our mind, as well as our body. The land, with its tranquillizing, sanative influences, is to repair the errors of a scholastic and traditional education, and bring us into just relations with men and things.
The habit of living in the presence of these invitations of natural wealth is not inoperative; and this habit combined with the moral sentiment which, in the recent years, has interrogated every institution, and usage,