The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government - Vol. 2

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV.
THE SUMMING UP OF THE STORY.

IN the chapters of this book the reader has been presented not with a history but with a picture of the conditions of our Ameri­ can people as determined by their ability, their energy, and the circumstances which have surrounded them. It remains to sum up certain parts of the story, and to consider a few points which have incidentally received less consideration than their impor­ tance demands.

First of all let us note that the body of our people belongs to a stock which was nurtured in northeastern Europe and acquired its civilized character in the several states of that continent. This great European branch of the Aryan race was more fortunate in its place of nurture than any other people, for it fell heir to the part of the great continent of the Old World which was peculiarly fitted to be the cradle-land of a race.

The key to the swift conquest of the continent by the immi­ grants from northern Europe is to be found in the rapid develop­ ment of the economic arts, and mainly in the inventions which pertain to transportation. In the old method of conquering a wilderness the people had to struggle into the wilds along such roads as rude Nature afforded. There, with no other material help from the culture which they had left except their weapons and simple tools, and with no intellectual resources save those of tradition, they had to plant civilization anew. The railway and the steamboat changed all this for the better, and kept the folk of the frontier in a position where they were sustained by all needed aid from the older seats of culture. These agents of conveyance have enabled the settlers in the new lands at once to turn the precious woods of their forests, the fertility of their virgin soils, and even the deeper resources of their mines to profitable use, so that the very men who went forth in their youth to struggle with the savages and beasts of the distant wilderness might become the possessors of princely fortunes in their middle age. In ear­ lier centuries it required generations to bring a people on a new

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The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government - Vol. 2
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